Identifying Current Server Statistics Software and Gaining Access
1 Answer

1 Web Analytics

Analytics software can provide you with a rich array of valuable data about what is taking place on the site. It can answer questions such as:

  • How many unique visitors did you receive yesterday?
  • Is traffic trending up or down?
  • What are the most popular search terms with which people find you?
  • What are the most popular pages on your site?

2. Logfile Tracking

Logfiles contain a detailed click-by-click history of all requests to your web server. Make sure you have access to the logfiles and some method for analyzing them. If you use a third-party hosting company for your site, chances are it provides some sort of free logfile analyzer, such as AWStats, Webalizer, or something similar. Obtain access to whatever tool is in use as soon as you can.

What these tools do that JavaScript-based web analytics software cannot is record search engine spider activity on your site. Although spidering will typically vary greatly from day to day, you can still see longer-term trends of search engine crawling patterns, and whether crawling activity is trending up (good) or down (bad). So, although this web crawler data is very valuable, do not rely on these free solutions provided by hosting companies for all of your analytics data, as there is a lot of value in what traditional analytics tools can capture.

3 Determining Top Competitors

Understanding the competition should be a key component of planning your SEO. The first step is to understand who your competitors in the search results really are. It can often be small players who give you a run for your money. For example, consider the previously mentioned credit card search in Google; Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Discover Card all fail to reach the #1 position in the Google results.

Instead, you will find these results dominated by affiliate players. Affiliates tend to be the most adept at search engine optimization and can be the most lax in abiding by the search engines’ terms and conditions.

Seeking the Best

Look for competitors whose efforts you would like to emulate (or “embrace and extend,” as Bill Gates would put it)—usually a website that consistently dominates the upper half of the first page of search results in the search engines for a range of important keywords that are popular and relevant to your target audience. Note that your “mentor” competitors shouldn’t just be good performers; they should also demonstrate that they know what they’re doing when it comes to SEO. To assess competitors’ competence at SEO, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Are their websites fully indexed by Google and Yahoo!? In other words, are all their web pages, including product pages, making it into the search engines’ databases? You can use the free tool at https://www.netconcepts.com/urlcheck to find out, or you can go to each search engine and type in site:theirdomain.com. A competitor with only a small percentage of its site in Google probably has a site that is unfriendly to search spiders.

  • Do their product and category pages have keyword-rich page titles (title tags) unique to each page? You can easily review an entire site’s page titles within Google or Yahoo! By searching for site:www.yourcompetitor.com.

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