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By: Kalena Jordan

FirstPlace Software, creators of the popular web site marketing software WebPosition Gold, recently announced the forthcoming release of the long-awaited version 2 of their product. WPG v2.0 is already available in Beta format (see link below) and boasts an impressive number of new features to help web masters ensure their web sites are spider friendly, ranking highly and submitted to the most appropriate search engines and directories worldwide.

I decided to review the BETA version of the new software and share my findings via this article. I have limited my review to the new features and enhancements provided for the options I use, rather than concentrate on all features of the product. For ease of reference, I've also listed my analysis of the new features under the same headings used by WPG here: http://www.webposition.com/wpg2upgrade.htm" target="_blank">http://www.webposition.com/wpg2upgrade.htm .

General Enhancements

1) More Engines

Support for an additional 60 search engines and directories is probably the most newsworthy feature of WebPosition Gold 2.0 and a major convincing factor influencing existing users to upgrade to version 2.0 and non-users to become customers. The added support for regional search engines in Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico,
Latin America, Russia, Italy, China, Japan, Scandinavia and the Netherlands is a major selling point because it allows users to check their rankings on, submit to and design their web pages for search engines and directories in these countries.

Over time, WPG has probably lost significant market share to TopDog, reporting software that offers support for over 200 regional search engines. But this WPG enhancement, combined with existing features, makes WPG more attractive than ever before. A few observations: the BETA version of WPG v2.0 does not yet offer support for New Zealand or Mexican engines, despite the listing above. I'm hoping these will be added in time for the full release. Also the claim that the search engines of Spain and Latin America are covered is a bit misleading because the BETA version only covers three Spanish language engines under Spain/Latin America rather than country specific engines. Also there appears to be a Scandinavian engine Passagen lumped in with the Spain/Latin American engines - obviously a temporary glitch. Also, some countries are represented more fully than others, for example, 10 engines are listed for Germany, but only two for China and Russia. Hopefully these numbers will increase with future updates.  

2) Easier Engine Management  

Now you can quickly choose search engines based on location, importance or personal preference, thanks to new drop down lists. Search engines have been divided into global and regional sections, then categorized by country and importance - primary or secondary. You can also set up your own preferred list, selecting only those engines you consider important. This preferred list can then be quickly selected for multiple mission files. For someone like me, needing to run between 10 and 15 missions per week, this feature is very convenient.

3) Vital Statistics  

Now when selecting which engines to include in your Reporter missions, a box appears listing important statistics about that engine, such as the URL, link popularity and a brief description.  
4) Better Help  

I haven't had to use it lately, but FirstPlace Software claim their WPG help file has been greatly improved and expanded. Certainly the index seems at least twice as large in v2.0.

5) Better File Management
 
You can now define a default mission directory to make file management easier - a logical improvement.

6) Faster Downloads  

Updates now tend to download extremely fast, meaning your mission is not interrupted and you get access to the latest WPG version almost immediately. While updates to the program may download faster, I did not notice any difference in time for report completion in the new version. I tested this twice by setting up identical Reporter missions and timing how long each took using WPG 1.60.5 and WPG v2.0 BETA. Each time I ran the test, the mission running on WPG v2.0 finished in 5 minutes, while the mission running on the older version finished in 4 minutes.

7) Powerful Multi-tasking  

Another big feature of v2.0 is the ability to run more than one instance of WPG at a time. This means multiple reporter missions can run concurrently - a huge advantage for persons needing to run ranking reports for multiple clients. I haven't used this feature very much in the BETA version, worried that running more than one mission at a time would overload my flimsy dialup connection. But the few times I've tried it (running two small missions together), it worked just fine, with both missions finishing within seconds of each other. The other nice thing about this feature is the ability to set up new missions while running others. You can also work with other parts of WPG, for example using PageRank in one WPG window while running one or more reporter missions in another. Perfect for those of us who are born multi-taskers.
 
