Converting MKV files to MP4 with FFMPEG

ffmpeg in action

If you want to watch downloaded movies on your TV instead of on your computer you need to either buy new hardware or convert the movies into a file format that works on your media player. Today I decided to see how easy this was to do.

Why do this? While Blu-rays, for example, play on most computers, few people want to sit and watch the film on the computer. So converting it from a MKV format (after “ripping” the Blu-Ray) to MP4 allows you to pop it on a set-top box (often via USB drive) and watch from your sofa.

The software tested was Ffmpeg. They do a version for us Windows users. It is just a matter of downloading it, decompressing the file and then opening it. No install required.

You can get it here: https://www.ffmpeg.org/download.html for Linux and OSX, or here http://ffmpeg.zeranoe.com/builds/ for Windows.

I downloaded the 32-bit static builds (which gave ffmpeg-latest-win32-static.7z) and unpackaged them with 7-Zip (which gave a folder called ffmpeg-20140702-git-42a92a2-win32-static).

Then I opened the folder and double clicked the ff-prompt and this opened a command prompt for Ffmpeg.

Attempt 1

The most basic way to convert a file is to input a command such as this:

ffmpeg -i whatever.mkv whatever.mp4

However, this did not work for me. The file gave an error on my Sony box. It did work on VLC player I think (cannot confirm as I have deleted it).

Attempt 2

This worked, but poor quality (should be OK for ipads and other tablets):

ffmpeg -i input.mkv -acodec aac -ac 2 -strict experimental -ab 160k -s 1920×1080 -vcodec copy -f mp4 -threads 0 output.mp4

What settings to use?

I was scratching my head over the settings and my pal suggested looking at the properties of a file that does work and look good. One movie had these properties:

Video: Frame width 1920, height 800, data rate 1955kbps, total bitrate 2049lbps, frame rate 23 fps. Audio: dit rate: 93 kbps, channels 2 (stereo), audio sample rate 48 khz ……..

Attempt 3

I used some of the above ideas but this new one resulted in blotchy,  pixellated images at some points in the video (it was not bad, might have been OK on a small screen):

>ffmpeg -i S01.Ep03.mkv -acodec aac -ac 2 -strict experimental -ab 160k -s 1920×800 -vcodec copy -f mp4 -threads 0 S01.Ep03.mp4

>ffmpeg -i S01.Ep03.mkv -acodec aac -strict -2 -ab 160k -s 1024×768 -vcodec copy -f mp4 S01.Ep03.mp4

Attempt 4

Because the sound was good but the video poor, I Googled this issues and discovered the qscale setting. Qscale determines the quality of the video. I assume that unless you specify it some other method of compression is used and that over-eggs the video, making it pixellated.

ffmpeg -i S01.Ep03.mkv -acodec aac -strict -2 -ab 160k -s 1920×1080 -qscale:v 3 -f mp4 S01.Ep03.mp4

It took much longer to process and worked OK on PC.

What does this mean?

I only learned today, and admit that I am still a bit confused. But, this is how I understand it…..

  • ffmpeg – means use the ffmped program
  • -i S01.Ep03.mkv – specifies the file that is to be converted
  • -acodec aac -strict -2 -ab 160k – This is the sound conversion. Means use the AAC codec. Not so sure about the other stuff, bit rates, did not really understand what the strict bit does. But it worked.
  • -s 1920×1080 – This sets the resolution of the new file. This ended up being larger than the resolution of my tele, because I think I needed to keep the aspect ratio the same. My tele has a height of 1024 pixels (same width) so I went with a number close to that for the smallest pixel dimension (sorry about bad jargon!)
  • -qscale:v 3 – this is the bees knees. Adding this improved the quality of the image. Qscale works from 1 to about 40, where 1 is top quality and 40 is crap. I might try one with 4 or 5 to see how that goes, but unless you are converting loads it does not really matter. Smaller numbers mean larger file sizes, but 1.5Gb is pretty reasonable.
  • -f mp4 S01.Ep03.mp4 – this sets the destination (new) file.

Result!

