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Is This the End of the Market Samurai Dynasty? Direct Answers from the CEO

Is This the End of the Market Samurai Dynasty? Direct Answers from the CEO

By Pat Flynn on

Market Samurai Ends?

Over the weekend the team behind Market Samurai, a keyword research and SEO analysis tool that I’ve recommended several times here on the blog (and that I’m an affiliate for), posted an announcement about some changes that are happening with the software that had a lot of people asking—is this the end of Market Samurai?

Because I use the product almost every day, and more importantly because I know many of you do as well as a result of my recommendation and training videos, I feel that it’s my duty to keep everyone informed of what’s going on.

If you’re not a Market Samurai user you may still find this post interesting, but I just wanted to let you know why I wrote this article up front so that if you’re not interested I don’t waste your time. 

UPDATE (Wednesday, February 1st, 2012): Market Samurai just posted a NEW blog post here saying everything is back up to speed, and the article also debunks a lot of claims other SEO analysis tools have made about the situation and clarifies a lot of what’s going on.

What Happened…

One of the reasons I have used and recommended Market Samurai since mid-2009 is because of their very honest and transparent approach to doing business, which very much aligns with my own.

So, when over the past few days the software was having major issues and not working correctly, I knew a blog post explaining the situation was due.

And just yesterday (Sunday), the Noble Samurai team posted this:

Update: The State of the Market Samurai Nation

Basically – what happened is this:

Market Samurai pulls a ton of data from all different sources, one of the more significant sources being Google.

Google, as a lot of us know, has been making a lot of changes lately. In addition to algorithm updates (like the more recent Panda and “above-the-fold” updates) and the integration of search and social – a lot of stuff has been happening behind the scenes too—like changes in the ability to pull certain types of data from their system, or at least putting limitations on them.

Eugene Ware, CEO of Noble Samurai explains, “As large portions of Market Samurai currently use Google’s service, this has temporarily broken a range of functionality in Market Samurai.”

Their Solution…

A lot of Market Samurai is now back up and running, however to lessen the queries on Google certain pieces of data will now be pulled from Bing, and I think this is where a lot of people, including myself, freaked out.

Bing, as much as it’s growing and as good of a search engine as it is, it’s definitely not Google. Google’s data is what we want to use and is still really what matters.

I think the article was a little unclear, however, on which parts of Market Samurai were being replaced with Bing. I received a number of emails from people saying that Market Samurai search numbers would no longer be reliable, that all of the new data from Bing would be misleading, Market Samurai is dead, etc.

I wasn’t going to lean one way or the other until I got some real answers, so I emailed Eugene and received an answer just a few hours later, which was surprising considering the hundreds of comments (and his responses) on his blog post, and what I’m sure is a lot more support tickets.

I emailed him the following question:

Me: Hey Eugene, I read the latest post on Nobel Samurai …quick question for clarification purposes, because everyone’s in an uproar right now and I’m not sure we all fully understand what’s going on.

My question is: keyword search data (the keyword research module) is still using Google, correct? That didn’t change to Bing, or did it? From what I read in the post it was just for the more basic things like SEOC and things like that, but not actual search numbers.

And the SEO Competition Module is still using Majestic, correct?

Eugene: Hi Pat. Yes, Google keyword data still is from Google at this point in time! And SEO Competition backlink data comes from Majestic! It’s only SEO count metrics such as SEOC/SEOLC and Index Count that have been swapped to Bing at the moment.

Me: Thanks Eugene. By the way, do you mind if I share your response (that the KW Research Module and SEO Comp module, which are the ones I use the most – are still working) in a post if I choose to write about this? Please let me know. Thanks!

Eugene: Hi Pat. No problems if you’d like to share my response in your blog post.

Me: And do you have a quick list of the exact parts of MS that will be switching to Bing? I have SEOC and SEOLC so far…

Eugene: The main changes to Bing are:

  • SEOC/SEOLC/SEOTC/SEOUC in Keyword Research
  • IC/CA in SEO Competition
  • Other changes in other modules are inconsequential.

This is good news for all of us Market Samurai users out there: the Keyword Research Module and all of the most important data in the SEO Competition Module are still pulling data from Google.

This means the software will still allow me to do exactly what I use it for: to find good keywords that are highly searched for and have relatively low competition on the first page of Google.

And for those of you wondering, here are the definitions of the affected acronyms listed in Eugene’s response:

  • SEOC – SEO Competition – The total number of webpages that mention a specific keyword term, in the same (phrase) word order, in Google’s index.
  • SEOLC – SEO Local Competition – The total number of webpages that mention all of the words in a keyword term in the title of the page, in a specified country.
  • SEOTC – SEO Title Competition – The total number of webpages that mention all of the words in a keyword term in the title of the page.
  • SEOTC – SEO URL Competition – The total number of webpages that mention all of the words in a keyword term in the URL of a page.
  • IC – Instances of Content – The number of times the article has been republished online.
  • CA – Google Cache Age – The number of days since Google last reindexed the page listed.

Fortunately, the way I perform (and teach) keyword research doesn’t even use any of this data, even SEOC.

The way I see it, SEOC doesn’t matter and shouldn’t even be on there because it doesn’t matter how many webpages are competing for a specific keyword – what matters is the strength of competition of the results on the first page of Google.

There could only be 100 websites competing for a keyword, but if they are all PR7 authoritative sites, then it still wouldn’t be a keyword worth pursuing.

