Benjamin Estes's Posts

Use One Huge Table in Excel

Sometimes we at Distilled go a little far out with our posts about statistics and data and all that, but not all of that is applicable to everyday work. Not all tasks are so complicated—some are fairly cut and dry, like figuring out which landing pages have received the most traffic over the last year. That’s straightforward, right? At some level this is clerical work—but that’s all the more reason to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Often we can slow ourselves down by organizing data in inefficient ways. These methods might seem smart or fast at the time, and yet they can often make it more difficult to get what we really need out of our data set. Maybe you are trying to figure out which page received the most traffic over the last year—and this is what your Excel file looks like:

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Freedom in Process / How Distilled Finds Great Tools

Working according to a process means having real freedom to be creative and productive. What an odd statement, that a constraint on our actions would give us flexibility!

But think about it—in considering SEO or marketing, do we act with disregard or disdain for others? Do we allow ourselves to do whatever we like? No, we consider the needs of our customer or client or audience. We constrain our actions in ways that ensure we act in consonance with those needs. And we are free to act creatively within that context.

I’d like to take some time to walk you through my own experience with process at Distilled. This isn’t a philosophical discussion, it’s the real deal—the concept of the process is at the heart of effecting change or the ship it! mentality or any number of characteristics that make Distilled the way we are.

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Automating Search Query Downloads from Webmaster Central

Just before last Christmas Google posted a method to download search queries from Webmaster Central to a CSV file using Python. Downloading a CSV files can of course be done from within Webmaster Central when you’re logged in, but by using Python and the Windows Task Scheduler it can be easily automated, which is very useful as Webmaster Central Data only goes back one month. With automation it is possible to archive this data and see trends over longer periods of time.

The original post does a reasonable job of describing the process but I’m going to try to go into more detail for those that aren’t as familiar with Python and all that jazz. And unlike the original post I’ll delve into how to use the Windows Task Scheduler for automation. I’m going to assume that you as a user know how to access the windows command line, but that’s about all that I’ll assume.

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Getting Started With The Free Linkscape API

When they released Open Site Explorer, SEOmoz gave SEOs a powerful, free tool upon which many now rely.  But did you know that all SEOmoz members have access to the just-as-free and perhaps powerfuller Linkscape API?  This API uses the same data set as OSE, but you can use it to make large numbers of queries which might be cumbersome with OSE.

Linkscape is a web based API.  Your query looks like a URL, and requesting that URL will return the data you need.  We mention the API from time to time on the Distilled blog.  Will Critchlow wrote a post a while back with a bash script that accessed Linkscape data.  What I want to do here, though, is just take you from zero to fifty-five in a few easy steps.

There are, of course, many query types to choose from.

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Wait... which way is my traffic trending?

Our Will Critchlow delivered a presentation at ProSEO Boston this year which interested many and baffled many more. One of the cooler (and more esoteric) tools he brought up was R, which is a statistical computing program.  Working with it feels a bit like working with a Python prompt, but awesome specialized results are even closer at hand.

My goal for this post is to walk you through a first R project inspired by the pretty (and seriously useful) charts that Will showed off in his presentation. His idea was to properly assess the seasonality of traffic (whether year over year or week over week). Fortunately his solution wound up requiring about two lines of code. Check these out:

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