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Post image for Sonos Wireless Dock Review

Since my last Sonos post a few months ago (see Sonos Review), I’ve really become a big Sonos advocate. I’ve been telling people about it and recommending it to anyone who asks. In fact I’ve even added a Sonos S5 to the master Bedroom. So when Sonos asked me if I wanted to review their new Wireless Dock, I was pretty excited.

The wireless dock is a dock for your iPod/iPhone/iPod Touch that allows you to connect to your Sonos music system. You plug the unit in to the wall, sync it with your Sonos system and, in less than 2 minutes, you’re ready to start playing music. The best way to use the wireless dock is to put it near your main audio system, so if one of your friends come over you can play music directly from their player throughout your house without needing to move files around. It’s really painless. The second best way is to put a  Sonos S5 in a guest room so your guests can play their own music. When you set up a wireless Sonos dock, my advice is to configure it to autoplay on the most appropriate Sonos Player.

There is one criticism I have about the wireless dock: it won’t work with an iPad. Right now I’ve got a jury rigged iPad Dock and JVC Soundstage for when I’m watching Weeds Reruns on Netflix while making dinner … err …  I mean Ted Videos … yeah, that’s the ticket … ’cause the native iPad speaker is too low. If the Sonos wireless dock had a slot that accommodated an iPad I could replace those two with one unit. Other than that, it’s a nice addition to the Sonos product line.

Disclosure: This is not a paid review; however, I was sent a Sonos Wireless Dock for review.


Creative Commons License photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani

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This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Sonos Wireless Dock Review


Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Post image for Website Auditor Review

Website Auditor is a piece of software from the SEO Power Suite line of tools. I’ve reviewed Rank Tracker and SEO Spyglass before (see Rank Tracker Review and SEO Spyglass Review). Website Auditor is piece of software that attempts to review certain aspects of your website and give your website an overall health check.

Again there are two obvious questions, and I’ll address those first. Not only is this a piece of software I use on a regular basis, but it’s one I have paid for.  I wasn’t comp’d or given a free version. Secondly, no I don’t think a piece of software can replace a human audit, but software can be used to gather data quickly and more efficiently than a human ever could, and that’s the role that I use Website Auditor to perform.

Like all of the SEO Power Suite software it’s easy to install (Windows or Mac) and get running. You just input the URL, specify a crawling depth, let it know which parameters you want it to get, set up any exclusions, and let it run.

Website Analyzer Screen Shots

Now, until you’ve run it a few times, I’d suggest leaving the options at the default setting. One that you may wish to be careful with is crawling depth. If you have a large website, set this number to a lower number. As I mentioned before crawling depth can be a powerful tool to help you figure out crawling problems (see how I diagnose and improve crawling problems). Once the initial crawl is done, it will come back to ask if you want to update the missing info. Again, let it do its thing.

Crawling Factors

Now while this software does have human emulation built in, if you selected certain factors like Google Page Rank it can trip up the Google Captcha flags. The software will prompt you for the info, but if you don’t enter it, it will time out and skip it. You can rerun it again just looking for the missing info. The company also offers a captcha breaking service. Depending on how many URLs you are analyzing and what parameters you selected, this can take up to a few hours to run. So again my advice is to have this software on a server, not your main computer.

To be honest I’m not a big fan of the default view. I find the nested tree structure a little hard to read.

nested view

I prefer the PageRank view. It’s just a lot easier to deal with IMHO.

Pagerank View

What I suggest is to create your own report with the information you want on it that you can export via clipboard.

Customize Factors

Additionally, as with all the SEO Power Suite Software, you can produce reports. Here’s a sample report from the software. Bear in mind that I stopped it midway so some of the data is missing. If you use the enterprise version you can also customize the report.

As I said, I don’t recommend running the program, spitting out a report, and moving on: you should look at the data and analyze it. A computer is good at gathering data, but it’s not good at being insightful or offering up expertise.

Website Auditor is piece of software I’ve paid for and have used for a few months. It has a few quirks as far as captcha information and display, but I find it helps. If you think you might like it, why not take advantage of the free download?

You might also want to check out my Rank Tracker Review and SEO Spyglass Review.

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This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Website Auditor Review


Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Post image for Rank Tracker Review

Rank Tracker is a program from the SEO Power Suite of tools and, obviously enough, is used to track the ranks of one or more keywords and phrases for multiple websites.

I’ll get the two obvious questions out of the way first. This is a piece of software I have been using for years and paid full price for. Since we’re being completely honest, I’m even using the enterprise level. The second question is, in an age of personalized and localized SERP’s, is there even a need to run and use ranking reports? IMHO the answer is yes.

You have to realize that it’s impossible to run a report that will tell exactly what position you are in at every place on the globe at any given time. Google simply doesn’t work like that any more. What you can do is get a good approximation of your rankings and monitor their movement over time. And IMHO that’s very important information to have.

Once installed (there are Windows and Mac versions) you put in the domain you want to check, then choose the keyword and engine. Depending on how many keywords and how many engines you choose, you’ll have the results in a few minutes.

Rank tracker startup screens

Here is the results tab:

The real value, of course, comes in looking at the results over time as in the sanitized shot below.

Rank Tracker Screen Shot

I find the progress graph down in the lower right corner particularly helpful.

Progress Graph

In addition to basic ranking info, it tracks movement up/down, visibility, KEI, and lot of other information. You can also set up the program to create reports. Here’s a Sample Report. If you use the enterprise version, you can completely customize the reports.

I’ve set up the program to run on a Mac-mini I’m using as a server. I’ve scheduled the reports to run once a week. IMHO having it run more than twice a week is looking for trouble. I can log in and view the reports using remote desktop from my laptop or on my iPad using LogMeInIgnition. There are also settings you can use to emulate human behavior. While this does slow the program down, it also keeps your IP from getting blocked or from hitting the captcha/malware warning.

