Our Next SEO Workshop Training is Coming Up Soon!

Picture of hammer and bent nails with phrase "tired of getting SEO wrong" placed on workshops pageSEO Workshops are part of our training mission at Horizon Web Marketing

Why does Horizon do SEO Workshops? Well, we’ve always realized that the best SEO client we can have is one who understands what we’re doing for them and who can participate in the process. We have taken the time to explain and educate to all of our clients. Some of them were eager to learn, others not so much.

But we also take that training to a more formal level with our Horizon Web Marketing Academy, which offers, among other resources, the opportunity for anyone to learn SEO in a live workshop setting. All our workshops are led by yours truly, and it’s truly the best part of my job. I love connecting with students around SEO concepts they’ve never properly understood and watching them finally “get it.”

Our 5-day program is progressive and structured to begin at a very basic level. Even if you’ve never done SEO, this workshop will get you started. On days 1 and 2 we cover the basics of SEO, and in days 3-5 we take you into more advanced topics.

Our next scheduled workshops are in Las Vegas (Aug 6-10) and Denver (Sep 10-14) (Sign up links are at the bottom of this post)

Here’s how our program unfolds:

Day 1 – Foundations

  • How Search Engines operate and how they interact with your website
  • What SEO is and how it can help you succeed online
  • A 6-step system for getting results quickly
  • Keyword and market research
  • On page optimization

Day 2 – Digging In

  • External linking strategies
  • Internal linking strategies
  • Staying out of trouble with the search engines
  • Blogging for SEO
  • Introduction to local SEO
  • Creativity

Day 3 – Advanced Topics

  • Advanced keyword research
  • Video SEO
  • Advanced local SEO
  • Concepts: Semantic search, natural language search and more
  • Mobile and SEO

Day 4 – Google Day

  • Google AdWords overview
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console

Day 5 – Technical SEO and more

  • Structured data (schema)
  • Technical traps and pitfalls
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Social media
  • Persuasive copywriting

SEO Training Workshop Sign Up Links

If you want to finally do SEO the right way, and you’re tired of trying to figure that out by wading through a hodge podge of SEO videos on YouTube, you owe it to yourself to sign up for one of our SEO workshops. Sign up links are below for all the courses.

Las Vegas, the Week of August 6th, 2018

Complete SEO training, 5-Day Course, August 6-10 – [Sign Up] [More Info]

Basic SEO training, 2-Day Course, August 6-7 – [Sign Up] [More Info]

Advanced SEO training, 3-Day Course, August 8-10 – [Sign Up] [More Info]

Denver, the Week of September 10th, 2018

Complete SEO training, 5-Day Course, September 10-14 – [Sign Up] [More Info]

Basic SEO training, 2-Day Course, September 10-11 – [Sign Up] [More Info]

Advanced SEO training, 3-Day Course, September 12-14 – [Sign Up] [More Info]

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

Hubspot Website Grader – Review (Video with Transcript)

One of the Most Well-Known SEO Checkers

By virtue of its position as one of the major players in digital marketing, Hubspot’s SEO checkup tool, the Website Grader, has been used to do an SEO check on literally millions of websites. In this review I take you through the results of a check I did as part of our ongoing series of reviews of free website analyzers. How does Hubspot’s Website Grader stack up? Watch the video here and find out.

[Note: Check out the other SEO Checker reviews we’ve posted on our blog or on our YouTube channel]

And, in case you’d prefer to to read, we’ve included a full audio transcript with screen captures below the video.

Audio Transcript

Hi there. Do deep pockets make for a great SEO check up tool? We’re going to find out in just a minute.

Hi, I’m Ross Barefoot, with Horizon Web Marketing and the Horizon Web Marketing Academy. We’ve been working through a series of free online tools that’ll help you do an SEO check up on your website. Now these SEO checkers are pretty common, there’s a lot of them out there, and many of them are made by small teams of developers, laboring away, sometimes more of a labor of love than anything else, and we’ve reviewed a number of good tools. This time we’re going to turn our attention to a tool developed by one of the big companies out there, a company named Hubspot, that you may or may not have heard of.

Hubspot is a major player in digital marketing. They’ve got a great platform for marketing your business. I can’t really review the platform here, but they also have a lead magnet tool, that is a tool designed to generate interest in their business, called the Website Grader. So we’re going to take a look at that tool and see, okay, this was developed by a company with deep pockets, does it show up in their free SEO checker? So let’s have a look.

