Archive | usability RSS feed for this section

Comparing Rank Tracking Software

3 Feb

I’ve been using Advanced Web Ranking (not to be confused with Advanced Web Ranking Cloud) for eight years. Read riveting tales from 2010 wherein I try to find a replacement for WebPosition, eventually deciding on AWR. Things were simpler then; there weren’t many players in the ranking software space, and almost everything was desktop-based.

Fast forward to 2018. When AWR started shitting the bed a month ago, I was faced with more than three dozen contenders for my search engine querying and reporting needs, almost all of them cloud-based or SaaS. I could have ferreted out even more vendor options, I’m sure, but when I added the 40th vendor/software suite to my spreadsheet of rank tracker candidates, I stopped.  (Full list at end of this post.) Daunting. “If you can’t find what you want from 40 vendors, there’s something wrong with you.” I said that out loud.

This post is long. If you want to skip the criteria I used and go right to the two winners and six runners up, go ahead. But you might be looking for something substantially different than what I found.

comparing-rank-trackers

Partially obfuscated spreadsheet of rank trackers, criteria, and notes. Pure madness.

SEO Reporting Software Criteria

So, what exactly did I want? That’s an important question. My criteria are similar to those of many, but might very well be different from yours. Keep that in mind as you read on. Oh, and if you don’t have any interest in SEO software, you should probably stop reading and have fun with some of the non-SEO posts on this site, or go contemplate a tree, or something.

If you’re still here, let’s dig in for rank checking software comparison.

What I did NOT want

I already have great sources for keyword research, backlinks, competitor analysis, website violations/improvements, and some other important SEO metrics. Sometimes I subscribe to a service for a month and do what I need to do. Sometimes I lean on one of my colleagues who already has a subscription to one or more vendors. Several of the SEO software vendors I considered are full-service suites of sorts, and therefore often priced themselves out of the SEO ranking software market.

At most, I do keyword research and backlink audits quarterly for existing clients so it doesn’t make sense for me to pay for it every month. If you’re looking for a 360-degree SEO suite, this rank tracker comparison might not be for you.

Historical Ranking Data Import

Although I’m not importing data for all projects when I migrate, I’m importing historical ranking data for most of them. (A couple clients wanted to archive old data and start fresh.) Some vendors like RankTrackr (not to be confused with SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker) and Tiny Ranker don’t have a way to migrate SEO ranking data from your old projects to their platform. With them, you’ve no choice but to start with a fresh slate in reports. Other companies say they’ll import data for a fee, including SERPBook and SEMRush.

Caveat: Your data might not be in the format they want. Look before you leap.

Ability to Pause/Stop SEO Projects

Sometimes clients leave for a few months. (See my post from a week ago about why SEO clients leave.) Sometimes you’ll have cause to pause a project for years. It doesn’t happen often, but about half of rank trackers surveyed don’t allow you to pause. Or they offer janky workarounds: “Just delete the keywords and save them on your computer. When you’re ready to start again, add the keywords again!”

Who won’t let you pause an SEO project? SE Ranking, RankTrackr, Tiny Ranker, Rank Ranger, and others. SERPFox is one of a few non-pausers to offer what I consider sub-optimal workarounds, but SERPFox at least preserves your data, somehow.

Reporting Format

I’m accustomed to being able to upload several HTML reports for each client. While there are several candidates who offer access to an API so you can cobble together your own reports, I don’t want to do that. I’m also not interested in reporting software that only generates static PDF reports and/or ugly CSV spreadsheets. These are comparatively horrible ways to display report data. Rank Ranger, SE Ranking, RankTrackr, and others all fall short here.

Vendor Support Hours

Chances are, after you’re all setup with your new rank tracker, you’ll seldom need support. But take it from somebody who’s needed a lot of support from Advanced Web Ranking over the past month: you’ll care about support when you need it. AWR is in Romania, I’m in California. AWR is at the support desk when I’m asleep, and vice versa. I open a ticket on Monday. I receive a response on Tuesday, to which I reply. Wednesday I get their reply, and so on. The weekend comes, and the snail’s pace of support slows to a stop. …And that’s when they bother to respond in a timely manner.

Support availability matters sometimes. Do yourself a favor and weigh candidates support hours in your process. Spoiler: I ended up picking two vendors. One of them offers perfect support hours for me, the other one, not so much. The latter is half a world away, which is unfortunately not uncommon with the ranking software bros.

Update Frequency

Don’t let companies fool you; updating your keywords’ rankings every day, or every hour isn’t adding value for you. Well, if you’re playing at the most vaulted, vaunted levels of SEO, I suppose you could argue that point, a little, but if your clients need detailed reporting more than once a month, you should find different clients. Spend more of your time DOing SEO, and less time measuring it. Anyhow, several vendors offer different plans/options for different scanning/querying frequencies. I don’t want hourly or daily scans because I’d be paying for unused fluff. Some services, like SEO Rank Monitor, SEMrush, and others only offer daily tracking.

Obviously, you sometimes won’t want to wait a week or longer for keyword rank data. SerpBook and Rankinity get around that thusly. SerpBook gives you a bunch of monthly credits for on-the-fly, ad hoc rank checking, e.g. for research, in addition to your regularly-scheduled data, and the latter is a granularly-priced pay-as-you-go service, so…

Well, this is as good a time as any to talk about pricing and cost.

