Home – New Forums Tech talk Don’t waste money on useless SEO tools

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  • #987966
    JohnW
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    Hi All,
    This is for the SEO tragics and those who may be tempted by FREE website audits…

    There are a large number of paid SEO tools offered to site owners.

    Then there are all the spam email offers of a free website audit. These are invariably run through one of these SEO tools.

    Here is a good article on why these tools are usually a waste of time/money.

    Why SEO Data Doesn’t Match Reality

    “Ranking reports are useless today because search engines don’t have just one ranking for each Website in a given query. If you run the same query on your mobile device right next to your desktop computer you often see very different results. If you connect your wireless laptop to the network in the coffee shop downstairs and compare the query results with your hard-line-connected desktop computer you’ll often see very different query results.

    If you change the language settings on your computer, you’ll very often see different query results.

    If you drive to a different neighborhood in your city or to a neighboring city, you’ll see different query results.

    If you talk with your client 3,000 miles away you’ll see different query results.

    If you run a ranking report, which scrapes the query results from some data center located hundreds or thousands of miles away from you, you’ll see different query results from what you see on your computer or smart phone.”

    I hope this saves some website owners money.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1165007
    Aidan
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    ^ +1

    We all see different results, its the personalised web, we can argue its merits or otherwise…

    Forget where you rank for such and such keyword and focus instead on whether or not your relevant traffic is maximised. Think visibility and profitability rather than ranking.

    As for the tools, the half decent ones are not purchased outright and it still takes a good deal of knowledge before you should be at all ‘guided’ by them. I know – I spend several thousand a year on them!

    #1165008
    John Romaine
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    I’m yet to find a decent rankings report tool that actually works.

    I tend to focus more on reporting conversions.

    Rankings are meaningless without conversions.

    #1165009
    Cesar
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    Truthfully John,

    The only data I need to convert leads, is to hear my phone ringing. I don’t take any notice of any type of analytics. Your Phone is your best analytics tool.

    #1165010
    JohnW
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    Cesar, post: 191553 wrote:
    Truthfully John,

    The only data I need to convert leads, is to hear my phone ringing. I don’t take any notice of any type of analytics. Your Phone is your best analytics tool.
    Hi Cesar,

    That is a very important one but…

    • How do you make it ring more often?
    • What do you do if you want more new customers?
    • What do you do if you want more from existing customers?
    • What products/services are being phoned in?
    • How do you get more phone calls for different or new products/services?
    • How do you minimise non relevant calls?
    • How do you get more calls from different sales areas?
    • Are there any impediments to your communications?
    • What is your competition doing?
    • And heaps more…

    Making your phone ring is “selling”.

    Delivering your products/services as efficiently as possible is “marketing”. ;)

    PS I know you are stirring – love your by-line BTW. This thread is in total support of it.

    “In this “Day and Age”, it’s essential to do your own SEO (Self-Education Online) beforehand, to empower you with the knowledge to avoid hiring the SEO Scammers… ;-)

    Best regs,
    JohnW

    #1165011
    Cesar
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    John Buddy

    I’ve been in my industry since 2001, and I can assure you all points you mentioned have been completely covered in my little business plan diary.

    #1165012
    JohnW
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    Cesar, post: 191557 wrote:
    John Buddy

    I’ve been in my industry since 2001, and I can assure you all points you mentioned have been completely covered in my little business plan diary.
    G’day Cesar,
    I will take that as a “yes”, then. :D
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1165013
    Cesar
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    Yes, without the “you must have” or “you must do this” analytic software trends.

    #1165014
    Cesar
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    John buddy,

    I truly believe, that most SMB owners these days, get too fixated on latest trends and what the competition is doing. What they should be doing, is focusing on their business and customer base.

    My competition, is always trying to find out what we are doing right, whereas we really don’t care what they are doing. Reason being, the customer inquiries they didn’t convert, we converted instead because they were impressed with our professional phone manner and the way we emphasized how our services will benefit them.

