Site Admin - Search Engine Ranking Reports

by Richard Zwicky

All SEO Articles

This article from The Mender (Issue 24),
Metamend's Web Site Optimization and Marketing Newsletter.


Many times in conversations I have been asked why does Metamend not offer a "ranking" report. There are a variety of reasons, and I shall tackle them here. The most obvious reason we avoid them is the synonym to rank is "stink" and that's what these reports do. The other major reasons we avoid use of such a tool are:
  1. Unreliable
  2. Unobjective
  3. May result in IP banning
1. All ranking checkers we have checked out, including the market leaders, are highly inaccurate. For this reason alone, anyone offering such a service should offer so many disclaimers the buyer ought to know it's virtually a worthless tool. We even resorted to writing our own customized solution but found there was no measurable way to produce good, honest, reliable results.

One of the big problems faced when determining a web site's search engine ranking, is taking into consideration the search engine's index variance. Use any engine you want, but we'll use Google to illustrate this point. When you type any query into Google, where is it accessed? Type Google.com into the engine; sometimes I end up there, sometimes at www.google.com, sometimes at www.google.ca. Earlier in the day I was sent through to www.googlede. - Which gave me the impetus to write this article.

Depending on whether you check rankings on "google.com", "www.google.com", or any other variant, including Yahoo!, and again depending on whether the index you queried is the most up to date, the results you get differ dramatically. The reasons for this vary - server loads, indexes spread across hundreds if not thousands of web servers, ongoing indexing, time of day, position of the moon relevant to the sun, (did I catch you dozing?) are all factors which make ranking report results unreliable. We will not give you data which we cannot back up with scientific proof.

2. How objective are the reports you are receiving? In a scenario where you have paid someone based on a "Top X Ranking" guarantee, the
report they send you may or may not be worth as much as the paper they are printed upon. They definitely are not worth the cost of the monitor you would view them on. After all, the person or software you chose is reporting on their own success. The data they use will be most favorable to themselves. Are these the actual queries being searched for by the general public? Are they truly the most commonly used terms? Are they objectively the "right words" or are they the ones you commonly use? This obviously affects your results. We will not feed you erroneous or false results that deceive you.

3. Lastly, as evidenced by the backlash by some engines against ranking reports. Google actually shut down 100 IP addresses from ComCast because the engine charged the provider with hosting accounts which abused Google's terms of service, by performing an overwhelming number of automated queries.

The conflict centers around ranking reports and has raged around software that attempts to rank where a web site, and where its competitors, placed within the search engine results. Google and other engines have long stated an aversion to computer-generated
search requests. They view these requests as a hostile attack on their systems, somewhat akin to "Denial of Service" attacks. These queries take up substantial amounts of server resources and bandwidth by hitting the engines with hundreds of queries simultaneously, queries that are essentially all variants on the same terms, just with the words mixed into different orders.

These queries slow up the engines for the real clients - users like you and I who are looking for something. Further damaged are the engines that use the number of queries leading to click throughs as part of their algorithm for ranking results. These engines are damaged as the software or service can be taught to automatically follow certain url's, thus spoofing the engine into believing the site in question is more popular than it really is, forcing it to rank higher in subsequent searches. Not ethical.

While the enforcement tactics Google used on Comcast's subscribers were heavy-handed, I doubt they took this action without consideration. Further, I doubt this will be the last time we see this type of action. Denying service to blocks of IP addresses when it
cannot track down the specific abuser may seem harsh but running a business where individuals try to manipulate your production requires vigilance and the occasional "warning shot across the bow." This escalation may be the first step in a battle which could see many more innocent web site operators, (who are not trying to spoof the engines,) caught in the crossfire. How would you like to be a web site operator whose site becomes inaccessible by an engine because others from within the same IP range used "ranking" report software for their web site? They could effectively shut down your business, albeit unintentionally. Bottom Line - Metamend will not consciously contribute to this problem. We prefer the honest, verifiable approach.

Other articles from this issue:
- Where on Earth is Your Web Site?
- FrontPage and Metamend

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