Just watched the start of a movie that I converted from the MKV format (original file was about 6Gb) and it looked and sounded great. No pixellation, no blurryness, blotchiness or distorted images at all. What’s more, the resulting MP4 file in only 1.5 Gb.

Sound is Dolby Prologic instead of surround sound, but considering this allows me to watch ripped Blu-rays on my TV media centre it is well worth it.

Yesterday I thought I was going to either have to make do with a laptop connected to my television, or possibly purchase a new TV media player that supports MKV files, or God forbid, buy another cheap Blu-ray player that hums whenever a disc is spun.

But, at zero cost, I converted the files in the a usable format.

Ffmpeg in action

Pretty exciting huh?

ffmpeg in action

ffmpeg in action

 

Beware the Adobe Echosign Phishing Scam

Echosign scam

I just received the following email with title “Review the document“:

From: [email protected]

Hi,

You have received a document via Adobe Echosign.

Sign in with your googlemail to review the document.

Sign In Here.

Thank you.

Clicking the “Sign In Here” takes you to a page on anffaslonigo.it that I think is pretending to be a Google log in page, even though it actually looks nothing like one:

Echosign scam

 

When you enter your details your are then redirected to https://www.echosign.adobe.com/en/home.html – the real, official page. However, you are not logged in to Google or Echosign (I tested with fake details).

Obviously if you enter your Google email address and password all you are doing is giving them access to your account. They are then free to steal your data, spam your friends, hack your websites and generally be complete bastards.

 

O2 Customers, be Careful – New Scam / Virus email

O2 bill scam virus emailJust had an email pretending to be from O2 informing me of a large monthly bill. The email:

Hi

Your O2 bill for 11/06/14 is now ready. You can look at your bill here.

In total, your bill for this month comes to £356,87. We’ll request this amount from your chosen account on, or just after, the date in your bill.

Is your bill more than you were expecting ?
If so, here’s a few reasons why this might be:

You could have gone over the minutes, texts or data that’s in your allowance.
You could have called or sent texts to numbers that can’t be taken from your allowance such as International, 0800, 0845 numbers or directory enquiries.
You have used your phone for calls, text or data whilst abroad.
To view any charges outside your allowance click here

Best regards

O2 Payment

This email is sent from Telefónica UK Limited. Registered office:
260 Bath Road,Slough, Berkshire, SL1 4DX. Registered number: 9104398.
Please do not reply.

There are links in the email (I have removed them to protect you) which result in a download.

My bet is that the download is one of those nasty encryption viruses that are doing the rounds, although it could be anything. Definitely not good.

I am not an O2 customers so it was pretty obvious, but O2 customers might be fooled by it.

Poor Memory? Don’t Worry, We Have An App For That

biomimetic device that mimics signal processing function of hippocampal neurons

By-pass of damaged brain region with a biomimetic device.

OK, not an app really, but an implant. Theodore Berger is a neuroscientist and biomedical engineer. He has been studying how the brain stores and transmits long-term memories, and he thinks that after 20 years in the lab he has finally worked it out. Now he is hoping to create an implant which can boost your ability to remember. Read On…

Why are people offering free Netflix accounts?

Free Netflix accountsAnother new spam message this week is for “free netflix accounts”. Netflix is a premium service which provides video streaming to a computer. It started out as a monthly DVD rental company but has since expanded to do streamed video. Some friends use it and love it.

According to their website, you can “Watch TV programmes & films anytime, anywhere” for “Only £5.99 a month”. And the first month is free. It is not exactly a huge amount of cash. So, who are these people offering free Netflix accounts?

Whoever they are, they are certainly up to no good. The first URL I checked returns a 404 page (“This web page is not available”). I guess they have been shut down. Searching Google for “free netflix accounts” brings up about 22 million results – a lot of people are at it!

I really cannot work out what some people are hoping to get in return for these so called free accounts. I assume it is a violation of the service agreement with Netflix too.

One thought is that it could be the result of phishing. People steal account login details and then offer them for free, but somewhere along start spamming the customer with their own products, maybe.

