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Video – How to Use Our SEO Audit Essentials Checklist (7 minutes)

Graphic indicating the free download for the SEO audit checklistHave You Downloaded Our Free SEO Audit Checklist Yet?

(If you haven’t, you can find it here.)

If you have, maybe you’d like a bit of a guided tour. In this brief video I’ll give you an overview and a few insights as to how you might want to use this resource in your own web development and digital marketing.

 

When you watch the video, feel free to post questions in the comments for either this blog post or the video itself. We want to make sure you can get the most out the SEO Audit checklist.

Why should you care about SEO? SEO is Search Engine Optimization to rank higher in search results. Here is a great reference to learn about the value of first page Google results.

Website Tool Review: SEO Analyzer from SEO Centro

Don’t be Fooled by its Old School Appearance

In a lot of ways I really like the SEO Analyzer from SEO Centro, especially its lack of pretension.  After all, an analytical SEO Checker is there to provide a function, not an artistic user interface.  Still, it’s easy to ignore this free tool when you arrive at their home page, mainly because of the blizzard of ads, one of which tried to drive me away with flashing neon.

I guess that’s a downside to a particular virtue of this tool, which is that it doesn’t demand your email address to use it (not to mention your money), but of course you do pay for it in a way; I counted 7 ads in the screenshot below. At least the advertising doesn’t bedevil you with pop-ups or pop-unders.

Picture of home page for SEO analyzer

SEO Nuts and Bolts

Once you get past the ads the approach is simple: input your web page URL (address) and the simplistic, anti-spam “access code” (i.e., the CAPTCHA) and wait a bit for it to do its magic.  Once it has processed your page you’ll have a tabbed interface divided into the following 8 sections:

  • SEO
  • Content
  • Keywords
  • Social Media
  • Usability
  • Reputation
  • Speed
  • Server

Image of the tabs on SEO Centro analyzer

Let’s just cover a few of these in turn.

The SEO Tab

What you’ll find on this tab

  • The page title, whether it is present, how long it is (although the length recommendation is out of date as of this writing), and whether it is “relevant” (it does this by comparing whether the words in the title are found elsewhere on the page).
  • The meta “description” tag (often referred to as simply the description of the page).  Like the title it will see if the description tag is present, and if it is it will give similar output on length and relevancy.
  • Also checks for the presence of robots.txt and robots element in html, as well as the presence of a sitemap.  It doesn’t seem to offer any insight as to the quality of those elements.
  • Under this tab you’ll see a “snippet preview” for desktop, showing you approximately how the page might look if it showed up in search results.
  • Headings are important for SEO, of course, and the SEO Analyzer offers a nice clear table of H usage with contents of each H tag, so you can review on your own.  Of course you need some knowledge of the principle of relevancy to be able to put this table to good use.

What the SEO tab is missing

  • It doesn’t give much guidance on <H> tags, for example I placed 2 <H1>s on page (which is a practice normally frowned up on in SEO) and it didn’t alert me to this.
  • It does not check whether the “www” variant of the website, or something similar called ip canonicalization, is set up correctly.  This is a fine technical point but an important one.
  • I would like to see it check for correct implementation of canonical tags on pages.
  • Also there is no analysis of the SEO properties of the body content that I could see.

The Content Tab

Highlights of what you’ll find on this tab

  • This section cherry picks a couple of technical issues, such as whether your page has a doctype set and whether it is using a technical construct called “frames” that can make the page less Search Engine Friendly (SEF).
  • Gives you a word count, which can alert you to pages that don’t have enough textual content.
  • It offers a recommendation to keep the load size of your page below 250mb, but I find in this age of rich content experiences (often expected by visitors) and widespread adoption of broadband (offered to most consumers of Internet content) a 250mb limit is a bit unrealistic nowadays.
  • This tab also shows a list of links on page and whether they are dofollow or nofollow, which can be moderately useful if you spot a pattern and know what to do about it.
  • It does check to see if the alt attribute of images is being made use of, which is a lower priority relevancy factor in SEO
  • In an effort to help you diagnose page size issues (which will be common if anything over 250mb is viewed as an error, it gives a list of all resources associated with the page that make up that big size, primarily JavaScript (js) and Cascading Style Sheet (css) but as no further explanation is offered you would need a developer’s knowledge for that to help you much.

