A year with Advanced Web Ranking

In the year that I’ve been using it, Advanced Web Ranking has become an indispensable part of my web software toolkit and the one piece of SEO software I use constantly, saving time by performing tasks that would otherwise take an age and bringing together all the functionality that an SEO needs day-to-day.

Keyword research

Keyword Tool

Getting your keyword list, especially for a new project with no keyword history, isn’t a simple task. Advanced Web Ranking’s keyword research tool makes it easier and quicker by harnessing Google’s Adwords Keyword ¬†Tool (international versions too) and several others, right in the application so you can build your keyword list using real data on search volumes.

Kicking things off

There are a number of ways to get traffic coming in and submission to search engines and directories is a good a place as any. The process is streamlined by AWR’s Submitter tab. It gives you the low down on around 100 search engine and directory sites, both international and local. For each it links you out to the submission page, in your default web browser. Keeping track of where you’ve submitted to can be a pain, but AWR makes it easier by allowing you to ‘mark as submitted’ when you’ve completed each submission, and you can refer to your Submission report to check on your work (or someone else’s!).

Where do you stand?

Once you’ve got your keyword list you’ll need to track how your site ranking against them. If you’re still manually rank checking, you’re mad! Especially because Google personalises your search results whether you’re logged in or now. Using AWR you can even use proxies in other countries if you’re tracking how a site is doing in a specific locality, but you’re not there (your search for pizza place will return different results to mine). Manually monitoring keyword rank for more than a couple of keywords is a time-consuming and thankless task anyway. You can schedule tasks (like a full rankings update) for whenever you want so your computer isn’t tied up (and using bandwidth) when you need to use it.

Sizing up the competition

Getting an overview of the competitive landscape for each of your keywords (and tracking them over time too) is a snap. When AWR is checking your ranking it’s also recording who is in the top 50 results. Optionally you can have AWR fetch the Pagerank (for what it’s worth) of the competitor pages as well. The Top Sites tab lists form an essential part of your competitive intelligence – watch for the climbers, movers and shakers and dig deep using various online tools to find out what they’re doing to achieve those positions.

Suggested Competitors
Suggested Competitors

As well as the Top Sites tab, the ‘Suggest Competitors’ function aggregates the visibility scores over all the keywords, highlighting which sites are worth your attention. From that list it’s down to you to decide whether they are direct competitors in a business sense or a web traffic sense. If you’re a retailer for a product then a review site isn’t directly competing for your business but they may provide a way to work with them, editorially or by selling advertising. Your true direct competitors are worth adding as project websites so you can monitor them more closely, in the same way you monitor your own positions.

To sum up

If you have responsibility for monitoring, managing or improving the search engine position of a website, you need a tool like this. As opposed to a cloud based tool, AWR gives you the peace of mind that you can access your data any time too, and the large user base means that the developers are very responsive when something changes that needs a fix. With the purchase of a license you get a year of updates – both program updates and search engine updates.

Headway 2.0 WordPress Theme – a brief review

I’ve been using the Headway Premium WordPress theme (disclosure: that’s an affiliate link) for nearly a year.

It has just been upgraded to version 2.0, which has brought a whole heap of new and improved functionality, bug fixes and speed improvements.

What is Headway?

Headway is a premium (paid-for) WordPress theme that has a built in visual editor for you to take control of how your WordPress driven site looks – everything from colour scheme, font styles and sizes to layout (yes, you read that right, drag and drop layout, in the browser!).

What Headway isn’t

Headway isn’t a beautiful but overly designed theme that locks you out of the ability to edit how your site or blog looks. Quite frankly if you have no eye for colour or talent for layout, you might not like Headway at first sight. There are, however, ‘Skins’ for Headway available, some free, some paid for, including one (more to come) from a very skilled WordPress paid-for theme designer. These are installed as a plugin and let you skip the process of designing your site initially yet most give you the ability to use Headway’s powerful layout features when you’re ready.

Why use Headway rather than a free or cheap pre-designed theme?

Sometimes you like some things about a theme but not others. Using Headway you can replicate a theme, with a little bit of time and in some cases some custom CSS (for anyone familiar with CSS, the ability to see a web page change as you type in a CSS command is something wonderful). In fact I’ve just switched this site over to Headway from a free theme called Gear that I have been using for a year or so. Mostly I wanted to see how quickly I could switch whilst retaining the original look and feel. It took me about an hour. I promise I’ll change it around again soon and make it more appealing, now I have the ability to do that!

One of the most common uses I’ve had so far for Headway has been adding a blog to existing websites, whilst maintaining a similar style to the main site. That’s pretty hard to do with anything else but a breeze with Headway. If you know your way round PHP and HTML too, you’ll appreciate Headway’s ‘Hooks’. These are points in the page where you can insert PHP code or HTML. Say you have a top navigational include for a main site – just insert a PHP include command at the relevant hook and you’re done. I’ve just finished working on a much more involved site than a standard blog and Headway’s Visual Editor and Live CSS Editor (it’s a fairly involved design) we invaluable in getting the site looking exactly like the PSD files.

One of the new features that should appeal to a lot of people is the Search Engine results preview – in the WordPress Edit Post page is a panel that shows you what your page will look like when it comes up in the SERPs on Google, encouraging you to write a meaningful title and META description (and Headway’s long standing SEO features include allowing you to set a different title tag to the on-page title.

Pricing

When you purchase a developer license you have the ability to install it on as many sites as you like (your own, friends, family and clients), forever (it’s a lifetime license). Many of the other premium WordPress themes require you to buy a license for every site you set up that isn’t owned by you/your company. The only thing that people who you set up Headway for in this way don’t get is access to the support forums and future upgrades. For that they’d need their own license. The support forums are superb by the way, with some very helpful people, both those working for Headway Themes and regular users too. Oh and about upgrades? There’s a one-click upgrade function built in now!

Marks out of ten?

With the latest version, a solid 9. There’s always room for improvement, but then the Headway team are continuing to take it forward, and lifetime upgrades means I’ll get to enjoy all the coming enhancements. One thing that I go back and forth on is what functionality should be added in future versions that is already provided by other plugins – should that be in Headway or should I install a plugin to get it? Fortunately Headway’s developers ‘know when they’re beat’, for example Headway’s own breadcrumbs code steps aside if it detects the presence of Yoast’s Breadcrumbs plugin. More compatibility with the big guns in various areas of advanced WordPress usage (multi-lingual, e-commerce) can only be a good thing.