Or then again … I have just found on the Netflix.xom website a page for affiliates. Affiliates are people who sell Netflix accounts for a fee. Netflix also offer the first month free, so maybe it is just poor advertising from affiliates. They are not free accounts at all, just a normal account that is free for the first month?

I just watched a promo video (this is where I got the image above) and they use a computer to do the sales pitch. A sure sign that English is not the first language, but they are selling to an English speaking market nonetheless. Suspicious …..

Next person to say “gta 5 cheats” gets a slap

GTA cheaters are all thick as fu ...I have never played Grand Theft Auto, and certainly do not intend to. A game that is designed to glamorize gang culture where the main player has to go about beating, killing and abusing people to win the game. Not my cup of tea! But, judging by the extraordinary about of spam that has been hitting this blog in recent weeks, I can only assume that a lot of people are playing it, and many are rubbish at it.

In the last week I have had around 100 spam comments from people with names like “gta 5 cheats”, “gta five cheats”, “gta 5 cheats ps3″ and “gta 4 Cheats pc”. Very odd names. They all also just happen to have a blog that talks about …. cheating on Grand Theft Auto, part 5.

I have never understood why people cheat in games. The fun of a game is solving the puzzles, isn’t it? Unless most players just enjoy thrashing pedestrians to within an inch of their lives, and then a little more, and cannot get a bigger stick without solving the boring puzzles!

I just took a look at one of these sites – it is a one page Blogspot blog, and they offer a download to get “All the Awesome GTA 4 Cheats You’ve Been Looking for”. Another weirdly interesting quote from that site:

“No, I don’t find it quite baffling that every bit of my social life is about finding cheats for GTA 4. I play the game quite a lot. Okay, that’s wrong. I play it all the time. It’s the one thing that’s constant because I’ve made friends from talking to people about GTA 4 cheats. And I’m not ashamed about admitting that either.”

A person plays the game all the time, but still cannot work out how to play it properly? I certainly find that baffling.

And, I have just noticed, a mix of GTA 4 and 5. Seems that the last game was hard to complete without cheating too.

If you are reading this and licking your lips at the opportunity to get a link to your GTA 5 cheat page, stop licking. I have just added “GTA” to the auto-spam list. Bad luck. Although I am now wondering what other words will land in the spam bucket now …. pigtails, ragtag, ringtails ….I think the community will survive.

 

 

WordPress Users – Block Access with IP Restriction

Just looked at an error log for a site that has IP restriction in place for the /wp-admin directory and wp-login.php pages. In one hour there were 28 attempts to access wp-login.php. Errors look like this:

[Wed Apr 23 09:51:39 2014] [error] [client 1.11.11.11] client denied by server configuration: /home/acountX/public_html/wp-login.php

Blocking is easy, you just edit your .htaccess file. Do this via your web host admin control panel or FTP it.

.htaccess in the root directory:

# Deny WordPress login page to all but my IP
<Files wp-login.php>
order deny,allow
deny from all
# whitelist IP addresses
allow from 66.66.6.6

.htaccess in the wp-admin directory:

<Files ~ “\.(php)$”>
order deny,allow
deny from all
# whitelist IP addresses
allow from 66.66.6.6
</Files>

I could probably put the wp-admin directory part in the root domain too, but for reasons I cannot remember, I did not.

If you do not have a static IP it is trickier, but with a bit of searching you can find the IP ranges of your ISP and add those. Works most of the time, sometimes you might get switched to a new IP that is not on the public lists, but easy to update.

Important

If you wish to access from mobile, other offices etc, these IPs will need to be whitelisted too.

For security it is a good idea to restrict as much as possible though. It is the difference between leaving your front door open and asking bad individuals to leave and locking your front door and only giving trusted people a key. Stay safe people!

You may have disabled javascript. Please enable javascript before leaving a comment on this site. : Error Code: nc03

If you see this error when trying to leave a comment on a website it is caused (at least in some cases) by the Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin:

You may have disabled javascript. Please enable javascript before leaving a comment on this site.