Human Emulation Screens

If you’re looking for software to monitor and check rankings, Rank Tracker is software that I can recommend.I have paid for my version and have been using it for years without any problems.

Bonus! In an exclusive offering, SEO Power Suite is offering a 7 day free trial of the enterprise version of the software until November 14th 2010.

Be sure to check out the SEO Spyglass Review and Website Auditor Review.

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This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Rank Tracker Review


Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Post image for Review Box.net – Online File Storage

Box.net is an online file storage system that allows you to keep files/folders synchronized in the cloud or across different computers.

Box.net is one of those services I REALLY want to like. Unfortunately, it just never seems to work out for me. Box.net allows you to share and synchronize files with other people across the internet/cloud. For customers who upgrade to the business or enterprise level, desktop synchronization is a key feature you pick up. The thing that most excited me about the Box.net service was integration with Google Apps for domains. However what I learned after trying was that you need to have a minimum three person license, which puts you at per month for the Box.net service. To be honest, the feature that most appealed to me was the seamless synchronization that occurs when you use an iPad and Google Documents as shown in the video below:

Click here to view the embedded video.

However, a full year of Box.net is going to cost 0. It’s not going to help me make 0 in extra revenue, and it’s not going to save me time that’s worth 0, so it’s not an expense I can justify. The product is great and the service works perfectly, but the minimum 3 person license just doesn’t make sense for me, so I’ve stopped using the product. If you have three or more users, however, this is absolutely something I can recommend, especially if they are iPad users. If not, I’d recommend the competing service of Dropbox (see my Dropbox.com review). There is an extra step when working with Google Documents, but IMHO it’s not a step that’s worth 0.
Creative Commons License photo credit: eschipul

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Review Box.net – Online File Storage

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Post image for Shoeboxed.com Review – Receipt Scanning & Business Card Scanning

The following is a review of Shoeboxed.com, a receipt scanning and business card scanning service.

receipt scanning and business card scanning … organized online … and it’s completely painless …

To be honest keeping receipts, accounting, or any book keeping work is pretty much something I hate. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be talking with the accountant, she’d ask for some receipt I wouldn’t have, and I’d have to go digging for it. I was talking with my friend Merrick at PRLeap earlier this year, and he mentioned a service he was using to scan receipts and then organize the receipts online. I gave it a try and liked the service and eventually got around to writing up this review.

Here’s the way Shoeboxed works: they send you two envelopes in the mail, you put your receipts in the envelopes, and you send them to Shoeboxed. About a week or so later you get an email. Your scanned receipts are now organized and available online.  They are organized/broken down by store, purchase category, and credit card. Need a copy of a receipt? No problem. Just log in, search by the amount, and you can print out a copy on the spot.

One of the best things about about Shoeboxed is that it’s painless to use. I just put my receipts in the envelope every day and mail it in at the end of the month. I also have a rule in my inbox that forwards incoming receipts to a secret email address and it goes right into my account. I can also use my iphone to take a picture of a bill and email it in … in a few seconds, my receipts are organized online.

They have a few different plan options. If you are only going to use an iphone, it’s free. If you want to mail in receipts, it starts at .95 and goes up to 49.95 a month. The more receipts you need to send the higher the cost. If you want the physical copies back you’ll need to be at the “classic level” or .95 a month (that’s what I use).

Two of the other services that they offer are business card scanning and document scanning. Include  important documents and business cards in your envelope and they are scanned and in your account. It’s all pretty painless.

While this is a great service there are some questions you should be asking yourself. I contacted Shoeboxed and spoke with Sonny Byrd who was actually happy to answer these questions:

I’m sending you a lot of confidential information such as complete name, address, social security number, credit card numbers and so on. What sort of precautions are you taking to make sure my information isn’t used inappropriately, or that I don’t become a victim of of identity theft.

This is not actually quite accurate. Receipts by law cannot contain credit card numbers (other than the last four digits which is not a confidentiality threat) or social security numbers. Receipts do not contain addresses other than that of the vendor. Bills, invoices, and statements may have more detailed personal information, and fortunately we are completely equipped to protect our users from data loss or theft. We use the exact same SSL encryption practices as online banks and medical information providers. We are also a TrustE certified site. We protect your physical hard copy documents very intensely when they are in our possession. Our state-of-the-art operations facility is tightly held under lock and key including 24/7 video surveillance and secure key card access. All of our employees are rigorously trained and vetted including undergoing full criminal background checks. We are proud to have a long track record of keeping our users’ data secure and will continue to do so.

What are some tips you can give people to make sure they are getting the most out your service?

Be sure that you keep up with your usage! It’s easy to send in an envelope or two, or use Shoeboxed Mobile for a couple of business trips, then let your paper clutter go back into disarray. Just be diligent with your usage, and be sure to keep the submissions coming into your Shoeboxed account. That way you’ll always be safe and sound for your taxes, bookkeeping, and in case of IRS audit.

Every company has customers who find uses for their products they never would have thought of. Have you had that happen yet, and can you share it with us.

Sure! While Shoeboxed is known for processing receipts and business cards, you can actually send virtually any paper document in to us for processing to your account. This opens us up to receiving a lot of very unusual things. We have had users sending photographs to us, mathematical papers, and have even received the occasional sock!

Thanks Sonny.

I’ve been a Shoeboxed customer since March and love the service. For a month I get receipt scanning, receipt organizing, business card scanning and document scanning, with almost zero extra effort. I can 100% recommend them as a service I use. You can give them a try with a free introduction. I think you’ll find it’s an extremely helpful service that lets you get on with the more important tasks in your life.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Carly & Art

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Shoeboxed.com Review – Receipt Scanning & Business Card Scanning

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Influence Finder is a new link analysis tool that aims to make link research more targeted and less time-consuming while producing better results.

Despite how SEO has evolved over the years one aspect remains crucial to the success of any SEO campaign, links. So just about any tool that claims to make the process faster, smarter, and better quality is worth taking a look at.