It’s so hard to compare different products’ pricing models. …No two vendors define their pricing the same way. It’s almost totally incongruous.

Comparing SEO Reporting Software Pricing – Not easy.

On January 31st, as I was deep in this ranking software comparison, I guest lectured part of a class on Digital Media and Analytics within Columbia University’s Strategic Communications Program. My spiel (“Serendipity: Two UX ROI Stories”) was last on the docket, so I got to enjoy the first hour of Ethan McCarty‘s class.

While much of the class discourse (analytics/meaningful data/correlation vs causality/etc.) resonated with my experiences, I was particularly moved by Ethan’s reflection on his experience choosing and comparing web metrics software suites.

“Buying any kind of SaaS (such as SEO software) is kind of like buying a mattress,” said McCarty. “They all might have a similar feature sets, but each vendor names things differently, accentuates their own strong points and usually does a pretty good job of obfuscating their weaknesses. They are also all sold on different pricing schemes which makes comparison shopping grueling even if you’re a diligent spreadsheet-keeper. You may as well buckle and get the one you find most comfortable to use,” he said, speaking of both SaaS solutions and mattresses, natch.

Mattresses, am I right? It was comforting to find a sense of simpatico. We are not alone. This sucks for almost every discerning consumer, it would seem. I had to ask most vendors several followup questions to try to figure out how they actually priced their services.

How do we define rank-tracking pricing units?

“Keywords” are the near-universal pricing unit in the ranking space. But different vendors define that word conflictingly enough to make apples-to-apples pricing comparisons almost impossible. That’s why it’s in quotes there!  I kid you not, the number of “keywords” I have varies by MORE than a factor of ten, depending on the vendor. It’s nuts! What’s worse, getting straight answers regarding a vendor’s definition of “keyword” is akin to pulling your own teeth. Not fun.

We’re dealing with several variables, depending on the vendor:

  • Keywords (kw) – number of different keywords in the project
  • Search Engines (SE) – # of different search engines to be queried
  • Depth (d) – number of SERPs of data you want to gather (ranged from 1 to 30)
  • Projects (p) – number of, in my case, clients
  • Frequency (f) – how often do you want to query for data?
  • Sites (ws) – number of  websites you want data for (e.g. your site/s + ‘competitors’)
  • etc.

Vendor SE Ranking defines a keyword as one keyword in a project regardless of the number of SE. Well, you can add up to five SE, and that kw still counts as one “keyword” in their pricing model. I didn’t catch how deep (d) their data delves into the SERPs, but they offer different pricing for three frequencies, ranking from one day to one week.

Some vendors, like AWR Cloud, SerpBook, and others count Google-US, Bing-US, and Yahoo-US as a single SE unit. But they count other SE and location-based SE as individual units. But AWR Cloud only goes a few pages deep for a “keyword” while SERPbook digs to 10 SERPs and still calls it a “keyword”.

Some rank checkers count a keyword as a single SERP. So if you want to check ranks 1-40 (four SERPs) for a keyword in a single search engine, that’s four “keywords”.

Rankinity, as hinted earlier, charges per kw-se combo, with pricing for each pair delivering 10 SERPs.

Some charge only once for a keyword-se combo, regardless of the number of projects in which it appears while others will count each project-keyword-se instance as a separate “keyword”.

Some rank trackers, like SerpBook essentially charge extra for competitor rankings. (“keywords”=kw*SE*s) while other rank trackers will gather ranking data for several sites/urls, for the same keyword, without counting it as extra “keywords”.

Those are just a few examples. The myriad definitions of the “keyword” pricing unit are beyond my tired brains’ abilities to concisely summarize. Sorry!  The takeaway is: Make sure you know what their “keyword” is, and how it differs from other vendors you’re considering.

Plan Pricing Break Points – Important Future Thought

Some companies, like SEMRush and Web CEO limit how many projects you can have. Add your 6th project and you have to jump from the former’s $99 “pro” plan to the $199 “guru” plan, (or the latter’s identically modeled “Startup” and “Corporate” plans,) even if you weren’t close to the other price-resource-unit limits of your subscribed service level.

Other rankers charge more to add additional “users”.  …I’m telling you, it’s complicated.

Which Search Ranker / Reporting Solution did I choose?

As I hinted before, I originally picked two. Rankinity and SerpBook. But then I learned SerpBook counts each competitor as an individual set of keywords, and that priced them out of the top spot, and maybe even out of honorable mention. BUT they’re still a great option if you don’t want to track much (or any) competitor data. Alas, they’re not a good match for me, because I like to keep an eye on the competition. …I often find it actionable.

Using Rankinity to check once a month is a great value, and I’m still waiting for them to finish importing my data. They said it’ll be a few more days.

But I’m optimistic. …And I’m willing to pay a little extra for the elbow grease that might be required to massage my data into place.

The Proof is in the Pudding

That’s an old proverb dating back to the 1300s meaning: You can only say something is worthwhile after you’ve tested it. As of this writing, I tested what I thought was a top finisher enough to know they’re not a great match for me. I’m still in bed with Rankinity, and after digging into the honorable mentions, below, I’m left with RankWatch in second place.