The cache may have been out of date. Use this link to view a fresh version Essex Folk Music – Information, Gigs and Venues in Essex

Error Code: nc03

I was alerted to it by a commenter who tried and failed to comment. I have updated the rowmap Anti Spambot Plugin to Version 1.5.5 but the problem still happens. So it has been de-activated on all blogs where I run it.

No idea of a solution at the moment, other than to not use it.

A Week at IKEA – daily strange spam

I get a lot of spam, it comes with running websites I guess. Today was possibly the strangest. OK, no mention of spells to get an ex-girldfied back or a sure way to rocket my website to the top of all search engines, but strange all the same.

The subject of the email was “A Week at IKEA”

It was from a [email protected], and sent today (19th March 2014) at 14:52 (4 hours ago no less). This is what it said:

Harry said Fred elbowing Percy out of the way and bowing deeply Simply splendid to see

i’ve sent you a facebook alert

Click Here To Show Email Contents

The “click here” goes to an IP address, this is the format. I have changed the IP by adding one to each number, the rest of the URL remains the same. I have not opened it as I suspect that it could be worse than the usual spam, i.e. it could be a virus / malware. But if somebody who is tech savvy wants to open it and update me below, go for it.

http://24.245.179.71/?punumobi=cavubo&xikutuxohedu=c3RzdGVwaGVuc2luY0B5YWhvby5jb20=&id=bW90bGV5aGVhbHRoQGdtYWlsLmNvbQ==&wawacexihe=bW90bGV5aGVhbHRo

Just remember kids, never click weird looking links in weirder looking emails. Even if your best friends are Harry, Fred and Percy.

Update. OK, I tentatively looked at the root domain, and it goes to a website called “myoffers.co.uk” and offers a chance to win £2000 to spend at Asda. It then invites you to sign up with Facebook or sign in if you are a member. None the wiser, still do not trust the link, and certainly do not trust that website now that I am getting strange spam from it.

The Seedy and Desperate World of Comment Spam

Angry spammer

Angry spammer

Today somebody left a comment on a website I manage. The page they left the comment on was reviewing a new service in the industry that launched in 2011. It was something I saw in the local press and found interesting, so I “blogged” about it. I do this rather a lot. Anyway, this was their comment (I have changed their name, email and the names of the companies involved).

The comment

A new comment on the post “Service A – New Way Work Without a Contract” is waiting for your approval

Author : Lucy X (IP: 212.159.129.196 , host-212-159-129-196.static.as13285.net)
E-mail : [email protected]
URL    :
Network  : Tiscali UK Limited
Comment:
There is a new player in the game, who is shaking up the industry. Service A have been affected by http://ServiceB.co.uk, there have been cases where Service A have called up there existing partners not to join Service B. This has backfired with clients wanting to work with Service B as they seem to offer a few photoshoot of the service and inside video tour.

That last bit did not make a lot of sense. However, I decided that maybe this was a new and important service so I should give them the benefit of the doubt and dig a little deeper. I checked the website. it was a bit basic, but appeared legit. Even though I could not publish their potentially defamatory comment, there might be an interesting service to cover on the blog. So I replied to the email that was left with the comment. It had a male name on so I thought to tread carefully, their email address may have been used without their knowing (some spammers do this to avoid getting their emails blacklisted). This was the conversation:

  • Me: Hello NotLucy, I received this comment on my blog from your email address, but signed Lucy X. Do you know anything about this?
  • Lucy: Hello, Yeah me and my partner share same email address. Yes I posted that earlier on. Kind regards, Lucy X
  • Me: Hi Lucy, OK, and what is your relationship with Service B? Is this your own company? 
  • Lucy: I wish I owned it. I have no relationship. I’ve use both Service A and Service B to buy my passes. I write blogs on how the fitness industry is changing, and if I see opportunities like this then I don’t miss out and make my point ;) Kind regards, Lucy
  • Me: Ok, thanks for letting me know. Unfortunately I will not be able to approve the comment then as it could be considered defamatory against Service A. Cannot be too careful these days.

All OK. But then Lucy decided to get nasty. I have highlighted the most important lines.

