Trying out Ranksonic

I always enjoy checking out new analytics tools. I encountered Ranksonic in a client’s Google Analytics report (more on that later) and I used the free trial to try it out for Tool Tryout Tuesday. The pricing on this tool ranges from under $250 a year to close to $1,800 a year, and it requires access to your Google Analytics account.

Ranksonic promises to give you insights into your web performance and your competitors’ web performance.

Ranksonic will analyze your website, but I have to say that the analysis is rudimentary. It does offer you a cute message:

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I think (and so does Google) that a failure to get a native speaker to proofread your site says something negative about your commitment to providing a good customer experience.

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The analysis checks some basic factors such as title length and lack of meta descriptions. If you have these problems, it will be good to fix them. We had none. Except that I don’t actually believe that. I think that somewhere among our 1500+ posts we have some with no meta descriptions, because I know that I have days that busy.

In any case, you get a quick look at some of your technical SEO issues. You can also see your analytics if you hook up your Ranksonic account and your Google Analytics account.

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What you see is the data from Google Analytics. Or a little bit of it. With a new color scheme.

You can also check your backlinks. Backlink checkers can be very helpful for determining the linking strategies your competitors are using, but in this case seeing the referring domains is a premium feature, apparently not available with the trial. Also, the numbers given are completely different from those provided by Google Webmaster Tools. This isn’t an issue in and of itself, since analytics data are often not comparable, but it may be an indication of overall accuracy, since Ranksonic claims to show Google ranking data.

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Ranksonic also claims to let you see how your competitors compare with you. You do not have the option of choosing competitors, but Ranksonic picks them out for you. You can see the competitors Ranksonic thinks I’m battling with below. In fact, I’m not in competition with Wikipedia, Entrepreneur, or Forbes, so that’s three of the competitors out of the way. SearchEngineLand and SearchEngineWatch are at least in the same field, but they don’t offer the same services we do. They’re also much larger organizations than we are, and not competitors of ours in the real world.

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We tried this out with some other websites, too, and the listing of competitors is consistently off — so much so as to be essentially useless. I don’t even know what to say about “Sponsored Results.”

Never mind. Ranksonic’s big deal is its ability to help you see how your website ranks for search terms, and you can see below some of the keywords chosen for us.

We start with some real problems. First, of course, search results are not identical for everyone, and saying you’re #1 or #82 in Google’s search results does not mean that your potential customer sees you at #1 or #82. Beyond that, Ranksonic is not good at determining the best keywords for you. As a Northwest Arkansas firm with a global clientele, we don’t expect to rank for “denver search engine optimization” or “houston search engine optimization.” We also know that in our field, guaranteed results typically are a sign of shadiness. And we are not going to be on the first page for “effective search engine optimization,” although we offer it, because that is simply not a realistic keyword for us.

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Never mind. You can put in the keywords you want, and then you can track movement for those keywords, ignoring the enormous jump between when you had not entered the keywords and when you did, which you can see in the screen shot below. Whether your rankings as shown by Ranksonic are accurate or not, you can mount a keyword campaign and see whether the measurement improves. This strikes me as the most valuable feature of Ranksonic.

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You can find this particular feature in many other tools, and since it’s just showing improvement from a fairly arbitrary baseline, it probably doesn’t matter which of those tools you use.

But Ranksonic isn’t a good choice. It is the source of referral spam from 4webmasters.com. These are fake visits that show up in Google Analytics (that’s how I found Ranksonic) and mess up your data. They may also affect your rankings by showing an unnaturally high bounce rate.

You can go to their website and remove your website from their crawl list.

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You can also use filters and segments in Google Analytics to filter out this traffic.

Referral spam isn’t a huge problem, but it is an irritation. Since Ranksonic is not the only, or the best, source of this type of automatic data, there’s no reason to encourage them by buying this tool.

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