When you arrive at the website, you know that you’re dealing with a heavy hitter here because their domain is “grader.com.” That’s a pretty high end type of domain for a company to have, and they’ve got “website” as the sub domain, so it reads website.grader.com. You can see it’s powered by Hubspot at the top, very simple interface. It asks, “how strong is your website?” It asks you to put in the website and they also want your email. Hubspot is great for being out there and trying to build their email list. And I’d first like to point out that Hubspot offers lots of great content online. And so I certainly, nothing in this review should detract from the fact that they’ve really made some positive contributions in the world of digital marketing.

Now we’ve been running a website that we’ve been using as kind of a test website, called Artisans of Colorado, and as you can see, it’s pretty plain. This is what it looks like. And it has not been optimized for search, as a matter of fact, we’ve thrown some errors in there just to see if some of these tools will pick up on the errors. So here’s the report that I get when I run artisansofcolorado.com through Hubspot. It tells me that my site is good. That really makes me feel great. It registers it as an 80.

screen capture of results of website grader evaluationThe thing is as someone who’s done SEO for well, going on forever now, since 2002, I can tell you there is no way artisansofcolorado.com deserves an 80 on any scale in terms of search engine optimization. Let’s take a look at what they’ve talked about here. Says that my performance gets a 20 out 30, my mobile readiness gets 30 out of 30, the SEO gets a 20 out of 30, and security 10 out of 10. Then it gives me a screen capture and then we start to get into some of its results.

Now one thing that probably some of you might like, I personally get tired of and that is, they really indulge in a lot of cute descriptions here, so some copywriter went to town on the informal side of things. But I find this tool to be probably the least useful of any tool that I’ve tested so far. It gives me very little data. I’ll give you one example here, it’s showing me my page speed is slow, it’s just giving me an overall number rather than breaking down into the things that Google looks at like when does the page first start to render, when do people first start to see it as opposed to when it completely loads.

Screen capture of speed results from the website grader test

Very basic metrics. Not enough detail to really tell you whether your site is truly slow, and if it is, what to do about it.

The other thing is they tell me that I might try speeding things up a bit. If I click on any of those links to read more, I’m expecting to see some details associated with that, like what specifically I could improve, and instead it just takes me to a very general blog post, and that’s the case with all of this stuff, like page request, page size and so forth. When I drop down here it’ll tell me that I need compression. It’ll tell me that I’ve got some render blocking going on. So it gives me some information, but not really enough. I’m going to have to find another tool to really tell me what to work on with this site.

It will show me that the site is responsive, and this is what I mean by cute, they say, “now that’s a good looking viewport.” You know after a while I probably would rather just have the information than have it expressed in that particular manner. When I drop down here to SEO, they’ll just take a look at like the very most basic of things, does it have page titles, they’ll give me a yes without showing me what the page title on this page is. Same with meta description.

And one of the things I was a little disappointed at, because Hubspot is really great at producing content, like when I clicked on read more for the meta description tag it takes me to this that’s showing me a capture of a search engine results page from like five years ago. You see the little picture here of Ramesh Ranjan up in the left, that type of search snippet hasn’t been seen in a long time, so this is a pretty old page and with something like a meta description tag as they’re talking about here, Google has just in the last six months changed their specifications on that title two different times, so it’s really important to have more current information. When I drop down I see on security, it just basically tells me that I have a secure site, so that’s good. When it says what should I do next, it’s a pretty short list, four different items. And then they’re basically of course offering me a trial of their software.

Screen capture of how website grader does on the seo audit checklist

By the numbers: Website Grader comes up very low. Not many audit items can be checked off with this free tool.

Now, we have been comparing these tools to our SEO audit checklist and one of the things that we do at Horizon Web Marketing and the consulting side of our business is we will do SEO audits on sites and they’re typically pretty thorough, so we’ve taken each of these tools and we’d say, okay, if I’m using this tool, will it help me to clear a particular item on our SEO audit checklist? So the SEO audit checklist here has a total of 91 different items, and the Hubspot website grader is showing here as having been able to help me clear two out of 91 of those items. That’s about the lowest score that I’ve seen, well it’s definitely the lowest score that I’ve seen.

