Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz wrote an excellent post this morning reviewing 12 browser toolbars. He details the benefits and features of each toolbar and measures their useful to the actual user as well as the SEO or Internet marketing professional. The 12 toolbars he reviewed his post include:
- Google Toolbar
- Yahoo Toolbar
- MSN Live Toolbar
- Ask.com Toolbar
- AOL Toolbar
- Alexa Toolbar
- Compete.com Toolbar
- Netcraft Toolbar
- StumbleUpon Toolbar
- Firefox Toolbar
- Microsoft Developer Toolbar
I agree with Rand’s analysis for most of these tools, but I disagree heartily with one of them. In fact, I only had two really strong reactions to two of his reviews. One was positive and the other was negative.
The Toolbar That Makes Stumbling Fun
The positive reaction was to StumbleUpon. This is one of the few toolbars that is useful to the average user as well as the Internet marketer. It is very user-friendly and has a lot of cool features. I particularly like the vertical stumble features, which allow you to search and find (by “stumbling”) videos, photos, and other topical information. You can also vote up or down your favorite and least favorite websites when you find them. It’s not only fun to Stumble, but as an Internet marketer, you can Stumble your own blog posts and information and see how much traffic you get as a result of it by taking a look at your analytics (you are using analytics, right?). The only thing I’d disagree with Rand on about SU is that the traffic you get from it not always valuable. If you target your information correctly then you can get good traffic, but StumbleUpon traffic can sometimes be hit or miss.
The Toolbar That Is Crazy Like A Firefox
I also had a positive reaction to the Firefox Toolbar review, though not as strong as the reaction I had to the SU review. I agree with Rand that the Firefox Toolbar isn’t particularly useful to the average user, but it is extremely useful to Internet marketing professionals. With this toolbar, you can see Google PageRank, Alexa ranking data, and Compete.com information together side by side. That alone makes the information moderately useful. But the real gem with the Firefox Toolbar is that it will show you which links are “nofollow” links. How many times have you submitted a link request, offered to pay someone to link to you, or trackbacked to their blog only to find that the links you get are “nofollow” and therefore useless to you? That feature alone is worth downloading the Firefox Toolbar.
Alexa: The Most Worthless Toolbar In The World
OK, I may be overreacting. The Alexa Toolbar isn’t really that bad. But I was surprised to see the way Rand recommended it. This is straight from his review:
There are enough uninformed decision makers at businesses, ratings services, investment funds and competitive firms who still trust Alexa data to make it worthwhile to game the system.
Did I read that right? Rand Fishkin is encouraging people to game the system? Has he flipped? That’s probably the worst advice I’ve seen since Gene Marks told small business owners not to worry about anti-virus software. Let’s see, you want your market to trust you so you game them into believing a lie? Yeah, that’s a great business practice.
Sorry for the strong reaction, but Alexa started out a good concept. Unfortunately, it’s turned into a totally useless tool. The whole idea is to give Web publishers an idea of their standing relative to their competition. But the concept relies upon data received from other Alexa Toolbar users. If hardly anyone in your market is using the toolbar then you don’t have a realistic picture of where you stand. As Rand states in his review:
The Alexa toolbar is designed to be a competitive information tool, and as such, offers virtually no functionality, other than the ability to get (highly inaccurate) website popularity data and contact information (which is also spurious) for the sites a user visits. It’s too bad, because the value of Alexa’s data lies in the number of people they can get to adopt their toolbar. The more ordinary and “average” those users are, the better Alexa’s data will be, yet they really fail to serve this market effectively.
He rates the toolbar’s value to the average user as low, and I agree. It is low. Which diminishes the value of the toolbar for Internet marketers. If you are looking for competitive information and your target customer isn’t providing you the information you need in order to analyze your competitiveness then all your efforts are useless. You might as well just stand on a street corner with a clipboard and a survey because the information you gather will be just as useful. I’m sorry, but I think Rand was just way off on this one.
Why Not Create Your Own Toolbar?
You can, of course, create your own toolbar. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone. You really have to market your toolbar and it has to be useful to your target market. If you do take this suggestion, don’t try to create a general toolbar that is targeted toward everyone. The search engine toolbars and the SU Toolbar have done that to relative success, and chances are you’ll create a toolbar that isn’t nearly as useful. Instead, create a toolbar that is very useful to your target market. One place you can go to create your own toolbar is Conduit. But don’t tell anyone I told you that.