Friday, 19 December 2008

Measuring the competitiveness of keywords

When writing a new website and choosing keywords, it's easy to make the mistake of choosing ones which are far too competitive. For a new website, it will be difficult to rank well for competitive keywords unless you can get some very high quality links from high PR sites.

Competitiveness is a difficult thing to measure and it has to be balanced against the search volume for any particular keywords. It might be worth optimising for competitive keywords if the search volume is very high and you don't mind taking a longer term view of ranking well. Taking the opposite view, it isn't worth optimising for uncompetitive keywords if the search volume is very low.

One way of investigating the competitiveness of keywords is by using Google's own keyword research tool at This tool shows monthly search volumes for keywords together with a rough gauge of the competition for the keywords.

Another rough way of gauging the competition is by using the allintitle: operator when doing a search. Using the allintitle operator makes the SERPS only contain those pages which have the search words in their title. Since a page title is a key SEO factor, the number of results returned is a rough and ready gauge of competitiveness. For example, if you want to measure the competition for web design, do the following search on

allintitle:web design

This returns 9,800,000 results. Trying:


returns 13,800,000 results.

Contrast these numbers with a set of keywords that we can guess are pretty uncompetitive:

allintitle:british vineyards

This returns 639 results, or ...

allintitle:web design worcester

which returns 1050 results.

Of course, the number of pages that include keywords in their title doesn't tell you the full story of how competitive a set of keywords are but it is a start. For one thing, allintitle doesn't tell you how well optimised the pages are, e.g. the first 50 pages in the results might have good links and content and be hard to beat without a lot of work. allintitle though is a useful tool to add to your SEO arsenal.

Monday, 15 December 2008

SliQ 1.5 Released

After a few months development SliQ 1.5 has been released and includes a new recurring invoice feature. The recurring/ automatic invoice feature has been in development for the last 3 months. During this time, feedback from a number of users/ potential users was used to guide the implementation. In line with earlier feature additions, the emphasis has been on making recurring invoices as easy to set up as possible.

With two or three mouse-clicks you can now make SliQ Invoicing automatically raise repeat copies of invoices. All you need is select an invoice and check the Recurring? box in the toolbar.

... then confirm the frequency for raising the invoices ...

This will save loads of time for anyone regularly raising repeat copies of invoices, e.g. website designers charging monthly for SEO or website maintenance.

SliQ 1.5 also includes a bulk printing facility. SliQ now tracks which invoices have been printed and allows the user to print all un-printed invoices with a single menu click. This should greatly speed up the monthly billing process for SliQ's users, especially if most of the user's invoces are automatically raised by SliQ using the recurring invoice feature.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

SEO: Doing it professionally

After helping out a few friends and acquaintances with website optimisation, I've been approached by a web designer about doing SEO work for them on an ongoing basis. They would like me to propose a service or set of services I could offer together with a set of prices.

The easiest and cheapest service I could offer is sets of directory submissions. To do these I could use my development version of professional directory submitter, SliQ Submitter Pro. This should allow me to do a hundred or so submissions an hour.

Of course there are a lot of other techniques I could use to do link-building. The more I think about it though, the more I feel a fixed price service won't do the job. SEO is a long-haul activity and needs to be spread over a number of months. Ideally I would spend 6 or so hours a month doing offsite optimisation for a website using directory submissions, articles where appropriate plus other link-building techniques I've become familiar with.

Spreading the SEO work over a few months should give better value and satisfaction to the customer. With a one-off hit at link-building, there won't be time to see any results before the work is completed. It's also likely to be unsuccessful. To do optimisation, you have to be able to monitor the results and make changes over a period of weeks. with newer sites this is especially important as the sites tend to perform well for a period before dropping back.

The other aspect I've got to price up is the on-page optimisation. Do I charge per page? Do I have a minimum charge that makes it worthwhile doing the job in the first place? If I think back to when I was looking for SEO help, I would often get quoted £350 a site or £100 per page. I never felt entirely comfortable with quotes like that since they didn't quantify what work was being done. Now, I've got more experience I can also see that it's pretty hard - or at least less optimal - to optimise a single page on a website.

I'll also have to think through whether I offer any PPC, e.g. Google Adwords advice. My feeling right now is that I shouldn't since I don't think it's a good medium to long term way of getting traffic/ sales, or rather I think that organic SEO will be the most cost-effective after a 6 month to 1 year period.