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An interview with Niels Bosma – creator of SeoTools for Excel

SEO Tools for Excel Niels Bosma

SeoTools is an Excel add-on consisting of a bunch of useful functions for working with SEO and other web metrics directly in Excel, and has been downloaded over 100,000 times since its release in 2011.

The add-on has proved invaluable to us in the industry, and we’re interested to learn more from the creator himself: Niels Bosma.

So here’s a little insight into what drives Niels and his work, and why we should stay tuned for more helpful tricks.

What inspired you to create the project?

As a developer at a data driven company I use Excel a lot. We build all sorts of automated Excel reports and use it for data manipulation and database shuffling. I had earlier built a few Excel add ons that contained “missing features” and when I started to learn about SEO I realised the potential to build a SEO focused add-on for Excel.

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How does this project fit around your day job at Offerta.se?

We’ve used SeoTools extensively for onpage analysis. Our marketing department also use   the Google Analytics features quite a lot.  As a developer, I use the Format(), XPathOnUrl() and SqlFirst() functions almost on a daily basis.

SeoTools is a growth hacking project and I try to apply the growth hacking mindset to my work at Offerta and how we plan and evaluate product development – so the two really do complement each other.

Why did you decide to not charge for it?

At first it was just a side project and I didn’t think it was good enough to charge money for it. With my fulltime job at Offerta.se I manage to buy my Saturday bacon anyway!

I make some money from my partners and through advertising so I can pay for my servers. In the future I’m planning to add a “Pro” version. I would be cool someday to make enough revenue so I can do this fulltime.

 

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Checking Page Rank and HTTP Status with SEO Tools for Excel

 

Which aspects do you enjoy the most when it comes to creating these tools and the work that you do? 

Getting feedback from users that find my tools useful. It’s really cool when someone from the other side of the world writes a blog post about SeoTools.

What’s the most frustrating thing about building tools that collaborate with Excel/Microsoft software?

I’m using ExcelDNA which takes most of the hassle out of building Excel plugins. Most of my trouble is with testing as there’s so many combinations of Excel version/OS version/.Net version.

Which other SEO tools can you not live without? 

MajesticSEO is really useful for link analysis. If I want to understand how a competitor gained a position in Google I use MajesticSEO to analyse their backlinks. Also we’ve been filtered once and we used MajesticSEO to figure out which crappy links we needed to remove.

What is the biggest change to the web you have seen during your 14 years in web development?

It used to be really boring to build websites, but when Apple killed Flash by not putting it on the iPhone, there’s been an explosion of work in improving front end development using HTML5. Now we have a lot of great front end frameworks that allows us developers to build amazing apps for the browser.

The tools and frameworks that are available to me now as a developer, compared to what was available 14 years ago when I started, are pretty impressive.

Where do you see your work moving in the future? 

My vision is to make SeoTools a full toolbelt for working with online marketing. I want to integrate anything with an API. I have some loose ideas to make it possible to build your own simple API plugins using javascript, and allow anyone to contribute with integrations.

There’s a beta that has been out for a while (I don’t think it’s worthy of a release yet) that you can try – it has lots of new features, check out the new Spider feature that I’ve built here.

We struggle with caching and hanging excel instances when working with a large number of URLs, is there anything we can do to get around this?

This is something I definitely need to improve in SeoTools in future versions. Currently SeoTools isn’t very good at utilizing parallel computing.

You can try to turn off caching or you can clear the cache in a session. More information can be found on my website.

We noticed that you are planning to integrate the Moz API into SEO Tools for Excel which will compliment the Majestic functionality ­ what about AHREFS? What new functionality can we expect once the Moz API has been integrated?

I try to plan my releases after user feedback from my user voice page

AHREFS could definitely be a candiate if requested by enough users…

What features can we expect to see from your wish list and when can we expect them?

Next release will probably be in autumn when I’ve polished the current beta. I haven’t planned the release after that yet but I think I will focus on adding access to more APIs such as MozAPI and AHREFS.

What advice would you give to programmers thinking of making tools for SEO?

Make something you would use yourself!  Be prepared to adapt, as the game we call SEO changes every day.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us Niels, and we wish you all the best with your work. Here at 3WhiteHats we’re certainly looking forward to using the developments to SeoTools for Excel.

Keep up-to-date with Niels and SeoTools for Excel:

Twitter: @nielsbosma

Facebook: /seotoolsforexcel

LinkedIn: /BosmaNiels