Google SERP CTR Data by Search Rank

Generally I have not been a huge fan of registering all your websites with Google (profiling risks, etc.), but they keep using the carrot nicely to lead me astray. :D ... So much so that I want to find a Googler and give them a hug.

Google recently decided to share some more data in their webmaster tools. And for many webmasters the data is enough to make it worth registering (at least 1 website)!

AOL Click Data

When speaking of keyword search volume beakdown data people have typically shared information from the leaked AOL search data.

The big problem with that data is it is in aggregate. It is a nice free tool, and a good starting point, but it is fuzzy.

Types of Searches

There are 3 well known search classifications: navigational, transactional, and informational. Each type of query has a different traffic breakdown profile.

  • In general, for navigational searches people click the top result more often than they would on an informational search.
  • In general, for informational searches people tend to click throughout the full set of search results at a more even distribution than they would for navigational or transactional searches.
  • The only solid recently-shared publicly data on those breakdowns is from Dogpile [PDF], a meta search engine. But given how polluted meta search services tend to be (with ads mixed in their search results) those numbers were quite a bit off from what one might expect. And once more, they are aggregate numbers.

Other Stuff in the Search Results

Further, anecdotal evidence suggests that the appearance of vertical / universal results within the search results set can impact search click distribution. Google shows maps on 1 in 13 search results, and they have many other verticals they are pushing - video, updates, news, product search, etc. And then there are AdWords ads - which many searchers confuse as being the organic search results.

Pretty solid looking estimates can get pretty rough pretty fast. ;)

The Value of Data

If there is one critical piece of marketing worth learning above all others it is that context is important.

My suggestions as to what works, another person's opinions or advice on what you should do, and empirical truth collected by a marketer who likes to use numbers to prove his point ... well all 3 data sets fall flat on their face when compared against the data and insights and interactions that come from running your own business. As teachers and marketers we try to share tips to guide people toward success, but your data is one of the most valuable things you own.

A Hack to Collect Search Volume Data & Estimated CTR Data

In their Excel plug-in Microsoft shares the same search data they use internally, but its not certain that when they integrate the Yahoo! Search deal that Microsoft will keep sharing as much data as they do now.

Google offers numerous keyword research tools, but getting them to agree with each other can be quite a challenge.

There have been some hacks to collect organic search clickthrough rate data on Google. One of the more popular strategies was to run an AdWords ad for the exact match version of a keyword and bid low onto the first page of results. Keep the ad running for a while and then run an AdWords impression share report. With that data in hand you can estimate how many actual searches there were, and then compare your organic search clicks against that to get an effective clickthrough rate.

The New Solution

Given search personalization and localization and the ever-changing result sets with all the test Google runs, even the above can be rough. So what is a webmaster to do?

Well Google upgraded the data they share inside their webmaster tools, which includes (on a per keyword level)

  • keyword clickthrough rank
  • clickthrough rate at various ranking positions
  • URL that was clicked onto

Trophy Keywords vs Brand Keywords

Even if your site is rather well known going after some of the big keywords can be a bit self-defeating in terms of the value delivered. Imagine ranking #6 or #7 for SEO. Wouldn't that send a lot of search traffic? Nope.

When you back away the ego searches, the rank checkers, etc. it turns out that there isn't a ton of search volume to be had ranking on page 1 of Google for SEO.

With only a 2% CTR the core keyword SEO is driving less than 1/2 the traffic driven by our 2 most common brand search keywords. Our brand might not seem like it is getting lots of traffic with only a few thousand searches a month, but when you have a > 70% CTR that can still add up to a lot of traffic. More importantly, that is the kind of traffic which is more likely to buy from you than someone searching for a broad discovery or curiosity type of keyword.

The lessons for SEOs in that data?

  • Core keywords & raw mechanical SEO are both quite frequently heavily over-rated in terms of value.
  • Rather than sweating trying to rank well for the hardest keywords first focus on more niche keywords that are easy to rank for.
  • If you have little rank and little work to do then there is lots of time to focus on giving people reasons to talk about you and reference you.
  • Work on building up brand & relationships. This not only gives your link profile more karma, but it sends you a steady stream of leads for if/when you fall out of favor a bit with the search engines.

Those who perceive you well will seek you out and buy from you. But it is much harder to sell to someone who sees you as just another choice amongst many results.

Search is becoming the default navigational tool for the web. People go to Google and then type in "yahoo." If you don't have a branded keyword as one of your top keywords that might indicate long-term risk to your business. If a competitor can clone most of what you are doing and then bake in a viral component you are toast.

Going After the Wrong Brand Keywords

Arbitraging 3rd party brands is an easy way to build up distribution quickly. This is why there are 4,982 Britney Spears fan blogs (well 2 people are actually fans, but the other 4,980 are marketers).

But if you want to pull in traffic you have to go after a keyword that is an extension of the brand. Ranking for "eBay" probably won't send you much traffic (as their clickthrough rate on their first result is probably even higher than the 70% I had above). Though if you have tips on how to buy or sell on eBay those kinds of keywords might pull in a much higher clickthrough rate for you.