What the Content tab is missing

  • I would like to see it show the content of those alt image attributes, so I can determine whether they are actually helping the relevancy of the page.
  • For anyone who is not a hard-core SEO, I think there needs to be much more explanation of what to do about many of the results that are reported.  There are indeed summaries on most of these, but they are so brief as to be not helpful to novice SEOs, business or marketing people.

The Keywords Tab

Highlights of what you’ll find on this tab, which is one of the more useful tabs this tool offers.

  • It has a decent keyword cloud, giving a visual representation of the importance of words it finds on the page.
  • You’ll find a number of tables that illustrate how keywords and keyword phrases are used on the page, both single keywords and multi-keyword groupings.
  • The “Top Keywords” section does a fairly decent job of picking out the most relevant phrases.
  • For each of the keywords and phrases it will indicate whether it is used in Title, Description, or any of the H tags on the page.
  • It will also show the keywords used in the anchor text (the clickable part of a link on the page).

What the keywords tab is missing

  • It would be nice to see more data on the keywords being used, such as search volume.

The Social Media Tab

  • Whether structured data is used (primarily Facebook’s Open Graph) to facilitate sharing on social networks.
  • Share data for a limited number of social media networks.

What the Social Media Tab is Missing

  • A check for the existence of Facebook Page, Twitter account, Instagram account.  The only check is for Google+ which is now a footnote to social media

The Usability Tab

  • This tab has a number of useful bits of information, including whether a language declaration is used (which is mainly useful if you serve a mutli lingual audience.
  • More importantly it checks for a couple of settings relevant to mobile usability, such as the presence of a viewport and media queries.

What the Usability Tab is missing

  • The most important missing feature on this page is a preview of the page on mobile vs. desktop screens.

The Speed Tab

  • Information on a lot of specifics related to technical aspects that affect speed.
  • Lots of very brief tips on how to implement the tips that are given.

What the Speed Tab is missing

  • Any non technical information to guide you in using the data that is presented.  The tips that are presented are mainly useful if you already know how to develop websites.

Summary

SEO Analyzer by SEO Centro is a pretty bare-bones tool.  Despite the aging look of the interface and the ad-supported nature of the tool, there’s some handy stuff in here, especially in the keywords tab.  However, I would definitely recommend this tool to someone who already has intermediate or advanced knowledge of SEO, not to the typical SEO beginner.

Do you use the SEO Analyzer by SEO Centro? Do you see important things this post overlooks? Do you have a similar tool you’d like to recommend for future reviews?  Feel free to post a comment below. And subscribe to this post to be automatically notified of other reviews soon to come in our SEO Checkers review series.

seal like rubber stamp with word audit

What Should an SEO Audit Cover? 10 Essential SEO Areas.

Graphic indicating the free download for the SEO audit checklistWill an “SEO Checker” perform a real “SEO Audit”?

What business doesn’t want to rank higher in search results? Especially if those search results are on Google. Recently Infront Webworks out of Colorado Springs published a study on the value of a page one ranking, which demonstrated that over 90% of searchers will choose one of the page one results without ever making it to page two (and most of those will be clicking on the top 3 results).

Often, when a company looks at their rankings and wonders why they aren’t performing better in search, they think about doing an SEO Audit. Many will do their own search on Google for things like “SEO audit,” “SEO Checker,” “Website Checker,” and so forth. As soon as they do they notice the wealth of free SEO site check tools. For that reason, recently we’ve been looking at SEO Audit tools in our blog posts and videos. While we will be looking at many useful tools that do fill legitimate search engine optimization needs, we need to clarify that none of these tools can ever hope to perform a full SEO audit (and to be fair, none of them that I have seen claim to do so).

[This post was updated on 3/3/2018 and again 5/8/2018 with our how-to video to help you use our SEO Audit Essentials Checklist. Jump to the video.]

Of course as soon as we say “SEO Audit” it seems like we need to take a pause and discuss what a real SEO Audit should cover.

A Full and Complete SEO Audit Should Include the Following

  • Technical Factors
  • Content and Relevancy
  • Analytics and Tracking
  • Visitor Engagement
  • Business Conversion
  • SERP Conversions
  • Links and Authority
  • Trust and Brand
  • Keyword Research
  • Competitive Landscapes

This blog post will examine each of these areas.  If you’d prefer a video, we have one for you here, but the blog post has more information and details.

What does “SEO Audit” mean to you?

I think when most business people think of an SEO audit they think of the result. They hope it will be something that will open the door to better visibility in Google search results.