Starting a Project

Influence Finder is a web-based tool which has a clean interface and is pretty easy to use. When you log in the first thing you’ll see is the project dashboard, where all your current projects are located.

The projects you see there are some templates they provide, however you are free to choose a custom project and name it whatever you’d like. The project options are:

  • Understanding Your Brand – here they recommend you get an index of your own link profile
  • Competitor Profiling – this is where they suggest you get the profiles of your competition
  • Narrow Keyword Targets – this is the recommended report to identify sites that are ranking for a broader keyword associated with your targeted keyword (think “credit cards” if you are targeting “low interest credit cards”. So you can get some potential competitor data here as well as additional linking opportunities from sites that link to these sites or these sites themselves.
  • Vertical Media – here they suggest to target influential media sites related to your keyword. This is where you would search for blog and news sites related to your keyword. These sites can turn out to be potential link sources and you can also look at their backlinks to see which sites are linking at them for those core keywords, which can be potential targets for your as well.
  • Interested Media – interested media would be sites or blogs which cover topics related to your topic but are not direct competitors. If you are targeting hybrid cars you can look up sites related to things like renewable energy or sites and blogs which cover environmental topics.
  • Custom – a report you can name anything you want.

It’s important to note that the report creation interface is exactly the same whether you choose Competitor Profiling, Vertical Media, or Custom. These initial report types are just there to give the user an idea of what they might want to cover in their research.

We ran through a report as if we were running a “Brand” report so you can see how the system works.

Brand Report

Let’s say we work for Waste Management, a leading provider of trash removal and recycling services here in the US. So we selected the first project type in the image above and clicked “go to step 2″.

The interface is simple to work with. You can do the following in this screen:

  • Name your project (we named it Brand Report – Wm.Com). Again, you are free to name it whatever you’d like
  • A box to the right gives you the ability to leave notes about the project
  • The next field is where you’d add a URL for Influence Finder to index
  • Once that is added it will appear in the gray highlighted area where you can select the domain links, links to the page (if you have a sub-page), or links to the sub-domain if you are dealing with a sub-domain. You can add as many URL’s as you want but since this is our “Brand” report we are just adding ours
  • The last options are whether you want to include or exclude expired links and no-follow links
  • Once you are ready and the URL has been indexed just click “step 3″.

Once you move on to step 3 you are presented with some more options. Here you can add keywords manually or via the anchor text they found when crawling the targeted URL’s. They will look for occurrences of these keywords in the following places:

  • Anchor text
  • Page title
  • Folder name
  • Body copy
  • Page names

You can choose whether they are brand or non-brand keywords. As of this writing actual anchor text is not available, however I have been told that this will be an enhancement in version 2.

So basically if you choose “trash removal” as a non-brand keyword and “recycling” as a non-brand keyword, then they will be grouped under the “non-brand” keyword data point in the results section.

The second place you can add them is via the keywords found during the initial crawl by Influence Finder’s bots (over Majestic SEO’s data). They are sorted by frequency.

When they are looking for these keywords they are looking based on phrase match and not exact match. The idea here is that you are looking for link opportunities around a keyword or phrase rather than for specific data about an exact match keyword. So if you have a site about auto insurance you’ll get results that will show linking opportunities based on auto insurance, online auto insurance, dirt cheap auto insurance, and so on.

It is based on phrase match and I think the addition of the actual anchor text will be helpful in making this tool both a link opportunity research tool as well as a competitive research tool with respect to competitor backlink profiles.

When you are ready to begin the full index simply click “create index”. Above the “create index” tab you can show more keywords from the initial crawl if you want. This can take anywhere from a hour to a few hours depending on the size of the backlink profile.

So here is the results pane for this report. There are 2 panes, the left pane which is for Link Sources and the right pane which are Page Level details related to the domain you highlight in Link Sources (we’ll get to the numerous data points in just a moment):

Here is the right pane. When you highlight a source in the left column (Link Sources), the right pane (Page Level) contains the pages within that site that reference either the brand or non-brand keyword (note, these are sites that do and do not have links to the current domain which can be filtered as discussed later on in this review):

When you highlight a page you can see a screenshot and open it in a new tab, as shown above.

For the left-side pane, Link Sources, you have the following data points available:

  • Max Authority – a scale of 1-15, being the highest, that measures the site’s authority via PageRank, Alexa data, and link data from Majestic
  • Blog – based on site data gathered by Influence Finder, this shows whether the site might be a blog or not
  • Heartbeat – checks to see if the site or blog is publishing content on a regular basis, bigger publishers show up with no heartbeat and will be given their own category in the next update
  • Traffic Rank – based on global Alexa Ranking
  • Traffic Country – the country that drives the most traffic to the site per Alexa
  • Non-Brand Keyword in Title – percentage of pages where the non-brand keyword appeared in the page title (on pages relating to the non-brand keyword)
  • Brand Keyword in Title – percentage of pages where the brand keyword appeared in the page title (on pages relating to the brand keyword)
  • Non-Brand Keyword in External Anchor Text – percentage of pages where the non-brand keyword appeared in an external link (on pages relating to the non-brand keyword)
  • Brand Keyword in External Anchor Text – percentage of pages where the brand keyword appeared in an external link (on pages relating to the brand keyword)
  • Commission Junction Network – checks to see if the site or page is an affiliate of Commission Junction (or any of the following networks)
  • Trade Doubler Network
  • AWin Network
  • Affiliate Future Network
  • DGM Network
  • Web Gains Network
  • Linkshare Affiliate Network

You have the same options within the Page Level area in the right pane. Both sets of options are available from the Change Filters -> Link Source or Page Level Filters options within the tool.