I’m just going to scroll down here through some of the items on our checklist. It was able to tell me that it’s using HTTPS or a secure protocol. It was able to tell me that the site is mobile friendly. But as far as everything else on our audit checklist, it was not able to help me out at all.

So in terms of using the website grader to actually do an SEO check on your website, I’d say choose one of the other tools that we’ve been looking at. That’s not to say anything disparaging about Hubspot’s platform or any of the other things they offer, and as I’ve said before, I really appreciate all their great content, but this particular tool really is not going to be very useful whether you’re experienced or inexperienced in terms of SEO and digital marketing.

Graphic indicating the free download for the SEO audit checklist

Get your own free copy of our SEO Audit Essentials Checklist.

Now that SEO audit checklist that I showed you online, we do offer as a free resource, and I’m going to put a link down in the description of this video where you can click through and get a copy of that checklist for yourself and start working through it. The checklist also has links to videos and other instructional materials to help you to be able to do some of the checks that we have on our SEO audit checklist.

Also, please subscribe to show your support for our video production and the fact that we’re trying to create content that’s useful for business people out there who are trying to do SEO on their own. So just go ahead and click that subscribe link if you enjoy content like this. Also, please let us know if you have any consulting or SEO training needs. We’d be glad to help you out. Again, my name is Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and the Horizon Web Marketing Academy, and I’ll see you next time.

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

screen capture of Dareboost SEO checker home page

Latest SEO Checker Review: Dareboost (Video)

In our latest series on SEO checkers (aka Website Analyzers, aka SEO check up tools), we take a look at Dareboost. This may not be the best choice for someone who has no technical knowledge of website development, however if you have even a basic level of understanding you will find a lot of value here.

[Note: Check out the other SEO Checker reviews we’ve posted on our blog or on our YouTube channel]

I will take you on a quick tour of the program in the video. For those of you who’d rather read than watch, well, first, more power to you, but secondly, look below the video for our audio transcript.

Audio Transcript

Dare I say it? It’s time for another SEO checker check up. I’ll be right back, in a moment.

Hi, I’m Ross with Horizon Web Marketing and as you probably know, we’ve been working through a number of different, free, SEO check up tools, that are available online, that purport to help you be able to take your webpage and plug it in and see how it can be improved from an SEO perspective.

Now we’ve done a number of these tools, the next one on my list is a tool called ‘Dareboost.’ So, let’s see if Dareboost can get the job done.
Here we see Dareboost when you arrive at the website, actually I’ve been here before, as you can see down here, it knows that I’ve already done a check. Now when we do these, we’re using a demo site, basically, called ‘Artisans of Colorado.’ And we’ve been using the same site throughout so we’d have something to compare.

So I went ahead and plugged Artisans of Colorado into Dareboost and it comes back with, a very familiar interface here, it’s got a numeric grade, it tells me it’s 68%, they’ll tell me it has 11 issues, 15 suggestions for improvement, 63 areas where it has passed the test.

Dareboost is a Fairly Technical SEO Tool that Gets a Lot of Things Right

It does a lot of things right, it is able to spot a lot of issues, but often at a level where you’re gonna have to have some technical knowledge to be able to even understand the issue, much less to be able to correct it.

So let’s just scroll down here and see what it looks like. It puts a lot of weight on the speed test, putting it at the top and center of the report screen here. And it gives me a lot of very good information when it comes to the speed of the website.

It’ll give me details such as the first bite, start render, fully loaded, so in other words, it doesn’t just give you a number, “Oh, your page took X amount of time to load,” and that’s a good thing, because Google is evaluating your page based on things like ‘when does a user first have an experience with your page.’ So in this case, it’s giving me a lot of metrics and then as I drop down below, it’ll give me the tips and best practices.

screen capture of SEO speed metrics

Website speed metrics are granular and front and center.

Now, one of the things I like about this, is that it has a really good filtering mechanism. So that I can switch from all categories for its observations to just a few. Before when I came down here, I had it set to ‘cash policy,’ but you can see immediately, when you start looking at this, that it’s really designed for somebody with technical knowledge. When it allows you to sort your categories by things like ‘browser rendering’ and ‘number of requests’ and ‘cache policy.’