  • Lucy: To be honest, it is an independent review. I don’t see why it shouldn’t get approved? I’ve been doing this for years where if I spot something unique I can write about a business… I do and always gets approved. So basically your saying Service A paid to have the article there and you don’t want ruin your relationship. What sort of a website is this. Thanks for the emails and the evidence of what sort of website you are. I will write something about your website when I see opportunity elsewhere to state your not independent and transparent about what you do.
  • Me: Please do not leap to conclusions. It is an independent review, we are an independent website. However, your comment stated that Service A actively asked clients not to use the other service.“there have been cases where Service A have called up there existing partners not to join Service B.”This may be true, but without proof it cannot be published. These days people are quick to issue take down notices and threaten legal action for such comments. I speak from experience, so am now careful about what gets published.If Service A read that comment they would be within their rights to take action if they felt that it was defamatory.

    It does not matter that it is an independent review. It is an attack on another company and I personally am not in a position to verify the facts or defend it in court.

    Suggested reading: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/aug/26/defamation-cases-twitter-blogs

    Be careful what you write and publish, sometimes things come back to haunt.

I did not hear back. Maybe they saw sense, maybe they are planning yet another negative SEO attack. Who knows? That site, which was once great, it pretty dead now. But I will still ensure that spammers, plagiarists, fraudsters and crooks don’t have a voice.

The real lesson from this is simple: never reply to a spammer. Don’t trust any of them.

I was sort of hoping I was helping them, but in truth, probably just adding to the bullets embedded in my lame foot.

Is the BT Infinity / Broadband hub safe?

You may have seen in the news this week that some routers are failing security tests putting home computers at serious risk of being hacked.

Over the past week owners of Linksys and Asus routers have experienced hacking attacks which are exploiting loopholes in the built-in firewalls.

The Moon virus

A virus, called The Moon, has been created to seek out vulnerable routers, take control and then scan for other vulnerable systems.

The InfoSec Community Forums has a page dedicate to what we know so far about TheMood virus: Linksys Worm “TheMoon” Summary: What we know so far

There is only a risk to PC owners if the Remote Management Access feature on a Linksys router is turned on.

Many routers sold online are posing a serious risk. The BBC reports that; “A separate study by security firm Tripwire has found that 80% of the 25 best-selling routers available on Amazon are vulnerable to compromise.”

There is no sign that BT’s home hubs, which are one of the most popular routers in the UK and supply BT’s broadband and Infinity services to homes, is in any way vulnerable.

News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26287517

Facebook buys WhatsApp

Facebook are buying WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia, according to their website description. See Whatsapp.com to learn more.

Only the other day I heard that most messages sent via Facebook are now mobile to mobile messages. They must be hurting mobile provider revenues now. Almost everybody I know has a smartphone and most chat via Facebook instead of SMS.

Mark Z said:

I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire WhatsApp and that their entire team will be joining us at Facebook.

Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. We do this by building services that help people share any type of content with any group of people they want. WhatsApp will help us do this by continuing to develop a service that people around the world love to use every day.

WhatsApp is a simple, fast and reliable mobile messaging service that is used by over 450 million people on every major mobile platform. More than 1 million people sign up for WhatsApp every day and it is on its way to connecting one billion people. More and more people rely on WhatsApp to communicate with all of their contacts every day.

WhatsApp will continue to operate independently within Facebook. The product roadmap will remain unchanged and the team is going to stay in Mountain View. Over the next few years, we’re going to work hard to help WhatsApp grow and connect the whole world. We also expect that WhatsApp will add to our efforts forInternet.org, our partnership to make basic internet services affordable for everyone.

WhatsApp will complement our existing chat and messaging services to provide new tools for our community. Facebook Messenger is widely used for chatting with your Facebook friends, and WhatsApp for communicating with all of your contacts and small groups of people. Since WhatsApp and Messenger serve such different and important uses, we will continue investing in both and making them each great products for everyone.

WhatsApp had every option in the world, so I’m thrilled that they chose to work with us. I’m looking forward to what Facebook and WhatsApp can do together, and to developing great new mobile services that give people even more options for connecting.

I’ve also known Jan for a long time, and I know that we both share the vision of making the world more open and connected. I’m particularly happy that Jan has agreed to join the Facebook board and partner with me to shape Facebook’s future as well as WhatsApp’s.

