SEO Diagnostics for the Skilled Search Mechanic

Here we are in the third and final day of SES SF 2012. This session welcomes Chris Boggs (@Boggles) of Rosetta and Duane Forrester (@DuaneForrester) of Bing to talk about the tips and tools to perform expert SEO diagnostics of a site.

SES Logo

Chris Boggs is up first. Let’s talk the concept of triage — who do you treat first? Those with the least injuries get treated first, so they can get back out there on the battlefield. He relates this to SEO — work with what can get you going to get traffic up and running.

You should always be in diagnostic mode. Two directives of SEO diagnostics:

  1. Reactive: Loss of rankings and traffic; loss of conversions; loss of phone calls, emails, etc.
  2. Proactive: New competitor, algorithm update, industry shift, “cleaning your rifle” (this is the maintenance).

On reactionary tactics, Chris says he knows this next statement is controversial, but SEO emergencies often result from the IT team when they overlook something from an SEO perspective. So, check:

  • Your code
  • Your neighborhood
  • The way your site is positioned in the search results
  • Your best practices

For those “uh-oh” moments. If you see something that drops off, don’t assume the whole site is screwed. Pinpoint the problem areas. This will demonstrate that you know what you are doing (for example, after Penguin hit, lots of people may have wanted to abandon their entire site).

Confirm the problem and then begin the assessment. There are areas:

  • Off-site promotion
  • On-site optimization
  • Technical

Look at the content and click-through rate — assess if it’s still unique and up-to-date. This takes a competitive analysis. In a spreadsheet, list out all the pages and assets that your competitors have to get a snapshot of the types of content they are producing.

Then, is the right page ranking? Use the “site:” search. You want to know what the top-ranking page is for your keywords.

Link removal is the new black. Watch out for something that people might be doing deceptively with links now — buying bad links on behalf of their competitors. A couple things to consider:

  • Anchor text over-optimization.
  • Paid or seemingly paid links.
  • Zero social media buzz.
  • Link removal costs as much or more time than traditional link-building.

All of those need to be in the proactive SEO diagnostics.

Algorithms go through various versions and iterations, so always go back and remeasure — don’t ever assume it stays the same consistently.

Tools Chris can’t live without:

  1. Google Webmaster Tools
  2. URIValet
  3. Majestic/Raven/SEOmoz

Content is still king, and don’t just focus on yours — see what the competitive landscape is doing.

Up next is Duane Forrester. He is going to be diving into the new tools Bing offers, among other things. If you don’t know about the new tools, check out our interview with Duane in June’s SEO Newsletter.

Invest in these major areas:

  • Quality
  • Trust
  • Popularity
  • Timeliness

Six major investment areas for SEO:

  1. Crawlability
  2. Content
  3. Site structure
  4. Links
  5. On-page
  6. Social

Think of these areas as a series of curves. You don’t have to hit everything all at once. But, are you having the critical conversations that need to be had consistently around these areas? Stick to these things to keep you centered. They will provide the answers you need to most things.

Webmaster tools should exceed your expectations. He is showing the additional features that Bing’s tools offers that Google Webmaster Tools don’t, like:

  • Fetch as bot (you can use this in WordPress to see if you’ve been compromised by links)
  • Ranks stats
  • Index tracker
  • SEO analyzer
  • Canonical alerts
  • SEO reports
  • Link explorer

On Social

Social is important in search because it helps us understand intent and sentiment. The sentiment that comes from social helps you understand your position.

How users click on your results can impact rankings. When we show cues like Facebook friends with results, clicks can be impacted.

Social cuts through all the data that assaults people on a daily basis. It also helps position you as an authority.

[My laptop just randomly shut down on me, so I missed a few slides.]

Wrapping up:

  • Content is the reason
  • Keyword research is the beacon
  • Quality is your watch word
  • Authority is your goal
  • Niche is your starting point
  • User experience is your religion

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

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3 Replies to “SEO Diagnostics for the Skilled Search Mechanic”

Great tips from Jessica! many thanks

Thanks Jessica for the very thorough and accurate coverage of the session. great job!

You bet, Chris! And thanks for the nice comment — both “thorough” and “accurate” are things we strive for in our coverage.


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