To confirm the above I grabbed data for a couple SEO tool brands we rank well for. A number 3 ranking (behind a double listing) and virtually no traffic!

Different keyword, same result

Informational Keywords

Link building is still a bit of a discovery keyword, but I think it is perhaps a bit later staged than just the acronym "SEO." Here the click volume distribution is much flatter / less consolidated than it was on the above brand-oriented examples.

If when Google lowers your rank you still pull in a fairly high CTR that might be a signal to them that your site should rank a bit higher.

Enough Already!

Enough about our keywords, what does your keyword data tell you? How can you better integrate it to grow your business?

Clicky Web Analytics Interview

The field of web analytics is filled with free options, self hosted options, open-source products, expensive options, and affordable paid solutions. If you are looking for an affordable, feature-rich, and easy to use web analytics package you may want to check out Clicky.

Clicky is real time as well, which is a feature even some of the more popular services do not have. You can find a comparison between Clicky and their competitors right on their home page. Currently you can go back 6 months in the interface so you'll want to make copies of your data every few months or so.

Recently we interviewed Sean and Noah over at GetClicky.Com. Clicky is pretty popular with the members here and it's a great alternative to Google Analytics.

Sean and Noah were kind enough to answer some questions about their business model, future plans, and the rich feature set within their product.

1. Is selling the company in your future plans? If so, how would data be protected in such a case. As an example Tracking202 sold out to Bloosky and that concerned many affiliates. Do you plan on selling a version of the software which can be hosted locally on the users own server to get around worries associated with you possibly selling the service someday?

Selling the company is never out of the question; however, it would be inane and arrogant to plan solely for such an exit. We enjoy building Clicky and interacting with the Clicky community, and new owners usually have new agendas. Therefore, we prefer to keep Clicky rather than sell it. But if we did sell it, we would only do so under the condition that nothing changes for existing users. We do not have any plans to offer a self hosted option.

2. Do your sell the data at all? How secure is the data? Some of our members pointed out that Clicky doesn't have an about us page and Roxr's site is thin on the "who you are" details. In dealing with certain search engines, a few folks in the SEO field like to carry around a tinfoil hat or 3. Could you tell us a bit more about your company, infrastructure, etc?

Under no circumstances do we sell our customers' data. Data is stored locally and only accessed by its respective owners. Our privacy policy states this and we abide wholly to this unsigned "contract". We have never had any unauthorized access to customer data. We provide SSL login and encourage customers to use this feature.

Your members are correct; we don't mention the "people" behind Clicky. However, once a user registers for Clicky, he will shortly discover we are at his disposal. We usually respond to emails in the same day; we collaborate with our users through our forums and blog; phone support is offered to our white label clients; and Sean and I are always a tweet away.

  • Sean - @schammy
  • Noah - @roxr
  • Clicky - @getclicky

We build, buy, and host our servers. We chose this route from the beginning because it was cheaper in the long run and gave us more control. The processing of hundreds of millions of clicks daily and billions of database queries is inherently too costly to lease out. Many people ask us why we don't move to the cloud. Cloud computing hosts are new to the market and unproven in our opinion. We have a system that works and is cost-effective.

And if there's any doubt about the quality or "trustworthiness" of our service or our company, just search Google for "getclicky" - you will find thousands of positive reviews and other things about us, and almost nothing negative. I think I've only ever seen 2, or maybe 3, "negative" articles about our service, and all of them were over something pretty silly - but people love to rant when they're mad.

3. Will (or can) Clicky get into intricate analytics tracking to the degree of being able to be relied on for multi-channel attribution analysis? Being able to track vanity url's, special coupons, offer codes, etc. Essentially being able to track multiple offline and online campaigns?

We have full compatibility with Google Analytics campaign tags, which makes it all the more easier for existing GA users to move to our platform. These campaign tags (as you probably know) allow you to easily track and segment visitors arriving at your site from any of your online campaigns. For offline campaigns, we also have a "manual" campaign feature, so you can enter in a landing page URL, e.g., and we'll automatically flag all users who land on that page and report the campaign data together with your "dynamic" (GA) campaigns. We also have a custom data tracking feature so you can attach any data you want to any visitor session (e.g. if they used an offer code when submitting payment). And you can filter/segment your visitors based on this custom data too.

4. Do you see yourselves becoming an acquisition target for Google? What is to stop all the data currently collected by Clicky from ending up in the hands of Google (as an acquisition target maybe)?

It's certainly a possibility that Google may buy us, but we don't really expect it to happen. We believe strongly in privacy so we would try to ensure the data is treated as private and not used to "improve" search results, as they do with Google Analytics. Of course, the trade off there with GA is they let you use it for free, in exchange for that. (They don't tell you that up front, but it's common knowledge they use GA data for all types of optimization stuff, particularly search related). If Google wanted to use the same model with Clicky, well, it would really depend on the specifics. We would be against it on principle but it would really depend on the specifics. And if Google insisted on it, then we'd insist on letting our users know about that kind of change so they could cancel their account if they wanted to.

