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My Fifteen Minute Weekly SEO Health Check

Every Monday, I run through a checklist for each of my SEO clients. The goal is to discover issues that don’t warrant same-day response time, but should still be addressed in a timely manner. There’s slight variations from client to client, and I sometimes use paid tools, but below is the basic template, featuring my 3 favorite free SEO tools: Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Google Analytics.

SEO Health Checklist

  1. Google Webmaster Tools: Check Crawl Errors, Index Status, and Messages.
  2. Bing Webmaster Tools: Check Site Activity Screen, Crawl Information, and SEO Reports.
  3. Google Analytics Reports: Review Keywords, Landing Pages, Sources, SEO traffic numbers and engagement.
  4. Google Analytics Alerts: Review Custom Alerts and Automatic Alerts. Review other reports as needed.

A disclaimer: This checklist is best used in proper scope in conjunction with other intelligence-gathering methods. Other recommended methods include: Google Custom Alerts, Webmaster Tools notifications, and Daily peaks at Google Analytics Dashboard.

The main purpose of this checklist is to fill as much remaining insight as possible in fifteen minutes. It helps me catch SEO problems and opportunities earlier, and informs me on how I need to adjust weekly SEO workflow. It really makes my job easier.

It might take a bit of time to set things up and get used to finding everything, but once you have it down, and you know what your metrics should look like, you’ll soon be gettin’ her down to 10-15 minutes on average.

Below are details on each step. (more…)

What Makes a Good Backlink Prospect? A Prospect Evaluation Framework for Link Building

In SEO, sometimes you need to go out there and directly contact bloggers and webmasters and win links one-by-one. There are 6 steps in direct link building:

  1. Needs analysis. How much direct link building is needed (if any)? Which pages and keywords need supported?
  2. Figuring out where to look. Examples: Google searches for blogs in a specific area, a list of your Twitter followers that have websites, competitor link profiles, etc…
  3. Pulling prospect lists. Examples: performing the Google searches, retrieving Followerwonk data, retrieving Open Site Explorer link data, etc…
  4. Qualifying prospects
  5. Pitching. For example, emailing or calling qualified prospects.
  6. Follow-ups.

This article pertains to qualifying prospects – that is, going through a list of websites and deciding which sites deserve the significant time required to try to obtain a link from them.

It’s one of the most time-consuming steps in the direct link-building process, and many full-time SEOs like myself have spent hundreds of hours of their life checking out thousands of sites. Thus, there is a need to do it as efficiently as possible, without missing quality link targets. Last week, I was scouring hundreds of sites in a Followerwonk download, and I realized 3 things:

  1. I was sick of doing this, and I wished could get an intern to do it.
  2. For that to happen, I’d have to figure out a simple, repeatable process that could be easily taught.
  3. There was indeed a simple framework, and the reason things had gotten so tedious for me that day is that I wasn’t following it.

Here’s the framework: (more…)

11 Keyword Targeting Mistakes


I’ve been putting off an article on SEO keywords for months now. I’m a keyword research junkie, and I was afraid I’d get myself sucked into a 20 page manifesto. When it comes to SEO, figuring out which words you should use and what pages they should go on is so important and so nuanced that 20 pages wouldn’t cover everything.

Today, we’ll just focus on some of the common big mistakes the LunaMetrics team sees when it comes to keyword targeting.

1. Overemphasizing Volume

“Big numbers — YAY!” (more…)

SEO for PDFs

As my partner in crime Travis recently pointed out, misconceptions abound in the SEO industry. Here’s another misconception: “PDF pages are so SEO-unfriendly that you can’t rank for any halfway competitive keywords with them“.

Some SEOs are still so set against the Portable Document Format pages that they don’t feel they should even be landing pages. Some such SEOs recommend replacing all PDFs with HTML pages or building additional HTML landing pages targeting the same keywords as the PDFs.

The truth is: the biggest reason PDF pages often rank so horribly is that they are rarely properly optimized.


Building the Ultimate XML Sitemap

mapAn XML Sitemap is a sitemap created for search engines. The XML Sitemap is a listing of all the URLs on your site that you want search engines to crawl and index. The Sitemap also provides information on when pages get updated and how important they are. Search engines do not guarantee they will fully abide by the sitemap, but search engines do use XML Sitemaps for assistance in crawling the web.

Many webmasters and SEOs have reported improved traffic simply from submitting the Sitemap. In addition, the Sitemap can greatly assist in diagnosing indexation shortcomings. Submitting a proper, up-to-date XML sitemap, therefore, is an SEO best practice.