Reporter Enhancements

1) Reduced Disk Space

A long awaited option in V2.0 BETA is the ability to conserve hard disk space by selecting the box marked 'delete actual results files after reports are generated to save disk space'. Selecting this box ensures detailed search pages downloaded by the program are automatically deleted once information from them has been extracted for your reports. This particular feature has already saved me countless hours spent deleting detailed search engine results that tended to eat up my free disk space via the old version. A very sensible (and much appreciated!) enhancement.

2) Advanced Browser Emulation  

In response to a growing lack of support for automated querying software by some search engines, the new version of WPG includes an option to slow searches down. It is claimed that this makes it more difficult for engines to detect you are using automated software.

Although I can't verify if the search engines are less likely to detect you if you use this option, I can tell you it results in fewer time-outs and dial up disconnections, something that would plague my use of previous WPG versions. I now use this option by default because of its ability to stabilize missions. Regardless, given Google's extremely strong stance against automated software, I strongly recommend you do not include Google in any ranking missions you perform. In the past, Google has banned the IP addresses of heavy users of such software. Instead, do what I do and select Yahoo Pages instead. This will reveal your positions in the Web Page Matches of Yahoo, fed by Google, which is a fairly accurate representation how you rank on Google anyway.

3) Auto-Email Reports  

Another handy function of WPG v2.0 (Pro Version) is the ability to automatically email generated reports. When setting up your Reporter missions, you can choose to have the Concise Report (with or without Visibility Statistics) sent to one or more email addresses as soon as the report is complete. The site URL is automatically included in the email body and you can even set up your own email template - a very nice feature if you are emailing clients their reports on a regular basis. Even if you prefer to publish the reports to a web site, now you can optionally auto email them to your clients as well. This, combined with the Scheduling tool, means once you set up your Reporter missions you can simply press a button and let the program do the rest.

4) Auto-Upload Reports  

A new feature of the Pro Version gives you the ability to upload your ranking reports to a specific web site via http://FTP." target="_blank">FTP. The Upload Manager can either use WPG's built-in FTP program or your own preferred FTP tool to upload the files. WPG recommends FrontPage users should use FrontPage to upload files instead, to avoid the common occurrence of FTP programs corrupting FrontPage server extensions. Yet another time-saving enhancement, this particular feature is ideal for SEO's servicing multiple clients or people monitoring various web sites. It took me about 10 minutes to upload the latest WPG reports to five of my client's sites; something that would normally take me about 15 minutes per client. Consequently, I would have to say this is one of my favourite features of WPG v2.0 BETA.
 
5) Filter Non-Ranking Keywords

A feature I understand the demand for but wouldn't use very often is the ability to filter out non-ranking keywords from Reporter Missions. This enables you to email or publish ranking reports that only contain positive results (i.e. keywords that did not rank within your position search range can be excluded). Personally, I think this 'enhancement' opens up the program to abuse because it encourages the circulation of misleading reports and distorts the true performance of a search ranking campaign. If some search terms did not perform as well as others, in my opinion, clients should be aware of this so they can make decisions about which keywords to target in the future and about the success of the campaign in general. Keep in mind that if you remove non-ranking keywords from a report, your visibility percentage will always be 100%. This figure is therefore no longer meaningful and will be automatically removed from the report.

6) Auto-Import Keywords  

Tired of cutting and pasting your keywords from your web site's META keyword tag into Reporter? Well soon you won't have to. The full release of WPG v2.0 will include a button that does this for you automatically. WPG v2.0 BETA does not yet include this function, just a note that 'this feature is currently in development' and will be available in a future update.

7) New Visibility Report

Another 'how did we ever do without it' feature is the new Visibility Statistics table which appears above each ranking report in the WPG v2.0 BETA. Now you can see, at a glance, how many top 30, top 20, top 10, top 5 and position 1 ranks you achieved, instead of having to manually count them.

