The future of rank checking with Raven

Features and Updates/SEO

The future of rank checking with Raven

Before the Raven Internet Marketing Tools platform even existed, our agency had an automated rank checking tool called SERP Tracker. It’s been an interesting ride ever since.

When we first started automated rank checking, Google provided an API for it. The expectation was that they were going to eventually release a commercial version and also continue to improve the API. Instead, they quietly stopped working on it and allowed it to decay (without telling anyone). Then they introduced the Google Web Search API, stating that the old API was deprecated and that this API was replacing it. Unfortunately, they made the API so limiting that it was practically useless from day one. That API also is now deprecated.

More recently, Google made a concession and added rankings data to their Google Webmaster Tools. To the dismay of marketers, it only displays keywords that their system chooses to display — there’s isn’t a way to add your own keywords.

Why ranking results?

At the recent Q&A On Website Ranking panel at SXSW, someone asked when and if Google was ever going to provide a commercial API for rank checking. The panel consisted of Duane Forrester of Bing, Matt Cutts from Google and Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land. Other than the answer of no, both Matt, and especially Danny, tried to stress the unimportance of ranking results. Danny went so far as to imply that if you wanted ranking results, you were doing it wrong — that it was a thing of the past.

The funny thing is, I have yet to meet one person from an agency or in-house marketing department (who actually does Internet marketing for a living) completely agree with that statement. There’s certainly consensus among most professionals that a micro-focus on just rankings is poor practice, and maybe that’s what Danny meant. However, rankings still play an important part in a holistic campaign. Examples include:

  1. Creating and tracking campaign goals for low ranking keywords
  2. Monitoring the effectiveness of link building campaigns
  3. Determining and targeting keywords that drive the highest conversion rate

A resource crossroads

With the absence of a reliable commercial API, we’ve had to figure out new ways to retrieve rankings data. Coupled with our exponential growth, this task has become more and more challenging.

In the past several weeks, we reached a point where maintaining the retrieval of weekly ranking results was absorbing the majority of our available resources, and it was starting to affect the quality of the results. It brought us to a crossroads: we could either focus much of our energy on the continuous scaling of our rank checker, or we could continue to build out our vision of the Raven platform.

We chose to continue building the Raven platform.

Migrating to AuthorityLabs

AuthorityLabsWe keep a close eye on our customer usage and growth curve, and we knew this day might eventually come. That’s why we have been researching and talking with potential partners for several months now. We felt that the best ranking results partner was AuthorityLabs. Retrieving ranking results is their sole business, and they’ve proven to us that they can provide scalable and accurate results.

We are excited to be the first company to use their new Partner API. We’re currently in the process of migrating our entire system to using the AuthorityLabs Partner API for all automated ranking results.

Choice and control

Once we fully complete the data retrieval migration to AuthorityLabs, we’ll be working on several related enhancements to the rank tracker.

Rank importing

Advanced Web RankingWe plan to support the ability to import your own ranking data from popular desktop applications. For example, if you use Advanced Web Ranking to get your ranking results, you’ll be able to import them directly into Raven. We also plan to allow existing AuthorityLabs users to OAuth from Raven and automatically import their ranking results.

Manual rank editing

Sometimes ranking results can be slightly off. To give our customers a way to fix that, especially for running client reports, we’re going to provide the ability to manually change any ranking result.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the AuthorityLabs ranking results be different from previous Raven results?
We have worked closely with AuthorityLabs to ensure that their results are comparable to the quality of results we’ve delivered in the past.

Is the interface or pricing going to change when you switch over to AuthorityLabs?
No, the migration should be seamless and will happen in the background. Also, the pricing will not be changing.

When will I be able to import ranking results or manually edit a rank?
We plan to release those features within the next month or two.

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Tell us what you think

  • Joshua

    Looking forward to the enhanced results. Would love to be able to see a graph for keyword progress in aggregate not just individual keywords as well.

  • Jon Henshaw

    @Rebel SEO, it supports that now. I put a quick screencast together to show you how it works: http://vimeo.com/22081198 — It doesn’t work in the Report Wizard yet, but we’re working on it.

  • http://rebel-seo.com Rebel SEO

    I’m still waiting for the feature that allows us to filter by more than one tag. When is that going to happen?

  • http://www.localsearchmasters.com Lee

    Can’t wait for universal results tracking, that will be awesome.

  • http://www.dpfoc.com Rahul Kharnokia @DPFOC

    Thanks for this information. Still I would suggest that it should show data for top 100 not for top 50 as it was showing previously.

  • http://jeremyhermanns.org Jeremy Hermanns

    Awesome news Jon – very stoked to see the new rank tool implementation.