Jan and the WhatsApp team have done some amazing work to connect almost half a billion people. I can’t wait for them to join Facebook and help us connect the rest of the world.

Google Provides Disavow Updates

Today and uploaded another disavow file to Google Webmaster Tools. And a little afterwards, I received an email informing me that it had been processed.

Not sure what processed means – does it mean that they will no longer count as links to my site, or that they will no longer appear as backlinks in WMT? Or does it just mean “thanks, we got it, now you will wait about six months to find out if it was worth the effort”?

What it looks like:

Disavowed LinksExciting isn’t it?

Hang on, what is Disavow?

That is a very good question!

This is what we know disavow should do, according to Google:

  • Any web pages or domains that are “disavowed” will have their PageRank nullified.

Why would you do that?

  • Traditionally all links were good for a website, the more links you had, the higher the PageRank, the better you ranked in Google search. But in 2012 Google introduced a new facet to its search engine algorithm which combated web-spam by making cheap, spammy, paid links decrease the PageRank of the website (or at least, that is what we think….)

We think?

  • Well, this is what Google says, however, there are potentially two parts to this algorithm (oh, the algorithm was code-named Penguin):
    1. Links from some websites / domains would be de-valued. So no PageRank would be gained by having links on them. Sites which are probably in this group are web directories. Why? Because there was a time when even Google said that web directories were generally OK. But abuse of them, manipulation etc. lead to spam. Directories were built to sell links etc.
    2. Links from some other sites are not just devalued, but they will harm your site. Google used to say that there is nothing a competitor can do to harm your site. Now it says something like (I am paraphrasing because I cannot find what they say….), there is not much a competitor can do to harm your site.
    3. We do not know the types of site, but a guess would be:
      • Sites that are known to sell links
      • Sites that are spammy and breach many Google policy guidelines
      • Sites that have spun text / gibberish that are automatically created for the purpose of creating manipulative links.
      • Sites that do not moderate comments and let links in them pass pagerank.
      • Sites that begin with the letter P.
      • Probably loads of others.

So, what happened? Why disavow tool?

  • As soon as Penguin 1 rolled out in 2012 people started talking about “negative SEO” – people deliberately creating the spammiest, nastiest links possible to try to incur a penalty on another site.
  • People complained to Google. Bing launched a disavow tool. Google followed!
  • Google’s advice to anybody suffering either a manual unnatural link penalty or a Penguin algorithmic penalty is to try to get the links removed, and if this fails, disavow them with the tool.

Why not remove links?

  • This is the ideal option, but sometimes it is impossible to get a link removed because:
    1. The webmaster does not want to remove it, it is there to harm you on purpose.
    2. The webmaster is no longer interested in running the website and is ignoring all emails. You have to wait for the domain to expire or webhosting to cancel the account.
    3. Some webmasters are charging a fee to remove the links. Google’s advice is to not pay, just disavow.

Did that cover all the questions about disavow? Ah …

How do we use the disavow tool?

  • Go here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main?pli=1
  • Pick your domain. Read the warnings.
  • Upload a .txt file that is a list of domains. Ideally use this format:

domain:spammydirectory.com
domain:buyseolinks.net
etc.

  • After uploading the file Google will confirm on the screen how many URLs and domains were added. Shortly after you will get an email like the one above.

And then what happens?

  • This is the million dollar question! Google have said in the past that Googlebot (the search engine spider that crawls the web –  geddit?) will need to visit all the bad websites to check if the link is there, then look to see if you have added it to disavow, and if you have, they can discount it.

What if you disavow good links accidentally?

  • No problem. Google uses the last disavow file you upload and ignores the previous, so if you accidentally disavow a link from the BBC or NASA, fear not, just remove them from the list and upload a new file.

Sounds crazy! Why can’t they just ignore them immediately and update your rankings?

  • Another very good question! Dunno. Maybe they will soon though……

Does it work?

  • Dunno. People have had manual penalties revoked by Google after removing links and disavowing links. Nobody to date has made a proven recovery from Penguin after disavowing links.