8) Better Rank Tracking  

The Visibility Report also tells you (or your client) how many positions you moved up or down since you last ran the report, your overall ranking gain or loss and it even provides an approximate visibility score for your campaign based on your existing search positions. For SEO's or persons managing campaigns for multiple clients, this enhancement is a real gem, turning a seemingly complex report into an easy to read search performance indicator.

9) Greater Report Customization (Pro Version Only)  

While users of older WPG versions could customize their reports by adding a logo and URL, WPG v2.0 allows you to customize the layout and colours of your reports as well. Using a drop down list of colour choices for each report area, you can change the look of your reports to match your company stationery, your client's logo or your mood. The only annoying part of this feature is that there are no previews available of your colour choices. You need to run a report in order to see how it's going to look. In future releases, it would be nice to see a thumbnail preview of how your chosen colours will look in a report layout, or even better, to have a range of colour templates available for selection. As well as changing the colour scheme, you can change the layout by creating your own custom template. You do this by altering the header and footer to include logos, URL's, text and email addresses. This is another handy feature for persons preparing reports on behalf of multiple clients.  

Page Generator Enhancements

1) Enhanced Meta Tag Control

2) Improved Help

3) Anti-Spam Features

4) Smarter Page Generation

5) Easier Engine Management

6) Auto-Import Keywords

I don't use WPG's Page Generator tool, so I don't really have a yardstick to use to compare versions and I'm not comfortable reviewing a tool that I don't use and don't approve of. But above I've listed all the new features offered within WPG v2.0's Page Generator tool for reference. Personally, I don't think there is a need to auto-generate pages designed for specific search engines. These days with the emphasis on relevancy and link popularity, it is my experience that a well designed search engine friendly site with lots of relevant content and a logical directory structure will rank well across most search engines, without the need to generate extra 'optimized' pages. 

Page Critic Enhancements

1) Expanded Advice

Advice provided in Page Critic now covers 85 search engines and directories worldwide. WPG claim theirs is the only product in the world that offers ranking improvement advice for so many engines - I don't doubt it! Not having used Page Critic for some months, I was surprised to see the depth of advice offered in v2.0 BETA. The addition of a link popularity check was a pleasant surprise, however I had to scroll through pages and pages of general suggestions to get to my page analysis scores.
While providing so much advice is admirable, it makes you wonder if new users of the software or persons with little experience of search engines would be able to understand all the information provided. I also found some of the advice to be a bit misleading. For example, when running a Page Critic check for a particular keyword ranking on Google, the software came up with this suggestion:

'Purchasing and setting up multiple domains can be a great way to increase your visibility on the Web and if you cross-link your domains, you can improve your link popularity for each site. However, it's best if you host the cross linked domains at separate Web hosts so that the first 3 blocks of the site's IP address (xxx.xxx.xxx) are different. Some engines may ignore link popularity if the IP addresses of the sites are too close together numerically.'

You see, I just don't agree with the assumption that purchasing multiple domains is a good way to boost search engine rankings. In fact, if you set up multiple domains containing the same content and search engines discover this, many will at best, ignore the duplicate domains and at worst, remove your site/s from their index. 'Hiding' the other domain at a different IP address is not going to protect you from this. Besides, unless you are providing substantially unique content on different domains, you are doing nothing more than filling the search engines with irrelevant spam and not adding value for the searcher. This particular advice was provided together with a link to FirstPlace Software's domain store, so the attempt to boost domain sales via WPG was not lost on me. I guess the moral here is - take the Page Critic advice with a good pinch of salt and try not to do anything that subverts the search engines.

2) Enhanced Link Popularity Support  

As mentioned above, Page Critic in WPG v2.0 BETA now includes the ability to check your link popularity on any of the search engines you are analysing for. It also provides average link popularity scores for top ranking pages on the same engines. Detailed advice is then given on how you can improve your link popularity score.
 
3) Smoother Interface  

The Page Critic interface has also been changed to make missions easier to set up. There are fewer pop-up prompts - these have been merged with the main interface. You now also have the option to save the mission automatically and suppress the partial matching prompt.