Honorable Mentions

Because I want to go with two vendors simultaneously, and one of my first picks didn’t pan out, I spent more time digging into RankWatch, WebCEO, SE Ranking,  and SEO Rank Monitor to find a replacement. As of this editing (a month after publication) I still haven’t signed with RankWatch, but I will, soon. If they don’t pan out, I’ll update yet again.

Thanks for reading. While I can’t answer specific questions about specific rank-checking candidates, I’m happy to opine on more general bits. Please use the comments section, or if you’re feeling shy, send me an email or something. The rest of this blog post is me kvetching about AWR, and the aforementioned list of competitors. Good luck!

Regarding Advanced Web Ranking

I’ve been unable to run reports without zany errors for over a month now. AWR wasted countless hours of my time denying the problem was theirs. They blamed my proxy provider. So I switched to a different batch of proxies. Nope. AWR still blamed my proxy provider. So I switched to another proxy vendor and dedicated proxies. No dice. AWR said those proxies too were to blame for my continued problems. So I switched to a different batch of IPs. Same problem. (Shoutout to Trusted Proxies. They helped me troubleshoot and were always quick to respond.)

I gathered and presented evidence to the contrary over and over again but Advanced Web Ranking denied any responsibility. At one point, they went nine days without responding to an email or trouble ticket, of which I sent MANY.

So, needless to say, I’d already decided to move on by the time they picked up conversation again. Then a few short days later,  on January 31st, AWR apologized and they sent a mea culpa. They’re unable to fix the problem. (Even though competing desktop rank tracker “Rank Tracker” doesn’t suffer from the same problem. …I tested.)

I pre-paid for a couple years of AWR and they gave me a full refund. While the last bit of road to the end was unnecessarily bumpy, at least they ended the relationship with class.

List of SEO Rank Trackers Compared Herein

Note re: crappy data: When I started this task, I didn’t know I’d write this blog post, so I didn’t preserve my data at first. If I determined a candidate was far from the mark, I just deleted their row from the spreadsheet. When I’d whittled down to a couple dozen, I realized I should stop doing that! (#destructive) However, I’m not made of time, so later, as I determined a vendor wasn’t a good match for me, I stopped gathering data for that vendor. The more I whittled the list down, I kept adding more criteria. So, when I mention a list of vendors lacking a particular trait in the criteria sections above, it definitely doesn’t imply all other vendors DO support it.

Here are the twenty-four I compared:

Ahrefs
Authority Labs
Advanced Web Ranking Cloud
Conductor
CuteRank
LongTailPro
Majestic
Microsite Masters
Moz.com
nozzle
Rank Ranger
Rank Tracker
Rankinity
RankTrackr
RankWatch
SE Ranking
Searchmetrics
SEMrush
SEO Rank Monitor
SerpBook
Serpfox
SERPs
SERPWoo
Tiny Ranker
Web CEO

 


Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO. He’s trying to find more people with whom to make music in San Diego. Dan also likes food and film. He just ate some ice cream and he’s seen five of the nine 2018 Best Picture nominees, so far. His vote goes to Aronofsky’s un-nominated “mother!” – Best allegorical thriller, EVAR!

Ending an SEO/UX relationship

25 Jan

I’ve blogged twice before about firing SEO/UX clients, but there are other reasons practitioner and client separate.

What are some reasons to part ways?

The best reason: “Dan, you helped us sell all the inventory. We’re done. Thanks!” (Only happened once: Hawaii housing development)

One of the most annoying reasons: “Some guy in a suit came into our office and shook my hand. They’re cheaper, so we went with them.” (Has happened twice, both clients came back.)

A middle of the road reason: “We’re growing so fast, our goals are ambitious. You’ve helped us, but we’re necessarily somewhat inefficient and crazy-swamped organizationally, so we’re going with a 360-degree, all-inclusive agency who can handle everything under one umbrella.” (Has now happened a few times, including today.)

…It’s not like I can’t help this last subset of organizations in the next step of their SEO/UX journey, (I’ve driven ambitious budgets to success-city before,) but sometimes it makes sense to move on to the next step. There’s a decent chance their new agency will kick ass or at least continue to add value. But there are no guarantees; I’ve seen these moves fail miserably, too.

Moving on

The good thing about today: I’ve moaned about this client for years. (Ask them, they’ll tell you.) As a thought experiment, I took a 2-month sabbatical from them this past summer. But I stuck with it and helped them grow. Anyhow, I’m thrilled that we’re both moving on. After a fruitful 4+ year engagement, this is a good parting. #Healthy

Hell, just a few hours ago I sent a note to one of my referring agencies telling them fficient SEO & UX is at capacity and not accepting new clients for a while. …Maybe I’ll revisit that thought in a month or two.

welcome to san diego 1973

WASHED OUT! — The blogger, his special lady friend, and some cats, parting ways with Ohio in late 2014, on the way to life in sunny San Diego. This picture is like a metaphor. That sentence was a simile. This blog post is done.

Guide: Comparing Arpeggiator Pedals

18 Oct
arpeggiator-pedals-roundup

Tararira, PitchGrinder, AARP, Arpanoid & More!

Wherein Dan talks himself into buying one via this arpeggiator pedal roundup/shootout. (Spoiler alert: I bought the Tararira.)

What is an arpeggiator pedal?

