• Five dangerous SEO tools in the hands of the uneducated optimizer or client

    by  • April 16, 2007 • Search Engine Optimization, Tools • 6 Comments

    You know the tools, the ones that the uninformed… or barely informed… take as gospel when it comes to search engine optimization. These tools in the hands of your client… or worse, a really bad SEO who is trying to steal a client… can be a deadly thing. And worse, because they used to be useful once upon a time, most of these tools are the ones that people have heard of.

    Is your client measuring your success on how much the site’s Alexa ranking goes up or down? Or using an automated rank checker program, ala Web Position Gold, to check the Google positioning for his top fifty chosen keywords every hour on the hour? Here are the tools and programs that can be oh-so-dangerous in the hands of the SEO uneducated.

    Alexa Ranking
    Alexa ranking isn’t perfect. In fact, it is very far from it because of the way it measures a site’s traffic… by only counting those who are visiting the site with either an Alexa toolbar or an Alexa browser plugin. So numbers can be manipulated in so many ways to make the site’s Alexa rank seem better or worse than it should.

    Google PageRank
    What’s your PageRank? Unfortunately, while Google PR does have its uses, many people place too much importance on what number is in that little green bar, particularly when it goes up or down with those infrequent PageRank updates. And some site owners seem more obsessed with what their PR is rather than what their actual rankings are. Funny that, considering only one is usually related to ROI, unless you happen to be selling text links!

    Automated Rank Checkers
    A cringe worthy situation is when you are talking about the site’s rankings with your client and he says “Oh yes, I’ve been running a program to check our rankings every hour on our top list of fifty keywords so I can check how you are doing on an hourly basis.” So not only does your client feel the need to analyze how you are doing on an hourly basis, but also those automated queries are also one of the thou shalt not do commandments in the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Oops.

    When companies are paying top dollar for their search engine optimization, they can become a little bit obsessed with how many pages they have indexed, even when there are obvious problems with Google’s site search at the moment using site: such as the 260 error. And of course, there are fluctuations depending on what dataserver is hit or even the physical location of the surfer.

    Which brings us to checking backlinks in Google (or Yahoo). Backlinks are notoriously slow at updating in Google using the link: command, and are even more notorious for being so incomplete… which is a good thing if you have snoopy competitors wanting to mimic your backlink campaigns for their own sites. But for a client wanting to see the fruits of your linking efforts (or to see what their link budget is paying for), it can definitely seem like things just aren’t happening.

    These are definitely the tools that SEOs love to hate, although granted, each of them still offers at least a grain of usefulness even today. Yes, we all check PageRank, but just because a competitor has a PR6 site doesn’t mean they are ranking better than your PR4 or PR5 site. Likewise, a site with an Alexa ranking of 1000 may have far less traffic than an Alexa 10,000 or 100,000 site or may convert much worse. So while they have their uses, they should never be viewed as a be all, end all of search engine optimization.

    At the end of the day, all that really matters is what position you are in the search engines for your chosen keywords and how much traffic is being driven to your site, not if you are in the Alexa top 1000 or if Google says you have 260 pages indexed. So when someone talks about how great (or poor) their Alexa, PageRank, backlink numbers or how many pages they have indexed, remind them that it is traffic that brings in the money at the end of the day and that is where the optimization focus should be.


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    6 Responses to Five dangerous SEO tools in the hands of the uneducated optimizer or client

    1. April 16, 2007 at 9:27 pm

      What tools would you recommend?

    2. April 17, 2007 at 9:08 am

      I suggest signing up for a Google Webmaster Tools account because the backlinks check seems to count a lot more links. This would seem to be more accurate than the usual link: search. Additionally, you also get feedback from Google if it has any problems with your website.

    3. Pingback: Search Engine Land: News About Search Engines & Search Marketing

    4. April 17, 2007 at 3:14 pm

      Automated Rank Checkers will not hurt your rankings. The worst they can do is make it so you can’t search Google for a short period. All you are doing is running a search and looking at a bunch of sites. Google has no idea which site you own. I’m sure Jenn knows this I just thought I would make it more clear. The post seemed to imply that it could hurt your rankings.

    5. April 18, 2007 at 12:09 am

      I don’t think Jennifer has anything against the tools themselves per se just the over reliance on them by some to judge performance.

      ROI and conversions can be a lot more valuable indication of how well a campaign is doing.

    6. aya
      April 19, 2007 at 3:57 am

      I am not so sure about rank checking software. Our tourism related site suddenly dropped 200-300 places downwards for all keywords for all rankings from top 10-20 positions in google in one day in early Feb 07. We had been using googlemonitor for about 3 months – an automated rank checker, running it once a week or so and Google had blocked us from websurfing temporarily a few times around then. With no other obvious changes on or off site, we suspect that we may have been penalized by google for using the rankchecking software. Does anyone else have experience of this or have any ideas?

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