4) Improved Accuracy  

An interesting enhancement to Page Critic in v2.0 BETA is the ability to determine if top ranking pages have changed since being indexed by the search engine. A new feature in Page Critic will try to detect page changes between the cached version of a top ranking page and the current actual page. If it finds a page has changed, it will be excluded from the analysis to prevent statistical inaccuracies. I have yet to see this feature in action, but I imagine it would greatly increase the accuracy of Page Critic advice.
 
Upload Manager Enhancements

1) Built-in FTP Support

WPG v2.0 BETA includes its own (optional) FTP program, removing the need to load 3rd party FTP programs when uploading files. When you create your missions, you can now select to have reports uploaded automatically, once generated. This is a very convenient feature that helps save time and streamline campaigns. I envisage this feature alone will save me hours per month.
 
2) New Report Processing Options (Pro Version Only)
 
As discussed above, the Upload Manager in WPG v2.0 BETA (Pro Version) now allows you to remove non-ranking keywords from Concise Reports. This is a feature I don't really like, for reasons stated above.

Submitter Enhancements

1) More Engines

2) Better Multi-Domain Support

3) Easy URL Importing

4) Built-in Spider for Quickly Gathering URL's

5) Customize Submission Limits

6) Full Submission Verification

7) Complete Submission History

8) Easier Directory Submissions

9) Auto-Import Keywords

10) Expanded Submission Interface

11) Add Custom Engines to the Submitter Assistant

12) Advanced Browser Emulation

Another feature of WPG that I don't use is the Submitter, so I won't be reviewing enhancements to this tool. But above I've listed all the new features offered within the WPG v2.0 version of Submitter for reference.  It's going to take a lot to convince me that submitting sites to search engines using software is better than submitting by hand. I've seen too much evidence to the contrary. 

Traffic Analyzer Enhancements

1) Expanded Engine Support

The traffic analyzer in WPG now separately tracks traffic arriving from all the new search engines supported by WPG v2.0. This is useful in that you can now distinguish traffic originating at regional versions of the most popular engines (e.g. Yahoo.com.au traffic vs Yahoo.com traffic). However technically, this is a standard feature of 3rd Party Statistics provider Hit Links, rather than a new feature of WPG.

2) Continued Support for 1.60 Features 

This one's pretty redundant if you ask me.  

Scheduler Enhancements

1) Easier Interface

Well - here's the thing. WPG claim that the Scheduler interface in WPG v2.0 is easier to use. But I don't think so. Sure the tabbed layout is consistent with other WPG features, but I don't find the interface any more intuitive. In fact, Scheduler v2.0 kept trying to run using an older version of WPG. After I worked out what the problem was, I had to keep changing the execute file in the 'Program to Run' field to WPG v2.0 BETA. There doesn't appear to be a way to choose a default program to run, unless you remove older WPG versions from your system or move them to a new folder.

2) System Tray Support  

A nice enhancement to Scheduler in v2.0 is the addition of an icon in your system tray, meaning you can right click the icon at any time to run Scheduler. Previously, unless you had Scheduler as a desktop shortcut, you had to open WPG and select Scheduler when you wanted to run it.

3) New Report Log
 
In WPG v2.0, a log file now records details of all scheduled events so you can open it and see which missions completed and which did not. A 'View Log' button has been added to Scheduler so you can see this file at any time.  
4) Scheduled Uploads Supported  

WPG v2.0 now supports scheduling of Upload Manager missions in addition to Reporter and Submitter missions. So now you can schedule what time and what day you want your report files uploaded to the Internet.  
5) More Flexibility  

In v2.0, Scheduler includes a lot more flexibility when running missions. Now you can choose specific dates, times and/or recurring dates via a drop down list, such as every second Friday or quarterly. This is useful for my clients, because some of them like to present ranking reports at specific management meetings and often those meetings will be held at regular intervals such as the third Wednesday of the month. This new feature gives me the ability to run and upload their reports to coincide with such meetings.