    No amount of analytic reports or software can give you that, and like you said, it’s a lot of money and time wasted on useless tools.

    #1165015
    Y LearnMarketing
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    What do you think of MOZ or SEM Rush?

    #1165016
    JohnW
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    Y Marketing, post: 191718 wrote:
    What do you think of MOZ or SEM Rush?
    Hi,
    I’m not an expert on either but I have explored a lot of SEO tools over the last 20 years.

    What I do know is that they are programs written around someone’s ideas of how a SE’s algorithm works. The problem is they don’t know – no one in the world does. Even Google’s Matt Cutts has to go ask different Google programing departments for specific info on their area of responsibility for the algorithm and that team won’t know the detail of what another team has implemented.

    So the people programming the SEO tools don’t know how they work and as SEs are changing their algos daily, the tools are always out of date as well as inaccurate.

    Then the SEs do things like banning tools running large numbers of keyword ranking checks or they make dramatic algo changes like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird in the last 2 years, or they hide their keyword data, etc.

    All the SEO tools have had to re-invent themselves over the last 2 years because of these changes. Is what they offer now accurate and valuable? I don’t know but I have serious reservations.

    In some situations, tools like these may be useful to help large websites save some SEO time. However, if you use them you better understand what they are reporting and what their limitations are.

    I get very frustrated with them because they usually hide this critical data. It seems to me most SEO tools are like fishing lures – more designed to catch fishermen and women than fish.

    Which tool SEO metrics were you particularly interested in?
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1165017
    pauls
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    Wowsers there John,
    Looks like you’re doing a bit of fishing with this one..

    Where do we start here,

    It isn’t exactly fair when a whole industry is plagued with quality control and the consumer has no way of knowing if they are being taken for a ride or being able to measure what that marketer, agency or web design company is doing if anything when it comes to providing SEO services.

    In summary I believe there were comments around… waste of time and money and results are not accurate.

    SEO Audit software
    It deeply concerns me the amount of website owners out there that don’t know they have any of the below issues and no way of finding out or understanding the severity..
    Many just run out of online budget or give up with a.. it doesn’t work.
    Duplicate or unfocused/cannibalized content, meta titles & descriptions, heavy images, broken links, no or incorrect canonical tags on paging and filter pages, missing 404 pages, incorrect or broken redirects, inconsistent content through elements on specific pages, signals for dodgy inbound links.

    We live in a real world where many small and large web designers and agencies DO NOT build websites that are Google friendly – I see this everyday along with the upside when issues are corrected.
    If there’s any doubt in your mind, Matt Cutts from Google must be lying when he states many websites are failing with basic onsite SEO.
    We call it the hidden killer for a reason – it’s what lies underneath that counts!

    Then we have competitor insights, trending and ranking for your website against competitors – a waste of time?

    SEO isn’t smoke and mirrors – all elements can be measured and tracked. While we may not know exactly how to manipulate Google, we do know what best practice is and the signals that count. There is no need to make decisions based on our gut.

    Is ranking alone a metric you should be obsessed with? no, however knowledge is power. Not knowing is not good business!

    Ranking tools are a waste of time? why bother when you can check our own and competitors ranking in Google for how many phrases on a daily basis? and then compare trending over how many months? oh don’t worry about personalisation, as long as your 1st on your device :-)
    There may be some confusion as we start to hunch down to read and use our smart phone as we walk, however last I checked we weren’t in the stone age..

    The above merely compounds the larger a website gets and continues to evolve.
    Having an audit system in place ensures someone’s got your back is vital – but hey you could wait for webmaster tools to pick up a few small bits over time – she’ll be right..

    John, I recall months ago you sent me a 5 page mini website that you had SEO’d to run an audit on – Serious tools for serious tasks grasshopper!

    Is the industry changing? Definitely
    Are products evolving? Well what’s new..

    Leading international tools are generating millions in revenue – as they say money talks..
    It’s no coincidence Australia is behind the eight ball when it comes to online compared to UK & US. We need to wake up and smell the roses.