Nobody?

  • No. Some claim to have recovered, but the recovery is no more than 25% of the fall, and this could be attributed to new links, better content, improved site structure and navigation, fewer spammy adverts – all sorts of things.

 

It is all very depressing really. Note, this is my take on disavow and not entirely based on facts, only opinions derived from personal, limited, experience.

 

WebMeUp – a new SEO and backlink tool

I recently came across WebMeUp.com while searching for new ways to track down dodgy backlinks following a Google Penguin penalty. I had already used Google Webmaster Tools but felt that I needed something easier to run a report in that also provided sortable data via the report rather than having to download into a spreadsheet and juggle the results around myself.

Unlike some of the other backlink analysis tools, WebMeUp gives away a lot of information for free. When you first sign up you get, I think, full access for free, then after a couple of weeks it will go back to basic. For pure back link checks it is all free though. Although that may change in the future after I have written this. The paid options allow you to do much more, but for the average person who just wants to check for bad links to add to the Google Disavow list, this works great. Let’s take a look.

First step – homepage

WebMeUp homepage

WebMeUp homepage – click to enlarge

The homepage is minimal with a large box to add a domain for checking.

I entered Webologist and hit enter. It starts checking, giving a little progress graphic along the way.

Once the report is ready a video appears that explains how WebMeUp works. You can skip the video if you like.

You are asked to register for an account, or connect with Facebook, when you get started. The project page shows the domain you entered earlier and gives some data, such as Domain Strength, Google PR, Alexa Rank, Visibility, Pages in Google and the total number of backlinks.

As mentioned I first used this tool specifically to look at backlink data, so I will talk about that first before I run through some of the other interesting tools. I should point out that I think many of the additional tools are premium services, but let’s see.

Backlinks

WebMeUp backlinks

WebMeUp Backlinks > Profile

There are around 40 pieces of information for each link, there is a huge amount of data. The summary page allows you to sort the backlinks by page, title of page, nofollow/follow, anchor text, anchor URL, page strength (not sure how this is calculated), Google PR for the page, Google PR for the domain, Alexa Rank, age, country and IP address.

Penguin tip: I sorted by IP address to chase down link farms which are probably causing a problem and also by anchor text to find bad links using optimised anchor text. Found a lot of additional links using these methods.

Viewing backlinks by domain is helpful too as you can quickly spot when one domain seems to be excessively linking. While looking at Webologist I spotted that I have 21 links from a website called marijuana-movies.com. All the pages with a link on are listed. The website is no longer active so I cannot see what was linking – probably a good thing though! However, this does mean that the link information is a little out of date – but then so is backlink information in Google Webmaster Tools and services such as MajesticSEO and Link Detox.

The report brought up one of my better recent links is from Managewp.org where some members linked up the recent post I wrote about Testing the Google Publisher Plugin for WordPress. I had no idea other people had picked up on this post and started linking to it – cool. In fact, I had never heard of ManageWP either, looks pretty handy. Maybe Webologist will become more popular one day after all!

Ordering links by PageRank is handy – a quick scan of the zero pagerank links brings up some sites I really should disavow!

When you connect your Google Analytics it will show you which backlinks are bring the most traffic to the site – this is real reason to get backlinks, they send referral traffic which can be more important than winning top search engine positions.

Configuring and Enhancing

You can configure the settings easily, add more sites, turn off search engines and analyse social too. You can add your most important keywords to WebMeUp and it will track where they are appearing in various search engines for specific searches. WebMeUp analyses not only Google web search but also image, shopping, videos and places.

You can add your competitors too to keep an eye on what they are doing. I have not yet delved too deeply into the additional features which require you to add your own data, but they do look like they could be useful. The data is added manually, it is really simple.

For keywords you can simply download the Search Traffic > Search Queries data from Google Webmaster tools. To test I just took the top 100 keyword phrases from WMT and pasted into WeMeUp. It took seconds for it to upload and within a couple of minutes the new information had been processed. You need to then connect with Google Analytics. If you have multiple accounts in Analytics this is not a problem, just click the one you need to connect to the WebMeUp project.

