Search Engine Positioning Index

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The SEO business has emerged as a major player in the Internet business marketplace. Webmasters and website owners will always arrive at a stage where they wonder why their business fails to make a profit - despite their catchy domain name, excellent design, and amazing Flash animation. The first person often blamed is the webmaster, who is always at hand because he/she only has to deal with servers, market analysis, programming, HTML, design, copywriting, customer support, etc.

Once the webmaster realizes the need for visibility and search engine traffic, he/she usually will look to outsource the duty to a search engine optimization company. Selecting an SEO company is not easy, because their methods are secrets and their results are difficult to compare. It is common to come upon SEO companies that are not available - because they are busy selling their own products and enjoying the results - between SEO companies really ready to sell their service.

Most SEO companies charge a fixed rate, which can depend on many factors, such as the number of pages and keywords; the number of languages, for bilingual websites; the word count, for extensive websites; and internal linking, because linking usually correlates to a website's complexity.

Owning an SEO company, if we need to make a quote on our search engine services we assess the client's current search engine status first. We do this because it is easier to work with a new website, in which any results will be welcome, rather than optimizing an established website, where other factors need to be respected in order to avoid the loss of any existing traffic. It is also common that someone previously took the obvious SEO steps; which forces us to concentrate on subtle, controversial, or hard-to-implement changes. We made a first attempt to create an online SEO cost calculator (external link), but we have yet to fully test it. We only use it as a guide, with a lot of estimation and risk still in our quotes.

Addressing The Dilemma

Clients very often want us to work based upon a search-engine-positioning-result basis. Therefore, no results equals no payment. This does not pose a problem when the client wants good results for Joe's Average Butcher store, where I can guarantee them a first page result. However, when a client demands a first page result for sex site or mp3 CD we face a dilemma.

Measuring the difficulty and/or merit of a given positioning status can be useful for:

  • charging SEO customers on a results basis
  • establishing the value of an SEO technique, tool, or company
  • appraising domains or developed websites
  • choosing keywords before starting an SEO campaign, in order to pick up reachable targets, which are not too easy, but not too difficult

However, there is no published index or method for measuring search engine positioning results.

SEO companies do not share any type of standard either. When they need to compete they run positioning contests with a fixed, arbitrary keyword. Therefore, if you search for mangeur de cigogne (stork eater) you will be surprised to see 153,000 results, most of which come from a well known SEO contest. The real SEO contest is the word SEO, which is the top prize for most SEO companies, and has over 28 million Google results. Getting to the twentieth result is much harder than being first for the 10 million search results for optimized page.

A good SEPI should be:

  • Reproducible
  • Consistent
  • Non-manipulatable
  • Easy to calculate
  • Accepted
  • Non-proprietary
  • Inexpensive

Beginning The Formula

To begin the positioning index formula, we are going to use the total number of indexed pages by Google for a keyword as a measure of that term's popularity. If you are the first result among one million that is good, but is it better to be second among 2,000,000? How about being tenth among 20,000,000?

One thing that we all do know is that being twentieth out of 100,000 beats being fiftieth out of one billion, simply because not many people venture out to the fiftieth result. From there we can form a basic formula:

Keyword SEPI = Total page number / log (Position + 1)

Note: We add +1 to the position in order to prevent dividing by zero.

Using this index, the SEPI for my page positioned first for Google First Place would be:

19,000,000 / log 2 = 63,116,663

This is a usable index, but it is still incomplete.

Improving The Formula

For a quality estimation of positioning difficulty we need to analyze the first ten results for the term; looking at their PageRank, backlinks, and optimization status, among other factors.

There are several methods available to detect if a keyword is very competitive and if it is searched for often. We can look up the highest bid for that term in AdWords, which will reflect the interest of webmasters for that keyword. We can also use the Overture Keyword Selection Tool (external link), which provides statistics for monthly searches.

However, the variables belonging to each market are a different story. If our client wants to be the first for stork eater we will have a very hard job getting him there, although there is no commercial value on that keyword whatsoever.

We will use the PageRank for the first ten websites of a term's results as a measure of competitor expertise. Then we will square the term, because of its relevancy.

Now, the Total Results and Top PageRanks are used to calculate our new index. These were chosen because they are relatively easy to calculate. However, no one knows what it takes to be first for a keyword; that is a valuable commercial secret.

Our final index formula is:

Keyword SEPI = Total page number * Top PageRanks 2 / 10,000 * log (Position + 1)

My SEO company offers the code of our online SEO cost calculator (external link), for anyone who wants to implement their own SEPI calculators.