The thinking might go a little like this:

We aren’t getting leads off of our website.

I never hear customers talking about our website.

When I search for us on Google I don’t find our website but I find lots of our competitors.

Something’s wrong with our website!

LET’S FIND WHAT’S WRONG AND FIX IT!

You’d see a similar thought process if a business can’t figure out why they are running a loss (or making too small of a profit). And in many ways the methodology is the same:

  1. Find and hire a professional
  2. Open up your books to the “pro”
  3. Let them start looking in areas that you never would have thought of for problems you never realized existed.

seal like rubber stamp with word auditSEO vs. Financial Audits

The main difference is that a financial audit is a process that relies on principles that change very little and have been examined across time over millions of businesses. An SEO audit is a process that has been with us a much shorter time, works in an environment of much more rapid change, has to take into account a much more diverse array of variables in terms of technology, marketing, the behavior of 3rd parties (most notably Google).

And despite this wealth of challenges, people still want free online SEO checkers, which process their observations in a minute or less, to give them all their answers that a full SEO audit would.  It’s an unfair expectation.

The first step in the process is to find a competent SEO professional who’s done this sort of thing before. More than once. The purpose of this post is not to tell you how to find that professional, but it might help you to decide which professional you want to “open your books” to.

If you are interviewing a professional SEO about conducting an SEO audit for your business, after you determine they have experience and integrity (as best you can), your next question should be, “what will your audit cover?”

In the past I’ve talked about the “twin pillars of SEO” (which are authority and relevance, as explained here), and any SEO audit will need to study each of those closely. In addition there are other important areas that need to be covered in your SEO audit, principally technical factors related to how your website is built and interacts with Google and Bing and their “crawlers.”

With these basic principles in mind, find out what your prospective SEO consultant what their audit will cover and compare it to the following brief overview:

Technical Factors

This is the arena of the geek, sometimes the uber-geek, but it’s increasingly necessary to make sure your website is sound when it comes to technical issues such as

  • Slow page load times
  • The presence of elements that might confuse search engines (flash, frames, confusing URLs, poorly structured redirects)
  • Presence of elements that might actually block search engines (primarily a mistakenly configured robots.txt)
  • Presence of elements that are designed to help Search Engines understand and index your website (these would include not just an XML sitemap, but also a working and properly configured account with Google Search Console)
  • And so much more…

Graphic indicating the free download for the SEO audit checklist

Content and Relevancy

The relevancy portion of an SEO audit is not a simple checklist of items, but rather a survey of whether your website is relevant to the desires and interests of your customer as they are searching online.

An audit for relevancy cannot be effectively conducted unless the SEO has had an in depth discussion with you about your typical customer, how they search, why they buy, and so forth.

Armed with knowledge of your product or service and information about your customer, the professional then will need to do keyword research related to those factors. It’s only by determining how your ideal customer is searching that the professional SEO can tell whether the content on your website makes it relevant, not just to a bunch of keywords, but to those desires or needs that drive the searches of your ideal customer.

In line with this, a full audit would examine your search analytics in Google Search Console to see what queries your website is already showing up for, which gives clues as to how Google views your relevancy right now.

Analytics and Tracking

One of the most important advantages that Internet marketing offers over traditional marketing and sales is the unprecedented ability to track results. Tracking results alerts to problems, allows for fine tuning of any marketing effort, and insures the best use of funds. There is a wealth of tools and methodologies for tracking a website and how it serves the company’s interests.

The downside to this is that website analytics and tracking really need to be set up and configured by an expert, due to the complexity and subtlety of many tracking issues. The wrong tracking is worse than no tracking at all, because it leads to a distorted picture and decisions based on mistaken assumptions.

Any full SEO audit should examine the way that a website is tracking visitors, which is usually handled these days by Google Analytics, and should examine the Analytics configuration to make sure it is set up to track in a way that best serves the company’s business needs.

Visitor Engagement

Not only is visitor engagement necessary to achieve business goals (see business conversions below), it is also needed to send signals to Google that may help the website to be shown in search results to a broader audience and in a more commanding position on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).  Google likes to show websites that engage the visitors.

Visitor engagement is another issue where an experienced eye is needed. Any company can read basic metrics such as bounce rate, number of pages per session, average time on page, and so forth. But the numbers are useless if they are not tied back into the business goals and if they are not analyzed by someone who can interpret the data and translate it into action items for the business.