Keywords and Ranking

Webmeup keyword checking

Webmeup keyword checking

Once keywords are added and WebMeUp is linked with your Google Analytics accounts there is a whole new stack of data to study.

For each keyword you can see how many visits there have been. In the Rankings section there is a breakdown by search engine with additional data such as bounce rate. The most important piece of information for many will be the Google rank – where it is now in the Google search engine.

For each keyword phrase you can assign a tag to allow reports to be rather more quickly in the future.

A slight annoyance with WebMeUp is that it does seem to take a long time to check – on the Keyword and Rankings pages the page was on “Checking” for a long time. There is a green progress bar though, so at least you do know that it is still working. This is a good time to make a cup of tea …..

Keyword Efficiency Rank – KEI

This statistic caught my eye – WebMeUp provides a rating for how efficient a particular keyword is. The term has certainly been around a long time. It is a way to identify keywords with less competition that will still deliver some traffic.

Many people make the mistake of targeting the most popular keywords and fail to realise (at first) that they cannot compete with the 1000 websites that are already ahead of them. But by focussing on lesser keywords you can make ground and get some valuable traffic.

Of course, you do need to have some pages and keyword data before you can assess your progress.

Pages – Site Audit

There is a lot of information on on-page features too – it is not all about backlinks. The on-page features provide advice on improving titles and also alerts to problems in the code that may be negatively impacting your website.

I have always been a big fan of on-page SEO, in fact I only really started looking at backlinks after finding myself with a Penguin penalty!

The Page information is ace. The summary pages gives info on pages indexed in Google, load time, Google PR distribution (are important pages buried and receiving little PR?), HTTP response codes, errors and warnings.

Errors

Errors include 404 pages and pages with duplicate titles. This is quickly updated, I deleted a page this morning and it is already reported as a 404 – I am still linking to the deleted page somewhere on the site – and it tells me where. Great!

Duplicate page titles is something I need to look at for Webologist – I have some tags and categories with the same name. Rule No.1 of running a WordPress site should be to never have cats and tags with the same name!

Warnings

Warnings include pages with Flash, frames and “Heavy” pages. Also if URLs are considered too long (not sure how bad that really is). Pages with many outgoing links, or more important, pages with broken links are also reported.

On-page warnings include long titles, empty meta descriptions (they good for increasing CTR in search, so are important for SEO) and metas that are too long.

Info

The Info section gives details of indexing and crawlability, redirects and encoding / technical issues. For each section there are some SEO recommendations, for example under the indexing and crawlability section it shows “Pages restricted from indexing” – if indexing is blocked with robots.txt or meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” in the header of the site, affected pages are listed.

Monitoring SEO

WebmeUp - Ranking success

WebmeUp – Ranking success report

Once you have your keywords, competitors and Analytics in the tool it seems to do a good job of keeping track of what is going on. For the top 100 keywords it reports in a leader board style for Ranking Success on the dashboard, detailing how many keywords are still number 1, how many in top 10, top 20 and top 100, and also changes. I do not have change data yet, too soon to tell at the moment.

Social Media Monitoring

WebMeUp also monitors some social networking and bookmarking websites; Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Delicious, StumbleUpon and Diigo. LinkedIn and Pinterest are notable omissions.

Not Provided solution?

WebMeUp are still developing their tools. While writing this blog post I had an email from them inviting me to look at their new traffic stats.

The “not provided” solution you’ve been waiting for so long has been finally released — meet the “Approximated traffic” feature in WebMeUp!

Ever since Google stopped providing keyword search referral data SEOs have been a little confused about how people get to the websites that they manage. WebMeUp say that they have a solution.

Conclusion

I am certainly not familiar with many SEO packages but having used a few, mostly for backlink anaylsis over the past year, I do like WebMeUp. The fact that they provide a lot for free (to start with) is good. But then, MajesticSEO and Google Webmaster Tools is also free for your own sites.

I have not used WebMeUp to spy on competitors yet – but it is probably worth a look for that too!

WebMeUp.com is definitely worth adding to your list of SEO tools.