This is the second of three articles. Part 1 appeared in the August issue of Information Outlook.
Search engine optimization and marketing covers a wide range of activities, many of which are similar to what a reference librarian, systems librarian, or market researcher does. Although the focus is the World Wide Web, many of the tools that are used have broader applications for special librarians.
Internal corporate processes. Web analytics tools measure and analyze corporate sales, customer preferences and problems, viable products and channels, and other issues that may provide answers for questions received by special librarians.
Competitive intelligence/market research. Keyword research, Web site saturation and popularity tools can provide information on a company's competitors: how they are marketing on the Internet, what they are spending on online marketing campaigns, how they are pricing their products.
Legal issues. Who Is tools can provide valuable information relating to copyright and trademark issues. Link Popularity tools can show who is deep-linking to your site. Log files, in conjunction with Who Is tools, can tell you who may be committing click fraud on your paid placement campaigns or spamming your e-mail servers.
Back end knowledge of how Web sites work. These tools can show you what may be keeping search engines from indexing your site and can highlight customer service issues.
SECOND OF THREE ARTICLES
Web site saturation and popularity tools show how much presence a Web site has on search engines through the number of pages of the site that are indexed on each search engine (saturation) and how many times the site is linked to by other sites (popularity).
If your company wants to generate leads from Web site traffic, you need to understand your organization's Web presence, particularly in relation to that of your competitors. Generally, the more Web presence you have, the easier it is for people to find your site; that is, if those pages contain the keywords people are looking for and if they rank high enough in search engine rankings for people to see them. Most search engines include some form of link popularity in their ranking algorithms. Pay attention to this so you can learn the number of sites that are linking to yours, which is very important. Knowing where your site stands in these two areas can give you a good idea of what you need to do to improve your Web presence.
Many tools measure various aspects of saturation and link popularity. My favorites are Link Popularity +, Top 10 Google Analysis, and Marketleap's Link Popularity and Search Engine Saturation.
Link Popularity + (http://www.uptimebot.com) shows much more than its name implies. It measures the number of back-links (incoming external links to your site); linked domains (all pages that link to any page in your domain, including internal pages); pages of your site that are indexed; and pages that contain your URL in the Google, Yahoo, AlltheWeb, AltaVista, Hotbot, MSN, Teoma, Lycos, AOL, and Alexa search databases. (See Figure 1.)
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Once you register (it's free), you can also see overall Google page rank, the number of pages you have at each Google page rank, and whether your site is listed in the DMOZ Open Directory, one of the major search directories. Page rank is one indicator of a page's popularity and authority. Registration lets you do mass reviews of up to 16 domains and have the results e-mailed to you. (See Figure 2.)
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
This has become one of my favorite tools, because it provides one of the most comprehensive snapshots of Web presence as far as the number of search engines it covers and the type of information it shows. The one area it doesn't cover is competitor comparisons. When I need to do a competitor comparison, I use the Top 10 Google Analysis and Marketleap tools.
Top 10 Google Analysis (www.Webuildpages.com/tools/internet-marketing-google.htm) provides the top 10 search results for a keyword on Google, along with the ranking of the base URL. This makes it a great competitive intelligence tool. (See Figure 3.)
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
The results also show the number of pages indexed by Google and Yahoo; the number of backlinks for the reference URL and for the domain as a whole from Yahoo, Google PageRank, Yahoo Web Rank, and AllInAnchor (query words in anchor text of links pointing to the site); body keyword density (ratio of keywords to total words); and link keyword density (ratio of keywords in links to all links).
This tool is a good indicator of the overall standings of your competition on the two major search engines and provides information about what gives them their rankings (keyword density, number of links to the site, number of links with keywords to the site, number of pages indexed, and page ranks). By analyzing the key characteristics of the top 10 sites for a keyword, you can get a good idea of what it takes for the term to rank well. (See Figure 4.)
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
To use this tool, you need to have a Google API code, available free from Google (www.google.com/apis). The API code lets you run a limited number of specialized searches on Google.
[FIGURE 5 OMITTED]
Marketleap offers a suite of free SEM tools, including the Search Engine Saturation Validator, the Link Popularity Analysis, and the Keyword Verification Tool. (See Figure 5.)
