WebPosition Review – Is New Web-Based Reporter Worth It?

WebPosition has a venerable history as a Windows desktop application that, in large part, allows users to run reports on sets of keywords to identify a website’s “web position” or search engine result for each keyword. You can include competitors in your reports, specific to each product or service that you offer.

[UPDATE 7/25: WebPosition has added new features – read the WebPosition Review update here.]

I have found WebPosition 4 Professional to be really valuable to our web marketing agency. The data you get from it, combined with Google Analytics, Google AdWords and keyword research tools, is ideal for maintaining and building ongoing search engine optimization and search engine marketing campaigns.

On Tuesday, May 11th, I got an email from WebPosition announcing their new web-based Reporter product. I was excited, because a web-based application needed to happen. When you run WebPosition locally, you are actually violating Google’s terms of service, which don’t allow you to run automated keyword queries. So when I run reports, I throttle the queries way back, which creates a slower, more human-like search interaction, and not an automated hammer.

Here’s their value proposition:

It’s never been easier or safer to track your search engine rankings.
• Online Any Time: Access anytime, anywhere, nothing to download or install.
• High-Level Summaries: Spot your biggest gains, losses, trends and changes at a glance.
• Custom Views: Filter and sort your data with a single click.
• Safe Queries: Run reports anonymously, without involving your IP address.
• Downloadable Data: Export data to use in MS® Excel or download report views to PDF.
• Competitor Identification & Tracking: Track competitors’ rankings alongside your own.

I initially got a kick out of their logo. It evokes the oil company, BP, with devil’s horns. I’ll chalk this up to bad timing and not a bad omen.

I subscribed to their Premium Unlimited service, which charges a base price of $19.99/month and then $1.50 per thousand search engine results pages (SERPS). So if you track 1000 keywords in monthly reports, pinging Google, Bing and Yahoo and are getting Top 30 results, it totals up like this: 1000 keywords x 3 search engines x 3 search engine results pages each = 9,000 SERPS x $1.50 = $13.50 + $19.99/month = $33.49 for that month.

Unfortunately, on the day they launched, Web Position 4 (the desktop app) became crippled. Searching Google now takes roughly ten times longer. I used to run a report in 1/2 an hour, and that now can take 4 hours or longer. Tech support has told me they are “working on the slowed results with Google and home to have a fix in the next day or two” (which would be this weekend).

So depending on what happens with that, I feel I’m being forced into migrating my clients as quickly as possible to the web version. And here’s why that sucks:

1. The web version solves a lot of production workflow issues. It is fantastic to be able to schedule reports, and not have to worry about throttling, best practices etc. BUT! What savings you get in production, you lose in client reporting. The only options are unbranded PDFs and XML files (where CSV should be available). You are no longer able to automatically upload client-viewable HTML reports to a server.

At this point, I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to do – do I manually gather PDF’s and zip those up and email those to a client? No matter what, I am looking at a much less elegant and more time-consuming solution.

2. No white-label branding. On the old version, I could specify an image to be used as a report header, so all of my reports to clients carried Tribal Core branding.

3. Having the ability to assign a Report to a Client, and then provide that client access to just their reports (branded for my company!) should have been a no-brainer. Taking a page from some of the most successful small business-oriented web services, such as Freshbooks, MailChimp, ZenDesk, 37 Signals, just seems obvious, and without this, WebPosition has the feel of a beta.

4. I wasn’t included in a beta program, despite purchasing two copies of WebPosition 4 Professional at $389 a pop. If I had prior awareness of the new application, and the feature set, I would have been better prepared to transition my old WP 4 reporting to the new web-based Reporter.

There are some features that, thus far, I really like:

1. Automatically scheduling reports for daily, weekly, monthly, etc. is great. That will save a lot of time.

2. The URL tab shows how each page on your site ranks for each of your target keywords and engines.

3. Competitor Tracking works well. You can identify competitors to track from the get-go, or wait until the first report runs, after which WebPosition tells you who your competitors are, and allows you to add them to future runs of that report with a single click.

4. Reporting is solid, and will feel familiar and freshened for any WP user. The ability to turn on and off competitor URLs is great. Editing a report for the next run is really easy and intuitive.

5. The jury is still out on Importing Existing Missions. I built my missions on small groups of keywords, designed to address the slow process associated with throttling back Google queries. That’s not a concern now, so I am rethinking how I build Reports around broader subject areas.

So is it worth it? Bottom line is that the data is really valuable, and well presented. It’s an essential part of my business. That said, the ability for me to provide reports to my clients is at best cumbersome, and should be drastically improved. First semester grade: B.

Comments 4

  1. Thanks for the comment, Chris. There is an XML export feature, but I can’t get that to open properly in Excel. If WebPosition is marking up data in XML, why not also mark it up as a .csv? Seems like an easy-to-implement improvement.

  2. Hello – we’re happy to announce that we now have CSV export, White Labeling and Secure Online Sharing available to help you share your reports with clients and colleagues. A big thanks to our customers who requested these features!

  3. WebPosition (the non-web version) was working fine for me up until it stopped querying Google toward the end of November 2010. (I didn’t notice the earlier Google querying slowdown you mention above.) I’d done fairly exhaustive research into WebPosition alternatives this past summer when I learned about the planned demise. Advanced Web Ranking (AWR) was the only software to meet all criteria. The new web-based WebPosition (WP) failed miserably but to be fair so did most others.

    Fairer still, while AWR easily imports WP projects, it doesn’t import everything, (e.g. no ftp settings imported,) and AWR’s interface is one of the least intuitive I’ve yet encountered. BUT AWR does the job and it’s the only one I could find to do it.

    AWR support is very friendly and usually very helpful, but their hours SUCK. They open at 2am EST and close at 11am EST, the nine hours I like to be in bed. So I’ve had to wake up early a few times (woe is me) to get support and then I have to wait 24 hours to get a response. But at least they offer phone support while WP doesn’t offer phone support anymore.

    Transitioning to AWR was not easy, but I think it’s worth it. They give a 50% discount for people who switch from WP, so be sure to mention that if you switch. (Drop my name too – couldn’t hurt 😉 Also of note, they say they’re working on a much more user-friendly version to be released in January or February 2010, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Check my site dandreifort.com for a writeup of some of the major criteria I used to pick the best SEO software for the job.

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