5. Sort of a piggyback to question 3 but with Clicky's customization abilities how far can one push the limit on segmentation, custom variables, and so on? Seems like lots of possibilities there but to the non-techie folks it can be a daunting task. Do you plan to offer paid support, paid campaign set up, or maybe a "Clicky Authorized Provider" program to help people set up intricate analytics accounts?

There are really no limits on segmentation, other than at this time you can only do it for a maximum date range of one month at a time. But other than that, you can segment your visitors down on a theoretically unlimited amount of data.

Segmentation is actually one of our strong points, because you don't have to fill our crazy forms or anything to find the data you want. In almost every report, the items in the report are clickable (e.g. viewing your top countries, you could click the US and then you would immediately be seeing only visitors from the US, including a summary of their activity at the top). And once this filtering is invoked, it's very simple to add additional variables via the blue drop down menu at the top, e.g. referring domain =, then you would see all of your US visitors who arrived via Google.

We help users for free through email, our forums, and Twitter. We don't have paid support but then again we don't tell someone we won't help them, no matter what the problem is. We give higher priority to complex problems or questions to our paying users, but we still answer all support requests, no matter if the user is paying or not. Adding paid support may be something we do in the future if there's demand for it. We would have to expand our headcount first though. Currently it's still just the two of us running this operation.

Thanks for the time guys!

Well there you have it. Clicky has some pretty deep segmentation and tracking options which are both vital to the success of web analytics set up. We hope you learned a bit more about the company and the product via this Q&A. Clicky has a great support forum as well, for any questions you have as you start to get familiar with their product.

Beauty is Rare - Elusive so it Can be Easily Sold

A couple years ago my wife and I had our big wedding in the Philippines (we even had the mayor of Manila show up). She was so beautiful that day. And lucky for me she is just as beautiful when she wakes up each day. :D

But she can be hard on herself and if she gains a single pound she worries. Truth is I am the chubby one who needs to drop weight.

Beauty (and the perception of it) is a wonder commodity to sell because there is no limit. Almost everyone could be in better shape or be stronger or eat healthier or not have this or that birthmark or the odd finger that bends backwards.

We are imperfect beings by our very nature.

We get sick.

We break.

And we all fight the battle of aging one day at a time - every single day!

But no matter where you go, whatever is rare is typically considered desirable & beautiful. This is not done as an accident, but as a way to generate profits. If the human condition is flawed (and can't be fixed) then the person selling a bogus solution to that problem is going to make a lot more money than a person who sells something which is actually attainable.

And so we live in a world where we treat symptoms, rather than problems. Anything to make the numbers look good and make the sale. From there you are on your own! If you feel bad, we can give you more drugs!

Spending too much time at the computer and eating unhealthy has made me a bit too chubby. No good in obese America! But did you know that in the certain times & cultures being fat was considered a sign of beauty, like when few people could afford to be fat! ;)

There is too much high fructose corn syrup in the typical American diet for obesity to be considered beautiful:

"Our findings lend support to the theory that the excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup found in many beverages may be an important factor in the obesity epidemic," Avena said.

The new research complements previous work led by Hoebel and Avena demonstrating that sucrose can be addictive, having effects on the brain similar to some drugs of abuse.

In the United States many girls not only label anorexia as beauty, but some go to tanning salons so they can darken their skin to look beautiful, at least until they get older:

Long-term exposure to artificial sources of ultraviolet rays like tanning beds (or to the sun's natural rays) increases both men and women's risk of developing skin cancer. In addition, exposure to tanning salon rays increases damage caused by sunlight because ultraviolet light actually thins the skin, making it less able to heal. Women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

A service which has no lasting positive tangible value AND certainly has a lasting negative tangible risk can grow to become a multi-billion Dollar industry

Anything to be beautiful! This is what beautiful people do. I want to beautiful.

The above never really made sense to me and always felt a wee bit scammy. There was an odd odor to it, but it was hard to appreciate how scammy it was, until...

When it really hit home for me was when my wife and I were in the Philippines. Many of the department stores sell skin whitening soap! Having a lighter skin tone is supposed to be a sign that you are from a wealthier family. And since wealth is concentrated that is rare. And so that is what is considered beautiful. :D

Managing Business Opportunity Overload

Do Something...Now!

In a land of opportunity there is typically lots of distraction, oddly enough those distractions are usually other opportunities. How many times have you:

  • Stared at a domain you wanted to buy, but didn't pull the trigger
  • Stared at a domain you bought, but left it parked for another year
  • Negotiated down to what you wanted to pay for a site or domain, yet didn't move forward due to (fill in the blank)
Sign of Indecision

Typical reasons surrounding procrastination tend to be "not enough time" or "this will never work". Well, how many of your "can't miss" ideas missed and how many of your "probably will miss" ideas actually hit?