Customizing Your Results

The left pane (Link Sources) of the application is where your results are populated, where the right pane is domain or page specific information (Page Level) based upon what is highlighted on the left (more on that in a moment). The left side has the following options, as shown below:

  • A dropdown for easy switching between projects
  • The next drop down is where you can show domains which link to the chosen domain, or domains that do not currently link to the domain but are good linking prospects based on the brand and non-brand keywords
  • A .CSV export option
  • Change Filter options are where you can deeply customize the output of your data, this populates in the right. Covered in more detail below
  • Custom Sorting options with lots more data points to choose from

They also have a flagging system, which is purely optional:

Flags are color coded, with the following colors available. Use them for whatever system you devise :) :

  • Checkmark
  • Black
  • White
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Blue

Custom Sort Options

In addition to the data points mentioned earlier (Max Authority, Heartbeat, Affiliate relationships, etc) The custom sorting feature gives you these additional options which you can include in the dropdown referenced above, but in case you missed it here it is again :)

(click the more button to add additional sorting options)

The additional options include:

  • Influence Index
  • Relevance Index
  • Achievability Index
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in internal link anchor text
  • Average Authority
  • Inlinks Count
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in H1 tag
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in Body
  • E-Commerce Site
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in body, first 100 words
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in heading
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in folder name
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in page name
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword as first word in H1
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword as first word in title
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in root domain
  • Brand keyword or Non-Brand keyword in subdomain
  • Majestic ACRank of homepage
  • Links to homepage
  • Domains linking to homepage
  • Unique IP’s linking to homepage
  • Percentage of direct links to page
  • Percentage of redirected links to page
  • Frequency of feed update

Clearly lots and lots of options here. Just one usage example could be that you wanted to see sites that are currently not linking to you, but talk about your brand on their site (in key areas like title tags). These could be good link prospects. First thing to do is change the link display option to “no target links found”.

The next thing is to change the sorting options to have the Brand keyword in the H1 and the Body, these should be good link targets. They do not link to us, they have our brand keyword in the H1 and/or Body copy.

To show those columns you have to go to “Change Filters” as shown below, so they will show those columns in the Link Sources (Left Pane) if you click the checkboxes on the right as we did with Brand keyword in H1 and Brand keyword in Body:

And here you can see the new columns, noted with red dots:

We can see that Earthtimes.org appears to be a worth link prospect with a Max Authority of 12, possibly being a blog (guest post), has a strong heartbeat, and not only has pages with our brand name in an H1 tag but also has it within the body copy.

When we highlight a domain in the Link Sources area, the right pane populates the Page Level data like so:

What’s great here is that now you have pages that are targeted to your content which (most) use your brand keyword in the H1 tag and Body copy. Remember too that there are many, many other filters available as mentioned above. This is just one example of what you can do. It certainly is a pretty targeted way of building links. Now, you know the following:

  • You do not have a link from the domain
  • They have pages specifically targeted to your brand
  • The relative strength of the site
  • How they are using brand and non-brand keywords

You have a whole host of other filters available as well, but this makes for a fairly targeted link prospect.

In order to get custom columns, like we did with Link Sources, you have to go into Advanced Page Filters on the right to select those custom columns (Brand keyword in H1 and Body in this example):

Change Filter Options

We have discussed some of these already as it is used in the normal flow of how you would use Influence Finder. There are an enormous amount of data points available to you within this tool and it’s likely that you will not use all of them on every report you run.

The interface for this part of the tool looks like this:

You have 4 options here:

  • Link Source Filters – for the default data points located in the left pane of the interface
  • Page Level Filters – for the default data points that come with the information on the pages of the selected site, these results are in the right pane (Page Level)
  • Advanced Link Source Filters – all the additional data points for your Link Sources
  • Advanced Page Filters – the additional data points available for page level data

These are essential tools for slicing and dicing the data to suit your report needs (link research, competitive research, link prospecting, and so on).

How Does Influence Finder Compare?

Influence Finder has a lot of features. Chances are you have a link tool or two already. As more and more tools enter the online marketing space it’s important to consider the overlap and unique features of the tool you are considering and the tool(s) you might already have.

Influence Finder, as we have outlined for you, has a seemingly endless array of filters you can use to target link prospects. The 3 bigger players in the link research and/or management space are typically thought to be:

  • Majestic SEO
  • Open Site Explorer
  • Raven SEO Tools

When comparing tools in the same space it’s important to make sure they are designed to do the same things, in this case Influence Finder is unique in its stated purpose. Influence Finder is much more about finding worthwhile link prospects in a very targeted manner.

These other tools are much more about pure backlink research (like Open Site Explorer and Majestic) or backlink management, tracking, and workflow (like Raven, which also has Majestic functionality baked into their research features).

Majestic SEO

Influence Finder runs off of Majestic’s data. When you run a report in Influence Finder, their bots re-crawl the Majestic data to make it a bit more fresh and to customize it to your chosen parameters. The key points of differentiation on Majestic’s side are

  • Majestic provides strong historical data which can be very useful when doing competitive research
  • Majestic’s minimum analyzable backlinks are up to 1,000,000 (on their lowest plan). This illustrates Majestic’s position as more of a pure link data tool whereas Influence Finder tends to be more of a link acquisition tool.
  • Majestic does have some strong filtering capabilities which are great for analyzing a domain’s backlinks. However, it not as strong in terms of finding link partners across the web which is, of course, due to the fact that these tools mostly serve 2 different purposes (remember, Influence Finder uses Majestic’s data).

Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer is a solid link research tool from SeoMoz. It doesn’t quite have the size that Majestic does but it’s certainly big enough to be a worthy link research tool. The UI is top notch and it is very easy to use. Some of the cool things you can do with Open Site Explorer:

  • See linking domains with a variety of filtering options (followed, no-followed, 301′s, etc)
  • See top linked to pages on a domain, with domain link counts and http status codes
  • Quickly see a targeted display of the external anchor text distribution for the domain
  • A whole host of other link metrics like mozRank, mozTrust, percentage of internal/external and follow/no-follow links
  • You can compare 2 URL’s as well

So much like Majestic, Open Site Explorer is more of a link research tool/competitive analysis tool. Though, with either, you can certainly find worthwhile linking partners off of a competing site and you can look up sites of “influence” and check backlinks that way too.