[FIGURE 6 OMITTED]
The Search Engine Saturation Validator (www.marketleap.com/siteindex/default.htm) shows the number of pages that several top search engines have in their databases for your Web site and the sites of up to five competitors. The search engines covered are AlltheWeb, AltaVista, Google/AOL, Hotbot, MSN, and Yahoo. I use this tool primarily to see how the site I'm optimizing compares with specific competitors on the number of pages indexed by the search engines. In general, the more pages a site has indexed, the greater the opportunity to be found by searchers. (See Figure 6.)
[FIGURE 7 OMITTED]
What I like most about the Link Popularity Analysis (www.marketleap.com/publinkpop) is its ability to choose competitors with whom to compare link popularity, along with the ability to see the link popularity for 25 other Web sites in a company's industry category. If your company's industry isn't included, you can choose General, which shows the link popularity for 25 companies across a number of industries. What you get back is how your site compares with others in your industry on link popularity on the AlltheWeb, AltaVista, Google/AOL, Hotbot, MSN, and Yahoo search engines. (See Figure 7.)
The tool shows your presence on the Web in terms of number of pages in each search engine's index that contain a link to your site, including your own Web site. Another valuable component of this tool is that it gives you an idea of whether your link numbers make your company a major player on the Web:
* Limited presence: 0-1,000 references.
* Average presence: 1,001-5,000 references.
* Above-average presence: 5,001-20,000 references.
* Contender: 20,001-100,000 references.
* Player: 100,001-500,000 references.
* 900-pound gorilla: 500,000+ references. (See Figure 8.)
[FIGURE 8 OMITTED]
Needless to say, there are very few 900-pound gorillas. In some niche industries, there may not be any sites that come close to having this many total "references" across all the major search engines. (Note: "Total" data are inflated, because they include the total of all links for the six search engines, which means many duplicates. Nevertheless, the total is a good relative indicator of what it takes to be a top site.) The General Industry category lists 14 gorilla sites; the top five are listed in Figure 9.
[FIGURE 10 OMITTED]
By looking at the sites linking to your site, you can get an idea of the volume and quality of pages linking to you and who may be referring traffic to you. Once you know who is linking to you and the part of your site they are linking to, you can examine the areas of your site that are performing well and those that aren't. By checking out competitors who are outperforming your site, you can see who is linking to them and figure out what you need to do to improve your visibility. (See Figure 10.)
[FIGURE 11 OMITTED]
Marketleap's Keyword Verification Tool (www.marketleap.com/verify/default.htm) provides a quick way to see if your site ranks in the top 30 keywords through keyword verification. Many studies have shown that the vast majority of people don't look beyond the first 30 search results. You may have numerous pages indexed with plenty of links pointing to your site, but if you're not ranked in the top 30 on keywords that people use to search for your products and services, you're not visible. The Keyword Verification Tool covers AlltheWeb, AltaVista, AOL, Google/AOL, Lycos Pro, Hotbot, MSN, Netscape, and Yahoo. (See Figure 11.)
Thumbshots (http://ranking.thumbshots.com) lets you compare the top 100 results for a term on two different search engines or compare two different terms on the same search engine. You can highlight a particular site to see where the site ranks on both search engines. (See Figure 12.)
[FIGURE 13 OMITTED]
The output is visual, with lines connecting pages that rank in the top 100 on both search engines or keywords. Pages from your site are in red, and those of other sites that have pages on both sides are in blue. Hover your mouse over any of the hundred circles and see the URL, rank, and, if available, a thumbnail image of the page. The text output includes the number of overlapping links and number of unique links. (See Figure 13.)
[FIGURE 14 OMITTED]
The comparisons also show how little duplication there is on the Web--there are usually very few connecting lines between search engines. In a search on "retail displays," only 15 pages ranked in the top 100 on both Google and Yahoo.
[FIGURE 15 OMITTED]
I like this tool because it shows you where your site is ranked along a 100-dot line for a phrase on two search engines or how it ranks for two different phrases on one search engine. I use it more for seeing how two different terms rank on the same search engine than for search engine comparison, as there are other tools to do that. I've used it most often for demonstrating to clients the success of using one phrase over another in their site's content. (See Figure 14.)
The next two tools are designed to help you determine the "desirability" of having another site link to yours. Not all links are created equal--some can even hurt your search engine rankings. Generally, a popular site that contains a few relevant links will be a better site to seek a link from than a "link farm" site that is nothing more than a collection of links. Although Google's PageRank is considered to be an important indicator of the link popularity of a site, I don't give it much weight when I'm looking for a site from which to request a link. Instead, I look at whether the site is a good fit for the one I'm marketing, and whether a link on that site would benefit both sites. (See Figure 15.)