That’s the good news, but there’s some bad news too…

The Rank Tracker

One of the best features of Market Samurai is (er, was?) its beautifully crafted rank tracker – a tool that allows you to check the ranks of your websites in the search engines for specific keywords up to 100 pages deep in Google (1000 results). 

It was also neat because it would automatically detect if any internal pages on your website ranked for those keywords as well. For some of my sites, I’m literally tracking hundreds of keywords at a time – something that would take days for me to do manually (even with the help of some other rank tracking tools), but only seconds with Market Samurai.

Unfortunately, because of the new query limitations (and over 400,000 users of Market Samurai), the Rank Tracker needs to get it’s data elsewhere.

“With over 400,000 users now, tracking the ranks of your keywords on your behalf results inliterally millions of Google searches every day. Google’s changes mean that it will be simply impossible for us to continue doing this on your behalf.”

Unfortunately, this data isn’t free – and it would actually be incredibly expensive to get:

“…with a fixed-price product and so many users, it’s simply an economic impossibility to provide the same rank tracking functionality on an ongoing basis. In fact, it would cost us over $40,000 a day to purchase this data!”

I think you know where I’m going with this…

“So, we’re left with the difficult decision of having to pass this costs on to our users in some fashion (most likely a monthly paid service)…”

The paid service would be for the rank tracker only, this is confirmed in this comment here.

To me it was always weird that they didn’t charge a monthly fee for their rank tracker, because almost every other high-quality rank tracker does.

The truth is, of course, it’s going to be a difficult transition. Asking for payment for a service that has traditionally been provided for “free” (or as part of an overall one-time payment) doesn’t always go over well, especially with existing customers.

Netflix, anyone?

You can still, temporarily, track ranks with Market Samurai – except instead of using Market Samurai’s servers, you’re using your own. This works, but too many queries from your own server can create Google Service disruptions – so be careful if you’re in a work environment.

How much will this cost, nobody knows for sure yet, but apparently existing customers could get some sort of discount, and they may offer some limited rank tracking for free.

Will I pay for it?

Not sure.

I do use it but I am also exploring other options.

Other Rank Tracker Options

Spencer from Niche Pursuits has a product called Long Tail Pro (full disclosure – I earn a commission if you purchase), a simpler but just as powerful competitor to Market Samurai that I’ve used and am very impressed by. LTP’s rank tracker still works, although you have to enter urls and keywords one at a time at the moment.

Then there’s Erica.biz’s recent successful startup, WhooshTraffic, which has a more expensive Rank Tracker service. It does everything Market Samurai does, plus the service emails you an update of your rankings daily – which is an amazing feature.

There are several other options too such as Raven Tools and SEOMoz which are both paid services, and as far as free tools there’s SEOBook’s Rank Tracker for Firefox, however I can’t confirm that it’s working at the moment. If anyone has any other tools or suggestions that are working, please leave them in comments.

The Big Picture

So the question is still: is this the end of the Market Samurai Dynasty?

For me, not yet.

I’m going to continue using Market Samurai for keyword research and SEO competition analysis, although Long Tail Pro (full disclosure – I earn a commission if you purchase) is definitely on my radar now.

If you’re not happy with the changes that Market Samurai has made – that’s totally understandable.

I’m not happy with them either, but a lot of the changes happened because of circumstances they couldn’t forsee or control, which is part of a potentially bigger problem and lesson we should all pay attention to.

Business that rely heavily on another are scary. 

It’s like with my LEED exam study site – that’s a bit scary because the moment that exam expires, if it ever does, that business is done.

Hence, my advocacy for big time diversification online.

It’s also like with any business that relies purely on the Amazon Associates program. If the Amazon Tax hits that business’s state and Amazon pulls the plug on affiliates, then that business is dead, or at least severely injured.

Can we ever not be at the mercy of another company when doing business online?

To be honest, probably not – but the idea is to have the most control as possible.

Another important lesson here is what happens when you always put your customers first. 

Noble Samurai has always done that from the beginning and has gone above and beyond to make sure their software is up to date as best as possible.

So even in light of all the recent events and the number of people who are upset, you’ll notice a ton of hardcore support for the company too – people who are going to stick with them no matter what.

A prime example of company motive comes from a specific exchange in the comment section of their most recent post:

A commenter named Kurt: “I thank you for being forthright honest with your members, especially those who have supported Market Samurai for all this time. While I understand where you are coming from, I would also like to take the time to evaluate my choices if Market Samurai (or portions of it will become paid), since we have to check the implications of this on our operations and our business model. I hope you can still maintain avenues such as refund open, especially if some members deem the new cost pricing strategy too expensive for their operations.”

Eugene: In regards to refund, our policy has always been to treat people the way that we’d like to be treated, and for us that means refunding everyone back to the first people who helped us launch our business in August 2008.

That kind of care will keeps people fans for life.

Thanks for taking the time to read this “news” type of article from me.

I know I don’t usually post stuff like this, but a lot of people have purchased Market Samurai through my affiliate link (thank you!) and I wanted to make sure everyone knew what was going on and what our options were.

Cheers, and all the best to you!

My January monthly income report will be published next.

UPDATE (Wednesday, February 1st, 2012): Market Samurai just posted a NEW blog post here saying everything is back up to speed, and the article also debunks a lot of claims other SEO analysis tools have made about the situation and clarifies a lot of what’s going on.

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