Ranking Software: Good or bad?

Search engine optimizers need some way to find out if their hard work is having any effect. Is the website’s standing improving in its ranking in the search engines? It’s no surprise that software now exists to help with this task, but some experts maintain that using such software can actually hurt your rankings or even get you banned. What can you do?

This is the big question that tortures beginers in the search engine optimization and website marketing businesses on the huge battlefield of the Internet. You are afraid to make decisions all by yourself. So you go to forums and ask experts what you should do. After asking questions on forums you will not receive nice, helpful and polite answers. All you get is something like this: “Use what you have between your ears,” “Do it manually,” “You can be penalized by search engines for using ranking software,” and the like. Or worse, software owners try to spam forums and suggest to you that their software is the best. Nobody explains their opinions, or tells you how they came to their conclusions. 

If you search the market you will find a lot of ranking and SEO software. Each company claims that their software is the best in helping you with optimization. How can you be sure that the software will really help you improve your position within the search engines? Is ranking software truly friendly to search engines? First you must know what you want from the software. If you only want  reporting software then you can select from two categories: ranking software and reporting tools. In these categories you can find all kinds of software, including those that have other features (optimization, keyword density, etc.) besides ranking search.

As a beginer in SEO you must know that the best results in a search engine optimization campaign are obtained after long and tedious hours of work by a human mind. There is no tool that could do a better job than you can. Website optimization must be done step by step, while carefully analyzing each search engine’s algorithm. There is no such thing as software that could optimize the contents of your website and improve its ranking overnight. Search engine optimization is a hard and laborious process. Obtaining the number one position is even harder, but not impossible, if you are really willing to spend some time on it. Don’t give up and don’t expect to see spectacular results overnight.

If you are new to the business you will feel lost in the wild. It is not easy to choose: free software or paid software? What are the diferences between them? Why shoud I pay for a license when I can get one for free? Don’t panic! Evaluate your priorities. First, you certainly cannot afford to lose. In Google’s intricate labyrinth you want to be the number one. Now, paid software offers you many more choices than free software. It really makes your work easier. In the hard business of search engine optimization you need something that can truly help you.

Web ranking and positioning software is a tool that automatically queries a given number of keywords on a selected set of search engines. The software will then locate your URLs in the retrieved search engine answer pages and calculate their respective ranks or positions. Finally, the information obtained this way will be presented in an interactive, user-friendly, easy-to-understand manner. The software should make it easy to print your website ranking data or export it to various popular formats for further processing.

There is a wide variety of tools for checking website ranks in search engines, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. You should be aware of what your needs are and make sure the software you choose fulfills them. Here are some of the problems that a web ranking software raises in all SEO discussions.

The first problem with this kind of software is the one that is present in all topics on the major forums and has been over discussed for many years: can a ranking software do harm to your site? Are sites banned by Google or any other search engines for using that kind of software?

Yes, you can be banned by search engines for using some of those types of software. The process of gathering position data for various queries and URLs involves automated querying of the search engines. This automated querying, if done abusively, can potentially impose a heavy burden upon the search engine resources (bandwidth and processing power). There are even well-known cases when certain engines had to take action against users that would generate immense amounts of traffic by doing almost continuous automated querying. That’s why you need rank positioning software that emulates a manual search through search engines and produces reliable and accurate ranking reports.

If you run a SEO company, ranking software will help you with the complicated process of ranking. A good tool will search site positions for an unlimited number of keywords and URLs on all major search engines (for a specified language). It will not spam the search engines, and its the resulting reports will be exportable as PDF, HTML, Excel, XML, CSV or text files. It will be able to email these reports to you and your customers. The must-have feature for ranking software is the ability to schedule updates for the time and date of your choice. With this feature all you have to do is start the computer and the tool will do the job for you. You will have the reports updated at the regular interval of your choice, and they will also be sent by email to your customers.

So before buying software based on trusting in someone else’s opinion, try it yourself. All ranking software programs have a trial license (usually 15 – 30 days). Try them; you have nothing to lose. You can only end up winning, by saving time and money in the long run.

I analyzed three of the best programs on the market: Advanced Web Ranking, Agent Web Ranking and Web Position Gold. I learned that  Advanced Web Ranking is the only one that can do a search engine friendly search at a low price. It is pretty good for someone who only wants reporting software for checking rank in search engines.

Advanced Web Ranking was designed with the issues related to automated querying in mind. The load it generates is less than or equal to the load that a user who searches manually would generate. This is done by imitating a user’s searching in a browser. Advanced Web Ranking makes each query page by page, pausing between two consecutive pages. For each engine, it will only do one query at a time. This tool also avoids doing unnecessary searches, by promptly stopping when all of the user’s URLs are found (or when a set limit is reached). And, most of all, Advanced Web Ranking stores only one set of data per day, overwriting it in subsequent updates, thus making more than one daily update unnecessary.

Because this tool is search engine friendly and behaves like a user with a browser, anyone using it within reasonable limits does not run the risk of triggering a search engine’s wrath and being denied service. Your URLs will never been sent to the search engines. It will only send a query, and when the data is received, it will look for your sites in the received results.

This software benefits from a lot of good features, especially if you are a search engine optimization expert (or company) and you  need to create and send ranking reports to your clients by email in a variety of formats or languages. It is also an excellent choice if you have just created your first site (commercial or not) and you want to achieve a good position in the search engines.

Checking your website’s search engine position is really a very time consuming task. Imagine, if you have 10 keywords that you want to monitor, and you want to check the top 20 positions for 10 search engines, you need to perform about 200 (10 keywords X 10 search engines X first 2 pages) individual searches to get the results. Then you need to compare the results one by one to find where your site is positioned. It may take you days to complete this task if you do this manually. That’s where a good search engine ranking tool can help.

The most important roles that such a ranking software must fulfill are: to display this data in a way that you can easily read and understand, to be friendly to search engines, to offer you all the needed data in order to better understand and see your position in search engines, and to see what is happening with your competitors’ sites. The relevant information should be easy to see and access; it should lighten your workload and not make it more difficult for you. It’s hard enough for you to lead your site to the top — you don’t need unnecessary complications.

Advanced Web Ranking will present your search engine positions in a number of very powerful (but easy to customize) views. From color-coded URLs for easy differentiation between your own and the competition’s websites, to interactive table sorting on multiple columns and filtering by various criteria, this tool helps you to easily see and understand your search engine ranks and watch their evolution in time.

Advanced Web Ranking tool is the only ranking tool able to run on multiple platforms. You can check your website’s position in search engines from your home desktop PC, at work on your Sun SPARC Station, or in front of a customer on your sleek PowerBook – all with the same interface. On Mac OS X, Windows or Linux/Unix, this software will provide you with the same functionality. 

A ranking software is thus very useful. The only problem is that a person who wants such a software must be careful when choosing from the wide variety of such tools on the market and test them before buying one. It takes you a lot of time to achieve the number one position, but a search  engine can really put you down in a very short time and you can lose everything (customers and future customers especially) if you make a bad choice. Good luck!

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