Posts Tagged ‘seo’

Web Social Stats for SEO

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Web Social Stats for SEO is an iPad app I’ve written which may be useful if you run a website. It allows you to quickly see how many Twitter Tweets, Facebook Likes, and Google +1s your own pages (or your competitor’s pages) are getting.

You can add pages by clicking the ‘+’ button and typing in the full web address, or by browsing to the pages you want and then adding them.

You can either add the original URL that you typed in, or you can add the URL which is currently shown on screen.

web social stats seo iphone app 1

Retults are shown in a table with one social service per column. The columns can be sorted in ascending or descending order.

The results are stored so you can view them offline.

web social stats seo iphone app 2

There is a second experimental way of adding URLs. You can pass in the address of a small sitemap.xml (up to 50 URLs) and the results for each URL will be retrieved. If there are more than 50 URLs in the sitemap.xml any additional URLs will be ignored.

I may increase the number of URLs that can be downloaded from the social services using a sitemap.xml in future released. Perhaps up to 100 in the next one.

Web Social Stats for SEO in the App Store

Technical Details

In case you like knowing these things…

I’m using operation queues to download the data in the background. The social stats are parsed using the JSONKit API. Results are stored in a SQLite database accessed using the FMDB wrapper.

Proof that Alexa rankings can be very inaccurate for small websites

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Here is a comparison of the actual viewing figures for this site (as recorded in Google Analytics), against the values that Alexa reports.

Alexa vs Google Analytics page views

This is a fairly small blog, getting 600-800 page views per day. If you too have a website which is of a similar size you might be interested in just how wrong Alexa’s statistics can be. Here is Alexa’s estimate as to how the number of page views I’m getting has changed in the last three months (snapshots all taken on the 15th July).

alexa page views

Looks pretty amazing right? A 2420% increase in page views in three months. But all is not as it seems. Here are my actual page views from Google Analytics (same three month period). You can see the actual figures show a very gentle increase in page views.

google page views

Alexa operates by sampling data from the people who have installed its toolbar, or who have installed (or had installed for them!) some other piece of software which sends data back to Alexa.

The percentage of internet users who have Alexa software on their computers is small so the data is subject to anomalies, especially as the website gets smaller. A large website such as Facebook or MySpace probably gets ok results from Alexa as there will be thousands of people browsing these sitse who have the toolbar installed. But the smaller the site, the bigger the potential for the results reported by Alexa to be out of sync with the actual results.

Alexa vs Google Analytics page views per person

So why the huge reality vs Alexa distortion for my site? I’ll come to that later. Next let’s looks at another graph. This is how Alexa thinks my page views per person is doing.

alexa page views per user

Pretty impressive! The page views per person has gone from 1-2 all the way up to 30 pages viewed per user. If that were accurate it would mean that people really love reading what I write! But unfortunately my blog isn’t quite that engaging. Here are the real figures. Each of my visitors looks at about 1.3 pages. That figure has remained fairly flat over the last three months.

google page views per user

Alexa vs Google Analytics visitors per country

Here is my final set of figures. This is where Alexa thinks most of my visitors are coming from.

alexa percent traffic by country

You can see from their figures that they think most (74%) of my visitors are in Japan. It is vaguely plausible as I do have quite a few Japan related postings on this site. However it isn’t accurate. Here are the real figures.

google percent of traffic

You can see that only 1.4% of my visitors are in Japan. This largest percentage of viewers is actually from the UK (44%), but Alexa only believes that 4.5% of my viewers come from the UK.

So why is Alexa so badly wrong?

What is causing Alexa to be so badly out of sync from reality? I am pretty sure I’ve worked out the reason. I believe that the massive inaccuracies are the result of a single person. Me.

Not on purpose, I did it entirely accidentally. But it is interesting that one person could cause the perceived page views of a 600-800 page per day blog to jump 2420% in three months. It is also interesting that one single person could accidentally cause the Alexa traffic rank to jump from about 600,000 to 200,000 in such a short time. And it is impressive that one single person could cause Alexa to think that 74% of visitors are from Japan when in fact only 1.4% of them are. Also that I could cause the average page views per person to go from 1-2, all the way up to 30ish.

How did I (accidentally) cause Alexa’s figures to be so wrong?

There is one main cause of this massive misreporting of figures. I installed the Quirk SearchStatus extension for Firefox. This extension add some small items to your status bar at the bottom of the browser. They can show the Google PageRank for the web page you are currently on, and they can show the Alexa traffic rank for the website you are on.

But the extension doesn’t silently report the statistics. It actually affects the Alexa traffic rank statistics. As you are browsing where you go will now be recorded by Alexa.

In my case I spend a lot of time on my own blog. It is WordPress blog so I need to access it to put up new posts, edit posts, check posts, moderate comments, and install/configure new/updated plugins. In a typical day this could easily generate another 30-50 page views of my blog that are reported to Alexa.

It would seem that although all my page views are coming from the same IP address, they are still able to make Alexa think that my blog is seeing a huge surge in traffic.

The timing is right too. The time I installed the plugin matches the time I started seeing this huge surge in Alexa rankings. And that’s not all. A short while after installing the plugin I headed to Takamatsu in Japan and continued working on my blog from there.

The fact that I had moved from the UK to Japan caused caused Alexa to think that most of my visitors were now coming from Japan.

Almost all of this was caused by me accessing my WordPress blog in a normal way whilst having this Firefox extension installed.

What it shows is how inaccurate the numbers can be for small sites such as mine. The number of people whose browsers report statistics to Alexa is sufficiently small that a single person can seriously skew the data.

So look at Alexa’s statistics if you really want to. But remember that unless you are looking at the stats for a huge site, they may well be way off the mark.

