This is not the definitive-complete-ultimate guide to SEO audits. In fact, it’s barely an introduction. This is a 10-minute scratch-the-surface assessment for concerned editors, curious publicists and skeptical designers. It is a number out of 100 that lets stakeholders know where a site stands and, maybe more importantly, its proximity to competitors.
The last point is worth repeating. Your score is relative to competition and industry. I might rather be a small Pittsburgh mom ‘n’ pop with a mediocre score than a cosmetic surgeon with a high one. The latter is in a far more competitive industry.
The best advice is to use this test more than once to provide perspective. Find your number then compare it to competitors. That will determine if 85 is something to celebrate or remorse.
Internet marketing expands and changes too quickly to remember each piece of the puzzle and how they all fit together. Commit something to memory today and tomorrow it has a new interface, iteration or industry standard. There’s just so much information. (more…)
We love SEO audits at LunaMetrics. Love them.
Audits are our chance to play the bold TV drama diagnostician who always finds the cure against all odds and saves the day for an endearing patient. Except our patients are websites and the remedies are measured in visits or online sales or donations. Different, but brilliant diagnosing nonetheless.
All of that excitement and passion is not without downsides. Audits are really difficult. Like a doctor meeting a patient for the first time, SEO analysts must start from scratch, gather what limited information is available, and quickly treat pain points — and clients expect immediate results.
This article outlines how to start an SEO audit in a way that positions the project and its SEO for success. Most of this process can be tailored to the client, but one piece is essential:
Rule: SEO AUDITS START WITH A MEETING
Like our favorite TV doctor, we need to meet the patient. This does not require a face-to-face appointment, but it does require some time to talk. Set aside 60 minutes, take out your notepad and prepare to interview the client. It’s time to diagnose a website.
The conversation about mobile websites has been an active one over the last several years with no shortage of opinion or recommendation. This is particularly true in the nonprofit community where so much time is devoted to what needs to be done with far less spent on why or if.
This study intends to shed light on why organizations are investing in mobile websites and if your organization should consider one, too.
It was a long week.
I am of course referring to Google’s encryption of organic search keywords that led to a spike in (not provided) data and an algorithm overhaul that drove business pundits wild.
“No, these are not related to spam like Panda and Penguin.”
“No, there do not seem to be new penalties to fear.”
“No, SEO is not dead.” It’s just evolving.
These updates change things in SEO, but it was not the changes themselves that made it was rough week. It was difficult because SEOs had to contact each client or report to their superiors to try to explain why the relative clarity that had once been enjoyed in online marketing was losing focus. It is now harder to satisfy the needs of our (potential) customers. Who likes making that phone call?
“No, I am not excited about it, either.”
“No, a different reporting suite won’t change anything.”
“No, I’m not crying.” It’s just allergies.
The truth is that this day has been coming for nearly two years and limited SEO data from the search engines is something we have been thinking about for some time.
That doesn’t make the phone call any easier.
How to Explain (not provided) to a Client
The Facts. Google introduced secure search in mid October 2011 that did not pass query data in the referral string. The update was said to affect a single digit percentage of search traffic. Within 6 months, +50 percent of (LunaMetrics’) search traffic had no query data, displayed in Google Analytics as (not provided). Now Google secures all search, leading to a (not provided) percentage of 96 percent (at LunaMetrics) and climbing.
The best SEOs I know approach the trade as 80 percent science and 20 percent art. Under that model, the majority of our time is spent recording, reviewing and responding to the numbers that govern our industry. The first portion, data capture, is mostly automated, leaving the rest of our day to hem and haw over what we find. But what if we woke up tomorrow and the numbers were gone?
No data tracking. No volume estimations. No conversion projections.
Can you hear the industry-wide record scratch? Aside from the welcoming chuckles of billboard advertisers (and other marketing sects that rely more heavily on intuition than information), we would be listening to the sounds of silence. Welcome to the real world of data not provided.
Can We Recover Lost SEO Data?
The short answer is that you couldn’t. At best, we would be scraping to survive in this post-apocalyptic online marketing nightmare. Although it is not time to begin practicing our duck-and-cover bomb drills–we are not at 100 percent (not provided) yet– it is an interesting conversation for the industry. Data nerds need data. So, how would we find that information in a world without it at our fingertips?
We would have to talk to the people behind the numbers to discover the information we cannot see. Here are some SEO data recovery questions for different divisions within the company.
The best way to date yourself in SEO is to stand still. If you are not racing ahead, you are behind. Heck, even the pacesetters are trying to keep up. That makes hiring a static team in our dynamic industry extremely difficult. Today’s required skill is tomorrow’s outdated one. Not to mention, the diversity of modern SEO makes it impossible to find one person with everything.
But what if it was not impossible?
During a trailer spiral last week, The Wolverine got me thinking about SEO—a good sign that I need new hobbies. What if there was a secret SEO bunker to build the perfect online marketer? Which qualities would be the most important and would we even want one person to have them all?
Perfect SEO Candidate
SEO job descriptions call for an unrealistic blend of Internet marketing skills and experience that range from data analysis to technical prowess to sociological intuition. We are essentially searching for an extraverted statistician whose hobbies include building websites, writing short fiction and participating in tedious highly collaborative projects.
Can you spot the contradictions? (If not, and all of those qualities described you wonderfully, you are very special and not alone.)
An overview of important SEO skills was posted on moz.com several years ago and is still extremely relevant. A few of the skills (or mentalities) worth repeating include:
- An analytical mind that asks questions and welcomes the challenge of searching for answers.