These are things, that if you’re new to SEO, even if you’re experienced with the SEO but you don’t know much about website development, you’re gonna have a hard time wrestling with some of these issues. But if you do have some knowledge of these areas, it gives you a lot of granularity and a lot of detail that’s very, very useful.

So, I’m just going to pick out a few things here, as I go down, and one thing I would like to point out is the interface does allow you to hide or reveal, the information. Like for example, it’s talking here about a critical dependency that’s detected, I was able to drop this down, it tells me about what … It’s referred to as a ‘front end single point of failure.’ Here again, we get into some of the text speak that is very common to Dareboost, when it does one of these checks.

Often Includes Good Supporting Information

Now, I’ve brought up here, this is a different blog post, but one of the things that I also like about Dareboost, is they do give you links, not just to kind of a ‘hover over’ tip on what a particular metric or particular diagnosis is about. But they’ll actually do a pretty good blog post, giving you a lot of information.

screen capture of a technical SEO blogpost on the dareboost site

So if you’ve got patience and if you are able to engage with their information, they’ve done a really good job on a lot of these subjects, of being able to educate you and I’d say that has a lot of value, right there.

As I drop down, I can see … it’ll show me quite a few items here, that require attention.

One of the things that I like, just from an SEO perspective, is they do a thing like, it will check that there’s duplicate title tags on this page. We’ve thrown a duplicate title tag into this page, just to see whether tools would pick up on it, and most tools don’t pick up on the fact that there’s a duplicate title tag. It also gives you a nice preview here of the ‘Cert snippet.’ By snippet, I mean how you’re listing is gonna appear and how your title tag might affect that particular display, in a Google search result.

So let me just kinda scroll down here, you can see there’s a whole lot of speed and optimization issues. And the tool is pretty, I wouldn’t say it’s exclusively focused, but it’s got a heavy emphasis on performance issues. And if you’re a programmer out there, you can see they’ll call you out on things like here that other tools, typically, will not, using the exclamation important declaration, used 578 times, that’s basically something that you put into your CSS code.

And again, unless you’re a developer, you won’t really know what that refers to, but if you are, it kinda shows you how you’re relying on something here, that you probably shouldn’t be relying on so heavily.

So, again, there’s a lot of subtle things this tool will pick up on and I thought that was extremely good. I just don’t think that the tool is really appropriate for someone who’s just getting in to SEO, unless they’re doing it, going through it with their developer or with an SEO professional.

That having been said, once you’re a little bit farther down the path, this could be a very good resource. I’m certainly going to keep Dareboost bookmarked for the future.

Let’s run the numbers on this, as you know we publish an SEO audit check list, at Horizon Web Marketing, and we offer it as a free resource. In the description for this video, I’ll give you a link to be able to download this audit check list. And we modify and update it on a regular basis.

We have a total of 91 items on our SEO audit check list. Of those, 31 are technical factors and these tools tend to be more focused on the technical factors. So we ran a score on Dareboost, basically what we do, is we say, “Okay, on these various items, that our SEO audit would include, would Dareboost give me the information I need to be able to either clear it or fix it or know that there’s a problem.”

Graphic indicating the free download for the SEO audit checklistNow, the numbers here are pretty low, for Dareboost, I don’t think that should be a judgment on the tool, because, again, this check list is more relayed with a lot of items that have to do with things like, “Is the content relevant to your end user,” and so forth. And Dareboost doesn’t claim to be able to do that.

So, the fact that it had got, it hit 11 out of 90 of our points, 6 out of 30 on the technical, would tend to indicate a pretty low score. And here I’ll scroll down, just kinda give you an idea of what these are. But I don’t think that that’s a really- a valid score in terms of judging this tool. I think the tool, overall, is a really neat tool. I like it quite a bit, so, definitely keep it in mind as one of the tools in your toolbox, and make use of it as you have the knowledge and experience to be able to do that.

Now, if you want to get other reviews that we offer on free SEO tools, please subscribe. It’s also great if you subscribe, because it just shows YouTube that you support the channel. So go ahead and hit that subscribe button down below and if you’d like to actually receive notifications of our … of new videos that we publish, when you click on ‘subscribe,’ there’s gonna be a little bell icon next to that button. Just click on that as well, so you can actually get notifications now.