Visualising the Google PageRank scale

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Google’s PageRank is a scale from 0-10 that shows how well connected web pages are. Web pages with higher PageRank values have more quality links pointing to them. It is not a linear scale, it is a logarithmic scale.

People estimates that the logarithm base is between 5 and 10. Because it is a logarithmic scale it can be quite hard to visualise.

I’m going to try to visualise PageRank with some graphs. In these graphs I’m making the assumption that the log base is 5. The first graph shows the values from 0-10 on a linear scale.

pagerank 1 to 10 on log base 5

You can see that when the logarithmic scale is converted into a linear scale the difference between most of the lower numbers completely disappears. That is why these things are presented on logarithmic scales! I’ve added a few websites onto the scale so you can see where they are.

As most websites aren’t in the 7-10 range I’ve produced another graph showing just the values 2-7. I’ve made the graph very tall so you can see the difference between the values better. Again I’ve added a few websites onto the graph so you can see what kind of websites get the upper PageRank values.

pagerank 2 to 7 on log base 5

The above two graphs are making the assumption that the base of our logarithm is 5. Would it make much of a difference if it was 10? Yes it would make a huge difference.

Here is a graph comparing what the PageRank linear values might be for a log base 10 graph vs a log base 5.

log base 5 vs log base 10

You can see that it is not practical to plot multiple logarithms on the same graph, so it would make a huge difference whether the logarithmic base was 5 or 10.

As for whether PageRank really matters – it probably counts for less than most people think. The toolbar PageRank of one of my sites recently went from 2, to 0, up to 3 and back down to 0 again. During these changes I noticed no change in traffic. The actual page contents and TrustRank probably counts for much more than PageRank on most web sites.

Are your website and blog earnings at risk?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

There are a lot of websites out there telling you how you can make money out of your website or blog. You may have decided to try some of these ideas to make some money out of your web presence. Perhaps you even rely on your web-generated money for a significant slice of your income. If you have then have you ever analysed how secure this income is?

Let’s look at a five such risk factors.

Relying on a single income stream

Like many sites out there you may use Google AdSense. It is quite likely that it is responsible for most / all of your web income. Just imagine if that income suddenly stopped!

Is this likely? Well, if you read the many AdSense forums out there it seems that there is certainly a chance of this happening to you. Many people wake up to find an email from Google in their inbox to tell them that their AdSense account has been terminated. The usual reasons for this include either click fraud (clicking on your own ads), or not obeying the AdSense terms and conditions.

Unfortunately a lot of people seem to be getting banned through no fault of their own. This usually seems to be as a result of their site being ‘click bombed’. In other words other people deliberately click on loads of the adverts in order to get the site banned.

This kind of account termination could happen with any kind of income programme that you use. I’m just using AdSense as an example as there are a lot of documented cases of people having their accounts banned.

To protect yourself from this you should use a variety of income generating programmes.

If you can you should construct your website in such a way that you can easily switch from one programme to another if you should become banned from one. This also has the advantage that if one programme proves to be a better earner than another, you can switch more of your site to the higher earning one.

Relying on one main traffic source

Another risk factor is related to where your traffic comes from. If most of your traffic comes from one source then you are at risk. As an example it wouldn’t surprise me if 80% of your traffic came from Google. Let’s imagine that next week they introduce a major search algorithm update which sends your site plummeting in the rankings. You could suddenly find that you have hardly any traffic!

Other risks include having your site identified as a spam site and being penalised in the rankings or even dropped.

Mitigating the risk involves looking at where your traffic comes from and working to get visitors from more sources. For instance getting links on related websites, or getting coverage in other search engines.

This particular risk can be very hard to reduce due to the dominance of Google. Your best defence could well be to keep in Google’s good books. Simply sake sure that your site complies with their webmaster guidelines and you should be ok.

Having just one website

All websites go through highs and lows. Sometimes there will be an obvious reason. Your Christmas related website is unlikely to do well in the Summer. Other times you may not be able to work out why your traffic goes up and down.

With only a single site you are susceptible to these kind of changes. In general if your traffic goes down then so does your earnings. If you have multiple sites then it more likely you will be sheltered from the peaks and troughs as when one site decreases in popularity another site may be rising.

You can think of it like having a balance portfolio of investments. You wouldn’t invest all your money on the stock market would you? If you were sensible you’d probably spread your money through a mixture of stocks, property, and cash accounts.

Having just one web host

Another kind of risk comes from using just one web host. Think for example what would happen if they went bust? All your sites could disappear in an instant. You may then find it quite hard to get your domains back. Even when you do you may find that you have lost all your search engine rankings, links and visitors.

It can happen – about 10 years ago I lost a domain of mine when my host went bust. It was very inconvenient.

To reduce the risk first be careful about who you trust to host your website and domain names. Don’t go for a company that looks in any way financially unstable.

The second more extreme risk reduction strategy is to use multiple web hosts. This is only really relevant if you have multiple sites. If you have two hosts then you can spread your sites between them. Of course you may now have double the chance of one of your hosts going bust, but at least you aren’t in a all or nothing situation like you were before.

Forgetting to renew your domains

Keep a careful record of which domains you own and when they need to be renewed. Hopefully your host will automatically renew them for you. If they do then make sure that they have your up to date credit / debit card details.

Good hosting companies will re-register the domain even if they don’t have the correct payment information from you. Not so good hosting companies will release expired domains back into the wild. This can be disastrous as someone else can then quite legitimately register your domain. They will then inherit all your traffic, links and search engine placements. There could be no way for you to get it back.

Conclusions

You may notice a theme throughout all my risks. They are mostly about removing the single point of failure to spread the risk. Whenever you rely on just one factor you are at risk of losing everything if that factor should change.

Stay safe, and spread that risk around!