An arpeggiator is a sequencer. A sequencer plays a series of sounds based on a source and parameters set by you, the user/musician. In the case of an arpeggiator pedal, the “source” is whatever you plug into it: guitar, bass guitar, synth, toy, etc. The parameters are the pedal knobs and buttons, controlling things like: pitch, tempo, order, steps, scale, key, etc. We’ll leave it at that for now.

Why do I want one?

Keep in mind: My criteria for an arpeggiator are likely different than yours. That said, they’re fun. I recently picked up an Electro-Faustus Drone Thing, and this guy seems to have fun pairing it with arpeggiators, so…

EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid

First I saw the Earthquaker Arpanoid. (Link immediately above). I wanted it.

Its small size and lack of a zillion knobs and whistles belie its nifty factor. However, it lacks a few things I’m looking for: per-note/step pitch control, CV or midi control, tap tempo, etc. And because it lacks features, it doesn’t so much arppegiate as it plays scales. At $225, it’s definitely ‘affordable’ in this lineup.

“But what else is out there?” I wondered.

Cooper FX AARP

I fell hard for the Cooper FX AARP (v1) when I saw that same dude playing with it.

AARP stands for Automatic Arpeggiated Repeating Patterns, which seems redundant, right? Also questionable product naming, what with the AARP being a 38-million-member thing, and all. Regardless, the AARP v1 has almost everything I want: tap tempo, eight pitch knobs, etc.

While looking for one, I learned about the upcoming AARP v2, but I’m not as attracted to its menu-driven interface (vs. all the knobbies on the older version.)

Regardless, both AARPs are currently unavailable, and you have to be on your Instagram game to snag one from the limited supply when v2 is released circa Q4 2017 or Q1 2018. Price unknown, but certainly higher than the v1’s $275 price tag.

Dwarfcraft Devices PitchGrinder

At $350, it’s not the most affordable option, and while I like that it crunches the signal down to 8-bit awesomeness, it lacks some features I want (external control, pattern control diversity, etc.). Another cool bit about the PitchGrinder: Its “Glide” knob acts as a portamento effect, controlling whether the pedal jumps or glides from pitch to pitch.

Hologram Dream Sequence

$425. It’s much more than an arpeggiator, but I’m not looking for more-than-an-arpeggiator, and I don’t want to spend that much. Furthermore, the UI isn’t setup for a great arpeggiating UX, if you know what I mean.

But it has midi in and out, and an assignable expression pedal insert, and it’s feature-rich. So maybe it’s your jam?

Bananana Effects Tararira

$269 + $20 shipping. This one might be my jam. It doesn’t break the bank – at least in this space, and speaking of space, it’s small, which is a plus. Each of the eight steps is knob controllable. …And if we’re grading on quantity of buttons and knobs, the Tararira is the clear winner, scoring a whopping 19 in the controller bells and whistles column.

^That was my original blurb on the Tararira. Then I bought it. Additional thoughts:

The Bananana Effects Tararira is everything I hoped it would be. (Fun and weird!) It has just about everything I want in an arpeggiator pedal. But if you want me to nitpick, I could say this:

bananana-tararira-arpeggiator

Added rubber feet for traction.

Par for the course with boutique pedals these days, the bottom of the Tararira is plain ole metal. I added four rubber feet to help it stay in place a little.

The scale, step and divider knobs are smooth-spinning, without a tactile hint when you spin to another value. …So you kind of have to visually know where the knobs are, which is tough because they’re small and black, with scant visual cue as to which number value/setting they’re pointing. I plan to remedy this with a little white paint and a tiny paintbrush, or something. If I find appropriately sized and calibrated clicky knobs, I might solder those in instead. But I doubt I’ll find any. Bananana Effects clearly had to make some minor sacrifices for the sake of size and cost. Worthy trade-offs for most consumers, I think.

I’ve no doubt I made the right choice in picking the Tararira. I look forward to many hours of noise-making weirdness with this pedal. You should get one.

 

Other arpeggiator pedals considered:

Eventide H9 – Billed as “a complete pedalboard in one pedal,” I find it way too separated from effect controls. If you want presets, this might be for you, but if you want knobbies, not so much. $399 + you may purchase/download additional algorithms (read:fx) for more $.

Line 6 RollerShifter – Near as I can tell, this is a custom-made Line 6 ToneCore module that was never available to purchase. It earned the nickname “talent simulator” on at least one pedal forum.

That’s it. I hope to get up the nerve to buy one of these toys soon. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO. He’s been in hardcore noise-punk band ‘Cat Shit’ for over a year now. Accordingly, he and pals are getting ready to scare trick-or-treaters with noise from: Microbrute, Theremini, Drone Thing, and guitar through sundry fx pedals on Halloween. #LureThemInWithCandy

 

Reduce Facebook Ads the Supai, Arizona Way

13 Jul Soylent Facebook
Soylent Facebook

IT’S PEOPLE!!!

UPDATE:
I should note, days after this post, Facebook demanded I prove my identity. As my name is not Danakin Skyjacker, I was unable to satisfy their idiotic documentation criteria. They closed my account. I switched to one of my other fb accounts, with an even goofier name. The good news? Even less advertising. That fb profile has never had a hometown or a current city associated with it and it had “liked” almost nothing. Pure minimal-ad Facebook experience achieved. If you don’t want to open a new Facebook account, stick with the method below.