    Call me stupid, but to diss automation in a day and age where wages are sky high and machine learning is the future and can provide great value, doesn’t sound like smart business to me..

    #1165018
    JohnW
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    Hi Paul,
    Bear in mind we are talking about small business websites in this forum, please.

    To the small business owners who may be reading this thread,

    It is interesting to note that the folk that have been “liking” this thread include many of the folk that I regard as true experts in the field of generic search engine referral building.

    pauls, post: 192781 wrote:
    We live in a real world where many small and large web designers and agencies DO NOT build websites that are Google-friendly
    We agree 100% that very few websites are built to be SE-friendly. That said, I’d love to know the name of the tool that assesses “Google-friendliness”. I must have missed this one.

    pauls, post: 192781 wrote:
    If there’s any doubt in your mind, Matt Cutts from Google must be lying when he states many websites are failing with basic onsite SEO.
    Again we are in 100% agreement with Cutts’ statements. Please advise the name of the tool that measures this attribute.

    pauls, post: 192781 wrote:
    Then we have competitor insights, trending and ranking for your website against competitors – a waste of time?
    Ranking for what words? Ranking for how many search phrases? Last I saw, it was against Google’s terms of trade to hit it with a bunch of ranking checks. It kills your search ranking access check after 50 queries, I think.

    Some tools skirt this issue by ranking pages based on G’s top 100 results. As you will know, there is a vast difference in ranking results based on whether you are looking at the top 10 results versus top 100 results. Often the tool won’t give us this info about its measurement limitations.

    Again we have another big bunch of self-procalaimed SEO people spouting garbage about measurements that are inaccurate when they often don’t have enough knowledge to know their levels of incompetence.

    pauls, post: 192781 wrote:
    SEO isn’t smoke and mirrors – all elements can be measured and tracked.
    We agree that SEO should not be smoke and mirrors. What I’ve never found is a tool that measure and track all SEO elements because we don’t know what they are. Even Matt Cutts has to go ask one of G’s many algorithm programming departments for advice on these issues from time to time.

    pauls, post: 192781 wrote:
    Is ranking alone a metric you should be obsessed with? no…
    We are very much in agreement on this. It can be a useful targeting method for SEO. It can be very useful to help decide whether you need more “ranking points” for perhaps some location words, product names, brand names, application words, etc. The trouble is Google stops us exploring in this detail unless you clear your history and start again.

    I don’t know an SEO tool that helps with this problem.

    pauls, post: 192781 wrote:
    Having an audit system in place ensures someone’s got your back is vital
    Again we are in agreement about the importance of site audits. Again I ask, what was that tool which provides these answers?

    I receive heaps of offers for “free website audits”.

    These sorts of offers may be the biggest give-away of a scam or incompetent.

    There are heaps of tools that will spit out a so-called free SEO audit.

    IMHO, these are either useless, irrelevant, incompetent, misleading, wrong or worth evey cent they cost!

    pauls, post: 192781 wrote:
    Leading international tools are generating millions in revenue
    Let me repeat, IMHO these tools are like fishing lures – designed to catch fisherman, not fish.

    How many have disappeared? How many are moribund?

    More importantly, how many are accurate and relevant after Google’s earthquake changes of the last 2 year and how many divulge their many and inherent limitations?

    When someone asks me about a tool I’ve not heard of, the first thing I try to check is its data source. Almost all that I’ve checked do not divulge this info.

    Any tool that refuses to divulge this info MUST fall within these limits IMHO – It is either suspect, incompetent, questionable, misleading, irrelevant, a con, a scam or garbage.

    There has been $billions spent on, to my mind spurious SEO consultants who jumped onto these tools with little knowledge of what they did or didn’t do, let alone whether what they reported had the slightest relevance to SEO.

    I have no objection to certain SEO tools. The problem is the many scammers, incompetents and fools who try to use them and rip off small business owners. These people are largely responsible for the low reputation of SEO consultants.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1165019
    pauls
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    Hi John,

    Yes many small businesses are sent mixed messages regarding what they should and shouldn’t be doing online which only creates confusion.