6) Easier Submission Handling  

A feature of Scheduler I'm not likely to use is submission handling. WPG v2.0 allows the submission of URL's at more defined intervals, supposedly keeping within search engine recommended per-day submission limits. However, one check box option I noticed and that caused me some concern was 'Allow Repetitive Submissions'. The explanation states:

'Once all URL's are submitted, highlight them so that they can be re-submitted on the next scheduled run'.

I've got to ask - why on earth would you want to regularly resubmit a URL to any search engine? If your site is linked to from other sites, most search engines will find your site on their own when they crawl the web. Once you're listed, most search engines will regularly return and spider your site for new content without any help from you. Other search engines can take months to add your URL to their index, but submitting once is enough. Depending on your site content, some search engines won't add you at all.

Regardless, submitting on a regular basis is only going to annoy search engines and possibly get your URL banned. The only reason to resubmit is if you WERE listed and later find your listing has disappeared. Resubmitting a URL in the hope of improving your ranking is just silly. If your page doesn't get ranked well the first time it gets listed in a search engine, resubmitting the same page is not going to make it suddenly rank high! This submission 'enhancement' to WPG raises concern because it is open to abuse by giving people the ability to resubmit their URL's daily. This is an irresponsible and unnecessary addition to the software if you ask me.

7) Handy Pop Up Calendar  

The WPG v2.0 Scheduler now includes a pop-up calendar to assist the selection of scheduled dates on which to run missions. This is particularly useful for those of us running multiple missions per month.

8) Quickly Test Your Scheduled Events  

If you wanted to schedule a mission to run immediately in the old version of WPG, you still had to select a future time for the mission to commence. WPG v2.0 of Scheduler includes a 'Run Now' button that allows you to run any scheduled missions immediately.  

Well, that completes my review of WebPosition Gold v2.0 BETA. Keep in mind that the program is still in BETA release, so items discussed above may change before the full version is released. All in all, I've found the new version to be very impressive, with plenty of worthwhile features justifying the cost of an upgrade (USD 74 for the Standard version and USD 174 for the Pro) or a new purchase (USD 149 for the Standard version and USD 349 for the Pro). However, some of the features provided are quite powerful and open to abuse.

If you choose to use WebPosition Gold or similar software, try to use it responsibly by scheduling your Reporter missions sporadically, not over-submitting your URL's, avoiding the creation of hundreds of content-challenged doorway pages and not running Reporter on engines known for taking an anti-querying software stand (such as Google). Because despite the hype, bombarding search engines is NOT going to help you achieve high rankings.

President of FirstPlace Software, Brent Winters, responded to my review with comments addressing some of the concerns I raise above. You can read Brent's comments via this link: http://www.high-search-engine-ranking.com/Response_to_WPG_v2.0_Review.htm" target="_blank">http://www.high-search-engine-ranking.com/Response_to_WPG_v2.0_Review.htm If you have additional questions about WebPosition Gold as a result of reading this review, please visit the links below, or email WebPosition support staff via help@webposition.com">help@webposition.com. If you'd like to trial the Beta version of WPG v2.0 please download it from the link below. 

More: http://www.webposition.com/d2.pl?r=GCU-55EC" target="_blank">http://www.webposition.com/d2.pl?r=GCU-55EC (our affiliate link)
http://www.webposition.com/wpg2upgrade.htm" target="_blank">http://www.webposition.com/wpg2upgrade.htm (outline of features in v2.0)

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Copyright © Kalena Jordan 2002

About the Author:

Article by Kalena Jordan, CEO of Web Rank. Kalena was one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia & New Zealand and is well known and respected in her field. For more of her articles on search engine ranking and online marketing, please visit http://www.high-search-engine-ranking.com" target="_blank">http://www.high-search-engine-ranking.com

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