An SEO audit should look not merely at engagement metrics, but ideally should ferret out pages that are killing engagement, or perhaps should be able to provide the company at least with an idea about whether their numbers are poor or good, and the implication.

Business Conversion and Conversion Rate Optimization

Usually free SEO Checkers will give you a good set of data for taking on technical SEO issues, but are blind to your individual business goals.

This is yet another area where an SEO audit will be useless unless the professional conducting the assessment has taken some time to learn more about your business and what it needs to achieve from its website.

After examining your pages for the presence or absence of factors that will improve your ability to convert visitors to customers or leads, an SEO audit should offer specific guidance on how pages should be changed to reduce barriers to, and increase incentives for, a visitor to take the desired action on your website.

SERP Conversions

Before you ever get a visitor to your website through organic search two things have to occur, 1) the business’s website needs to appear prominently in search results, or the SERPs, and 2) a person who sees your website listed along with 14 other listings on that SERP needs to decide that yours is the website they need to visit.

In the SEO business tremendous emphasis is placed on #1 above and often virtually none on #2. An SEO audit, however, should not only look at how your website ranks, but in addition to that should see whether it’s optimized to make the most of any search visibility it’s getting by making sure the “snippet,” that is the listing for your website in search results, makes a compelling case to searchers that they should visit your website to find what they are looking for.

Links and Authority

One of the most important factors that determine whether your website will be an SEO success or not is the number and quality of other websites that link to yours. These are known as “back links” and any legitimate SEO audit will take a close look at them. They will inform you of the number and quality of these links as a whole, but will also tell you how your website scores on at least a couple of the numerous 3rd party services that will quantify, not only the links to your site, but their overall impact.

In addition, however, since links are one of those SEO factors that can actually hurt you if done wrong, an SEO audit will need to determine whether or not there are “toxic links” in your back link profile that constitute a “poison pill” that might kill off your search results quietly, without you understanding the harm that is being done.

If an SEO audit uncovers harmful links it will also provide you with a clear explanation of what your options are and show you a path to rectifying the situation.

Trust and Brand

Google looks not only for “authority” created by numerous links, or “votes,” recommending a site, but it also needs to have a high level of confidence that your business and business website are legitimate. For that reason a modern SEO assessment also needs to look at how your brand is referenced online, and how consistently your company is represented — as a company — across numerous “local directories” as well as social media platforms.

Keyword Research

We already mentioned keyword research under “Content and Relevancy,” but it is so important we thought it needed its own section.

Companies always have an idea of what keywords matter when it comes to connecting with their ideal customer in search. Yet I have yet to encounter a business that had a complete picture of the keywords that are important.

The reason for this is simple: human behavior is not entirely predictable. When people are online searching, especially now that searches often include voice-to-text searching, they will find an infinite variety of ways to express to a search engine what they are looking for.

A good SEO audit will take into account the keywords that the business owner wants to rank for, will also survey the keywords that a website is already ranking for, but then will go far beyond that, exploring a wide range of innovative ideas from a number of data sources to discover missing opportunities to connect with important prospects.

Competitive Landscapes

No search visibility occurs in a vacuum. If I search for “best cellphone under $500” I will join a huge audience that is sought by thousands of vendors, all of them jockeying for position in my search results. If I search on “best cellphone over $2000,” suddenly I will find very few companies trying to appear in my search results.

The goal of an SEO audit is to try and quantify the level of competition, usually as a part of keyword research. It also will look for areas where you have a higher chance of success, or, conversely, will help you to avoid fighting losing battles. But more generally, such an assessment will also determine the strength of your primary business competitors in SEO terms, and create a strategy either to help you catch up to them, or stay ahead, depending on where you are right now.

Get the checklist: What Should Your SEO Audit Cover?

Graphic indicating the free download for the SEO audit checklistTo help you get a firm handle on this admittedly broad subject, we’ve come up with an SEO Audit checklist that covers each of these 10 areas.  Visit this page to request to download this powerful – and free – SEO resource.

picture of man who's overwhelmed by the thought of SEO training

Looking for Some Real World SEO Training?

Kate: Can you imagine a life where everything was just easy?  You know, like where you ask for things, and then people just bring them to you?

Jack: It’s wonderful…

– “The Family Man” (2000)

Ah yes, wouldn’t it be nice if you could read some sage bit of Search Engine Optimization or Digital Marketing advice, call in one of your well trained staff members, ask them to implement and simply wait for them to bring you the results?