    In addition a great deal of small business websites are far from small these days.

    I’m going to try and make it less about opinion as we all have one.

    SEO tools have come of age and evolved just like any other product in the market place and yes all products be it marketing software, electronics, cars etc have pros and cons. Nothing is ever going to cover all bases and reflected in Aidan’s comment in this post –
    “As for the tools, the half decent ones are not purchased outright and it still takes a good deal of knowledge before you should be at all ‘guided’ by them. I know – I spend several thousand a year on them!”

    While there are endless varied SEO products out there including paid, free and freemium I’m going to name a few that are proven and have received funding.
    In 2013 MOZ generated $29.3 million in revenue and have received $19.3m in funding.
    Positionly $300,000 in seed funding, Conductor $32.6m and Searchmetrics $6.75m.

    Looking at SEO from a small businesses view, they have no way of being able to measure if there provider is doing the right thing by them, or to what degree, nor is there anything in place to detect if someone hasn’t followed best practice when maintain the website – an independent tool will provide unbiased ongoing analysis and reporting ultimately taking away the smoke and mirrors and putting them back in charge with knowledge. It’s one thing to agree with yes we need smoke and mirrors removed, but there needs to be a solution. This won’t replace consultants but reduces time wastage on monotonous tasks and makes it more about facts than opinion.

    This has helped many small businesses to correct issues and/or change providers. – considering how much monthly SEO costs – $99 is a small investment.

    Touching on my previous post best practice onsite/offsite metrics are very clear and I listed some of these. In many cases small business can do very well online by ensuring their onsite optimisation is done properly and avoid bad external linking practices – it really isn’t rocket science.

    If anyone is still thinking that an SEO tool is merely based around rankings then that can be a problem, however if you’re looking for trends and how your comparing against competitors then it’s a must.

    Regarding Google TOS which I believe you were referring to, Google crawls third party sites and then claim the information stored belongs to G and don’t want others to crawl the same. Does that sound fair? Hiding referring keywords sound fair? Not enabling business to see if they are being taken for a ride fair?

    With top 100 search results, the value of top 20 positions is debatable let-alone going any further.

    While a part of the puzzle, yes search results will vary based on mobile, location, search history etc. however we have not had a problem with this and our product is Australian so we don’t check this from the other side of the earth.
    Based on a keyword cloud of your closing statements :-)… Scammers, disappeared, earth quake changes, limitations, incompetent, low reputation – one could easily think you were talking about a current affair show investigating shady mechanics.

    Yes online has reduced barriers to entry and its rapid evolution made it hard for businesses to decipher good from bad online services. Does this not make it even more important to have an independent measuring and reporting tool?

    The criticone platform has some great features and has helped many clients to date. Is there room for improvement? We would be foolish to think not. Our wish list is big as we are on a mission to help Australian businesses leverage more off online.

    Even the doubters :-)

    Myself, I’ve been heavily involved in web design and search since 2000 and while we all specialise in different areas, I’m very confident in the online arena :-).
    With that said, If anyone would like to provide me with direct feedback/recommendations I am all ears.

    BTW John, interesting footer links ;-)

    #1165020
    JohnW
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    pauls, post: 192819 wrote:
    Hi John,

    Yes many small businesses are sent mixed messages regarding what they should and shouldn’t be doing online which only creates confusion.

    In addition a great deal of small business websites are far from small these days.

    I’m going to try and make it less about opinion as we all have one.

    SEO tools have come of age and evolved…

    …reflected in Aidan’s comment in this post –
    “As for the tools, the half decent ones are not purchased outright and it still takes a good deal of knowledge before you should be at all ‘guided’ by them. I know – I spend several thousand a year on them!”
    Hi Paul,
    Please don’t take this as an attack on you. I’m using some of the points raised in your post to explain to small business owners how/why various SEO tools often have limitations.