Win More, Lose Less

In my experience as long as you win more than you lose you're doing ok. This sounds a bit easier than it is though. In many professions, take sports for an example, success (worth millions in contracts) can be had for "succeeding" less than 50% of the time. A couple of examples:

  • Hitters in baseball strive to get a .300 average, which is failing 7 times out of 10
  • Basketball players are considered great shooters if they are successful making 45%-48% of their shots

Imagine if you succeeded at those clips? If so, you better hope ones that you hit on were big money makers and the ones you lost on required minimal investment amounts. If you take a similar approach to finding and operating in new markets most of the initial costs are fairly similar. Basic costs like:

  • Design
  • Content
  • Site Promotion
  • PPC Testing

tend to be somewhat similar on your average new site, perhaps if you are purchasing a domain or site it can skew the numbers a bit but overall these things tend to average out. So at the very least if you are succeeding 6 out of 10 times and you don't get carried away on a new site launch you should be doing pretty well. They more you do the better your ratio gets, the better your long term profits are, and you should expect to raise that ratio a bit as you start to gain more and more experience in researching + launching new ventures.

Dueling Fears

Most of us have a fear of failure and some of us have a fear of success. A fear that if we become successful it might alienate some of our closest friends and family members, it might turn us into workaholics working day and night to sustain that success and lifestyle, and so on. Fear of failure is something I think even the most successful entrepreneur's face from time to time.

Of course, we all know the old basketball saying: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".

Fear of failing and succeeding is something one has to overcome on their own but it terms of trying to overcome procrastination it is usually advisable to set less rigid and more reasonable deadlines for yourself and your work as outlined in this post over at (which references a study co-authored by Dan Ariely, who wrote the must read "Predictably Irrational").

Fear of Failure Chalkboard

Psychology Today has a research piece on the fear of failure here .

The Cost of No Action

It's kind of difficult to lay out pretty graphs and charts showing what the "cost of procrastination" really is. We can assign some arbitrary number to whatever benchmark profit exists per site in an imaginary portfolio. However, I think it's best if you play with your own numbers a bit and figure you what the cost of doing nothing is to you.

Factor in the hours you might be doing things like checking your email every 5 minutes, cluttering up Facebook with Farmville posts and annoying your friends with suggestions, wondering if this latest SEO tool suite will be the answer to your prayers, and last but not least wondering if your idea will work. There are more variables of course, but I just outlined some of things that might be commonplace.

Dealing with Competitors

The bottom line is that the web gets more and more competitive everyday and if you are just sitting on the sidelines waiting and waiting and waiting then your competition is going to sprint by you on their way to the end zone, over and over again.

Even if you don't have any fears of failure or success, or maybe you are extremely self-confident in your abilities, you should consider getting a bit more into the game if you want to make any significant headway in your efforts for world domination. You want to try and avoid doing a bunch of things "average". Try and nail down an effective process which you can replicate somewhat, site to site.

It's Up to You

Project management is an essential skill you'll need if you want to run multiple sites, create multiple products, or if you are running a web business with any scale. I like to work in different markets so I can a sense of what others are doing to be successful, more consumer data to evaluate, the ability to establish connections with people I otherwise would have never been able to establish a business relationship with, and so on. Keeping track of the different things I'm doing can be a chore. Enter.....the cloud.

With so many moving parts to a site these days (SEO, PPC, social media, monetization, domain buying, market research) you'll find yourself with quite a list of to-do's and contacts piling up all over the place. One thing that has helped me tremendously is being able to put most of my business in the cloud with services like:

Being pretty much 100% mobile really has its advantages. I like a change of scenery every once and awhile so having all my stuff readily accessible at a moment's notice is fantastic.

So take advantage of the opportunities out there, don't over-extend yourself, and establish flexible (yet reasonable) due dates and goals for you and your business. In the end, I think you'll thank yourself for it. - A Review of the Top SEOs Paid Rating Service

Who is going to pay to tell people that they are good enough and their lives are fine as they are? A fundamental truth of advertising is that advertising the truth usually isn't very profitable - which is why there is lead generation, affiliate programs, public relations, negative billing options, small print, bogus medical research, and so on... ;)

Ever wonder how an SEO professional can charge first world rates to do third rate, third world work and still get a top rating from a heavily advertised SEO rating website? Edward Lewis has the lowdown on Top SEOs, including TopSEOs complaints.

[edit: above links removed, as Edward sold his site at some point & then the person who bought it later sold it to TopSEOs, so the above links would have led to lead generation forms for some unsavory SEO folks.]

A big part of the problem with the affiliate business model is when people offer fake rankings / ratings and only promote whoever pays them the most. The person/company which can afford to pay the most for leads often can only afford to because there is hidden risk or hidden cost in the service, or because they don't deliver on their promises. An analogy here is those AAA rated mortgage backed securities where an S&P employee explained, "We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it."