- Knowledge of the Internet and how a site operates within it. That includes an understanding of search engines and how they crawl, index and promote content.
- Public speaking and the ability to communicate clearly under pressure. Not every client meeting requires a campaign pitch to the C-suite, but most people do not understand the work we do and need to believe in the project manager more than the specific recommendations.
- Stubbornness to do what is best for the client and its online marketing goals because there is always a shortcut or backburner or majority opinion. Great SEOs abandon their introversion and non-confrontational tendencies to stand up to their clients for their clients.
Since the list is a few years old, there are several additions for modern SEO and the future of Internet marketing. Three must-haves include:
- An educational mentality that strives for inclusion. I have talked about the value of teaching clients about SEO and rarely see success from siloed SEO efforts.
- An understanding of social media as a tool for online marketers, not a stand-alone skillset. Be able to see the bigger picture.
- A desire to specialize in one aspect of SEO. Every agency wants an expert in local, international, mobile, e-commerce, etc.
A genuine interest in specializing is a lost quality in the era of generalists, something any agency can appreciate. We can’t be everything to everyone. At some point, we have to focus, even at an agency level, to produce truly great work. So often, online marketing agencies strive for the centroid between generalist and specialist, the perfect position that provides opportunity while honoring expertise. But it is a challenge to maintain such a broad offering—a convenient one-stop-shop for clients—without spreading too thin and losing the authority and efficiency of their competitive advantage.
The same is true for SEO professionals. As individuals, there are only so many hours in the day to hone a craft, especially if it is a broad one, like online marketing. The best SEOs I’ve met know something about everything and everything about something. If you are trying to advance your career, or want to hire someone to advance your business, consider a specializing for the future of online marketing.
Or visit the bunker and build the perfect SEO.
I would love to start a discussion in the comments about the qualities that you think are important for the future of SEO. What are you investing in?
Like every industry, SEO has its own vernacular and acronyms that can be terribly confusing to outsiders. We use 301 as a verb, crave link juice, scoff at EMDs and worship non-branded organic. Even worse, these terms are here to stay. SEO has cemented itself as an essential online marketing function. An expanded digital audience depends on an expanded digital vocabulary.
What is a Non-Branded Organic Search Visit?
In order to answer that question, let’s start at the beginning, which is actually the end: a visit. Don’t be embarrassed if this is new territory. It was not long ago that even the most savvy Internet marketers focused on hits. But for most people that has changed. Now we talk about a broader metric called visits. In Google Analytics, a visit includes most things that a person does during their stay on your website because a broader perspective than simply pageviews provides more insight to user (and prospective client) behavior. If you would like to learn more about visits, particularly how they begin and end, click on the screenshot below.
Now we understand that a visit can include multiple pageviews and actions on our website. The first step is complete. Let’s continue working backwards. A search visit is any visit that comes from a search engine. A search visit can come from two places: paid search and organic search. Paid search refers to an advertisement in the search results. The ads are shown in the red boxes below. Everything in the green, the non-paid listings, is organic.
The roles and responsibilities of all marketers are expanding. Publicists are conducting keyword research. SEOs are guiding media outreach. These are crazy times.
This article is designed for professionals who wish to streamline their media outreach by creating many semi-personalized pitch letters in Excel using the concatenation function. If you are new to pitching and are simply searching for a way to get a pesky product launch off your plate as soon as possible, please review the Golden Rule below before moving on to the screenshots.
Pitch Letter Golden Rule
As (part-time) publicists, we should never send a form “Dear Reporter” pitch letter to every reporter on our list, even if this blog post makes it really easy to do that. It is not successful, it cheapens the brand and PR people will hate us for doing a disservice to their field. Instead, take time to personalize each pitch, even if there is just one line that speaks to the writer or publication.
The tactics discussed in this article might bend the boundaries of the golden rule but, as the Dalai Lama said, “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” While I believe that is especially true with all writing, it is also a valid lesson in public relations. Liberties taken from a solid foundation create unique, engaging PR outreach. Liberties taken from ignorance are slop.
When Pitch Letter Concatenation Works
For most story pitches, publicists contact a short list of journalist who report on the particular topic and tailor each pitch to its recipient. A streamlining process like this one might not be necessary. Other times, we need a method for organizing letter writing and distribution.
An example might be an article that identifies the best in your industry. Since this is a SEO blog, our sample article title will be “Top 50 SEO Bloggers.” We will rank the bloggers by a series of quantitative and qualitative metrics, maybe open it up to voting to increase engagement. Once we have the finalists, it is time to contact each one to let them know they made the top 50. We have three options:
- 50 personalized emails
- “Congratulations Blogger” form email
- Semi-personalized letters in Excel
Creating Pitch Letters with Excel
Our semi-personalized email will have two elements: the subject line and the body. We don’t want to use a standard subject line like “Congratulations SEO Blogger” because open rate would suffer–I wouldn’t open it. Instead, let’s us each blogger’s first name.
Interest in SEO training has soared over the past five years as optimizing for search climbs from the Desired Skills section to Required across marketing job boards. Dan Wilkerson recently created a graph on Indeed.com that illustrates employer demand for SEO and social media.
The marketing generalist is alive and well, but tool kits are expanding. Marketers must be able to drive traffic to websites and they need SEO to do it.
Enter SEO training. It’s a bridge that must be crossed so the only things left to consider are where to study, what to study and from whom to study.