[FIGURE 16 OMITTED]
One tool, Link Appeal by Webmaster Toolkit (www.Webmaster-toolkit.com/link-appeal.shtml), calculates the desirability rating of a link on the URL you specify. The calculation includes factors such as page rank, number of outbound links, and overall percentage of links to HTML. It is intended as a guideline for evaluating whether you should ask for a link on a certain page or not. (See Figure 16.)
[FIGURE 17 OMITTED]
The Class C Checker (www.Webmaster-toolkit.com/class-c-checker.shtml) allows you to check whether two domains are hosted on the same Class C IP range. Links from sites that are not on the same range as your site are thought to give more weight. (See Figure 17.)
[FIGURE 18 OMITTED]
Search engines don't like duplication in search results, so having a different IP address can help separate sites that are located on the same servers and may share databases or programming elements. Because EBSCO hosts many sites, I use Class C Checker more for the latter purpose than for link popularity. (See Figure 18.)
[FIGURE 19 OMITTED]
Other Ranking Tools
While the following tools aren't strictly SEM tools, I find them very valuable in my work.
The main Google search engine doesn't number results, which can make it difficult to figure out where you rank on a particular term. But Google Results (www.google.com/ie?q=&num=100&hl=en) gives numbered results. A disadvantage is that it only shows title and URL information, so identifying your site among the results can be difficult (unless your site name is in the title). I generally do a search on the main Google search engine and use the browser's Find option to see if my site's URL is in the top 30 or 100 results. If it is, I make a note of the title, then go to Google Results and redo the search. I check to see my site's numbered ranking. This is a lot easier than trying to physically count search results on a screen. (See Figures 19 and 20.)
Google Dance (www.google-dance-tool.com) has two uses. The first shows how you rank on the various Google servers; the second presents numbered results. I use this tool primarily for numbered results, unless I've discovered that I'm getting vastly different rankings when I search on a term within a short period of time. (See Figure 21.)
[FIGURE 20 OMITTED]
Froogle (www.froogle.com) is Google's shopping search engine. It allows companies to add their products to the site free of charge. I use Froogle in two ways: to expand a site's listings on the Internet and to illustrate price comparisons. Because Froogle is free, it is the simplest way for an e-commerce company to get all its products listed online. And because Froogle results sometimes appear at the top of Google results, it's a good way to get a site to show high in rankings if it doesn't do so organically. Currently, Google is generally not allowing new sites into top-ranked positions for at least six months after launch. (See Figure 22.)
[FIGURE 21 OMITTED]
Froogle is valuable in price comparisons because it helps me understand where my clients' pricing is compared with that of their competitors. You can do price comparisons on the other shopping search engines, but the only Web sites you find on those are companies that pay to be on them. All our e-commerce clients who meet the requirements for Froogle are added to it when ESWS redesigns a Web site. (See Figure 23.)
[FIGURE 22 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 23 OMITTED]
Marketleap Top 5 Most-Linked-To Web Sites
Most-Linked-To Web Sites Number of Links
RELATED ARTICLE: How to use keyword saturation and popularity tools
1. Top 10 Google Analysis, and Marketleap's Search Engine Saturation and Link Popularity can help you identify some of your online competitors and determine how you compare in the terms you use to describe your products and services.
2. If you get a question about why your company Web site isn't performing as well as a competitor's site in search engine rankings, the Link Popularity +, Top 10 Google Analysis, and Search Engine Saturation tools can illustrate why--or show why your site is doing well.
3. Librarians often spend a lot of time explaining to people why it is important to use more than one search engine in doing research. Thumbshot is a good tool to graphically show the lack of duplication in search results.
4. The Google Dance tool is good to know about if two searches for the same phrase return different results. Use it to see if Google is in the midst of updating its index.
5. Use Google Results or Google Dance for a concise list of numbered search results.
6. Froogle and the other shopping search engines are an easy and effective way to find out what your competitors are charging for your type of product and how your pricing compares. Because Froogle is a free service, it has a broader range of companies to compare with. However, Froogle also has a smaller percentage of visitors, so it may not be representative of all shopping visitors.