Original post follows:

I’ve been increasingly inundated with advertisements on Facebook, especially on their iOS app.

Cause 1: Facebook continually finds new ways to monetize its product. (You. You’re the product!) (Go on, click that link. It’s fun!)

Cause 2: Until today I’d told Facebook I lived in Honolulu, one of the most hip, expensive, and cosmopolitan cities in this hemisphere. (I don’t.)

Minimize Facebook Ads

So I changed my current city and hometown to Supai, Arizona, the most remote town in the United States. It’s not even accessible by car! Supai is the only place in the United States where mail is still carried out by mules.

RESULT: Fewer advertisements on fb. I am no longer ostensibly part of a cherished target demographic. (I never was.)

Sure, I might start seeing ads targeted to native Americans, and if Facebook advertising is on its game, I might even see ads related to sprucing up my imaginary new home in Supai. So far–worth it.

Concerned about your privacy? …Or just tired of ads?

Won’t you join me in Supai?

When not generously providing free table tennis lessons to hacks at the Triple Crown Pub, Dan Dreifort consults on SEO, user experience, and other aspects of digital marketing.

Social SEO is Here

7 Oct
Google Plus might not be popular with people, but it's important to SEO.

Google Plus might not be popular with people, but it’s important for SEO.

Social 101 for the SEO-minded Company

SEO practitioners have seen the writing on the wall for years. If you really care about ranking well in Google, now it’s past time to pay attention to social. Almost two months ago we learned empirically that more +1 on Google+ means better ranking in Google.

I’ve spent a couple of years hinting to my clients that they should pay more attention to social; now I’m *strongly* suggesting it by outlining a few simple steps they can take (or I can take for them) in the social realm.

Step 1: More Social Outlets

Google Plus is a must. People don’t use it, but Google relies on it for organic rankings, so your organization should use it. If you want to pick your battles and only use three outlets, pick Facebook and Twitter too. But why stop there? It’s so easy to work once and have it propagate to multiple outlets.

Step 2: Maximize Social Efforts

Use Hootsuite or similar services to make social management easy. Type once and your words post on all of your social sites at once. With tools like this there’s no excuse for not also posting on sites like LinkedIn, YouTube and the like.

You can even schedule your content to post at specific times allowing you to compress a portion of your social time investment while taking advantage of peak social interaction times to get your message seen more. Hootsuite is free, and if you’re lucky enough to outgrow the gratis version, it’s only nine bucks a month to upgrade.

Step 3: Encourage Website Visitors to Share

While many sites already sport social icons linking to their Facebook page, that’s not enough. We want a more usable page that enables our web audience to use their social networks to vote and share. Employ action icons like Google’s “+1” to let visitors make note of your specific content. Some might use a +1 as a social bookmark, others as an endorsement. Either way, we like it because Google uses it to rate webpages.

Step 4: Search for Social Engagement #

Hashtags (#) are your friend. Naturally, you should use them in your social posts to tag and categorize your content, but there’s more! Type “#hashtag” (without the quotes) into Facebook’s search bar and you’ll get a list of all posts tagged with #hashtag. But how is that useful?

An acting school might search for #audition and then comment on a post or two every week. A luggage shipping company might search for #lostluggage. A local business might search for people discussing an upcoming local event totally unrelated to their business and then share excitement about it. Etc.

Step 5: Follow for Social Engagement

Have you ever heard of the reward theory of attraction? You can follow that link, or trust me when I say that if you follow others, they might follow you too. This ties in well with hashtag searching. You can’t comment on EVERY related post you find, because that looks spammy, creepy and annoying. Instead, follow people and businesses who are posting about stuff relevant to you. …They’ll be more likely to follow you. Wikipedia says so.

Don’t lay it on too thick

Finally, the overlying/underlying philosophy here is that while social is going to help your other marketing efforts, most of the time, you should not wear your traditional marketing cap while you’re engaging with social networks. When you meet somebody on the street and they try to sell you something, how do you feel? Who wants to follow somebody who’s always talking about themselves? Well, some people do, but you’ll find the people with the most engagement aren’t exclusively self-promoting. Sometimes replying, “ugh!” or “I know, right?!” to share frustration, or asking a question, “How do you find out about _____?” or “Why?” will be more valuable than posting about something more related to your business. Remember: your business name is next to everything you post, so you can just lean on that!

This article only scratches the surface of social best practices, but follow these instructions and your social efforts will be well on their way to helping your search engine optimization.

Dan Dreifort consults on usability, SEO, and now social. If you ask nicely, he might let you subscribe to his private and otherwise unadvertised SEO/usability/social tips email list. …But maybe not.

Looking for the best Hawaii digital marketing agency

8 Jul Hawaii Destination Marketing SEO and a Beach

I fired a Hawaii marketing agency a couple of months ago. I was not a client. I’d been providing usability and SEO services to their clients since 2007. (Does that mean I quit?) I grew online business for a few of their big-name clients and received decent money for it. Everybody at the agency was polite and skilled. So why did I fire them? Throughout the six-year engagement they paid several hundred invoices, but rarely on time. I fired them because they regularly forced me to act as an accountant and a collections agent.

