Video thumbnail How to Set the Preferred Domain in Google Search Console

How to Set the Preferred Domain in Google Search Console

SEO How-to Video: Make Sure to Set the Right Version of Your Website in Search Console

There are at least two versions of your website, and it’s important you tell Google which version of your site is the “preferred” one. In this video I will walk you through the “why it’s important” and also “how to get it right.”

(If you prefer reading to watching, the text version of the video is below)

Audio Transcript

Did you know that Google sees different versions of your website? That’s the case even if you never intended to create different versions of your website. Did you also know that it’s extremely important to know which version of your website you’re looking at or working with when you’re using Google’s search console.

Well, that’s the subject of our video today in business basic SEO, so stick with us and I’ll be right back.

Hi, I’m Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and the Horizon Web Marketing Academy where we help business people understand SEO. Now today we’re going to be talking more about the search console, this is a free tool that Google offers to web masters, business owners, anyone who’s working in digital marketing or SEO and who wants to do better with Google.

Now, search consoles are a very valuable tool as a matter of fact in our consulting business, we work with it all the time. In our training academy we teach about using it all the time. Let me explain a little bit what I’m talking about when I say that there are different versions of your website. I’m going to jump over to a website that’s sort of an under developed website. It’s very plain looking, but it will serve the purpose for us.

Now, this website is called artisansofcolorado.com, and you’ll notice up in the address bar, up here for search. Notice the details of how that’s represented, h-t-t-p-s www.artisansofcolorado.com. Now that website also could be reached if I typed in, for example just artisansofcolorado.com. If I type that in it’s actually going to go to the same website, but Google actually views those as two different variations of the same website. As a matter of fact, it’s technically possible for you to have completely different content on the www version of your website, than you have on the non www version of your website.

It goes beyond that, this particular website is running over what we call a secure protocol, and Google has been pushing most site owners to run over a secure protocol. That’s always shown with http and then an S, after the http. So, in essence for any website that’s running securely, there are four different ways to reach that website. Http://artisansofcolorado.com, http://www.artisansofcolorado.com. Https://artisansofcolorado, and https://www

Screen capture of the various versions of artisansofcolorado.com that can appear in Google Search Console

Now, the interesting thing about this is when you’re working with your website, and Google search console each of those variations really should be setup as if you had four different websites. We’re going to switch over now to Google search console, and I’m going to just show you a little bit about how you do this, and how you indicate to Google which one is what we call your preferred domain when it comes to working with Google search console.

Now first of all, adding a website to Google search console and getting setup with Google search console is a little bit more involved and we do have a video that walks you through that process. So, if you have never added your site to Google search console before, I’m going to put a link on screen. I’m also going to put a link down in the notes for this particular video and you’ll be able to link over to that. I’d recommend you stop at this point, go over, learn how you add and verify a website in Google search console. Then come back and conclude with this.

So, what I’m going to do right now is I’m going to use this red button up in the top right, add a property and I’m going to use https//artisansofcolorado.com, and what Google will do is it will add this, it will ask me to verify it.

screenshot of Add a Property button in Search Console

Now, because I don’t want to bog down this video, I’m going to go ahead and complete these steps and then I’ll come back into the video when I’m done, and then we’ll move forward from there. So, here we are back at the search console and I’ve taken a moment and added and verified four different websites, but you and I both know this is really one website.

To Google however they’re going to treat it as four. I have the http version of artisans of Colorado without the www, and I have it with the www, and then I have the same thing for the https version. Both different variants of the site. Google does recognize that these sites are probably supposed to be tied together, but they still recommend that you set which one of these in the settings of search console is your preferred domain. Which one should be dominant? So, how do we determine which of those is which? I’m going to suggest that the easiest way to do it particularly if you’re non technical is to let the internet make the decision for you.

So, go to a browser, and then notice how I’ve typed in just the domain name, now the domain name is whatever word is to the left, followed by whatever is to the right of the period. So, in this case it’s just straight out artisansofcolorado.com and I don’t add in www. I don’t put in http, I just put in the domain name and I hit enter. Notice how the address bar in the top has changed, https and www have been added. So, this indicates to me that this website is setup in such a way that it should default to that particular variant. Let’s return to search console and here’s how we tell Google that, that should be our preferred domain.

screenshot of the settings gear icon in Search ConsoleWe’ll click on this one here, the www version, and then we’ll click on the gear at the top right, and we’ll select site settings. Often when you first set this up, Google will choose one of those as the default. In this case, if it comes up set as don’t set a preferred domain, you’re going to now change that setting and we will here. We’re going to select the radio button. Remember we want to be with the www, we’ll click save. Now, I’m going to show you something interesting about this. Google of course tells us that it views these as four different websites in effect, but once I’ve made this change if I go to any of these other variants. Let me take this one here, and I click on settings.

screenshot of the site settings in GSCNo, it’s changed it for this one as well. So, in other words this does indicate that Google recognizes, as I said earlier that these are supposed to be part of a matched group. Basically we have done what we need to do. Now, the last thing that I need to tell you is, when you come back to search console as data has started to accumulate here, you will not see the same data in each of these various websites. So, the account that you go to for your most consistent, most complete information is going to be the one that you set here and proceeded by your default protocol in the http versus https. That defines what we call protocol.

So, typically when we come back and we want to manage this site, submit site maps to Google search console or see things like for example crawl errors and so forth. We want to focus on that particular property. Now, there is a way where we can further tie all of these websites together and it’s something called the set, but I’m going to leave that for another video. So, for now I’m going to just let you go and set your preferred domain if you haven’t already done so. Of course if you haven’t added your websites to Google search console, then go and look at the other video that I’ve referenced in the description. Then go and add those sites to Google search console. That’s one of the first steps that you do when you’re optimizing a site for search.

I hope this bit of business basic SEO has been helpful to you. If you like tips like this, and they are useful to you, make sure that you subscribe to our YouTube channel down below. Also, go ahead and leave us a comment if you’d like to see videos that we don’t have within our channel. In the mean time, thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you next time.

Website Checker Review: SEOptimer

A Website Checker from Down Under

This video review is part of our ongoing series covering website SEO checkers, tools that will check the search engine optimization of a page or pages on your website to see how well they measure up against SEO best practices.

In previous video reviews, I’ve covered Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer and SEO Centro’s SEO Analyzer.  This time around we’ll take a look at an Australian SEO Checker that’s been around since 2012, SEOptimer.

And if you, like me, would prefer to skim text, a verbatim transcript appears below the video.

Do you use any of these tools? Leave us a comment. Do you want us to review your favorite tool? Leave us a comment about that too.

And if you’d like to download our SEO Audit Essentials checklist (which you’ll see in the video), you can get a copy by visiting this page.

Transcript of SEOptimer Video Review

With a sleek, modern interface, SEOptimerclaims to have the “grade to rule all” grades, and that’s a pretty ambitious claim for a free tool that does an SEO check on your website. Now, I don’t really know this company and I don’t even know whether to call it S-E-O optimer or S-E optimer, but any case, we’ll answer the question about the grade to rule all grades in just a minute.

Hi. I’m Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and the Horizon Web Marketing Academy and we’ve been going through some of the free online tools that are available that will help you to do an SEO check on your website. So, the next one that we’re going to take a look at is SEOptimer and we’re going to just take a quick walk through it and see if it does what it purports to do, which is to give you that grade that rules all grades.

So, when you arrive at the homepage for Seoptimer, you’ll see that it’s a very modern website. It looks like a fair amount of budget has gone into developing it and if you poke around in their website a bit, you’ll see that this tool’s been up and online since 2012, according to the site. The company is in Australia and they have a number of free tools available on their website and they also do SEO consulting services. I’m not really familiar with them as a provider. I don’t really make a recommendation or a criticism, but in my other tab here, we’re going to take a look at a project that I’ve plugged in to see what it looks like when we do an SEO check on that site.

In this case, it’s a site we’ve been using with other similar checkers. It’s called Artisans of Colorado. Right at the top it gives me a letter grade, which is fairly typical for these types of tools. It tells me that I’m ranking a C+, that my page could be better, which of course, is something you could say just about any website that’s out there. Let’s just scroll down a little bit and you can see how they’ve broken this down into a number of different categories. SEO, usability, performance, social and security. Kind of ironic social and security are next to each other, at least for the U.S. market. Now, we’ll drop down, we’ll see the overall grade and then we’ll see that they examined a number of the basic things that should be given attention to. In the header of the website, they’ll take a look at the title tag. They’ll give me a printout of what it contains. Recommendation on its length. Meta description tag. It’ll give me a notification if there’s no title tag or no meta description tag.

screen capture of seoptimer seo letter grade

Drop down a little bit farther here, and it’ll tell me whether there’s a good distribution of text in the header tags for the website. Now, one of the things that I did pick out is it’ll tell me that I have multiple H1 tags. It won’t necessarily give any sort of warning with regard to those, and one of the things that I’d like to see here that it doesn’t have would be, a better inventory right at the front side of these header tags. But, it does have it buried, just a little bit deeper, so in this interface, if I click where it says show more details, there I will see the inventory of contents of those various header tags.

screen capture of seoptimer header tags review

Definitely nice the way they have that. You just have to know to click on the blue button to show more details. The keyword, consistency, will show me some distribution of words and which ones are most common on the page. That’s a good thing. It would be nice if they had two and three keyword phrases as well, but the single keywords are better than nothing, definitely. It’ll also give me a warning on the low content on this page and certainly this page does have minimal, textual content, so that’s a valid warning.

On the image alt attributes, it’s a similar situation to the header tags. You’ve got to click to show them. The one thing here that I’d prefer to see is I’d like to see what the alt attribute says. In this case it’ll tell me which image on the page, this one right here, does not have any text in the alt attribute, but it won’t really give me anything in terms of a recommendation. It also has a section that tells me about the number of backlinks. It gives me a nice overview, here, of Moz’s domain authority, which is one of the industry’s standard numbers, measuring how high quality the backlink structure is. Dropdown here for the link structure. It’ll tell me, and I like this, that it gives me all the various links on the page, along with whether they’re flagged as follow or no-follow. Now, if you’re a beginner with SEO, a lot of this stuff that I’ve been rolling through here, you’re probably going to need to do some research and know how to analyze some of theses elements.

Screen capture of seoptimer analysis of backlink structure

This tool’s a little bit lean on recommendations for absolute beginners, but it does, if you’ve got something else that’s giving you some guidance, it’ll show you some reportage here of what’s going on in your site, that is very useful. I’m going to dropdown here. It’ll show the presence of a robots.txt, XML site map. It takes a look as to whether the site is going to render correctly on mobile, versus tablet, versus desktop. It’ll check a few of the various elements that could be a problem if crawlers need to access your site, which of course, they do. So, it’s good that it checks those things. On the speed check, it’s actually a pretty good test of the page speed info, because it doesn’t just give you a overall low time. It’ll show you the response time of the server. It’ll give you an all-page content loaded and then all-page scripts complete. Now, here again, if you’re not familiar with some of these terms, it’s going to be of limited usefulness to you, but if you know a little bit more, it does give you some useful information and then it will give you a little bit more in terms of the various components of your page that are being used. For example, the number of JavaScript files that are going on.

screen capture of seoptimer page load analysis for seo

And if you’re a programmer, you can use this as kind of a heads up, if you’ve got over usage of some of these elements. Dropdown a little bit here and it will take a look at your social profiles. In the case of this site, we don’t have anything going on, so it’s giving me a red flag on all of these various elements. Then it does have a good check of security. It’ll tell me whether I’m using secure protocol, the SSL right here. It’ll tell me whether HTTPS has been set up correctly and it’ll also tell me whether I’m being reported as having malware embedded on my site. I think that’s very useful. Most of the checkers don’t give us this type of feedback, so I think in that case, it was superior to some of the other tools we’ve taken a look at.

screen capture of seoptimer review of site security

Then, it will give me an overview of some of the various technological components used to build the page. Some of the various, sort of, techy details that are related to it. Then it’ll give me a number of recommendations. In this case, they’re good recommendations. Again, they’re pretty minimal, in the sense that they’ll tell me to execute a link building strategy, but they don’t really tell me how to do that. And to be fair, it’s really hard to teach someone how to, for example, do a link building strategy on a tool that’s a free one-page checker. So, a number of these things here are very good to take a look at. Not going to try to explain each of them. What I am going to do is, I’m going to see how does this stack up, and this is kind of a new thing I’m doing on some of these checkers, in that I’m going to go to our SEO audit checklist.

screen capture of seoptimer seo recommendations

Now, this checklist is a free resource, that we make available to anyone, and as a matter of fact, you can download a copy of this for yourself, and what I’ve started doing is taking a look at our checklist, which has 91 different items on it, and seeing is SEO, and I put here, this is an incorrect statement here, by the way. I need to stop myself right now. See where it says SEO Optimer up here? I kept calling it, in my mind, SEO Optimer, and then, if you go to Seoptimer, you’ll actually go to a site that downloads malware, so please, let me do a verbal correction here that this site, as a matter of fact, I think I’ll do it even though I’ve got the video running, I’m going to change this right here, right now. It’s SE Optimer.com, so make sure you get it right. Don’t make the mistake that I did.

On our 91 checklist, basically, I’ve got two different components that this audit checklist is broken into. The whole thing and then also the technical side of things. So, for technical SEO factors, and most of these checkers are focused on the technical factors, I have 30 different points that we check when we do an SEO audit on the site and they hit nine of these where SE Optimer can actually help you, and you’ll see some of them here. For example, the presence of an XML sitemap. Whether the site speed is acceptable or not. Is the site using HTTPS? Is the domain clean of malicious code, and again, most tools won’t do that. Dangerously invalid HTML, broken links. Is the site mobile friendly? And these things over here, you’ll see them flagged, yes, and yes means that SE Optimer, if you’re using it, could actually help you to clear those items if you’re doing your own audit checklist.

You can see, however, that it’s not going to really hit everything that a professional SEO audit would hit. I can just scroll down here and kind of give you a general overview of all the items that you still need to pay attention to, even if you’re running it. So, although I really like a lot of aspects of this tool and I like the fact that it’s modern, well maintained and so forth, I probably would not agree that it will give you the grade to rule all grades. On our comprehensive SEO audit checklist, it hit 16 out of 91 points. On our technical checklist, it hit 9 out of 30 points. So, good tool, but you will have to do more if you’re going to do a thorough SEO audit on your site. By the way, if you want a professional to do an SEO audit for you, definitely come to Horizon Web Marketing. That’s the type of thing we really love digging our teeth into. And, if you want to learn how to do one for yourself, take a look at the Horizon Web Marketing Academy, that’s the training arm of Horizon Web Marketing, where we teach business people and web masters and basically anyone who has an interest, how they can master a lot of these issues with regard to search engine optimization and perform them on their own or with their own team.

Again, my name is Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and Horizon Web Marketing Academy. I appreciate you taking the time and subscribe, down at the bottom, so that you can get the next review, that we do have a website grader and you can stay on top of the best tools that are out there at the lowest cost. Thanks again for watching.

seal like rubber stamp with word audit

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.

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.

SEO Analyser is a Free SEO Checker, How Does it Stack Up?

Neil Patel’s Free SEO Check Up Tool is Easy to Use

(TL;DR – If you’d rather watch the video review of this tool, click here)

Neil Patel is one of the most recognizable names in Digital Marketing. He has his very successful online fingers in a number of different projects. If you do a search for “SEO Checkers,” one of his lead generating website typically comes up in the top 3 (which is a testament to his SEO chops).  This tool is called the “SEO Analyzer.” On the home page of the tool website, it boldly claims: “If you’re struggling to get more visitors to your site, the answer might just lie in this FREE report!” Let’s find out if that’s true.

Picture of SEO Check up tool SEO Analyzer home page

Orange is the new black…or something like that. The current home page for SEO Analyzer greets you with an action oriented field of orange and numerous pop-ups.

Let’s see what insight for struggling web marketers the SEO Analyzer might offer!

First of all, one of the nice things about this tool is that it does not demand your email address to allow you to use it. On the down side of that, you do have to put up with serial pop-up messages, and to dismiss them you have to click on links that say something like “No, I don’t want more traffic.”  C’mon guys, really?

For this analysis, I chose a website called ArtisansOfColorado.com, belonging to friends of mine who will admit the site has been somewhat neglected over the years.

Home page screen capture of artisansofcolorado.com, a website for colorado art and artists

In any case, I think it’s a great site to let a tool like the SEO Analyzer prove its worth, since ArtisansOfColorado.com has never been Search Engine Optimized. It’s the perfect guinea pig.

Page Level SEO Analysis – a Basic 19-Point Check

Screen capture of SEO Score for our test website

ArtisansOfColorado is just a tad above being thrown out of school, with a grade of C-

The first order of priority for SEO Analyzer is a variety of factors that contribute to the success of your site from an SEO perspective. In this case the analysis tells me that the site passed 14 checks and failed or under-performed on 5 other checks. Although this is of course a very short list of checks (Google, for example, uses about 200 ranking signals to evaluate a website and how it will perform in search results), nevertheless, Neil has had his team focus on a manageable list. And the list does include some of the most critical and most often missed factors for SEO novices.

  • Site title tags (presence of one, is it duplicated, too short, too long)
  • Meta description tag (presence of tag, too short, too long, duplicated, etc)
  • The Robots.txt faux pas, i.e. blocking of the page
  • The formation of the URLs
  • Presence of elements that might frustrate Google and Bing, such as flash and iframes
  • Presence of heading tags (e.g. H1, H2, etc) and whether any which are found are too short
  • Poor internal linking practices

If you’re just getting started with SEO, this is a good basic analysis that could be useful in finding some of the key gotchas on your site.

Still, it’s just a start, and numerous factors are not really addressed (for example, SEO Analyzer gave a warning about overly short H2 tags, but neglected to point out that this page doesn’t even have an H1 tag, which is a key missed opportunity for on page optimization).

Page Level Speed Score

screen capture of website seo speed analysis

Here’s the speed score for our test site. These numbers won’t mean much without some context. The actual letter grade is, for some reason, buried in the details.

The SEO Analyzer obviously places a lot of emphasis on the speed component of your web page, as illustrated by the fact that the Page Level Speed Score is placed at the very top of the analytical metrics it offers you. This is certainly in line with current thinking, since the speed with which your page loads is an important factor in how well you do, not only in search results, but also in attracting and retaining visitors to your key pages.

If you click on speed recommendations you’ll be taken to a tabbed box offering three choices:

  • Content analysis
  • Full Report
  • Web Performance

As you might tell from the screen captures below, there’s a fair amount of detail here. Unless you’re comfortable with the technical side of web development, it’s best to just shoot these details over to your web developer (if you have one), or find a web developer (if you don’t) to try to make sense of them and implement them.

Speed analysis screen shot

screen capture of speed recommendations

Time to get a geek involved. This is great detail, but beyond the grasp of non-tech people.

Mobile and Desktop Views

SEO Analyzer addresses the issue of mobile usability by showing you how your page lays out on different devices, although it doesn’t really discuss some of the more technical indicators of mobile usability.  Still, for most beginners, the visual representation is probably the easiest and quickest way to grasp whether your web page is presenting your company properly on that growing percentage of users who will visit your site with their phones. The tool also has a helpful line to show you were a typical user would have to scroll to see more of your message.

screen capture of mobile seo views

Click on the various tabs to see your web page in desktop, tablet, and mobile device views. The orange line shows the “fold,” the invisible line below which your content will only be seen by scrolling.

Backlinks and Indexed Pages

screen capture of a backlinks counter on this SEO checker

The backlinks counter on SEO Analyzer needs to offer more clarity about what its reporting.

This is the weakest section of SEO Analyzer.  The backlinks counter on this page, for example, says that it’s reporting on backlinks to “artisansofcolorado.com,” seeming to indicate that it is reporting on links to the domain.  But on the other hand, it says “websites” linking to artisansofcolorado.com, and in SEO parlance this would be referring domains, a much different metric than backlinks.

Additionally, this number doesn’t match up with other respected services.  Majestic.com reports 173 backlinks and 25 referring domains in their “fresh” index.  Moz.com reports 2,666 links.  So it would be interesting, first to clarify where this number is coming from, secondly if it is reporting on links or referring domains, and finally if it is links to any of the pages on the domain. Until these questions are answered, this metric has limited value.

screen capture of number of pages indexed indicator

This number is perplexing, since Google reports almost 7,000 URLs in its index for this domain.

More disappointing is the number of pages indexed figure. This typically refers to the number of pages that Google reports in its “index” for a particular domain. Although SEO Analyzer doesn’t really specify which index its reporting (after all, in theory it could be Bing), if we make the logical assumption that it is referring to pages in Google’s index then this number is simply wrong.

The usual way to query Google about the results in its index for a domain is to do something called a site search, as indicated in the screen capture.  Google reports almost 8,000 results for this domain, a far cry from zero.

 

 

screen capture of google search results

Keyword Usage Analysis

Like many SEO Checkers, the way that SEO Analyzer handles a context analysis of the text of this pages is to present you with a frequency grid (see screen capture, below).

screen capture of keyword usage grid in SEO analyzer

It divides its results into the number of times a particular keyword appears not only in the body text, but also in key SEO elements such as the <title>, meta description, and headings (all variants, presumably).  It also endeavors to do the same grid for 2-word and 3-word phrases.

screen capture of text usage on web page itselfThis is a useful way to immediately see which words dominate your content, however the 2-word and 3-word phrases often miss the mark, combining words in ways that don’t really make sense, such as the phrase pictured at right, which is listed in the keyword grid as “right place artisans.”

One other minor criticism is combining all the heading <h> elements together.  The SEO importance of an <h1>, for example, is far different than an <h3>, as is its recommended optimization.

But Wait, There’s More…

In this blog post I’ve mainly dealt with the Website Analyzer, but SEO Analyzer also includes two other related tools. The competitor analysis pulls the top-level metrics (Estimated traffic, SEO score, and speed score) for up to 3 other web pages and presents the results. Naturally that’s a very broad measure and doesn’t go very far toward doing a true competition analysis, but it’s something.

There is also a keyword suggestion tool that I find a bit confusing. It is branded as an “Ubersuggest” keyword tool, but doesn’t really operate like Ubersuggest.io (which Neil Patel acquired some months ago). It also states further down that it is providing data from SEMRush, who operate one of the most powerful and comprehensive suite of SEO tools used by professional Internet marketers.

In any case, the keyword tool bundled up on the tools.neilpatel.com site doesn’t appear to be tied into the SEO checker, which is the focus of this series of blog posts, so we don’t really need to say more about it. Since it’s free, feel free to experiment and see what suggestions it gives you.

Summing it Up

Pros: This handy tool from Neil Patel is very easy to use, operates quickly, and doesn’t demand personally identifiable information. It hits some of the major areas of a page where a newcomer might overlook easy opportunities for optimization.

Cons: Some of the metrics are unclear and at least one appears to be inaccurate. We also would like to see more readily available information about how to act on the recommendations given. (That having been said, we would like to point out that Neil’s blog is an excellent resource for learning useful tips and techniques for powering up your Digital Marketing overall.)

Do you use the SEO Analyzer? 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.

By The Way, We Also Have a Video Review for this Tool