    I’m all for monitoring SEO performance. What I question is the ability of so many SEO tools to provide useful, relevant metrics.

    My issue is not so much with some of the SEO tools as with the people who don’t know what they are reporting and why. Or worse, they use some site audit tool that reports heaps of irrelevant problems so they can scare site owners into buying some irrelevant SEO services.

    When I get a spam email offering a “free” SEO audit, I occasional offer them statewidesleepers.com.au. (No links intentional).

    Whatever SEO audit tool they use will report stacks of problems like:

    No external links
    No social media presence
    Poor page titles
    No keyword meta tags
    Various other html code errors
    Poor keyword density
    Very little page content

    And often:
    Poor keyword ranking.

    The last is a scream.

    I’ve had one overseas based SEO company phone me three times to try to convince me the site needed their SEO activities based on a report like this. They could not even suggest a relevant search term where the site did not rank top 5.

    If you run it through the SEOMOZ tool I’m sure it will tell you it has an appallingly low page rank and site rank – I forget MOZ’s terms for these.

    This is a 7 year old, 5 page website that ranks around the top 5 places in Google for almost any relevant phrase people can make up related to the supply of recycled, timber railway sleepers to Sydney residents. Every month there are around 1,000 different search phrases used to generate generic referrals. Over 18 months, the number is around 6,000. It probably ranks top 5 for the 15 most frequently used relevant keywords but they would only deliver around 30% of the site’s traffic.

    The site cost $700 to build and that included one SEO consultation. It has not had any SEO activities since.

    I know SEOMOZ has been around for a long time in the SEO market. They were forced to undertake a total business strategy overhaul a year or so back. I believe what forced it were Google changes that crippled their SEO tool’s access to data. (That is purely a personal opinion.)

    The loss of access to Google’s keyword data, impending loss of Bing keyword data and killing the tools’ abilities to continuously hit the G. servers with keyword ranking checks has hurt all those that featured these functions.

    Keyword search numbers and ranking checks have always been at best supportive and at worst terribly misleading. The reason is simple. Search engines don’t rank keywords, they rank the individual words, their synonyms and typos in keyword phrases. I have not seen any SEO tool that can handle that level of complexity.

    If you take my little example site, 70% of its traffic come from search phrase made up from these 22 words:

    railway, garden, landscape sleepers
    Used, old, recycled, second hand, secondhand, 2nd hand
    Timber, hardwood, red gum, redgum
    Supply, supplies, supplier
    Sydney, NSW

    If we take the search phrase “railway sleepers”, G probably reported this as the most used keyword. I can tell you it is irrelevant to almost all searchers and that they need to modify their search term and start again. I can tell that because almost no SE traffic is generated to the site by this keyword even though it ranks around 4-5 on Google for it.

    I don’t know an SE ranking tool that will accurately report any volume of search phrases and that is before we start to get into the issues of search ranking variations caused by types of devices and the user’s location.

    Other major problems for SEO tools are recent code factors like CCS, JavaScript and Ajax that many can’t “read”. Eg: Many of the link checker tools report heaps of false broken links for these reasons.

    Then we have external link report tools. They are all inaccurate and subject to huge swings based on search engine implemented activities.

    Here is an old measurement source of the size of SEs’ indexes: http://www.worldwidewebsize.com/

    Check out the last 2 year’s figures for Google. The graph reports swings between 51 billion and 7 billion pages. Imagine the fluctuations shown by external link reporting tools when G decides to purge its index of 40+ billion pages over night. What SEO monitoring value is an external link reporting tool when it is simply reflecting what a search engine has done, not the SEO service?

    Another problem is with the “keyword density” reporting tools. For a start, this is an irrelvant metric for SEO. Then we have the issue that search engines recognise synonyms, plurals/singulars, related terms and typos. I’ve not heard of a keyword density reporting tool that can handle these issues.

    I use certain SEO tools but I do try to understand their inherent limitations and when I’m explaining reports generated by them to clients, I try to make sure the client understands that they are for guidance only.
    Regs,
    JohnW

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