We offer SEO consulting and SEO training at Horizon Web Marketing. Training is through the Horizon Web Marketing Academy. So definitely keep us in mind for any needs that you might have for SEO services or for SEO training, as you pursue your own Search Engine Optimization knowledge.

And I will look forward to seeing you on our next video. Again, my name is Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing. I’ll see you next time.

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

Thumbnail for video explaining how to check website for malware

Is Your Website Infected with Malware? Free Tools to Help You Check.

And You Don’t Even Need to Be “Techy” to Use Them!

Scroll down to watch the video (audio transcript is below that)

Do you know that “bad actors” on the internet will try to infect your site with malware and spam in ways so subtle that you don’t even know they’ve done it? And often they aren’t after your secrets, they just need your website to help them blast spam emails, practice negative SEO, or host hundreds of advertising pages you don’t even know about.

In they process they can hog your website resources and earn you or other websites a bad reputation with Google. For that reasons you need to be able to quickly check your website for unwelcome intruders. Of course there are lots of more technical tools for doing this (if your site is running WordPress our favorite tool for checking and protecting is Wordfence).

In this video we take a look at a number of other tools that require no technical expertise to use, and we find that they are not all created equal.

(Interested in more in depth SEO training? We offer live SEO workshops like this.)

By the way, if you discover that malware is infecting your website, you will need technical help, so be prepared. But whatever you do, don’t ignore this issue. It’s one of the first things we do when we’re doing an SEO Audit.

Audio Transcript

Hi, everyone. I’m Ross with Horizon Web Marketing, and I’m here with another SEO Audit How-To. So, we’ve been working our way through the SEO audit checklist that we use internally when we do an SEO audit on a site and giving you little tips on how you can clear items from your audit checklist. Let’s take a look at the checklist. As we scroll down under the technical factor section of the checklist, you’ll see that one of the sections is security issues, and I’ve done another video that talks about how we can clear these two items. Is the site using https, and is that being served consistently?

detail image of seo audit checklist with the security issues highlighted

Today, we’re going to talk about this question, is the domain clean of hidden malicious code? Now, you may think that your domain is as clean as a whistle, but on the other hand, the people that are out there planting malicious code on websites often do a pretty good job of not letting you know that they’re around. And don’t be going according to the assumption that every time someone hacks into your website, they want to steal something from you. Often they’re hacking into your website so they can do things like blast out spammy emails or put up advertising pages that you don’t know about using your domain, and now also they might use your domain for something called negative SEO, where they plant a whole bunch of really lousy links to other websites to try to take them down, and you’re just the unwitting host of this.

So, here’s how we go about checking a site, and before I do that I’m going to show you this article here and I’ll put a link to this article. It’s a pretty good one, “11 Awesome Tools for Website Malware Scanning.” So I went through there, and I actually saw some tools that I didn’t know about before. They’ve got a list of some. Now, many of these tools are ones you have to install on the backend of your site. What we’re going to focus on today, with the exception of Google Search Console, we’re going to show you tools where you don’t have to have login privileges in order to check out a site.

So, if you do have, when it comes to your own site that you own, probably the first place you’re going to go is to Google Search Console. Now, if you’re not familiar with Google Search Console, you need to change that, and we’ve got some videos that show you how to get set up with it.

When you’re within Google Search Console, on the left you’ll see that there’s a choice called Security Issues, and when we click on that, if Google has picked up on any malware, any malicious code on your site, they’re going to give you a notification here. So typically, they’ll push a notification to you if you have your email entered into Google Search Console, but as a matter of course for sites that we maintain, we make it a practice to check this at least once a month, make sure that Google hasn’t picked up on something that we’ve missed. However, this is a cursory check. It doesn’t catch a lot of stuff. I have had it catch security breaches before, but I don’t think it always does that.

The security issues screen in Google Search Console

Now, some of the checkers that are listed on that page that I showed you are not that great at catching code, so what I did is I decided to go to a website that I know has malware infection because I’ve been following this website for years because they’re a host for what we call negative SEO and have actually been used to launch attacks on at least one of my clients. So, I’m going to go to this website, and here it is. It’s called coopercomputers.com. It’s still up and online. You can see that it’s like an abandoned site. If you dig down into this domain, you’ll see pages like this where basically the pages have been hacked, and then all sorts of images have been placed. And if you dig down into the code, you can find all sorts of shady stuff going on. So, I decided to take this and do a little test on some of the malware checkers that are listed in the article I showed you.