    Will let you know how the data is coming along in next weeks reports ;)

    Best,
    Jer

  • http://alterimaging.com VA @ Alter Imaging

    Thanks for continuously evolving your offerings, John. I hope the AL partnership improves the stability. The last few weeks’ rank reports have been uber slow for me….and not consistent with other tools/observations.

    That being said, I understand how difficult rank checking has become.

  • http://www.vminnovations.com AK @ VMInnovations

    Exciting news, thanks for continuously and rigorously improving the system. I would really like to see more frequent ranking updates if possible (like 2x week).

  • http://Www.Traffika.com.au Edmund PELGEN

    Jon I justt checked out the AuthoriLabs site and I notice their system does not display the in country searches for non us countries. Currently raven provides us with rankings in google au and google au only. Will this functionality be available with auto labs?

    Ed

  • Jon Henshaw

    @Anthony, I mentioned this earlier in the comment thread. Their Partner API works on a per search engine basis. So we’re going to keep everything basically the same on our part. However, we plan to allow you to OAuth into your own AuthorityLabs account (if you so desire), which will allow you to pay them directly and automatically pull in daily results into Raven. So if you want the 1 to 1 (which is 1 keyword for 3 search engines) that will be the best route to go.

  • http://42metrics.com Anthony Brunetti

    Is Raven also planning on implementing this same feature?

    “1 Keyword is 1 Keyword

    With AuthorityLabs, each keyword that you add to your account counts as exactly one keyword. We don’t count it as three keywords if you’re checking Google, Yahoo, and Bing at the same time. If you track the same keyword on 100 different domains for the same country, it’s still only counted as one keyword.”

    Please let me know.

  • Jon Henshaw

    @Max, please feel free to email me (jon at raventools.com) example reports so I can consider adding some version of them to the system in the future.

    @Fed Up, I believe they’ve only been seriously delayed for one week. The other days when it’s been delayed, for the most party, they’ve come out on Wednesday. We’ll get this under control very soon. Regardless, we’re very sorry for the delays. We realize how frustrating this is to you and many others.

  • FED UP

    The future of rank checking is to deliver it on Wednesdays and stop the endless delays every week. Rankings are of no use if come Friday the reports have not updated.

  • http://www.thunderseo.com Max Thomas

    Glad to hear you’ll be keeping the Raventools SERP interface and reporting functions. We work with clients that have multiple locations across the country. The organization of the tags and ability to view “by tag” online and via the reports is fantastic.

    As for local search, we used to use AWR and found their local search program did not accurately pick up Google Place pages and “map” rankings. It proved so inconsistent that we stopped using it altogether. I’m new to AL so hopefully their local search results are better.

    As for keyword rankings, we actually have few clients who use them. The clients who do full phone and form tracking look solely at the leads and conversions. As for our other clients, we’ve shifted our reporting from month-over-month to an ongoing monthly SEO KPI and Metrics Analysis that tracks about 14 key metrics overtime. Using this approach we’re able to focus our attention, the client’s and overall strategy on the longterm trends. It’s proven very successful. It requires more report generation on our part, but it keeps everyone much more informed. Even so, we still get the occasional email when the “big boss” searched for a random keyword and didn’t see the company listed (oh well..).

  • Jon Henshaw

    @SEODude – The plan is to allow you to get your own account at AuthorityLabs if you want daily results, and then you can OAuth your account and automatically pull in the rankings into Raven.

  • seodude

    Does this mean Raven will soon have daily keyword rankings?

  • http://twitter.com/ryanbradley Ryan Bradley

    Very impressive guys. I was getting worried that you wouldn’t be able to fix this problem. I currently use both Authority Labs and AWR for rankings and am glad I can cancel those soon and save the money and just use Rave Tools now.

  • Jon Henshaw

    I really appreciate all of the positive comments on this :)

    A majority of the results this week will be from AuthorityLabs, and it should be fully implemented within the next 2-3 weeks. Also, universal results tracking has been on our list for quite some time. We’re hoping we’ll be able to finally do it now that we aren’t spending so many resources on getting the results.

  • http://twitter.com/blakewaddill Blake Waddill

    If you guys say it’s an improvement, I’m excited to see the results. I noticed that Authority Labs provides daily rank tracking – since Raven will be working with them, will you also start providing daily rank tracking?

  • http://fruition.net Brad

    Timeframe?

  • Kaustubh

    Can you give an approximate time frame by when the migration to Authority Labs will be complete?

  • http://www.searchoptmedia.com search opt media

    We have been using Raven Tools for sometime now and this is something we observed. The module ranking would really a great boost doing this move. I can’t wait to see the changes soon.

    Generally though, we are a fan of Raven Tools. We have been using it well.

