Market Samurai Is Back!

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Hi All,

A quick update on our progress in restoring Market Samurai functionality and some answers to common questions.

First up, a big thank you to all of you who’ve posted, emailed and tweeted various encouraging words (our users are awesome!). As mentioned in our previous post, we’re genuinely sorry for the outage.

The good news is that thanks to a big weekend and some late nights by our development team, we’re mostly up and running again. Here’s a breakdown…

What’s working?

The good news is that with the exception of large scale rank checking, Market Samurai functionality is now restored. Here’s a breakdown of the status by module.

Keyword Research – Fully Operational
Please note, we continue to use Google for keyword generation, traffic and CPC estimates.

We have introduced Bing for some competition estimates (see below for why Bing data works here).

SEO Competition – Fully Operational
Please note, the SEO Matrix continues to show the top 10 results from Google

Viewing (and sharing) a competition matrix has been restored and works as it previously did (including showing Google PageRank for the top 10 competing web pages).

As some users will be aware, when looking at a particular URL, the SEO Competition module allows you to explore and see the anchor text and authority of each of the top 1000 back links for that URL. This is a great way to explore competitor back links and see linking opportunities.

We’ve temporarily substituted Google’s PageRank in this detailed analysis for ACRank (an alternative and less accurate authority). We’re talking to data providers about a more robust measure of authority (e.g. PageRank, MozRank or equivalent) and will revisit this in coming months.

Rank Tracker – Operational from the local machine
Please note, we continue to track rankings from Google

As a temporary measure, we’ve modified Rank Tracker to use your local machine to check rankings in Google. Rank checks for the other engines (Bing & Yahoo!) continue to run via our servers. Checking rankings via a locally installed application works for users monitoring a small number of keywords, but for larger volumes will generally result in your service from Google being temporarily degraded.

Obviously this isn’t ideal and so we’re working on a replacement rank tracking service and we expect this will take 2-3 weeks to implement.

To date we’ve collated our usage statistics, made contact with six potential data providers and drafted an updated user interface for developers to begin working on. You can read more about this below.

Domains – Fully Operational

Monetization – Fully Operational

Find Content – Fully Operational

Publish Content – Fully Operational

Promotion – Fully Operational

Common Questions

As you’d probably guess, our support staff have received a deluge of queries, and so I thought I might help to answer a few common questions:

Will Market Samurai become a monthly subscription product?

Or as one user put it – is this all just a ploy to move to a monthly payment scheme? The answer (to both questions…) is no.

With the exception of Rank Tracker (see below), Market Samurai will continue to be a one off cost. Users who’ve been with us from the beginning (over 3 and half years ago) have received approximately 450 free updates as we’ve kept up with all the various changes in the SEO landscape – and there will be many more to come!

As many have already realised, we believe offering a high value, one-off payment product is the best way to build a loyal user base.

With the demise of Yahoo Site Explorer (previously used to power back link and Anchor text analysis) we moved to a commercial arrangement with Majestic SEO (at a 5 figure monthly cost) and have absorbed the expense without passing a cent of this substantial cost on to our customers.

Will Rank Tracker have a monthly cost and what will it be?

Google’s recent changes mean that we can no longer viably pull rank data for our user base (over 400K users in total).

As mentioned in the previous post, initial estimates put the purchase cost of our daily data requirements at $40,000 per day, a cost that we’re unable to absorb. So our intention is to buy ranking data from a reliable wholesale supplier and make it available on a subscription basis through the application.

We don’t yet know what the cost for Rank Tracking will be and how the offer will be structured. All we can say is that regardless of the reason, we understand that taking one of our modules that was “free to use” and making it “pay to use” isn’t great news for our customers.

We can say with confidence that we’ll be in a position to offer a highly competitive price structure on our revised ranking service. This is possible because we’ll be buying the data in bulk and we understand offering a great deal will be an important way to keep faith with you, our users.

Obviously any such package will be optional and we understand if you’ve recently purchased Market Samurai for Rank Tracking and feel you didn’t get value from your purchase you’re entitled to a refund.

We also feel this move will give us the capacity to improve the functionality in key areas also.

Can I use Rank Tracker on my local network?

As indicated above, Rank Tracker has been temporarily updated to make use of your local computer and we’ll soon be offering a revised service that again pulls data from our servers. Checking a moderate to high volume of keywords from your local computer can result in a temporarily degraded Google service for all those on the same network as you. In corporate environment this should generally be avoided.

Where does Market Samurai now use Bing data?

Important – we continue to use Google for:

  • Keyword generation
  • Traffic estimation
  • CPC estimation
  • SEO competition is still based on Google search results
  • Rank Tracking continues to track rankings in Google (as well as Yahoo & Bing)

However, we have moved three data points within our Keyword Research module to Bing (via their excellent API):
SEOC – the number of competing pages containing the target keyword phrase.
SEOTC – the number of competing pages with the target keyword phrase in the title tag.
SEOUC – the number of competing pages with the target keyword phrase in the page URL.

