You’re spending a lot of time and energy, and perhaps even money, to promote your products and
services on the Internet. How do you know if it’s all working? How do you know which bits are
working and which are not? How can you measure the results of your efforts?
One of the nice things about operating on the Internet is that it’s possible to track things much more

closely than you could in the real world. There are tools you can use to see when people are talking
about you, how people are arriving at your site, which sites are linking to you, and so on. This
information can be useful if used properly, or a great distraction if not.


1. Check Your Search Engine Position
Want to know how you’re showing up in those search sites once you’ve been added? There are
independent services that focus solely on showing you how you’re doing with the search sites. Check
the following Web sites for more information.
Position Agent:
SmartAge SiteRank:
2. Using Your Hit Logs
Most Web-hosting companies provide logs. Some companies e-mail you a log regularly; with others,
you have to go to a specific Web page to view your logs. If you want more statistics than your Webhosting
company provides, you can add your own logs programs. These programs can tell you things
like, visitors by country, top requested files, monthly statistics, and server errors. The following are
some programs to check out:
Web Page Access Counters and Trackers (A list of programs and services):
3. Looking at the Referrer Report
Most logs will contain a referrer report or something similar. Take a look at it; it can be a great way
to find out where people are coming from.
When a browser sends a message asking for a Web page, the message includes information saying
where it found the link; it sends the URL of the page containing the link the visitor clicked. (Of
course if the visitor typed the URL into the browser’s location box, no referrer information is sent.)
This information is saved in the log. As in the previous report, only the top referrers may be saved,
so if you have a busy site, some of the referrers that brought you few visitors will drop off the
You can often find interesting stuff in these logs. You may find sites linking to you that you hadn’t
found any other way, and even if you use some of the other methods in this chapter for finding out
who’s linking to you, the referrer report shows you something more important. A link is nice, but
much more important is a link that is actually sending visitors to you.
Note: Your Referrer Report Won’t Be Complete—Because privacy issues are becoming more
important these days, not every visitor to your site will have a referrer. Some firewalls, for example,
block referrer information from being sent to a site. Accept the information in your logs as helpful
but not complete.
4. Backlink Checking
Another way to check your results is to find out how many people are linking to you. The referrer
report shows one method—or rather, it shows you the 100 or so links that are sending the most
people to you; but backlink checking gives you the same kind of information.
Here are a couple of examples of how to backlink search—at AltaVista and Google:
Google—Use the link special syntax, like this: link:
AltaVista—Use the link: keyword (we talked about AltaVista’s keywords in Chapter 2,
What You Need Before You Start), like this: (Don’t include the http://
bit. Don’t even include the www. bit; you may reduce the number of hits if you do.) Of
course you’ll want to omit links to the page from the same Web site. You can do that by
using -host:, like this: -host: So the complete search string would be
You’ll find that you get some good results, a few great results, and a few results that aren’t any good
at all; but you will get enough that you’ll find some places that would look good with your site
linked to them.
Here’s a really neat little service you can use to automate this backlink process:
(at, you guessed it, This site has a form into which you enter your
URL—or the URL of some other site you’d like to check up on. The system does a backlink search
at AltaVista, HotBot, and InfoSeek at the same time.
You can use backlink checking to see who’s linking to your site and what they’re saying about your
site. Maybe they’re saying, “This is a great site!” If they are, drop them a note and thank them. If
your site is just part of a list, don’t worry about it. Just check to make sure everything’s spelled
correctly and send a note to the site owner if it’s not.
While backlink checking, look for other promotional opportunities. Perhaps a site reviewed one of
your products … ask if it’d like to review another. If you have an affiliate program, ask if the site
would like to sign up. Maybe you can find sites to do drawings. There are many ways you can work
with sites that have linked to you, so keep an open mind.
5. Using Automated Search Utilities
If you’re looking for ways to track changes to search engines and Web sites, the Web has a few great
resources for you.
TracerLock is a free service, sponsored by Peacefire, which
allows you to monitor AltaVista for the occurrence of up to five sets of keywords.
Each day TracerLock will search AltaVista for pages that matched your search term and were
indexed exactly three days previously. If there are results, the first ten will be sent to you in an email.
TracerLock only searches AltaVista, but AltaVista has a big database. If you want to track your company, this is an excellent addition to your toolbox.
The Informant works a little like TracerLock, but covers a lot more
ground. Here’s what happens. First you have to register (the service is free) and specify how often
you’d like to receive search engine updates—once every 3, 7, 14, 30, or 60 days. Next, you specify
three queries—sets of words where you’d like to find all the words in the set (an AND query) or any