Glutton For Digital Media Agency Punishment

Hawaii Destination Marketing SEO and a Beach

I heart Hawaii !

A few weeks later I was approached by another Hawaii digital marketing outfit. I’m not hungry for work now, but with so much SEO and usability experience in the Hawaii destination and hospitality verticals, part of me wants to put that knowledge to good use. So when this new agency reached out to me, I engaged.

I insist on signing a mutual non-disclosure agreement with all clients. The NDA serves to protect any private information and ostensibly allows us to discuss anything without worry of public eyes and ears. After a month of wasting my time, this new agency today tells me, “We can’t sign this.” I tried to identify and fix the perceived problem, but after receiving a couple more obtuse emails, I eventually jabbed, “I take my clients’ privacy very seriously. If [Agency] doesn’t respect that, we’re obviously not a good match.” I sent a friendly “goodbye” note to his partner.

I assure you I won’t be communicating with them again unless we agree about privacy.

What I’ve learned:

  • Fool me once, shame on, um… how does that go, George Bush? Fire clients more quickly if/when they’re late with payments.
  • Don’t invest too much speculative time with clients until they agree to protect privacy.
  • I’d again like to help a Hawaii company or agency with search engine optimization and user experience.
  • I *still* don’t like time-wasters.
Dan Dreifort‘s current clients include: Product recommendation SaaS company, Plastic container manufacturer/retailer, Adjustable air-mattress retailer/manufacturer, Memory foam mattress manufacturer/retailer, Specialty shipping company, Brazilian jiu jitsu franchises, Tourist magazine, Childcare franchises, Acting school, Real estate brokers, Lawyer, Fence manufacturer/retailer, Online drug rehab center and a couple more. Dan is busy and can’t accept new work until January, 2014.

How is responsive design connected to SEO? It’s mobile.

3 May
the long tail of search

Image by Victoria Jones

Follow the money and you’ll find that hot trends in design and search engine optimization are tied to our shrinking technology.  What’s in your pocket?

This mobile, responsive design, SEO and the long tail article originally appeared on the Geekly Group blog. (Thanks, Archive.org for the save!) (This article is from May 2013.)

The Tale of the Long Tail Search

And Why You Should Have Implemented Responsive Design Years Ago

My latest pocket toy, (a 5th generation iPod Touch), is great at taking dictation. I’ve already carefully enunciated two emails into its microphone today. Because I usually work from home and I’m one of the strange beasts to still use a landline. The iPod is my tiny window into the mobile world.

I also have a mobile phone, but while I don’t often lean on my Android, I recognize that more people are using their mobile devices to search for goods and services. I help companies harness this mobile traffic with responsive design, long-tail keywords and other engagement strategies. The ROI is huge, but it can be a tough sell– unless you have the data to back it up.

The Mobile Traffic Writing is on the Wall & the Font is Getting Bigger!

A few years ago I told a mid-market e-tail client that mobile devices and tablets would soon account for the majority of their traffic and business. I said something like, “Time to think about responsive design lest we alienate the fastest growing segment of consumers.” Instead, this client decided that its core demographic (married women over 35) didn’t (and wouldn’t) purchase or research expensive household products on handheld devices any time soon.

I disagreed.

Without a Mobile Crystal Ball, Let Data Make Smart Decisions For You.

The next year I was able to turn to the data. I pointed out that the company’s mobile bounce rate was higher than that of the overall site average.  When I again suggested it would be best to use a responsive website design to encourage mobile users to engage, the company decided instead to modify its PPC campaigns.

“Don’t address mobile. Ignore it!” was the company mantra. “Who would use a phone to search for luxury goods?!” They stopped serving ads to mobile devices.

In February 2010, only 5% of this company’s site traffic came from handheld devices. By May 2012 that traffic source had grown to 36%. Shortly thereafter they stopped advertising to mobile devices. By March 2013, phones, tablets and iPods accounted for 45% of their traffic. This is remarkable!  Why?  Because they’d specifically and actively tried to alienate those consumers.

So what happened?  The client finally embraced responsive web design. When I juxtaposed the previously mentioned 45% figure with a random sample of a few other sites’ analytics data, it was easy to see that married women over 35 (or whoever their demographic really was) actually used mobile devices more than the average person.

It took a few years and some good data but this company will soon offer a website that will be attractive, usable and engaging regardless of screen size. Lower mobile bounce rates and higher conversion rates are sure to follow.

But engagement is only part of a successful mobile strategy. Customers must find you, before you can engage them.

How Do Mobile Traffic Trends Affect SEO?

A few years ago we searched with our fingers on a keyboard attached to a PC or laptop.  In a few more years, we’ll probably just think about our searches to get things started via a subdermal implant.  In the meantime, we’ve begun talking to our devices.

With the advent of Apple’s Siri, Dragon Dictation and Android-based virtual assistants like Vlingo and Skyvi, more of us are speaking our search phrases than ever before. These new technologies are leading to increasing numbers of “conversational-style” searches, or long tail searches. This interesting combination of conversational search phrases and guttural caveman-like searches performed in noisy environments means that the long tail of SEO keywords is now more meaningful than ever.