Welcome to the Real World

picture of man who's overwhelmed by the thought of SEO training

Is SEO training just one more thing on your plate? Then only worry about the essentials!

I don’t know about you, but that ain’t the business world I operate in.  I grew up in small business, literally, and I’ve spent the last 35+ years in a world where managing a business or a department tends to be like fighting 5 fires in a high wind with a garden hose and a shovel.

Taking time away from all the other concerns of a hectic day to become an expert in SEO simply isn’t an option for most small business managers.  If you’re like me, you long for information that is stripped down to the essentials.

It’s to fill that need in SEO that we created a new online training course called “Real World SEO: Essentials.”  This course is designed to cut through all the stuff that no one in the “real world” will ever do and focus on the meaningful concepts and the realistic actions most busy small businesses CAN take based on knowing those concepts.

The course is divided into 9 modules and is approximately 6 hours of video training.

Who is the Course For?

Business owners and managers

This course wasn’t just designed for business owners.  It is designed for ANYONE who has to get their website seen while managing other business operations.

Independent web developers

It’s also a perfect class for Web developers who need to perform SEO for their clients but need to focus ONLY on the essentials that will have the best shot at results.

Marketing professionals

Finally, if you’re a marketing professional who is expected to manage, or simply know about, Search Engine Optimization, this course is a compact way to bring you up to speed on those concepts that will benefit your clients and put you ahead of most other marketing agencies who are after their SEO business.

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

 Try it Out for Free

We know how valuable your time is, otherwise you probably wouldn’t have been interested in the premise of this post.  So instead of forcing you to commit to a purchase of the full 9 modules, we’re giving away the first 3 absolutely free.  Once you sign up you’ll also get a downloadable free bonus: our SEO Workflow Journal, a template similar to what our agency uses for managing an SEO project.

The free sampler we’re giving away carries a double benefit: Not only will you have an idea of the value of the training before you purchase the full course, but regardless of whether you get the full course, you’ll get valuable and actionable insights.

What you’ll learn in Real World SEO: Essentials

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

Module 1 – Introduction (34 minutes)

  • The Starting Point: pragmatic SEO
  • Be ready to roll up your sleeves and do some work
  • Expectations for the course
  • What you will need
  • What the goals of the course are

Module 2 – Basic Understanding (22 minutes)

  • How search engines find web pages
  • How they organize and store web page content
  • The anatomy of a SERP
  • Why certain sites are ranked higher than others

Module 3 – Evaluating Your Website (36 minutes)

  • How to evaluate your current website
  • The importance of KPI’s
  • Getting started with Google Analytics and Google Search Console
  • Resources for evaluating your website such as Open Site Explorer

Module 4 – Make it Search Engine Friendly (SEF) (62 minutes)

  • What SEF means
  • How to check for health problems using Google Search Console (GSC)
  • How to create an XML sitemap and let Google know about it, also using GSC
  • What a robots.txt file is, and why you need to check yours

Module 5 – Keyword Research (58 minutes)

  • Why keyword research is foundational to SEO success
  • How to do keyword research using Google’s “keyword planner”
  • How to determine whether a keyword is really competitive
  • Why “themes” are more important than “keywords”
  • How to set priorities for your SEO using your keyword research

Module 6 – Relevancy (56 minutes)

  • The important principle of “relevancy”
  • Key parts of the page for SEO
  • How to optimize a page for relevancy
  • What Panda is, and how to check your content for Panda-proof quality
  • The importance of a content-creation strategy

Module 7 – Authority (43 minutes)

  • The second pill ar of SEO success: Authority
  • What PageRank is and how it changed the search engine game
  • The impact of Google’s Penguin updates
  • Link-building basics

Module 8 – Conversion Optimization (27 minutes)

  • Why visits are meaningless without conversion
  • What factors keep people from taking action on your website
  • What conversion boosters will help you to get the most out of your SERP rankings
  • How higher conversions can also help your organic SEO efforts

Module 9 – Managing Your SEO (21 minutes)

  • Learn the difference between urgent and important
  • How to avoid SEO paralysis
  • How to get the most out of the SEO Journal that we provide as a bonus
  • What options are available to you to take your study of SEO and Internet Marketing to the next level

Bonus Materials

  • Sample SEO Workflow Journal (a handy team document for tracking and managing your SEO)
  • Google Special Search Operators for Keyword Research
  • Match Type cheat sheet to help you get the most out of Google’s Keyword Plan

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)