  • http://www.nutronicslabs.com Guillermo Ortiz

    Manual rank editing is going to save me a lot of headaches. Sometimes a report will go out right before the client jumps majorly in the SERPS to my dismay. I’m looking forward to the new system.

  • http://www.customwebsiteusa.com Custom Web

    Perhaps adding a filter would be good for local results on all three engines. Also, since you’re in the upgrading mood :)

    Would you consider some charting (online) we can look at to track keyword trends over time across an engine or all the ones being monitored? The download reports are ok, but playing with a graph online to show 1 or all engines and compare that to activity would be useful on demos of performance in sales and customer service.

    I currently do this in excel – but I have yet to find and interactive one online.

  • http://ValeoMarketing.com James Hutto

    I completely agree on the Google Places ranking – that’s a distinction that I find myself having to explain over and over, since so many of our clients are marketing on a local level. Would love a way to show that, minus the conversation! (=

    Overall though – I’m excited that things are moving forward. Keep up the great work!

  • http://www.clickablemarketing.com Clickable Marketing

    I can’t tell you how much time and resources we save with Raven Tools vs our old disparate systems. Our agency is a fan of Raven but the rankings are a bit out of whack lately . I hope this new API will improve the accuracy . The Google places add on would be a great piece of data we would appreciate as we cater to a lot of local Los Angeles businesses.

  • http://www.seofordummies.co.uk/ Ashley

    Glad to hear about the manual editing. Occasionally you will see a result that is slightly out and you know a certain client will moan if it appears to have dropped when in fact it hasn’t!
    I like the idea of an icon to show if it is a local result.

  • http://www.lexingtonlaw.com/?tid=1971.0.raventools Tamra Hamblin

    When will the new rankings from Authority Labs be available?

  • Jeff Bronson

    @John – Thanks for your reply, that makes sense.

    @Patrick – This is a good idea. Perhaps using a small icon to signify it’s a local listing at a glance would be beneficial.

    @Carrie – Ideally – every client only cares about their phones ringing, lead forms and ecommerce transactions. But yes, we must have some way to measure progress until their offer converts and revenue comes in! That’s why Raven rocks!

    @John – Here is an example where manual tracking would come in handy. Since (to the best of my knowledge) Raven updates SERP tracker results once a week on Wednesday, many client reports will have outdated data. If I go do a manual screenshot of a keyword to send client that shows #3, but Raven report shows #6…. a manual change could be in order.

  • Jon Henshaw

    @Jeff the AuthorityLabs (AL) Partner API is per engine, so it’s consistent with our current model. However, keep in mind that we’re planning on allowing AL customers to OAuth to retrieve their rankings. That means if you prefer to have an AL account to retrieve your rankings–paying them directly at their current rates and getting daily results–you’ll be able to do that instead of worrying about overages on Raven.

    @John I completely understand. We’ll try to come up with a way to personally lock you out of that function ;)

  • http://www.johnmcelborough.com john

    Good to see where you’re heading with this as I’ve noticed the raven results being less reliable than they were a few years ago so the authority labs integration sounds great.

    I personally don’t like the idea of manual editing of results though. I can’t think of an example where its been an issue for me but I like the idea that clients ranking results are retrieved by a third party and I can validate them against the cached results pages which you store. If I can go into my clients reports and manually manipulate them I can’t in good faith use Raven as an impartial tool to track rankings as part of a pay on results SEO campaign. Just my 2 cents on that.

  • http://www.blizzardinternet.com Carrie HIll

    I would LOVE LOVE to have a client say to me “I don’t care where I rank – make me lots of money.” Reality then intrudes on my dream and I realize that there has to be some sort of accountability for the investment they make in my time until the money starts rolling in.

    SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, and increasing links and checking ranking gains is the best way to keep my clients “bought in” as they move closer and closer to their revenue goals, especially for competitive markets where it might take me longer to get them positioned for better traffic.

    Thanks to Raventools for looking out for what us agencies actually NEED to do our work, not necessarily what we SHOULD Need!

  • Jeff Bronson

    Question John, I noticed the following detail on the Authority Labs page:

    “With AuthorityLabs, each keyword that you add to your account counts as exactly one keyword. We don’t count it as three keywords if you’re checking Google, Yahoo, and Bing at the same time. ”

    Raven pricing is not changing, but will this affect how Raven counts keyword overages? Currently checking one keyword on 3 search engines accounts for 3 overages.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.churchbuzz.org Patrick Steil

    Hoping that this upgrade will also include the ability to track Google “Places” rankings… because if I tell a client they don’t have any rankings for a keyword and they go look and see the Places listing, they don’t understand the difference, thanks!