Pair this new human side of search trends with the ongoing semantic efforts of search engines like Google and Bing and it’s a welcome perfect storm for wisely managed SEO campaigns. Use great traffic research tools to identify slightly longer, more specific search phrases and you’ll find your ROI going through the roof.  And you’ll live happily ever after…at least until everybody else catches on.

Robocalls Are Easy To Fix

4 Jan
English: A Fox 40 whistle from the late 1980s.

A Fox 40 whistle from the late 1980s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In early November I received my umpteenth call from Rachel at cardholder services. A few years ago I wasted time filing FTC reports on these jokers in a wholly ineffective effort to thwart their incessant nagging. Of late I’ve instead taken to passive aggressively nagging them back.

How I Used to Deal With Rachel and her Cardholder Services Minions

This time, as is now my custom, I pressed whatever number would get me to a consultant to discuss the urgent scam relating to my credit cards. I then pressed mute and walked away. A few minutes later, per my routine, I picked up the phone to hang it up, but this time there’s a guy whispering all sorts of awesome stuff still on the line. So I listened for a while. He’d just started at his call center job two weeks earlier and had yet to get any training. He was bitching about the people near him and how backwards and horrible everybody and everything about his job was. Very entertaining. (He was using more colorful language than I’m willing to recount here.)

I wanted to un-mute and talk to him but decided not to. What would I have said? “Become a whistle-blower!” These $#%^ing phone spammers are breaking the law and I’d love to see some convictions. Unfortunately I (and likely most call center drones) are unaware of incentive to blow the whistle on such illegal activity, if any even exists.

FTC Robocall Challenge to the Rescue?

The FTC is planning to spend serious dough on “new and innovative ways to block these illegal calls,” and is soliciting fresh ideas via the U.S.A.’s official challenge website. They’re also offering $50,000 in prizes for challenge winners. But I recognize problems with most of the submissions. They’re either ineffective, costly, unproven, violate basic privacy or show other weaknesses. Solving this problem is as simple as the American dream itself and it’s a bargain too.

Incentivize Whistleblowers

From aforementioned breathy undertones of the underbelly of the robocall world, I was able to infer that call center workers are overworked, underpaid, shown little respect and mistreated. What if we offered cash rewards for proof of illegal telemarketing activity? How much would it take? I’m guessing not much.

What person working at a thankless illegal job is going to turn down a four figure reward for ten minutes of work? IT WILL WORK. But how will we fund it? While there’s likely already a budget for this sort of thing, I understand that taxing and spending isn’t sexy these days and that we’re to rely on the private sector for things like… money. (?!)

I’ll start. If I win the challenge, I’ll donate 10% of my take to an FTC telemarketing whistle blower fund.

Won’t you join me? (Boring details for my FTC challenge submission follow. Thanks for reading!)

Project Details FAQ

Q: What is required to stop robocalls and encourage whistleblowers?

A: Funding. A website to field scam reports. Small staff to review reports. Initial marketing push.

Q: What about robocalls that don’t provide an option to speak to a human?

A: There are still underpaid minions in these shady organizations. We can turn them from the dark side.

Q: What about robocalls from other countries?

A: People in other countries like cash too. We can turn them and stop the flow of robocalls.

Q: Harumph! I hate government spending! What else would we need to crowdsource the funding?

A: If the gov doesn’t have the ability to do it already, hire somebody to use free, off the shelf, open source scripts to accept donations. Initial marketing push.

When he’s not traveling or making music, Dan Dreifort likes to consult on search and usability. Dan also likes his wife even though she has neglected him for almost four years while she’s been at veterinary school. She comes back in three weeks. Dan is very happy about this.

SEO Usability Vacuum

5 Nov

That SEO and usability don’t flourish in a vacuum has been on my mind lately. Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum. If there’s nobody to hear your pearls of SEO wisdom do they make a sound? The sound of silence sends no sales. Four cases of constructive complaining follow.

Case #1 – Hire Experts + Stop Listening = Profit? No!

I helped grow a startup e-retailer from nothing to three million in annual sales. The company sold to new owners who kept me on for SEO services but took away my keys to the site because they wanted to do all web work in-house. No problem- I work this way (via intermediary) sometimes. Though I’d informed them of redesign best practices, they chose to ignore it all;  the hasty series of redesigns and half-rebrands erased years of SEO and usability progress. I spent a few months frantically trying to implement remedial measures but they heeded nothing I said or sent. We parted ways less than a year after the company switched hands. In a few short months they went from hero to zero in Google. Why would you spend good money on a company and then tank it? Conversely, the people who sold the company hired me to do SEO and usability work for a new endeavor. Its sales are growing. SEO and usability are processes, not events; they don’t exist in a vacuum.

Case #2 – Second Verse, Similar to the First, But Better Outcome!

seo results graph

SERP trends: often cyclical over longer periods

The chart to the right shows long-term cycles of a  different SEO effort, underfunded and unfortunately not paired with a good usability effort.  The company rakes in millions every year and would hugely benefit from doubling, tripling or quadrupling their SEO spend. I tell them this every year and sometimes spend time cobbling together metrics to back it up. …Which led to a smart realignment of the campaign scope a few years ago. The effort went from about 10% funding to 25% funding, but we’re still overreaching the budget. Part of the problem is the size of the company; they’re huge. Big boats don’t turn on a dime. A properly funded campaign would smooth out those valleys, and the peaks would be, literally, off the charts.

