Frequently Asked Questions

What is XPathBuilder for? I'm an SEO - what can I do with it?

As explained in a little more detail on the About page, the importXML feature within the Google Docs spreadsheet is an extremely useful tool for SEOs looking for a quick way to pull in search engine results for analysis. Similar functions are available in Microsoft Excel, but Google Docs has the virtue of being both cloud-based and free of charge.

As a full-time SEO, Ryan found it to be invaluable for competitive analysis. But as this is a fairly new tool, he looked in vain for a web-based importXML builder. So he turned to Bruce Gemberling for assistance in creating one. The rest, as they say, is history.

I generated the string and pasted it in the Google Doc spreadsheet, but I got the response "N/A" and the comment "The xPath query did not return any data." I thought you said this thing was helpful!

Congratulations, friend: you've just discovered the single most annoying aspect of this feature. As noted here, "Google Docs spreadsheet ImportXML function is known to be fickle about which web pages it allows to be data retrieved from." The upshot: sometimes Google's own function sometimes refuses to retrieve data from Google's own search results pages. (We'll grant that Google is providing this service free of charge and all, but it's no less annoying.)

Try a slightly different keyword or phrase, and you'll find that it suddenly delivers results with no problems. Ryan has noted occasions when a previously unsuccessful string suddenly worked fine after a few minutes. Heres hoping Google gets this feature working reliably soon.

Can you explain the default settings in XPathBuilder?

We tried to include the settings that we felt would be most relevant to SEOs:

Why did you only include a handful of search engines? I want (insert search engine here).

This tool is far from complete. In fact, we'll freely admit we're beta testing it in public. We're looking forward to feedback from the community on how to make it more useful, and we have a range of plans for it, including addition of other search engines and additional data for import. So if you have suggestions for future modifications, drop us a line. Better yet, give us a tip to keep development on this tool moving along.

Best of all, hire one (or both!) of us for your web marketing/development project!

This thing is too cute by half. How can I learn more about how to exploit this?

Tom Critchlow and David Sottimano at Distilled have written extensively on the subject here. Also check out some handy tips and links by SEO Gadget here.

XPathBuilder 3.1 - ©2011 F Sharp Web Design, LLC. All Rights Reserved.