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SEOmoz Turns Google Updates into Pretty Weather Reports

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Sift through forums and crunch numbers no longer! Well, you probably still will, but now there’s a neat little tool that can – at the least – help you obsess a little less often.

The guys over at SEOmoz have created a “weather report” to help SEOs determine whether changes in rankings are manual actions taken against individual sites or are instead the result of a Google update.

It seriously does look like a weather report. Observe:


So What Exactly is MozCast, Anyway?

SEOmoz is arguably the most popular SEO website on the ‘net. The tools are unsurpassed and used by search marketers the world over. Then, a few days ago, the team at Moz went a step further by unveiling their spanking new “weather report” service for Google algorithm changes.

Before this sweet new metric, SEOs everywhere sweated it out in forums and used the rumor mill, various tracking tools, and word-of-mouth to determine whether a shift in site rankings was the result of manual action or was simply the causality of a massive Google algorithm update.

No longer! Now, Mozcast offers up a “weather forecast” style solution that you can glance at each morning along with the latest headlines and a hot cup of coffee. Webmasters can now save themselves the headache of trolling forums for info, and they can redirect that nervous energy to more productive aspects of their online biz.

If you’re into SEO, then you are painfully aware of the Panda and Penguin updates. These were massive changes that affected countless sites, but what most webmasters fail to take into consideration is that Google also rolled out hundreds of smaller updates in the past couple of years right alongside the big guns. This makes tracking your website rankings a full-time job, and it takes away from your other managerial tasks. This “weather report” helps you see the big picture, so you can go about your day without that awful feeling of foreboding and hourly peeks at your Analytics account.

How Did They Figure Out How to Do That?

This is really smart. Every 24 hours, the team spies on the top 10 Google search results for 1,000 keywords of varying popularity. They’re not just chosen at random – the keywords are selected based upon global appeal, so there’s no local words in the mix. This gives the report more uniform results. They’re also spread out across five different “bins” and sorted by volume of queries, so the results are as equal as possible.

In addition, the team tracks terms at pretty much the same time of day, so the results are a snapshot of exactly what’s happening in real-time. The Moz team set every parameter as tight as humanly possible to ensure a controlled set of data for users.

That’s not where the data analysis stops, however. Each day, after the data is compiled, the Moz team compares the current day’s top ten results to the rankings from the previous day. The rate of change that the team calculates is called “delta” and there are two versions: Delta100 and Delta10.

Delta10 calculates the change across each set of the top ten search results in Google. Then, the Delta10 figures are crunched across all 1,000 terms and the average is multiplied by a fixed number, which results in a pretty number that resembles temperature. A day without any major upheavals, for example, would be roughly 70°F.

Delta10 – A Little More In-Depth

If you’re a nerd for the numbers, then here’s the long-winded version of the analysis. The team experimented with many different metrics while playing around with two days’ worth of 10 search result sets. After lots of trial and error, they stumbled on two measurement techniques that finally worked like they should and remained consistent.

Let’s talk Delta100 first. This metric defines two days of rankings from the top ten search results for a term, which produces a tidy little number that falls somewhere between 0 and 100. The calculation is made for each term based upon a few guidelines:

• +10 – This is assigned if ranking falls from top 10

• +0 – Assigned if ranking remains constant

• +[# of spots moved] if ranking shifts but stays in top 10

When Delta100 is calculated, it looks a bit distorted. That’s why the team normalizes the data by taking Delta100’s square root – this results in a better-looking number called Delta10. In theory, this figure ranges from 0 to 10. This figure is what they use to come up with the temps.

Confused? That’s okay. The point here is that the Moz team does all the heavy lifting so you can benefit from a free tool that keeps you informed about algorithm changes on a daily basis.

How Do I Read This Thing?

Easy! It works like a regular weather forecast with a twist. There are two things to look for – temperature and severity. As mentioned, the temperature for a normal day would be around 70 degrees, and the hotter it gets, the higher the chance that Google’s updating the ol’ algo.

Then, that temperature is coupled with five different levels of weather “severity” as follows: Basically, what this boils down to is that severe weather combined with hot temps means that you need to hunker down and ride out the storm. The severity element is more aesthetic than the temperature, however – it’s added to give the report a whimsical feel and allow you to gauge the search landscape at a glance.

What This Means for SEO

It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I’m a webmaster myself, and I’ll be the first to admit that I spend far too much time each day looking at the numbers, my rankings, etc. It’s somewhat addictive. I know deep down that I should limit my activity to once a week or so, but that’s hard. This metric will ease some of that itchiness.

If we as webmasters spent as much time tweaking our sites and adding great content as we do crunching the numbers, then we would be far better off in the long run. Here’s to more tools like Mozcast to help us make the change.   

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