The biggest brands don't pay as much per lead because they don't have to. They invest in brand and quality of customer service. The best service-based companies don't need to pay cut-rate ad prices to advertise. The best SEO companies have far more demand for their time than time to pay to hunt for customers.

I remember back in 2006 when one of the currently "top rated SEOs" did work for my wife's website (before she met me). That SEO firm did nothing but outsource overseas irrelevant reciprocal link exchanges and her website *would not rank* for any semi-competitive keywords until *after* the reciprocal links page was removed from her site. After we took down those reciprocal links and built some quality links the site started to rank. We changed the FTP details as well because that guy's services were not only not worth paying for...the reciprocal links were proved to be damaging, and we didn't want him to put them back up. And in spite of not doing any services for months (and certainly no services worth paying for), this person wanted to ensure they got paid for 12 months of "service." And they didn't want to let the contract end when it was supposed to either. They were all sales, all the time. It didn't matter that they were selling ineffective garbage.

What eventually stopped the credit card charges was when I wrote him via email "If her credit card is charged again we will be doing a reverse charge and a full writeup on the service."

He responded to that with the following:

I would watch your comments and threats my friend as you have no idea of what I am capable of or who I am - this is a small industry and if you are trying to be a an up an coming player in it this is not the way to do it by bashing your competition. A simple email professionally stating that you were unhappy with the service would have sufficed and I would have looked into to make sure Giovanna got what she paid for.

I have run 2 optimization companies and have been in this business for 12 years now. With my contacts at Google and the other main engines I can get your ebook website banned within 1-2 days if this is how you do business - with threats and slander - keep it up.

The funny thing is all I said was that if he tried charging again (past the contract) that we would reverse charges. And yet the sleazeball told me to "watch your comments and threats" and that he could use "contacts at Google and other main engines" to get my website banned.

What a jerk.

I have always had contempt for blowhards, and for pure hard-sales salesmen who put sales first and are willfully ignorant of their trade and/or who are willing to sell garbage product without any concern for the customer's welfare.

I am grateful that the above mentioned person sucked at what they did & ripped people off back then. If they were not out scamming people and actually provided a useful service then my wife wouldn't have had a reason to contact me and meet me and marry me. ;)

I let it go for over 3 years, but if they are still scamming people then that needs to stop. I figure its only right that I write this post as a fair warning. All good things must come to an end. And so should bad things. Hopefully these clowns quite scamming people. Enough is enough.

Update: 3 years later the fake ratings continue. BigMouthMedia was rated a top SEO agency by Top SEOs, even when it no longer existed as a distinct company after a merger years earlier. Top SEOs is so bogus with their ratings that they even put out a press release announcing the above rating of the above non-company!

Facebook More Popular Than Google: So?

According to Hitwise, Facebook just became more popular than Google Search.

become the most visited website for the week. recently reached the #1 ranking on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day as well as the weekend of March 6th and 7th. The market share of visits to increased 185% last week as compared to the same week in 2009, while visits to increased 9% during the same time frame. Together and accounted for 14% of all US Internet visits last week

Not sure of HitWises methodology - why aren't they comparing all Google's web functions, including Maps and Mail? - but good on Facebook! For a site that didn't exist in 2003, that is quite some achievement.

What does this mean for the future of search marketing?

Not much.

Given the lock-in for return visits, it's unsurprising that Facebook might receive more visits than a search engine. However, the most important aspect of different channels, as far as a web marketer is concerned, is: does the traffic convert to cash at some point?

Measure Success

Social Media Marketing, like SEO, is a tatic. However, if the tactic don't translate into more business, then it's a waste of time. Whatever channel you use, it is important to establish KPIs - key performance indicators - that measure the effectiveness of your tactics, and directly relate to the success of you business.

For example, one of the KPIs often mentioned in SMM is volume metrics, such as number of followers, subscribers etc. If we were to relate this metric back to our business objectives, we'd ask how does having a higher number of followers, or people claiming to be followers, result in more business? How many of those followers are really engaging with you? Or are they, literally, just making up the numbers?

I've seen social media companies fudge this aspect. Some play around with the term ROI, changing the "I" from "investment" to "influence", or to "interest", and use the number of followers as evidence of the level of interest in a clients services or brand.

The bottom line is the golden KPI. It can become blurred in bigger organizations, but for the little guy, it is crucial.

Volume Metrics Can Be Deceiving

Search marketers know that the volume game can be an illusion when it comes to making money.

"Jokes" may be a very popular keyword term, but it's not making people any money because there is no commercial intent. "Second mortgages" is not a particularly popular term in terms of volume, but is lucrative as it has clear commercial intent. A high position for second mortgages in search rankings will make you money.

Conversely, how difficult would it be to get buzz around the term "second mortgages" via social media? Sure, with some inventive twisting and disguising of the true message it could be done, but really, it's pushing water uphill. The social environment isn't really suited to such a message.

Choose The Right Environment

The two channels are like apples and oranges.