The first one that I went to is this one here called virustotal.com. I ran that site through it, came back pretty clean. This is basically a meta check, so it goes and it goes through a lot of different checks. Notice it shows Quttera’s listing this as suspicious. Quttera is another one of the sites that we’re going to take a look at.

Web Inspector, another one here we go to, and boy, it looks like it’s pretty clean so far. And then I’ve gone to Rescan.Pro, which is another resource. We’ve scanned the site and once again, looking good. Alright. Now we’re going to go to the site that we always use when we do a check like this on a client’s website or on a prospect that we’re looking, for example, for a link partnership arrangement. We’re going to go to Sucuri, and a lot of developers know Sucuri. They really know their stuff pretty well. Plugged in the website. Notice, not so clean. “Warning: malware detected. Critical Security Risk. Known Spam detected. Your site is hacked and needs immediate attention. Malicious code was detected on your site.” Notice down here, “Malware detected by the scan and injected spam detected.” So, obviously this site is not as clean as some of these tools would have made it out to be.

picture of results page of check on coopercomputers

Our Go-To Web-Hosted Site Check Is Sucuri

Now, I have plugged this same homepage of this site into Sucuri, and it’s come back clean, even with this tool. As a matter of fact, just last week I was doing a demo where I plugged this computer in. Sucuri came back and said that the homepage was clean, so I had to go and put an internal page into the checker in order to discover the code. The moral of that is when you’re doing a check on your site, don’t stop at the homepage. Pick a couple of internal pages and run them through a couple of different checkers.

Now here, Google has their own what they call a Safe Browsing Report. Notice Cooper Computers came back clean with Google’s own report. But, Sucuri is not the only one. There is Quttera. Remember they were mentioned. It says, “Potentially suspicious content detected on this website.” And you scroll down here and it’ll tell you that it has potentially malicious files that it found on this site.

Also, Siteguarding here, another tool, actually gave me an extremely good readout on this site although it’s a little bit on the technical side. It says, “The website is infected.” Now, this is the one that was probably the most surprising to me because they actually identified the infection as “Spam SEO Linking Anomaly,” which goes along with the negative SEO. That’s a subject for another time, but basically the bottom line is they were able to pick up on the infection at Siteguarding. I think I have one more example here. Nope. No more examples.

So, there we’ve just walked through a few tools. I would say if you’re in doubt, I would typically recommend Sucuri as my first bet go-to site. But as I’ve shown you, these tools are not entirely perfect, and they don’t claim to be. There’s only so much that a tool can do running a scan, but this will give you a good start in checking whether your website is infected.

So, I hope this has been useful to you. Let me know if you have any comments, suggestions for this video or for any others, and definitely subscribe with the big red button. Next to it there’s a little bell icon. Make sure you click on that too because that’s the only way you’ll actually get notifications pushed to you from Google.

I also drop a few more resources and links down in the description, so be sure that you click on the ‘Show More’ button underneath the description to see everything that’s available with this video. And definitely come back and check out our other videos when you have a minute. I’ll see you next time.

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

Thumbnail for video explaining how to check for https secure protocol implementation

Secure Protocol 101: How to Check the HTTPS Implementation of Your Website (video)

Another SEO Audit How-To Video

Google wants your website to be secure! That’s why they are favoring websites that use “https” instead of “http”

Image of a website running https

Above is an image of how a website will show in a browser if it is running https

 

Image of a website showing a not secure warning

Above is an image of a site that has not implemented https, or has done it incorrectly

This is another video in our series of SEO Audit Essentials how-to’s. In this video I discuss one of the items we always check when we’re doing an audit on a website, namely whether it’s running on secure protocol (in other words, using “https” instead of “http”), and then, if it is, whether that https protocol has been implemented correctly (often it has not).

Since Google is valuing https in their ranking we always want to make sure that Google doesn’t think the https implementation on a website is broken. It might negatively impact the trustworthiness of the site.

(This video is designed to complement our SEO Audit Essentials free checklist. To get a copy of that checklist for your SEO work, click here)

An audio transcript appears below the video.

Audio Transcript

Hi, everybody. This is Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing. I’m here with another tip for how to use our SEO audit checklist. As you may already know, and may already have a copy, we offer as a free download a checklist similar to the one we use in house for performing an SEO audit on your website. So, we’re just going to drill down into one small aspect of that, and show you how you can do a check on your site. And in this case, it’s for the security protocol that your site is operating under.

Let’s take a look at the checklist. You can see it here. It’s set up in a spreadsheet format.

image of seo audit essentials checklist

If we scroll down a little bit, you’ll see it there’s a setting that says security issues. And the first question is, is the site using HTTPS? Of course, as you probably know, Google is pushing everyone to use a secure protocol and here I’ve got a project site to take a look at. You’ll see up at the top left that the site is using HTTPS, as opposed to just HTTP. Whenever you visit a website, typically, if it’s running this secure protocol, if you’re using Chrome browser, it’s going to show secure, other browsers will show something similar.

Your first step is, if you’re going to check out your site is try typing in the address, just like I’ve done it here without any protocol [ed: without http or https] and hit Enter, and then see what it defaults to. In this case, it defaults to HTTPS. So, so far, so good. I’d click around to a few pages on a few links, see if it’s running HTTPS. Okay, so at this real basic level, it looks to be running HTTPS. But I’m going to check one other thing, and that is what about if somebody has a link out there with just the standard old-fashioned HTTP? So, I’m going to put that in for this site and I’m going to hit enter. Now notice that it redirects again to HTTPS.

So, some sites do not force it to check. Part of what you’re going to do is you’re going to check by taking out that S, and running it through and seeing if it redirects back to the secure protocol. But typically, you’re not done there.

Using the Insecure Content Report in Screaming Frog

Now tool that we use quite a bit, and I’ve talked about on some of my other videos is Screaming Frog [ed: for a link to any tools mentioned in this video, see the description of the video on YouTube]. It’s free for up to about 500 URLs. It’s a free download. Otherwise, if you have to buy it, it’s a good tool to have. I’ll do other videos on what we use it for, a whole bunch of different stuff. I’ve done a crawl here on a somewhat abandoned site called rockymountainsearchacademy.com. Once I do a crawl using Screaming Frog, they have a report that is called insecure content. When you click on that, it’ll prompt you to download a spreadsheet.

image of the dashboard of Screaming Frog

What the spreadsheet looks like is right here. You’ll notice that it will show me every page that has a link on it that points to an insecure destination. In this case, on my page, How To SEO Courses, you’ll see here under the column destination, notice how the protocol over here is HTTP. That’s not really the best case. Now in our situation, we do have what are called redirects in place. So, if someone clicks on that link, they are forced to a secure version of this page. But that puts an unnecessary step in the process. So, this would be an area that I would need to give some attention to, to change these links here to HTTPS.

Using JitBit to Double Check for Page Resources Called Insecurely

Now there’s one other free tool that I’m going to show you how to use. We’ll go back here, and we’ll check this tab. This is a cool little site called JitBit. You can go there and do an SSL check. Now, this will only go up to about 200 pages. But it gives you a good idea whether you might have a problem or not. Notice you have to tweet to gain access? That’s a small price to pay. So, I go ahead and tweet, and I’m going to show you what the result is when I did a check on Rocky Mountain search engine Academy. And you can see in the screen capture here, that it finds just one insecure item. Now, this is because it’s looking for actually where the website is calling some sort of a resource that is using something to build the page that is insecure. Now, this is something that Screaming Frog did not pick up on. And so, in essence, you really have to do a variety of different checks.

At this point, if you find that you do have a problem, and you’re not really technical, here’s where you call in your developer or an outside developer if you feel that your developer, or the person you’re working with, can’t handle this. And you say, “Well, here’s what I find:” In the case of Rocky Mountain search Academy, I have a bunch of insecure links that need to be swapped out. That can be done with a one-step database replacement operation. I would also show them the JitBit document, because it shows where an external script is being called insecurely. Both of those are red flags to Google. And so, they would need to be dealt with. Once you deal with them, you can mark this off your list.

Again, my name is Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and Horizon Web Marketing Academy. I hope this has been useful to you. Please subscribe for more tips like this, and also click on the bell icon next to the subscribe button. That way, you’ll actually get a notification when we have new videos come out that will help you work through these tough SEO questions. Bye for now.

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.