Influence Finder’s core benefits are finding linking partners which are relevant to your brand and non-brand keywords so they are naturally much stronger in this area than Open Site Explorer and Majestic. Conversely, Open Site Explorer and Majestic are much stronger in the area of competitive link research.

Raven SEO Tools

We recently reviewed Raven and Raven certainly sets the standard for link workflow, management, and reporting at the moment. Raven uses Majestic’s data in their link research feature set.

Raven is kind of in the middle here. They have Majestic built in so they are part competitive research plus part link management plus part link building workflow.

While Influence Finder is planning on introducing reporting and workflow into an upcoming version, their current tool combined with Raven’s link building and monitoring tools make for a powerful link building toolset. So with Raven:

  • You get access to Majestic’s data as a competitive link research tool
  • Top notch reporting options
  • Deep, time-saving link workflow management options
  • Affordable pricing

With just about anything you buy, generally you’ll get features you either don’t need or are just a bit beyond what you need them for in terms of depth. The nice thing with Raven is you get access to a bunch of tools in one spot for a fair price.

Do they have all the features? Nope but do you really need every single option on every single tool? There’s something to be said for managing most aspects of a campaign in one spot.

So if you take Influence Finder’s unique core features and combine it with Raven for reporting, workflow, and research and/or with another link research tool like Open Site Explorer then you’ll have a really strong set of tools.

The point is, none of these tools do everything the other does so it’s a good idea to take a look at each of them and weight the features, benefits, and costs against what you “need” for your campaigns.

Workflow and Final Thoughts

Lots of data here, so we’ll outline how it all ties together.

You can use this tool for many different purposes and they even give you some guides as to what you might want to use the reports for. I just want to stress that those reports are only exclusive of each other in naming only, the functionality of the tool after you select the report “type” is the same irrespective of which report you choose or if you just go with custom.

We talked about left pane and right pane a lot, here’s a condensed screenshot of the interface:

  • (Left pane) Link Sources are located in the left pane, these are domains (even if a subpage is listed, they will show the main domain) matching your initial search parameters
  • (Right pane) Page Level Detail shows the pages associated with the selected domain and the data points you’ve chosen to show

The left pane also houses the Custom Sort data when selected while the right pane houses the Change Filters options as mentioned eariler.

So this was an example of a report on your domain for one core keyword and some brand related keywords. This is a pretty powerful tool and if they add the actual anchor text where a link exists as well as some stronger work flow (assignments, notes, etc) and reporting features then I think this will be a tool well worth a look for you or your company.

They did tell me the features I mentioned above will be a part of version 2 which they are working on as we speak. When that comes out, we will certainly take a look and post that new information as well as our thoughts. As it stands now this is a really comprehensive tool for link prospecting and link building.

You can find out more at InfluenceFinder.Com.

SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.
Post image for Book Review: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr proposes the following: that the Internet and all of the its shallow content is actually rewiring our brains and how we process information.

the problem also lies with a lot of authors, especially the wordy ones…

I’ll be completely honest–of all the books I read this summer, this was the one I least looked forward to reading and the one I most disagreed with. That said, it’s also the book I learned the most from. The premise of this book is that the Internet is actually changing our brains. One of the things I learned is that our brains have the ability to “rewire” themselves. Based on what we do with our brains on a daily basis, they function in different ways. An example from the book shows that taxi drivers in London have higher development in the areas relating to spatial relations because those parts of the brain are used more often as they navigate London’s complex streets. A second thing I learned from this book is that this rewiring continues throughout our lives. It doesn’t stop once we reach adulthood, and there’s a lot of scientific evidence in the book to back that up … a lot … which brings me to my problem with this book.

One of the author’s main complaints is that the Internet is changing how we think by removing our ability to deeply concentrate and think. Instead, we always remain on the surface with any type of reading. This is where the author and I disagree. While I will concede that some people are losing the ability (and desire) to focus deeply, the problem also lies with a lot of authors, especially the wordy ones. Back when I was in high school, we were assigned to read Moby Dick. At the time I thought it was awful, it was boring, and I never made it through the whole book. Later in life, I decided to try and re-read Moby Dick, and it was still bloody boring and wordy and in need of an editor. If the book was half the size, it might have some value. Compare that with the Old Man and the Sea. Now there’s a story I can recommend. It’s not just that I have a short attention span: after reading Moby Dick, I read Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, which I loved. It had none of the slow moving wordiness of Moby Dick.

There are some authors (and bloggers) who love the sound of their voices and seeing their words on the printed page or screen. They spend time lovingly crafting each sentence so that the reader can slowly meander through the content at a leisurely pace. Then there are authors like Michael Crichton who cut right to the chase. Most readers prefer one type and, to them, the other will be either boring and wordy or superficial and without any complexity. Its not that I can’t read long books: I reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy when the movies came out a few years ago and read all of the Harry Potter books. I just prefer books that move at a faster pace.

It’s interesting that I read this book right after Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus and Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget .The books served as a nice contrast to one another. Is there some truth to the argument that the internet is rewiring our brains?I’ll have to concede yes, but I disagree that it destroys our ability to concentrate long term unless we let it. Speaking from personal experience, I’m reading now more than ever thanks to my iPad. And I’m reading lots of different types of books–see my kindle page as proof.

If you are a reader who likes in-depth prose that has lots of examples and backup information, you’ll love this book. If you are someone who prefers reading books that are direct and to the point, skip this book because you’ll probably hate it.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jon Olav

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Book Review: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Post image for Sonos Review

A few weeks ago, I twittered about the demise of my Roku Soundbridge music player, and how I was now having to deal with using an old iPod to play my music. The folks on the Sonos twitter account happened to see my situation and agreed to send me two Sonos ZP120′s to review.