word in the set (an OR query). We don’t recommend using OR queries unless the keywords are
unusual. For each query, you’ll have the choice of searching Excite, AltaVista, Lycos, or Infoseek.
After that you’ll be given the option of monitoring five specific URLs for changes—that is, The
Informant will take a look at these pages to see if any of them have changed, and inform you if so.
Now, at the interval you specified, The Informant will find the top 10 Web pages that are most
relevant to your keywords. If there is a new page in the top 10, or if any of the pages in the top 10
have changed, you’ll get an e-mail. It’ll also look at the five pages you specified to see if there are any
Since The Informant checks out only the top 10 pages at each search engine, you won’t get the
comprehensive results that you’ll get with TracerLock, but you have more search engine choices and
you can monitor specific URLs. (Hey, they’re both free, so there’s no reason you can’t use both
SpyOnIt doesn’t specifically query search engines; instead, it tracks changes
to particular pages. You can use this resource to check on competitor’s pages, check on pages
important to your industry, and so on. You give it your e-mail address and tell it the URLs to watch.
SpyOnIt can alert you to page changes in several different ways, including by pager or instant
Of course you can also use this system to track changes in the search engines for you. In a different
browser window, enter a query on a search engine—like AltaVista—and click the Search button.
After you get the results, you’ll see a strange-looking URL in the URL location box at the top of
your browser.
6. Employing Web Clipping Services
Perhaps you have more money than time. In that case, you should check out the for-pay Webclipping
services, such as:
CyberAlert uses a combination of software and human review to conduct
a daily search for topics (keyword sets) on feeder sites (any searchable Web entity—general search
engines, online databases, specialty search engines, and so on). The clippings generated by this
service are gathered, sorted, and the duplicates eliminated. They’re saved in an in-box accessible to
you when you log in to the Web site.
CyberScan Internet Clipping Service has a per-clip fee of $1, but its
base rates are much lower than CyberAlert (and you can limit the number of clips per report that
you receive). This service searches the Internet for the keywords you specify and returns clips to you
every business day, weekly, or monthly via e-mail, fax, Federal Express, or postal mail. CyberScan’s
costs start at around $200 depending on the services you want and the frequency with which you
want to be sent clippings.
A variety of other services offer online monitoring. Check these:
URL Minder,
Yahoo!—Clipping and Monitoring Services
The services and sites described in the previous list can search mostly the Web, but can also search
Usenet in certain cases as well. Many search engines, including AltaVista offer searches of Usenet,
but there are tools that are specifically designed to search mailing lists and Usenet newsgroups. See
the next section for more information about mailing lists and newsgroups.
7. Monitoring News Groups and Mailing Lists
DejaNews is probably the most famous newsgroup-searching tool. A number of Web search sites
also provide the ability to search newsgroup messages, too. Yahoo, for instance, allows you to search
newsgroup messages … but in fact it simply links to DejaNews to actually carry out the search.
DejaNews,, offers access to over 80,000 newsgroups, with simple
searching and advanced searching that allows you to search archives all the way back to 1995
(though at this writing archives before May 1999 are not available). You can even specify a particular
newsgroup to search, and search for messages from a particular e-mail address or with a specified
subject line. You can register on DejaNews to get free Web-based access to newsgroups, and a free
DejaNews e-mail account.
It’s difficult to find out what’s being said about your products in mailing-list discussion groups. If
you had the time, you could check with individual groups. Many groups have archives, often stored
at a member’s Web site. If there are one or two important mailing-list discussion groups that you
track, you can search those archives now and then. Topica in particular ( is a
must-see for searching mailing lists.
8. Checking Offline Publications
Some Internet tools are useful for tracking what’s being said in offline publications, too. Plenty of
free and pay resources are available, and even the pay resources are reasonably priced. The free ones
usually track only a few weeks’ worth of news. The pay services, not surprisingly, track much larger
collections of news.
Free Tools
Several search engines offer tools for tracking news in offline media. Excite and Northern Light are
two of the biggies.
Excite’s NewsTracker, tracks the news from around 300 online newspapers and
magazines. You can do a search from the NewsTracker site or you can set up a clipping service that
allows you to track up to 50 different topics (your company name, the name of your industry,
competitor names, etc.). Every time you log in to NewsTracker, you’ll be able to access your
customized clipping file.
Northern Light has a premium search service that allows
you to search through publication articles for a fee (we’ll discuss that in the next section), but its
“Current News” service is free. The Current News service searches through a two-week archive of
news from over 50 sources, including newswires and press release wires.
There are several other free places online where you can search through news archives:
HotBot: News Channel,
News Hunt (a collection of links to newspaper and other publication archives)


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