SEO KPI’s for Lead Generation

Goals help get things done. Goals tied to specific, measurable, results will result in even more getting done. In the rapidly-changing world of search engine optimization, it’s important to measure the right stuff — indicators that are relevant and reliable despite changes in the game. For lead gen sites, measuring performance is different, and more difficult, than for advertising or e-commerce sites. In a lead generation site, the ultimate conversion of a potential customer to an actual customer occurs offline, but the website assists the sale by snagging qualified leads. Close-up-metal-ruler

Some websites exist solely for the purpose of generating leads, but many sites that generate leads may also serve additional functions such as generating online sales, assisting customer service by providing information, or branding. This piece focuses on KPIs for the lead generation component that can gauge the performance of the entire SEO campaign on a macro-level.

Below we review the top key performance indicators for lead gen. Since the expertise of LunaMetrics lays largely in Google Analytics in terms of specific web analytics packages, readers may note a tendency to utilize specific Analytics verbiage and examples. However, I have made an attempt to state general principles that can apply to any lead gen site that has access to decent web metrics data. Also, please note that these are top-level performance metrics for use in determining overall SEO goals and ROI; these are not metrics for tactical-level analysis.

All lead gen sites should use the following 3 KPIs for SEO.
1. SEO Traffic (best metric = targeted non-branded organic traffic)
2. Leads (best metric = estimated total value of leads from SEO traffic)
3. Return on Investment

Properly measuring, attributing, and weighting these 3 SEO key performance indicators is where most companies fall short. (more…)

SEO Insights for Industrial Websites

As with all marketing, crafting a successful search engine optimization strategy requires careful consideration of a company’s unique internal and external situation.  That said, we at LunaMetrics have found we encounter many of the same decision trees when crafting SEO strategy for industrial companies. This article addresses common scenarios faced when crafting SEO strategies for typical industrial sites.

The following SEO insights apply best to sites for B2B businesses that manufacture tangible goods, especially small and medium sized industrial businesses.


Monitoring SEO with Custom Alerts in Google Analytics

Last month, Sayf wrote an epic article listing 55 awesome Custom Alerts for GA. His post helped me realize that — when it comes to monitoring SEO campaigns — I often spend too much time looking at too little too late. So I took a deep look at how I can better use custom alerts for SEO and came up with some top recommendations.

Custom Alerts Overview

Custom Alerts allow you to receive notifications when certain types of traffic change by a certain amount according to how you specify the alert. They can save you a lot of time, and they help you learn about problems and opportunities faster.
Setting Custom Alerts

How to set Custom Alerts

Custom Alerts Dashboard
If you’re not sure how to set up a custom alert, you’re in luck: it’s pretty easy. Log into Analytics, and click on Overview under Intelligence Events in the left Navigation. Then, click the custom alerts tab and hit ‘manage custom alerts’. Simply click ‘create an alert’ and start playing around with the variables.


Examining Traffic from Inbound Links

In SEO, backlinks are a highly prized commodity. Many valuate a potential link almost completely on the basis of anchor text and estimates of “link juice.” However, these factors alone don’t fully reflect a links’ potential value.

Inbound links have the potential to be an important source of targeted traffic. And the role of backlinks in driving traffic is more important than ever because search engines, as they continue to evolve continue to de-emphasize the quantity of backlinks in favor of relevance and quality , (as evidenced in the Penguin update). In addition to being low-risk, backlinks from relevant quality pages are much more likely to pass traffic.

Despite inbound links potential as direct traffic drivers, many SEO practitioners continue to view links solely as a means to an ends, rather than the potentially valuable gateways to direct traffic they truly are. This line of thinking could lead one to ignoring great link opportunities. A link from Wikipedia is “nofollow” and therefore not “juicy”, but it can drive a great deal of traffic. A link from a site that already links a few times will not help search engine rankings much, but that link is still worth it if it passes traffic. Such opportunities are missed when we do not look at backlinks as traffic generators.

The first step to getting the most out of your backlink traffic is analysis. Which types of links are driving good traffic and why? The rest of this article is devoted to analyzing backlink traffic via referring sources in Google Analytics. (more…)

3 More SEO Tricks in Google Webmaster Tools

Previously, I’ve written about 3 other ways you can use Google WebmasterTools for SEO – diagnosing 404 errors, examining your inbound links, and seeing how your keywords perform in the SERPs. I’ve also written about ways you can use Bing Webmaster Tools for SEO.

Today, I present you with 3 more ways to use Google Webmaster Tools for your SEO endeavors — xml sitemaps, sniffing out duplicate content, and checking structured data. What can I say? I’m a thrifty dude, and I love a good free SEO tool.

 XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemap main screen in Google Webmaster Tools