To be honest, I have heard of the Sonos system before. I hadn’t really investigated it because it looked too complex to set up, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The whole process was actually incredibly easy. Here’s a picture of the ZP120 in my kitchen. You can see the defunct Soundbridge and the iPod hooked up to my amplifier in the picture below:

Sonos ZP120 and Amplifier

I chose the kitchen for a few reasons: it’s where I spend a lot of time, I’ve got speakers hard wired in (see photo below), and it has a network hub. What…doesn’t everyone have a network hub in their kitchen? If you want your Sonos system to play network music or play internet radio stations like Pandora, at least one has to have a hard wire connection. If your network doesn’t have any connections where you want to listen, it’s not a problem–you’ll need a Zone Bridge BR 100. As long as one unit is on the network, it’s fine. The rest of the Sonos units will connect wirelessly.

Now I didn’t get a Sonos controller; instead, I used one of the many iPhones and iPod Touches around the house. You can also use a computer or iPad if you prefer. If you don’t have one, you will need a controller. After that, it was just a simple matter of telling the Sonos system where the music was located (in my case, on a file server in a completely different room), giving it a few minutes to index, and I was all set.

Now here’s where it gets cool: you can turn on the Sonos systems one at a time, more than one at a time, or all of them at once. You can have them playing different music or the same music in sync (if you’ve ever tried to set up home streaming server you know what a PIA that is). If you had two units on the second floor of your house you could have them sync playing the same music, and all of the units on the first floor sync’d up playing different music as well. If you were throwing a party, you could have the same music playing all over the house at different volumes. Here are some screen shots from my iPhone showing that.

Playing Pandora Radio

One Sonos Playing

Two Sonos playing different Music

Two Sonos playing the same music in sync

As you can see from the pictures it’s actually really easy to change music sources or combine the music sources into one big zone. The Sonos ZP 120 also has a line in, which I hooked up to the TV in the living room. Imagine watching the Yankee game and wanting to have it play throughout the whole house while you’re taking care of some chores. Doing it’s not a problem with the Sonos system.

Another great thing about a Sonos system is that, if you want to add to/grow your music system, you can: just add another unit, sync them together with two buttons, and you’re good to go. If you want to use a Sonos system as a standalone unit, you’ll need an S5 unit with speakers built in. It sounds great.

The only bad thing about a Sonos unit is the price. You can buy the components separately, but for most people the the bundled units make the most sense. They start at 9. That said, I know people who have had them for years without any problems and speak very highly of them.

If you’re looking to take the music you have on digital files and start playing it all over your house without worrying about complicated wiring, I can definitely recommend the Sonos music system.

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Sonos Review

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Alexa Logo Alexa, a free and well-known website information tool, recently released a paid service.

For 9 per site Alexa will audit your site (up to 10,000 pages) and return a variety of different on-page reports relating to your SEO efforts.

It has a few off-page data points but it focuses mostly on your on-page optimization.

Alexa Site Audit Review Homepage

You can access Alexa’s Site Audit Report here:

http://www.alexa.com/siteaudit

Report Sections

Alexa’s Site Audit Report breaks the information down into 6 different sections (some which have additional sub-sections as well)

  • Overview
  • Crawl Coverage
  • Reputation
  • Page Optimization
  • Keywords
  • Stats

The sections break down as follows:

Site Audit sections and subsections

So we ran Seobook.com through the tool to test it out :)

Generally these reports take about a day or two, ours had some type of processing error so it took about a week.

Overview

The first section you’ll see is the number of pages crawled, followed by 3 “critical” aspects of the site (Crawl Coverage, Reputation, and Page Optimization). All three have their own report sections as well. Looks like we got an 88. Excuse me, but shouldn’t that be a B+? :)

So it looks like we did just fine on Crawl Coverage and Reputation, but have some work to do with Page Optimization.

Alexa Site Audit Overview

The next section on the overview page is 5 recommendations on how to improve your site, with links to those specific report sections as well. At the bottom you can scroll to the next page or use the side navigation. We’ll investigate these report sections individually but I think the overview page is helpful in getting a high-level overview of what’s going on with the site.

Alexa Site Audit Overview

Crawl Coverage

This measures the “crawl-ability” of the site, internal links, your robots.txt file, as well as any redirects or server errors.

Reachability

The Reachability report shows you a break down of what HTML pages were easy to reach versus which ones were not so easy to each. Essentially for our site, the break down is:

  • Easy to find – 4 or less links a crawler must follow to get to a page
  • Hard to find – more than 4 links a crawler must follow to get to a page

The calculation is based on the following method used by Alexa in determining the path length specific to your site:

Our calculation of the optimal path length is based on the total number of pages on your site and a consideration of the number of clicks required to reach each page. Because optimally available sites tend to have a fan-out factor of at least ten unique links per page, our calculation is based on that model. When your site falls short of that minimum fan-out factor, crawlers will be less likely to index all of the pages on your site.

Alexa Site Audit Reachability Report

A neat feature in this report is the ability to download your URL’s + the number of links the crawler had to follow to find the page in a .CSV format.

Alexa Site Audit Reachability Report Download Links

This is a useful feature for mid-large scale sites. You can get a decent handle on some internal linking issues you may have which could be affecting how relevant a search engine feels a particular page might be. Also, this report can spot some weaknesses in your site’s linking architecture from a usability standpoint.

On-Site Links

While getting external links from unique domains is typically a stronger component to ranking a site it is important to have a strong internal linking plan as well. Internal links are important in a few ways:

  • The only links where you can 100% control the anchor text (outside of your own sites of course, or sites owned by your friends)
  • They can help you flow link equity to pages on your site that need an extra bit of juice to rank
  • Users will appreciate a logical, clear internal navigation structure and you can use internal linking to get them to where you want them to go

Alexa will show you your top linked to (from internal links) pages:

Onsite Links Alexa Site Audit

You can also click the link to the right to expand and see the top ten pages that link to that page:

Expanded Onsite Links Report

So if you are having problems trying to rank some sub-pages for core keywords or long-tail keywords, you can check the internal link counts (and see the top 10 linked from pages) and see if something is amiss with respect to your internal linking structure for a particular page.

Robots.txt

Here you’ll see if you’ve restricted access to these search engine crawlers:

  • ia_archiver (Alexa)
  • googlebot (Google)
  • teoma (Ask)
  • msnbot (Bing
  • slurp (Yahoo)
  • baiduspider (Baidu)
Site Audit Robots.Txt

If you block out registration areas or other areas that are normally restricted, then the report will say that you are not blocking major crawlers but will show you the URL’s you are blocking under that part of the report.

There is not much that is groundbreaking with Robots.Txt checks but it’s another part of a site that you should check when doing an SEO review so it is a helpful piece of information.

Redirects

We all know what happens when redirects go bad on a mid-large sized site :)

Redirects Gone Bad

This report will show you what percentage of your crawled pages are being redirected to other pages with temporary redirects.

The thing with temporary redirects, like 302′s, is that unlike 301′s they do not pass any link juice so you should pay attention to this part of the report and see if any key pages are being redirected improperly.

Redirect Report Alexa Site Audit

Server Errors

This section of the report will show you any pages which have server errors.

Alexa Site Audit Server Errors

Making sure your server is handling errors correctly (such as a 404) is certainly worthy of your attention.

Reputation

The only part of this module is external links from authoritative sites and where your site ranks in conjunction with “similar sites” with respect to the number of sites linking to your sites and similar sites.

Links from Top Sites

The analysis is given based on the aforementioned forumla:

Alexa Reputation

Then you are shown a chart which correlates to your site and related sites (according to Alexa) plus the total links pointing at each site which places the sites in a specific percentile based on links and Alexa Rank.

Since Alexa is heavily biased towards webmaster type sites based on their user base, these Alexa Rank’s are probably higher than they should be but it’s all relative since all sites are being judged on this measure.

Alexa Site Audit Link Chart

The Related Sites area is located below the chart:

Related Sites Link Module Alexa Audit

Followed by the Top Ranked sites linking to your site:

Alexa Site Audit Top Ranked Sites

I do not find this incredibly useful as a standalone measure of reputation. As mentioned, Alexa Rank can be off and I’d rather know where competing sites (and my site or sites) are ranking in terms of co-occurring keywords, unique domains linking, strength of the overall link profile, and so on as a measure of true relevance.

It is, however, another data point you can use in conjunction with other tools and methods to get a broader idea of your site and related sites compare.

Page Optimization

Checking the on-page aspects of a mid-large sized site can be pretty time consuming. Our Website Health Check Tool covers some of the major components (like duplicate/missing title tags, duplicate/missing meta descriptions, canonical issues, error handling responses, and multiple index page issues) but this module does some other things too.

Link Text

The Link Text report shows a break down of your internal anchor text:

Link Text Report Alexa

Click on the pages link and see the top pages using that anchor text to link to a page (shows the page the text is on as well as the page it links too):

Link Expansion Site Audit Report

The report is based on the pages it crawled so if you have a very large site or lots and lots of blog posts you might find this report lacking a bit in terms of breadth of coverage on your internal anchor text counts.

Broken Links

Checks broken links (internal and external) and groups them by page, which is an expandable option similar to the other reports:

Alexa Broken Links Report Xenu is more comprehensive as a standalone tool for this kind of report (and for some of their other link reports as well).

Duplicate Content

The Duplicate Content report groups all the pages that have the same content together and gives you some recommendations on things you can do to help with duplicate content like:

  • Working with robots.txt
  • How to use canonical tags
  • Using HTTP headers to thwart duplicate content issues
Alexa Duplicate Content Overview

Here is how they group items together:

Alexa Duplicate Content Grouped Links

Anything that can give you some decent insight into potential duplicate content issues (especially if you use a CMS) is a useful tool.

Duplicate Meta Descriptions

No duplicate meta descriptions here!

Alexa Site Audit Duplicate Meta Descriptions

Fairly self-explanatory and while a meta description isn’t incredibly powerful as standalone metric it does pay to make sure you have unique ones for your pages as every little bit helps!

Duplicate Title Tags

You’ll want to make sure you are using your title tags properly and not attacking the same keyword or keywords in multiple title tags on separate pages. Much like the other reports here, Alexa will group the duplicates together:

Alexa Site Audit Duplicate Title Tags

They do not currently offer a missing title tag or missing meta description report which is unfortunate because those are worthwhile metrics to report on.

Low Word Count

Having a good amount of text on a page is good way to work in your core keywords as well as to help in ranking for longer tail keywords (which tend to drive lots of traffic to most sites). This report kicks out pages which have (in looking at the stats) less than 150 words or so on the page:

Alexa Site Audit Low Word Count

There’s no real magic bullet for the amount of words you “should” have on a page. You want to have the right balance of word counts, images, and overall presentation components to make your site:

  • Linkable
  • Textually relevant for your core and related keywords
  • Readable for humans

Image Descriptions

Continuing on with the “every little bit helps” mantra, you can see pages that have images with missing ALT attributes:

Alexa Site Audit ALT Attribute Overview

Alexa groups the images on per page, so just click the link to the right to expand the list:

Alexa Site Audit ALT Attribute Groupings

Like meta descriptions, this is not a mega-important item as a standalone metric but it helps a bit and helps with image search.

Session IDs

This report will show you any issues your site is having due to the use of session id’s.