The great news is that many users rely on SEOTC as a competition metric and due to restrictions on query volume, we previously required users to click on each keyword to trigger the data collection. With Bing integration, we’re now able to revert to automatically pulling this data for all keywords making it much quicker and easier to filter out keywords with high SEOTC / SEOUC competition.

Is Bing a valid measure of competition? Aren’t I trying to rank in Google?

Important – we continue to use Google for:

  • Keyword generation
  • Traffic estimation
  • CPC estimation
  • SEO competition is still based on Google search results
  • Rank Tracking continues to track rankings in Google (as well as Yahoo & Bing).

SEOC (and the related SEOTC and SEOUC metrics) all help answer the same basic question “how many pages in the world have my keywords in them?”. Or put another way, if a keyword has a low SEOC metric, it’s ‘scarce’ or ‘less used’ online than keywords with a high SEOC value.

These measures serve as high level filters to help you weed out prospective keywords that will likely have strong competition. There is a reasonable correlation with low SEOC and low competition. We should note, we have seen many cases where keywords with high SEOC values could be ranked for easily and some with low SEOC values being impenetrable.

Ultimately, in SEO, you only have 10 competitors, and they are those sites taking the top 10 rankings that you must displace in order to pull traffic. SEOC (and related measures) should be used as a basic filter, but NEVER (let me repeat that; NEVER!) as the sole basis for selecting a keyword, particularly one of the primary keywords on your site. Once you’ve filtered out the likely high competition keywords, it’s by reviewing results from the SEO Competition module (which continues to be based on the front page of Google) that you can determine with reasonable certainty your capacity to gain a ranking.

The SEO Competition module allows you to see at a glance the key SEO metrics for each of your competitors ranking in the top 10 positions.

So is Bing OK for high level competition analysis?

Given that our approach to high level competition analysis comes down to ‘how many other web pages have my keyword in them?’, then Bing is a great data source.

Bing indexes the same data (e.g. web pages) as Google and despite being somewhat of a late comer to the search game, they now boast a massive dataset (and have captured a strong market share – approximately 30% in the US including their results via Yahoo!). Remember, this has nothing to do with search algorithms.

We’re not comparing the relative merits of Bing vs Google in returning good search results (although Bing has come of age in this space too). It’s about the size of each search engine’s index – and Bing’s index is now easily large enough to give good competition metrics.

Furthermore, whilst many SEO tools include an SEOC style measure at a broad match level (e.g. your target keyword can be broken up as separate words mixed anywhere in a page), Market Samurai pulls SEOC data on a phrase match basis. This means that with Market Samurai you’re seeing how many target pages contain your keyword as a complete and intact phrase. Whilst SEOC will only ever be still a high level filter, the use of phrase match data is generally more accurate.

Why are other SEO products not affected?

Over the past three and a half years we have become very familiar with Google’s tolerances for high query volumes. Late last week and over the weekend we observed three specific and quite radical changes in this tolerance which we were unable to resolve despite the deployment of additional resources.

As one of the largest players in the market, it’s difficult to determine if Market Samurai was specifically targeted or if Google implemented new policies and we were simply active enough to trigger limits. This is quite possible as were previously one of the only tools to offer real time rank analysis on an unlimited volume of keywords. How other tools will fare, only time will tell. The good news is, we’ve been able to respond and resolve most issues.

Will Market Samurai be offline for six months?

There have been estimates from external parties in the SEO space that the issues at hand will take us six months to resolve. It’s now 5 days since we observed the change in Google’s tolerance for large volumes of queries and we again have 100% of our modules fully operational.

We anticipate a solution to large scale Rank Tracking within 2-3 weeks.

We’ve got 400,000 users, why can’t we just absorb the cost?

As you can probably understand, there are limits to what we can afford when selling a one-time payment software package which requires ongoing staff, infrastructure and data services to maintain and deliver the software.

We have a little over 50,000 paid users, with the remainder using the free edition. Whilst we are fortunate to have a profitable business and cash reserves, the cost to purchase data we previously pulled directly is beyond our means. The only silver lining is that with the user base we enjoy, we expect to be able to negotiate and in return offer ranking data on a very competitive basis.

Thank you again for your support!! (seriously!)

Finally, we would like to apologise again for the inconvenience caused by our down time. All our staff have worked some very long hours to make the required updates and I’d personally like to say a heart felt thank you for all the positive comments, emails & tweets we’ve seen come our way.

We’re as committed as ever to making Market Samurai the best Internet Marketing investment you can make.

Eugene