Different environments work for different messages. Social media is great for generating awareness, getting people talking, and when integrated with an SEO strategy can be a great way of getting links. Primarily, it's a brand strategy. However, because it is a social environment, there is less tolerance of overt commercial activity that in direct channels.

Typical social media measurements include:

  • Business outcomes - can you link the campaign to specific interactions, such as sales?
  • Influencer Reach - how many influencers picked up on your message and spread it?
  • Audience Reach - how many visitors saw your message? Link this metric to...
  • Engagement - how many of those people who saw you message contacted you, or took a desired action?

Conversely, SEO isn't much use for building brand awareness or encouraging people to talk about your message. The environment is similar to direct marketing. It is well suited to direct response and commercial activity, as the intent of the user can be determined, and if that intent is commercial, then people welcome commercial messages.

What Is Your Business

Hanging out and being cool on Facebook isn't a business :)

Business on the web typically falls into one of nine groups. Which is yours?

  • Brokerage - bringing buyers and sellers together
  • Advertising - displaying/selling advertising
  • Infomediary - run programs such as ad networks
  • Merchant - sell stuff
  • Manufacturer (Direct) - make and sell stuff
  • Affiliate - sell other peoples stuff and take a commission
  • Community - leverage your community to sell something else
  • Subscription - sell content/training on an on-going basis
  • Utility - pay as you go usage

Decide which business you are in. When deciding on marketing and advertising tactics, ask yourself which environment is best suited to developing your business, then develop KPIs that support that business. You key KPI should be the bottom line - either this activity returns more money than you spend, or it doesn't.

A Review of Spy Tools

There are quite a few spy tools on the market currently, some more heavily promoted than others. They come in a variety of flavors such as SEO spy tools, PPC spy tools, and some which do both.

Spy versus Spy Logo

Spy tools can be useful in an SEO and/or a PPC campaign. However, many of these tools essentially try to extrapolate scraped results which can lead to some fairly inaccurate results. Also, these tools occasionally come up with in-house metrics (of which they really don't give you much useful info about how they arrived at the data the present from these "proprietary" metrics") to help try and differentiate their offerings from their competition.

Spy Tool Reviews

There is a much more in-depth review, with examples, up in our members forum. Here, we will do overviews of some of the more popular tools on the market. Specifically, we will be taking a look at:

Value of Spy Tools

The idea that you are missing out on something is a core marketing tactic so even if you are comfortable with one tool chances are you've been tempted to go with another. Keep in mind, from a cost standpoint, the ROI you would take by just finding a few decent keywords to target will likely far outweigh any cost associated with these tools. Your business probably won't collapse if you pick an A minus tool versus an A plus tool and none of these tools are able to make concrete decisions for you. What these tools provide are additional data points for you to consider in your own research.

We hope you'll find these reviews useful. There are perhaps a few other services we missed given how many of these tools as there are and our primary focus on SEO. If these reviews are well received we could also review everything from Quantcast & Alexa right on through to AdGooroo, but we need to know if you would be interested in those types of reviews. If there are any other cool products or services you would like us to review just let us know.

A few disclaimers: some of these services have given us free review accounts, whereas we have paid for some of the others. And some of these tools offer affiliate programs, but all reviews were done without those 2 factors influencing the editorial. Most these reviews do not have affiliate links in them (I think SEM Rush is the only one which does have an affiliate link right now), and Aaron reviewed SEM Rush before they even had a public affiliate program.

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If you can't make $1,000's from reading those threads then you certainly are not a professional grade SEO. ;) Review

Compete takes pricing to a different level but has some unique features as well. They have a few different pricing levels but to get all the features you need to dial it up at $499 per month. Although, some of their lower price points may provide good value depending on what you might use them for.

Compete Site Profiles

Here is how compete gets their data.

Here is a screen shot of their site profile overlay

Compete Site Profile

It's kind of like a semi-analytics program view of things which includes:

  • Unique Visitors
  • Page Views
  • Average Stay
  • Demographic Info
  • Link through's to Referral and Search Analytics (discussed further down)

Data is available in 7 day, 30 day, 3 month, 6 month, 1 year, and 2 year increments.

The audience profile tab is similar to quantcast and is only available to the verified site owner (unless the site has made it's info public) and the sub-domain tab shows sub-domains associated with the main domain.

Enterprise users, where there is no standard pricing listed...also get access to category profiles and behavioral categories as shown below:

Compete Category Profiles

You also get the option to compare up to 5 sites at once in their site profile section

Compare 5 Sites

Those are the options in the profiles section. These statistics are far beyond what most traditional spy tools offer and can be very useful when comparing large sites as small sites do not fare very well with these types of data sets (this is not specific to compete, it's pretty much industry wide).

Analytics Tools

Compete's second tool set is the Analytics Tools set. Here you can search through Search Analytics (keywords) and Referral Analytics (sites referring traffic to the domain) as well as a variety of Ranked Lists.

Referral Analytics

This is pretty sweet as you can see what search engines the site's SEO campaign is doing well in, as well as possible advertising opportunities for your site.