Because of a third-party payment solution, this client is also unable to give me ideal, actionable analytics data tying actual sales to each keyword. I’m left measuring the ranking of SERP listings, a comparatively bush-league measure of success. I’m also sometimes unable to appropriately geo-target longer tail search phrases (usually a good tactic in underfunded efforts) because most of the campaign consists of more competitive generic keywords. (They have their reasons, but it’s still frustrating. Good thing I like a challenge, and complaining!) I have neither budget nor latitude to increase the usability of landing pages so some of the most trafficked pages on the site lack a cohesive design with calls to action and good user direction. Though I know it’s not true, sometimes this client’s actions tell me they’re happier with countless second and third SERP rankings instead of focusing on the first SERP. My voice is necessarily muddled by the relative vacuum, but it’s getting better all the time and I’m still able to do some good work. I am optimistic.

Google SEO vs Bing and Yahoo SEO

SERP ranks different in Google Bing Yahoo

Eating crow in Bing and Yahoo is fine if you’re doing well in Google

This other graph for the same client, though only tenuously related, needed a place to live in the blogosphere. Many of the campaign’s most broad metrics have been sluggish, flat or even slowly tanking over the past year because they cover all three major search engines as a whole. The chart at right (click it for a larger version) shows that SERP listings have been tanking in Bing and Yahoo, while Google’s doing alright. My SEO work will often please Google more than Bing and Yahoo, and this account exhibits the extreme of that trend. Because Google is responsible for the vast majority of searches performed in the US, I’ve never wasted much effort focusing on the other search engines. So while I likely won’t get more budget to play with, I have a Q1 2013 plan to address some of the issues. Ping me in six months if you want an update.

Case #3 – SEO & Usability Are Processes, Not Events.

There’s a reason SEO practitioners display results in charts with various metrics in one axis and time in the other; SEO is a process, not an event. This next tale bit of complaining deals with the one-night stand of SEO gigs. It’s my first one and I feel dirty – too ashamed to post a picture because a filthy picture is worth a thousand guilty words.  Because of stipulations tied to the funding of this project I was informed that I had to complete all SEO work and training in one month. I interjected, “But….” Nope. One month. I could not get keys to the server so I sent over a long list of Drupal modules essential for SEO like nodewords, xml sitemap, seo-friendly urls, etc. After a month I was still left with a CMS that wouldn’t even allow me to insert title tags or descriptions. It’s been over three months and I’m just now getting close to the finish line. It would have been a huge payday for one month’s work, but I knew better. It’s still a decent payout for a third of a year, so I’m happy. I’ve educated and empowered the client enough to ensure continued SEO success in the future.

Case #4 – SEO & Usability Success!

Google Experiments

A/B/X Testing and Google Experiments = More Bang For Your Buck

Most of my clients do listen, especially those I hand pick (vs. clients from agencies.) Case in point, to compliment SEO efforts I’ve really been leaning on A/B/X testing and Google Experiments. I try to convey that people should not be making decisions about design, SEO, brand, etc. when we can actually measure our audience and do what works best for them. After all isn’t that what any organization wants? The results (and data) speak for themselves.

If you have a very usable site with poor SEO, people won’t find your site. If I use SEO to build your audience, but your website sucks, you’re not going to get as much bang for your SEO buck. Usability is the science of making things not suck. SEO makes search robots happy. Usability makes people happy. The marriage of the two equals high ROI. This last image (above) shows how one little four week experiment caused visitors to be twice as likely to convert into customers. It cost very little to run that experiment and it paid for itself in one day. The rest is gravy. That it’s difficult to convince companies to invest in SEO and usability never ceases to amaze me, but I won’t stop trying (or complaining.) Thanks for reading.

Dan Dreifort makes money for companies and reads. If people paid him to read more he might stop helping companies make so much money. He’s currently proofreading (and loving) a book called When the Biomass Hits The Wind Turbine. It’s available in self-published form from Amazon for a few more months before its re-released and becomes all famous and stuff on the Daily Show and whatever awful show Oprah’s doing these days.

Updated Extensions for Latest Firefox Update

28 Aug
English: Firefox word mark. Correct clear spac...

Firefox. Love it. Hate it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember back when Firefox 3.5.17 came out? I’ll give you a clue; it was 2011.

It’s just a year later and the latest version of Firefox (15.0) ships with new features under the hood, including better memory handling for plugins and new “Silent, background updates,” but it’s not enough. When Mozilla switched Firefox to a faster release cycle in 2011, users relying on extensions and plugins suffered. Many jumped ship for Chrome and Safari. Those of us who have stayed either suffer or update extensions on our own. I’m in the latter camp.

Head here to download a zip containing the following usability extensions updated for the current Firefox release:

  • Duplicate Tab – keystroke or context menu to dupe a tab
  • Quick Restart – without shutting down Firefox!
  • Show Go! – Always show the go arrow in the URL window/bar

I’ve posted links to other updated Firefox plugins in the past but I don’t make a habit of it. If you’d like updated versions for any of those, drop me a note in the comments.

Swine Flu Tracker

Swine Flu News and Information

Grown Up Book Reports

Book reviews with a healthy dollop of snark

Ethan McCarty

Digital strategy | Social business | People-centric biznology

%d bloggers like this: