Some companies, especially those in the financial services sector, will put a lot of stock into real-time reporting and data analysis. A lot of it might look like what we’ve seen in movies – Bloomberg Terminals with real-time alerts, displaying stock price fluctuations on a momentary basis.
Our solution for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a little simpler – a Slack channel and a dashboard. Real-time alerts are popping up, displaying changes that are happening on our own website, on those of our competitors, and on those where industry-relevant content might have appeared.
Bothering with real-time alerts
Setting these up wasn’t a single-day job. Our team uses a multitude of tools, some proprietary, to create a monitoring system that covers a large number of websites, including that of our own. As SEO is largely reactive rather than proactive, it may seem that real-time alerts might be an optimization a step too far.
Even if you do monitor competitors and react to changes, these will have unclear value on the overall organic strategy as we can’t know beforehand how search engines will respond. Yet, real-time alerts have proven themselves incredibly valuable on all fronts.
Starting from our own website, many minor changes can go unnoticed through a manual overview. While it would be great that the entire website would belong singularly to the SEO team, in larger organizations, the stakeholders are many, each with their own ideas and goals.
As a result, many changes are being pushed through each day. Most of them aren’t impactful to SEO, however, at times, a small change could potentially cause great issues. Real-time alerts let our team work with peace of mind as no change, no matter how minor, will pass by unnoticed.
External monitoring has been equally insightful. Wondering what competitors have done to change rankings is part of day-to-day SEO. Unfortunately, as industries get more competitive, uncovering all of the changes the websites of our peers have gone through becomes impossible.
In turn, the wonder turns into pure speculation. If there are no facts to rest one’s suppositions against, all we’re left with is guesswork that may even be harmful. Through monitoring software, however, we can backtrack any ranking fluctuations and attempt to reverse engineer the changes that may have given an advantage to our competitors.
Another avenue of monitoring, although used more sparingly, are backlinks. Whenever one of them disappears, we have several options. Primarily, we pursue the route of contacting the webmaster to find out whether the link had been changed to “nofollow”, the URL moved to “noindex”, or if the entire content had simply been deleted.
Additionally, using Slack for reporting gives immediacy to the alert. It’s often a little too easy to shelve reports and forget about the steps that were supposed to be taken to resolve the issue they had revealed. It helps that our tool also categorizes URLs, allowing us to prioritize problematic ones faster.
Finally, I believe that SEO is no longer confined to working on your own page and pumping out decently written content. Monitoring the business environment at large, including forums and communities (e.g., StackOverflow), with the goal of joining in discussions and providing value is another way to drive traffic and conversions to the website.
Our scraping solutions and several other tools let us monitor relevant communities through real-time alerts. All it takes is to set up the necessary keywords so that we’d be informed about important changes.
Staying ahead of everyone else
While real-time alerts can take some time to set up, they provide a unique advantage over all competitors by delivering a backlog of data. We don’t need to react to them in real-time (at least, most of the time). But they give us a treasure trove of information when we do decide to react.
As all of the changes are logged with timestamps, any ranking reorganization that follows (if it follows) allows us to decide how impactful such actions might be. While there’s always some lag between website or content changes and ranking reordering, it’s still a lot easier to backtrack.
Additionally, sometimes these alerts give us ideas on what we might have missed on our own website. Any good idea a competitor comes up with arrives as a message, allowing us to take a couple moments out of the time of day to double check whether such improvements would be valuable to us.
There’s also the question of monitoring third party websites. Being on top of various discussions about business-relevant processes (e.g., web scraping for us) enables us to follow trends, discover content ideas, and get involved with the community at large.
Finally, while monitoring backlinks doesn’t provide us with a direct edge against the competition, it raises overall SEO efficiency. First, there’s no need to manually review backlink status.
Some backlinks are also recovered simply by contacting webmasters. In turn, that raises the average lifetime of every backlink and makes it easier to maintain healthy numbers. Reaching out to new websites for collaboration always takes significantly more time.
Real-time alerts may seem like something reserved for more proactive practices. SEO, however, can harness tremendous benefits from such alerts as they enable extensive data logging and second-hand ranking tracking.
Implementing these systems isn’t as hard as it used to be. A lot of SEO tools provide integrations with popular communication systems such as Slack, allowing experts to take advantage of real-time alerts.