Introducing FutureRank BETA – A Rank Predictor With Surprising Accuracy

Posted by adamf

I’m pleased to announce SEOmoz’s latest tool, FutureRank, is now available in beta and is free to anyone for the the next 48 hours (afterward it’ll be PRO only). FutureRank attempts to predict what might seem impossible: how your pages will rank next week, next month and next year. Before you dive in and try this exciting tool yourself, it’s important you understand how it works, and it’s limitations.

You start by entering a keyword, the URL of a page that currently ranks for that keyword, and the approximate current rank. (Why approximate? Because most of the prediction is based on the data in our existing data store; what you enter is used a start point for our prediction models.)

FutureRank

Tool

After clicking the button, it will take about 30 seconds to run the prediction model (we’ll try and keep you entertained while you wait). After the calculations are completed you’ll be presented with the predicted ranks for next week, next month and next year, and the corresponding level of confidence.

Result

I know your wondering how could we be so confident with predictions so far in the future? Well, it depends on one big assumption that it’s important to understand before using the tool.

The accuracy depends on one big assumption

The FutureRank tool runs with one big assumption: that the SEO activities you’ve been performing for a given keyword and page will remain stable over the next 12 months. What does this mean? To use the Zappos screenshots above as an example: let’s pretend Zappos has been spending about 10 hours each month to try and rank for keyword Yellow Shoes (not likely, but let’s pretend). The tool assumes that Zappos will continue that same level of effort of 10 hours a month for the next week, month and year. For the tool to be accurate your level of effort towards optimization for a given keyword / page must remain constant. It doesn’t matter if that’s no effort put toward optimization or 40 hours a week, it just needs to remain constant.

The accuracy of the model also depends on the keyword because we have a varying amount of data for our each keyword that’s entered. Despite this, we were shocked that keywords that our system has never seen yielded surprisingly high accuracy– our brilliant engineers have told us they were able to approximate changes to a given SERP by analyzing root words in a given keyword phrase. The tool is less accurate however, with one word keywords that our system has never seen and the confidence scores in the tool will reflect this.

We’ve been testing the tool internally for the past few months and have been quite surprised by the accuracy. In the cases where the tool incorrectly predicted the rank, it was often keywords that we had been ignoring and began optimizing soon after making the first prediction, but after a month of optimizing we found that the tool adjusted for this change and became more accurate when we ran a prediction a month later.

Free access for the next 48 hours, limited to PRO afterwards

We’d like everybody to have an opportunity to try the tool and provide feedback. After 48 hours, the tool will only be accessible for SEOmoz PRO members. Please give it a try, and let us know what you think using the Feedback link the left side of the screen.

Try Out Future Rank

How does FutureRank work?

It may seem like we’re using a time machine to make these predictions, and our design team had a little fun with that idea. While I’d love to say that SEOmoz has harnessed the power of space and time, it’s actually not as complicated as you might think– it just requires a lot of data – no flux capacitor required.

Between crawling the web to create our Linkscape index and monitoring aggregate performance data for tens of thousands of websites, SEOmoz collects a large set of data on the web’s link graph, ranks, traffic and the composition of a wide range of SERPs. During a brainstorm session on how we could use this valuable data to create new tools for our PRO members, Cyrus from the customer team, jokingly suggested we create a tool to predict the future rank of a given web page.

While most of us chuckled at the idea, a few of our engineers began looking at our data and creating some simple prediction models. Within a few weeks they had developed an internal alpha tool that was moderately accurate and after a few months of tuning to the prediction model to real results we thought it was time to release the beta to the Moz community.

In short, our prediction model is based on analyzing the prior ranks of both your page, and the other pages in the SERP, the Moz metrics numbers over time (Domain Authority, Page Authority, MozRank, MozTrust), and machine learning models of the search engine’s ranking factors. In the next few weeks we’ll post a more detailed explaining more details about the prediction model. 

Beta limitations

  • The tool currently requires you to enter the approximate current rank of the page (in a future revision we’ll do this automatically).
  • Only works for Google US search at the moment (we hope add other locales soon)
  • As mentioned previously, the predictions are only accurate if you continue SEO activities at the same level of effort (regardless of if that’s low, medium, or high).
  • The accuracy varies by the which keyword you choose to analyze the more common the keyword the more accurate the prediction, but the tool works surpassingly well with long tail keywords as well.

Does rank matter anymore?

Many have been discussing the merits of monitoring rank given how much it varies by search, their geolocation, and the influence of the social signals. Given this variance amongst users, the more valuable performance indicators might be traffic or an average rank among a wide range of searchers/locations. However, until a robust method exists to measure average rank across all your keywords, we believe rank is still worthwhile performance indicator (so long as you’re also measuring the traffic you receive from said keywords).

We’d love your feedback

Please try the tool out and let us know what you think of the tool in the comments below!

Try Out Future Rank

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

April 1, 2011  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing

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