It also will show you Destination sites (where users go after landing on the site you are reviewing.)

Compete referral analytics

In addition to messing around with some of the filters you can take a peek at historical data (trends, seasonal, etc) as noted here.

Ranked Lists

Compete offers ranked lists which you can filter in a few easy steps

Ranked Lists

Compete lets you look at ranked lists via 3 steps (one from each)

  • Step 1 - unique visitors, visits, page views, time spent, monthly attention
  • Step 2 - site ranking, ranking + unique visitors, ranking + all metrics
  • Step 3 - top 200, 1,000, 15,000, 100,000, 500,000 domains

Search Analytics

Compete's Search Analytics show keywords referring traffic to a site (or two) with some pretty neat metrics:

  • Highly Engaging Keywords - Keywords that make up 40% of the total time index and have a referral share greater than 0.01%
  • High Traffic Keywords - Keywords that make up the top 40% of the search referral share
  • Paid Keywords
  • Natural Keywords
  • Engaging Long Tail Keywords - Keywords making up the bottom 60% of search referral share, with a total time index of > .10
  • Enthusiast Keywords - Keywords that make up the top 40% of Average Time Index and a Search Referral Share greater than 0.01
  • Long Tail Keywords
  • Total Time Index - scale of 100 with 100 being the term where the searcher came from...that made up the highest total time spent on the site for ALL visits.
  • Average Time Index - scale of 100 with 100 being the term which resulted in the most average time per visit spent on the site.

You can also compare 2 sites like so:

compete compare search analytics

In Closing

The high price point of Compete might scare some users away, but consider that their data is not just relying on scraped Google/Yahoo/Bing results then extrapolated by some internal metrics. Compete is probably more useful to those who "compete" in really competitive markets with some sites as competition, although it can be useful to folks who may be involved in less competitive SERPS with smaller sites as competitors because they can use this data to investigate larger sites in their market, which may not be competitors but could yield helpful industry data.

ISpionage Review

iSpionage is a newer player in the spy tool market. They are much more PPC oriented than organic SEO oriented. They offer 3 tool sets:

  • Keyword and Domain Research
  • Keyword Monitor
  • PPC Campaign Builder

Keyword and Domain Research

They index the top ten results in Google, Yahoo, and Bing (although I only saw G and Y).

ispionage overview

They give you breakdowns of common spy tool elements such as:

  • Competitors and Overlapping Keywords
  • Ad Copy
  • Keyword Specific Ads
  • CPC
  • Average Search Volume
  • Average Rank
  • And so on..

The one really neat thing they offer is overlapping keywords between Yahoo and Google for a particular domain. I'm not aware of another spy tool that does that.

Their database does not seem to be very deep but they are newer so that's to be expected.

The do show overlapping keywords, total keyword count, and a monthly budget under their competition tab.

ispionage competitors

Here is another spot where they compare Google and Yahoo, this time for overlapping keywords between sites.

ispionage overlap

Keyword Monitor

This lets you search by domain name or keyword to get ideas for keywords to add into your campaign. You can also add your own manually after the keyword research option. Keyword Monitor will show you the following for your campaign + competition:

keyword monitor ispionage

The impression share is not something I've noticed in most other tools and the other 4 metrics can be useful in determining which competitor might be a bit savior in the PPC game. Other metrics they will show you on the keyword level include whether or not the keyword has direct ranking affiliates, the average CPC/search volume, and total advertiser counts in Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

The tool also shows you related keywords you may wish to add to your campaign or just place on your watch list.

PPC Campaign Builder

The campaign builder allows you to search for keywords via a keyword or domain name input. The steps are as follows:

Keyword Clean Up

This is where you can weed out keywords that contain certain words, are duplicates, or have special characters. You can also choose to remove extra spaces if needed.

ispionage ppc builder

Keyword Grouping

Here you can set up ad groups and campaigns right from within iSpionage. It also gives you the option to create one ad group per keyword if you want to get that granular

creating ad groups

Campaign Builder

Here you can input bid prices for Broad/Phrase/Exact match bids, set up your ads, and input the url. Then you can export for use in Google, Yahoo, or Bing PPC campaigns.

iSpionage Coupons

They offer a coupon code for 25% off for all products. The promotional code is: EOYSALE10

This promo discount voucher will expire on 12/25/2010.

In Closing

iSpionage has some promise and seems to be much more into the PPC market than the SEO market. If that's the case then they are taking on some pretty big players as many of the spy tools offer both PPC and SEO data sets. They have some unique features and it will be interesting to see how they develop their product going forward.

Keyword Spy Review

Keyword Spy Logo

Keyword Spy offers 3 different accounts.

  • Research
  • Tracking
  • Professional

The countries available within a Keyword Spy account are:

Keyword Spy Country List

No other competitor really comes close to the breadth of their country offerings.