Alexa Site Audit Session ID

If you have issues with session id’s and/or other URL parameters here you should take a look at using canonical tags or Google’s parameter handling (mostly to increase the efficiency of your site’s crawl by Googlebot, as Google will typically skip the crawling of pages based on your parameter list)

Heading Recommendations

Usually I cringe when I see automated SEO solutions. The headings section contains “recommended” headings for your pages. You can download the entire list in CSV format:

Automated Headings Alexa

The second one listed, “interface seo”, is on a page which talks about Google adding breadcrumbs to the search results. I do not think that is a good heading tag for this blog post. I suspect most of the automated tags are going to be average to less than average.

Keywords

Alexa’s Keyword module offers recommended keywords to pursue as well as on site recommendations in the following sub-categories:

  • Search Engine Marketing (keywords)
  • Link Recommendations (on-site link recommendations

Search Engine Marketing

Based on your site’s content Alexa offers up some keyword recommendations:

Alexa Site Audit Keyword Recommendations

The metrics are defined as:

  • Query – the proposed keyword
  • Opportunity – (scales up to 1.0) based on expected search traffic to your site from keywords which have a low CPC. A higher value here typically means a higher query popularity and a low QCI. Essentially, the higher the number the better the relationship is between search volume, low CPC, and low ad competition.
  • Query Popularity (scales up to 100) based on the frequency of searches for that keyword
  • QCI – (scales up to 100) based on how many ads are showing across major search engines for the keyword

For me, it’s another keyword source. The custom metrics are ok to look at but what disappoints me about this report is that they do not align the keywords to relevant pages. It would be nice to see “XYZ keywords might be good plays for page ABC based on ABC’s content”.

Link Recommendations

This is kind of an interesting report. You’ve got 3 sets of data here. The first is the “source page” and this is a listing of pages that, according to Alexa’s crawl, are pages that appear to be important to search engines as well as pages that are easily crawled by crawlers:

Alexa Site Audit Link Recommendations

These are pages Alexa feels should be pages you link from. The next 2 data sets are in the same table. They are “target pages” and keywords:

Alexa Site Audit Link Recommendations Target

Some of the pages are similar but the attempt is to match up pages and predict the anchor text that should be used from the source page to the target page. It’s a good idea but there’s a bit of page overlap which detracts from the overall usefulness of the report IMO.

Stats

The Stats section offers 3 different reports:

  • Report Stats – an overview of crawled pages
  • Crawler Errors – errors Alexa encountered in crawling your site
  • Unique Hosts Crawled – number of unique hosts (your domain and internal/external domains and sub-domains) Alexa encountered in crawling your site

Report Stats

An overview of crawl statistics:

Alexa Site Audit Report Stats

Crawler Errors

This is where Alexa would show what errors, if any, they encountered when crawling the site

Alexa Site Audit Crawl Errors

Unique Hosts Crawled

A report showing which sites you are linking to (as well as your own domain/subdomains)

Alexa Site Audit Unique Hosts

Is it Worth 9?

Some of the report functionality is handled by free (in some cases) tools that are available to you. Xenu does a lot of what Alexa’s link modules do and if you are a member here the Website Health Check Tool does some of the on-page stuff as well.

I would also like to see more export functionality especially in lieu of white label reporting. The crawling features are kind of interesting and the price point is fairly affordable as one time fee.

The Alexa Site Audit Report does offer some benefit IMO and the price point isn’t overly cost-prohibitive but I wasn’t really wowed by the report. If you are ok with spending 9 to get a broad overview of things then I think it’s an ok investment. For larger sites sometimes finding (and fixing) only 1 or 2 major issues can be worth thousands in additional traffic.

It left me wanting a bit more though, so I might prefer to spend that 9 on links since most of the tool’s functionality is available to me without dropping down the fee. Further, the new SEOmoz app also covers a lot of these features & is available at a monthly price-point, while allowing you to run reports on up to 5 sites at a time. The other big thing for improving the value of the Alexa application would be if they allowed you to run a before and after report as part of their package. That way in-house SEOs can not only show their boss what was wrong, but can also use that same 3rd party tool as verification that it has been fixed.

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Post image for Vzaar Video Hosting Service Review

The following is a sponsored post.

For this post I’m going to be taking a look a third party video player from Vzaar.com. As Google continues to emphasize videos with universal search, not including them part of your overall search marketing strategy is probably not a smart move. In the past Google would only show video results from high reliability websites like Youtube, MetaCafe and Video Jug. However in recent months you can host videos on your own site as long as the hosting is reliable.

In the past people would upload videos to places like Youtube and cross the project off their to-do list and call it a day. The problem was at the end of every video Youtube would show related video, in an effort to keep you watching. if you where a merchant selling a product, or someone selling information like an ebook, or trying to get people to sign up to a mailing list these related videos where a distraction, keeping people from entering your conversion funnel. If you use third party players like the one from Vzaar you don’t have that issue to worry about. Another issue with Youtube is they have started showing advertising overlays, and you never know when your competition might show up on your video.

Vzaar has worked with some large companies like ToysRUs, Walmart, and Budweiser, you can see samples of other clients on their showcase page. They also have a lot of other features like player skins, video settings, ecommerce, analytics, ebay integration, mail chimp integration, and more you can see the full list on the features page. You can take and upload your videos as you would any other video service, you don’t need special equipment. A computer webcam, digital camera, or mobile phone work fine (my video came from the front facing camera of an iphone 4)

This is a paid service, so it’s for people and businesses who are professionals, it’s not the place to upload the funny videos of your cat in the bathtub. They have a limited free trial so you can give it a try, professional plans start at a month for 50GB of video playback. You can get more information about it and other plans on the pricing page.

If you’ve tried using videos in the past and not gotten the conversions you where looking for and where losing people to more Youtube videos, this is a service you should probably look at you can get more info from Vzaar.com.

The preceding has been a sponsored post. Find out more information about sponsored posts

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Vzaar Video Hosting Service Review

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog