Posts

Video Review: Google Lighthouse SEO Audit Tool

Did you know that Google has its own SEO Audit tool? It’s part of their “Lighthouse” suite of webmaster tools, which now is itself incorporated into the developer tools that are built into the Google Chrome browser. (Lighthouse is also available as an extension for Google Chrome, which makes it conveniently accessible from the browser toolbar)

In this video review review I take a look at the SEO audit portion of Google Lighthouse. It certainly sounds promising, and after all, if it’s from Google isn’t it from the horse’s mouth? Spoiler alert: it’s not a replacement for a real SEO audit. Have you used Google Lighthouse? Do you like it? Hate it? Are you mystified by it? Watch the video and add your own comments and questions below.

Google Lighthouse Review: Video Transcript

Hi. This is Ross, with Horizon Web Marketing and it’s time for another SEO checker review. I’ll be right back.

As you probably know, I’ve been working through these free SEO checkers that are online tools that purport to give you an overview of the SEO potential of your website. In most cases, you go to a website, put in the homepage or any page, sometimes, of your website, and you click a button and they’ll give you a report.

SEO Checkers in General

Those tools are often referred to as SEO checkers, SEO checkup tools, free SEO analyzers. There’s a whole bunch of them out there, and if you look down below in our list, in the playlist that we have on this YouTube channel, you’ll be able to see that I’ve done quite a few reviews so far.

Now usually, what you do is you go to a website and you plug in the address for your website, and click a button, and it’ll go, and it’ll do its thing and it’ll check a whole bunch of different stuff, and it’ll give you a report onscreen.

The tool that we’re going to look at today is a little bit different for a couple of reasons. One is, it’s not a website. The second is, that it’s actually produced by a company you may have heard of called Google. Let’s take a look at Google Lighthouse, which is Google’s own tool for conducting what they call an SEO audit on your website, so let’s see how this works.

All right. I’ve been using this particular website, Artisans of Colorado. It’s sort of a demo site, and I’ve been using it in some of my other SEO checker reviews. We’re going to run this website through Google Lighthouse. Google Lighthouse has been getting quite a bit of ink lately. It’s actually been around for a couple of years. It’s a, basically a tool that Google makes available for free to webmasters to get a handle on all sorts of good stuff that has to do with your website.

An SEO Audit is Part of Google’s Developer Tools

Most recently, Google Lighthouse has been getting more publicity because the speed test results from Google Lighthouse are now being incorporated into Google’s own PageSpeed test tool which is … Let’s go here and just take a look just for chuckles here. I’m actually going to Google it. Google’s PageSpeed test, which is this one here, PageSpeed Insight. You can see PageSpeed Insights, and it will give you an overview of the speed of your website, and it’s tied into now another tool that Google had made available called Google Lighthouse.

There’s a couple of different ways that you can run Google Lighthouse. One way is by going and getting it as a free extension for Chrome. Now, I’ve done videos before about how you get extensions for Chrome and the way you do that is you click on the three dots up here at the top right of a Google Chrome browser and then you go to settings. Once you get to settings here, you can over and click on the hamburger menu at the top left.

Using Google Lighthouse as an Extension

Then go down and click on “extensions.” Now, the extensions is going to show you the extensions that are currently installed on your browser. If you click on the hamburger menu yet again, and go all the way to the bottom, you’ll see that you can open the Chrome web store. Go to the chrome web store and just go ahead and type in “Google Lighthouse.” If you want to, you can tick the little extensions filter here but, typically, it’s going to come up at the top anyway.

Here it is, and it says “rate it” on mine because I’ve already installed it. Usually, it will have a little button that says “add to Chrome” and you click, and then it asks you for permission to do it. You add that extension to Chrome, and then it’ll show up, this tiny little icon up here at the top right. See how I have that installed, and that means it’s as an extension on my site.

Now, if I go back to the site I want to check, so all I have to is click on that Lighthouse extension, and then notice it’s got a variety of options that we can set, so we’ll click on that. You’ll notice, it’s got a bunch of different categories it says to include. Performance, it’ll test the, whether your site is built according to standards as a progressive web app. This is nothing that I pay attention to right now. I probably should, but I don’t.

Accessibility, best practices and then finally, SEO. This is, I don’t know when they included the SEO audit, I think it’s been within the last year. I’m doing this in January of 2019. I could be wrong on that, but in any case, now we’ve got this nice little tool here, SEO.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to un-tick “progressive web app,” and I’m going to un-tick the “accessibility” one just to keep the set manageable. I’ll go ahead and click on “okay” for options. Now I’m going to click on “generate report.” Let’s see what we get. Normally, what Lighthouse will do is you’ll see it going through its paces, it’s checking various configurations of the site. Then it’s going to come up and open a new browser window, and it gives me a report.

Performance = Speed Performance

Now, notice it’s given me a 23 on performance. Now, this is how fast the site loads. We’re not really focused on load speed here, but we can use this in order to try to determine whether our site is below par or not. This is the same results or similar results that you would get if you go to Google’s PageSpeed Insights, that has best practices, and then finally, notice, my SEO audit. I’m getting 100% on my SEO audit, so that seems pretty encouraging at face value.

Let’s scroll down here and see what various categories that we have. Now, there is … I was actually pleasantly or, I guess, unpleasantly surprised to see that the best practices show, pointed me in the direction of something I was not aware of and that is that I have a security vulnerability on this website. You’ll notice it here, it says “one vulnerability detected.” You can typically always drop down the little dropdown button. If you’ve got a down triangle, then you click on it and it’ll show you more information.

This is telling me that, basically, the version I have of jQuery has a vulnerability, and so we would need to update jQuery to be able to patch that vulnerability. I’ll admit straight out, I did not realize we had this problem on this particular site. It’s basically a demo site, so it’s not a big deal but I intend now to go and check my other sites as well.

Checklist of Best Practices – Lucky 13

Now, it says that I’ve passed a total of 13 audits. I can see where I’m doing well, and you can see one of them uses https. In other words, our site is running securely. You can see its checked all sorts of different things, whether the page has doctype, it will talk about avoiding deprecated APIs. Some of this is pretty technical stuff. It displays images with correct aspect ratio. These are all useful tests. Really, although they are not under the SEO section of this audit, I would normally audit these things as part of an SEO audit, so you could say that it’s sort of an extension of their SEO audit.

Let’s go down to the actual SEO section right here. Now, it’ll tell me that there are two areas that I need to check manually. Notice, it tells me that the page is mobile-friendly and we do have some structured data going. If you’re not familiar with that, then this isn’t the place to learn, but structured data is looked for by Google and those other search engines that are still trying to be competitive.

Don’t Forget that Manual Check

Structured data is valid, but Google is going to tell me that I should still be checking these things manually as well. In my experience, this is wise advice. Often, automated tools will tell you that your website is mobile-friendly, and then you’ll go and look at it on a phone and you’ll see the automated tool didn’t really show you that it’s not mobile-friendly at all.

The one thing I don’t like about this, if you drop it down, it basically will just give you an opportunity to learn more, and then you’ll have links to more learning resources at Google, some of which are useful and some of which are pretty general. It points you in the direction of Google’s mobile-friendly test tool that you can use to explore your site a little bit more. Structured data. It’ll tell you more about what structured data is, about the testing tool and so forth, so it does give you resources to be able to follow up.

These past audits in SEO, now we’ll take a look, and those are then further subdivided into other categories. Mobile-friendly. Notice here that the mobile-friendly check is very, very sparse, in my opinion. Basically, it just checks this particular tag, which is a viewport tag, and normally that’s used if you have a responsive designed website.

You can’t be mobile-friendly without having that tag, but on the other hand, there’s a whole lot more to actually being mobile-friendly than simply having that tag. When it comes to explanations, Google’s explanation is pretty lean as well. Same way with the legible font sizes. Tells you that the legible text, notice, is greater than 12 pixels.

It still doesn’t tell you a lot of things like whether the fonts are too close together or whether particular elements are overlaying your site. I guess what I’m trying to say is this is a real cursory check. I would not consider this to be a full-blown SEO audit or even close to one. A lot of the tools we’ve checked that are website-based are more complete than this.

SEO Content Checks: Way Too Shallow to be Useful

Let’s go ahead and look at the other sections they have. Content, best practices. Here’s where I have more criticisms of this particular tool. For example, it says, “the document has a title element.” Okay, fine. Most webpages have a title element, but SEO would involve making sure that that title element was the appropriate length, that it described the content on the page, that it was tied into keyword research that you’ve done, that it would appear correctly on a search engine results page.

There’s a lot that goes into SEO beyond simply having a title tag, and so this is almost useless. As a matter of fact, if you looked at this and said, “Oh, hey, my title is fine,” then it’s actually done you a disservice. The same can be said for the meta description tag, is all it does is check to see if you have one. It doesn’t tell you anything about how well it’s been optimized.

The same criticism applies to “links have descriptive text.” Well, okay, descriptive, but descriptive of what? It says, “hreflang.” This is basically a tag that’s used to make sure that you’re compliant with best practices for multi-language, which is usually not an issue. “Document has a valid rel=canonical,” that’s good to know, but it’s still pretty minimal.

Then finally, “the document avoids plug-ins.” They have also crawling and indexing. “Page has success http status code.” Okay, that’s extremely basic. “Page isn’t blocked from indexing,” also basically what it means is like it’s checking your front door to your store during business hours and making sure it’s not locked. “Robots.txt is valid.”

We’ve gone through here a total of 11 checks that Google has done as part of their SEO audit. Now, here is a comparison, the SEO audit that we normally do on a website is 91 different checks, so this is indeed a pretty basic tool.

Bottom Line: D+ to C- as an SEO Audit Tool (Please don’t hurt me Google; I gotta say it like I see it!)

Before I conclude this review, and I’d give this tool a really low grade overall. No offense to Google. It’s great that they’re moving in a direction of giving us more information, but in terms of believing that you’ve done an SEO audit when you’ve run this, you haven’t.

I’m going to show you an alternate way to run Google Lighthouse, and like I said, it is useful, particularly when it comes to page speed, some of these other best practices, checking for security vulnerabilities. Here’s the other way to do it. When you’re looking at your page, you hit the F12 key on your keyboard. What the F12 key will normally bring up is your developer tools. These will show up as a panel. Most developers who do programming are very familiar with these. Usually, they’ll come up on this panel.

Now, you may have caught, when I first brought it up, it showed Lighthouse because developer tools now includes a hook into Lighthouse through the, when you click on the double arrow, depending on how much screen real estate you have, you often will have a “more,” a little double arrow, that indicates more choices. You click on that and you can go down to “audit.” Click on that, and notice, we can access, we can basically access the same Google Lighthouse tools here, and we didn’t have to get a plug-in to do it.

The plug-in is a little bit redundant now. In a certain respect, I want to show the plug-in availability because it does pull up the results in a separate browser window, which makes it a little easier to use.

All right, so there you go. That’s Google Lighthouse. The bottom line, if I had to give this a grade, I’d give it a C or a D as an SEO audit tool. Good to see Google giving us some SEO information, but we’d really like to see something that’s much more in-depth that what we have here. As far as other SEO checkers that are out there, most of the ones that we’ve tested are far more complete than this one that we just checked from Google.

Now, we’ll be doing more SEO checkers as we go along, and I hope this has proved useful to you. I’m going to ask you now for a favor, and that is, if you’ve made it this far, please go ahead and subscribe to our channel. When you subscribe to the channel, it basically is showing Google that, hey, you were interested in the video. Then Google will know to show the video to more people.

Go ahead and subscribe. Hit the “thumbs up” if you like the video and please also, when you do subscribe, click on that little alarm button next to the subscribe button. That means you’ll get a notification when we have new video content that will help you do the digital marketing that will help your website succeed on the Internet.

Thanks again for watching. My name is Ross Barefoot, and I hope to see you on the next video. Bye for now.

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.

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.

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)

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

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