Keyword Spy Research Account

Keyword Spy's Research account gives you access to the following data

  • PPC Ads (ad copy, the keyword, estimated search volume, estimated CPC, the position last seen of an ad and it's average position, total days seen/days checked. You can also see the ad url and destination url of the ad in addition to other keywords being bid on for that particular ad, as well as an estimated ROI.
  • PPC Keywords - showing individual keywords, ROI, search volume, CPC, total profitable ads, affiliate ads on that keyword, days seen, last/first seen
  • Organic Keywords - showing individual keywords, position in the SERPS, total search results, estimated CPC, and the URL
  • Competitors in PPC and Organic results.
  • Sub-domains

Domain Overview

The research portion does *not* include organic or PPC overlap coverage, which kind of stinks especially when you consider the price point they charge.

You get access to their Top 1000 sites and keyword reports which can be previewed here.

You can search by keyword as well. A Keyword search will show you:

  • PPC Ad Copies with Keyword in them
  • Up to 1000 related Keywords
  • Misspelled Keywords
  • PPC Competitors
  • Organic Competitors

Keyword Search Overview

You can filter with these metrics but you can only apply 1 filter to the results at a time. Which can be bothersome if you are doing large scale research as they limit the exported data to 50,000 keywords.

Research Account Metrics

  • ROI- they compute this as (Days Seen*Percentage Seen/Number of Days Seen since Last Seen). Below is a screen shot of their formula. Again, this is based on the assumption that the PPC advertiser is shrewd and on top of things. I don't particularly care for this metric. ROI to person A can be much different than ROI to person B for a variety of reasons.
  • Keyword Spy ROI Picture

  • First/Last Seen- Last seen is the last day KS saw the ad (they scan daily) and First Seen shows the first day KS saw the ad (I believe its back to August of 09 as of this writing).
  • Profitable Ads - Ads that are profitable based on their internal metrics (like ROI and such) out of total number of ads.
  • Affiliate Ads - Ads that are affiliate ads (based on destination url) out of total ads found.

Screen shot of PPC keyword tab showing the above mentioned metrics:

Keyword Spy PPC Keyword Tab

Keyword Spy's Tracking Account

The Tracking account option gives you real time tracking in Google, Yahoo, and Bing for your PPC and Organic campaigns. This can be useful in checking out your coverage and competition across all three engines. You can also benchmark your data with the competition's scraped data.

Of course, the question is do YOU want your campaigns being monitored by a spy tool that makes its money but showing advertisers their competition's organic and PPC data?? :-)

You can read about more of their tracking/alert/coverage type options here, but outside of tracking and coverage you get:

  • Landing Page Intelligence - shows current landing page, ad copy, and destination URL for a particular landing page.
  • Landing page intelligence

  • Organic and PPC overlap data (only between 2 sites) and quite frankly, this is much more research than tracking and should really be included in the research account IMO.
  • Benchmarking in PPC/Organic Listings (below is a screen shot of the organic one, they are fairly similar)
  • Organic Benchmarking

So the tracking account is really more for tracking your campaigns across the 3 big PPC engines with some nifty benchmarking and gap analysis features but I don't see it as being overly useful for smaller PPC advertisers, although the coverage options might be a good fit for those in competitive markets across Google, Yahoo, and Bing. In general, Spy Tools aren't all that great at looking into smaller sites and markets simply because the resources required to be accurate with somewhat sparse data would be overkill and far to costly. This is why I do not really feel the tracking option is going to be a good fit outside of pretty big PPC advertisers.

Professional Account

The Pro account combines the Research and Tracking account features (up's the overall trackable keywords, export limit, and query limit) plus gives you access to a couple new features:

  • Affiliate Intelligence
  • Affiliate Reports

Affiliate Intelligence

This tool gives you access to look at products and ads being used by 132 affiliate networks.

Affiliate Intelligence

You can click through on any network and be shown their offers by URL with searchable affiliate ads for those products.

Affiliate Reports gives you access to big players in the affiliate marketing space such as CJ, LinkShare, Clickbank, ShareAsale, etc. Here you can access top affiliate products and top affiliates by product id and affiliate id respectively. You can also use affiliate product and affiliates id's to search in the destination URL field to try and find additional products/ads they may be promoting.

Affiliate Reports

Keyword Spy mentions something about "Anti-cloaking" technology but they do not elaborate on it. However, color me skeptical that these affiliate options are able to uncover properly cloaked links by top affiliates. So while this may be good for help in looking at potential affiliate products, as well as finding affiliates who do not cloak their links, I'm really not overly impressed with these features but they can be somewhat useful when first starting out.

In Closing

Keyword Spy is a feature rich membership and they have a deep database. For me, if I had to pick just one tool I would opt for either SemRush or SpyFu as both supply solid PPC/SEO competitive intel at a much more reasonable price. Although, if I were a serious PPC player their tracking account might be quite nice (still have reservations about giving a spy tool company my campaign data though). Another great feature for Keyword Spy is their regional databases...they cover many areas missed by some of the other competitive research tools.


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