The SEO Apprentice’s Toolbox: Gearing Up for Analysis

Being new to SEO is tricky. As a niche market within a niche market there many tools and resources unfamiliar to most new professionals. And with so much to learn it is nearly impossible to start real client work without first dedicating six months exclusively to industry training. Well…that’s how it may seem at first.

While it may be intimidating, investigating real-world problems is the best way to learn SEO. It exposes you to industry terminology, introduces you to valuable resources and gets you asking the right questions.

As a fairly new Analyst at Distilled, I know from experience how difficult it can be to get started. So here’s a list of common SEO analyses and supporting tools that may help you get off on the right foot.

Reviewing on-page elements

Page elements are essential building blocks of any web page. And pages with missing or incorrect elements risk not being eligible for search traffic. So checking these is necessary for identifying optimization opportunities and tracking changes. You can always go to the HTML source code and manually identify these problems yourself, but if you’re interested in saving a bit of time and hassle, Ayima’s Google Chrome extension Page Insights is a great resource.

This neat little tool identifies on-page problems by analyzing 24 common on-page issues for the current URL and comparing them against a set of rules and parameters. It then provides a list of all issues found, grouped into four priority levels: Errors, Warnings, Notices and Page Info. Descending from most to least severe, the first 3 categories (Errors, Warnings & Notices) identify all issues that could impact organic traffic for the page in question. The last category (Page Info) provides exact information about certain elements of the page.

For every page you visit Page Insights will give a warning next to its icon, indicating how many vulnerabilities were found on the page.

Clicking on the icon gives you a drop-down listing the vulnerabilities and page information found.

What makes this tool so useful is that it also provides details about each issue, like how it can cause harm to the page and correction opportunities. In this example, we can see that this web page is missing an H1 tag, but in this case, could be corrected by adding anH1 tag around the page’s current heading (which is not coded as an H1).

In a practical setting, Page Insights is great for quickly identify common on-page issues that should be fixed to ensure best SEO practice.

Additional tools for reviewing on-page elements:

Supplemental readings:

Analyzing page performance

Measuring the load functionality and speed of a page is an important and common practice since both metrics are correlated with user experience and are highly valued by search engines. There are a handful of tools that are applicable to this task but because of its large quantity of included metrics, I recommend using WebPagetest.org.

Emulating various browsers, this site allows users to measure the performance of a web page from different locations. After sending a real-time page request, WebPagetest provides a sample of three tests containing request details, such as the complete load time, the load time breakdown of all page content, and a final image of the rendered page. There are various configuration settings and report types within this tool, but for most analyses, I have found that running a simple test and focusing on the metrics presented in the Performance Results supply ample information.

There are several metrics presented in this report, but data provided in Load Time and First Byte work great for most checks. Factoring in Google’s suggestion to have desktop load time no greater than 2 seconds and a time to first byte of 200ms or less, we can gauge whether or not a page’s speed is properly optimized.

Prioritizing page speed performance areas

Knowing if a page needs to improve its performance speed is important, but without knowing what areas need improving you can’t begin to make proper corrections. Using WebPagetest in tandem with Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great solution for filling in this gap.

Free for use, this tool measures a page’s desktop and mobile performance to evaluate whether it has applied common performance best practices. Scored on a scale of 0-100 a page’s performance can fall into one of three categories: Good, Needs Work or Poor. However, the key feature of this tool, which makes it so useful for page speed performance analysis, is its optimization list.

Located below the review score, this list highlights details related to possible optimization areas and good optimization practices currently in place on the page. By clicking the “Show how to fix” drop down for each suggestion you will see information related to the type of optimization found, why to implement changes and specific elements to correct.

In the image above, for example, compressing two images to reduce the amount bytes that need to be loaded can improve this web page’s speed. By making this change the page could expect a reduction in image byte size by 28%.

Using WebPagetest and PageSpeed Insights together can give you a comprehensive view of a page’s speed performance and assist in identifying and executing on good optimization strategies.

Additional tools for analyzing page performance:

Supplemental readings:

Investigating rendering issues

How Googlebot (or Bingbot or MSNbot) crawls and renders a page can be completely different from what is intended, and typically occurs as a result of the crawler being blocked by a robots.txt file. If Google sees an incomplete or blank page it assumes the user is having the same experience and could affect how that page performs in the SERPs. In these instances, the Webmaster tool Fetch as Google is ideal for identifying how Google renders a page.

Located in Google Search Console, Fetch as Google allows you to test if Googlebot can access pages of a site, identify how it renders the page and determines if any resources are blocked from the crawler.

When you look up a specific URL (or domain) Fetch as Google gives you two tabs of information: fetching, which displays the HTTP response of the specified URL; and rendering, which runs all resources on the page, provides a visual comparison of what Googlebot sees against what (Google estimates) the user sees and lists all resources Googlebot was not able to acquire.

For an analysis application, the rendering tab is where you need to look. Begin by checking the rendering images to ensure both Google and the user are seeing the same thing. Next, look at the list to see what resources were unreachable by Googlebot and why. If the visual elements are not displaying a complete page and/or important page elements are being blocked from Googlebot, there is an indication that the page is experiencing some rendering issues and may perform poorly in the search engine.

Additional tools for investigating rendering issues:

Supplemental readings:

Checking backlink trends

Quality backlinks are extremely important for making a strong web page, as they indicate to search engines a page’s reliability and trustworthiness. Changes to a backlink profile could easily affect how it is ranked in the SERPs, so checking this is important for any webpage/website analysis. A testament to its importance, there are several tools dedicated to backlinks analytics. However, I have a preference for the site Ahrefs due to its comprehensive yet simple layout, which makes it great for on-the-spot research.

An SEO tool well known for its backlink reporting capabilities, Ahrefs measures several backlink performance factors and displays them in a series of dashboards and graphs. While there is plenty to review, for most analysis purposes I find the “Backlinks” metric and “New & lost backlinks” graph to be the best places to focus.

Located under the Site Explorer tab, “Backlinks” identifies the total number of backlinks pointing to a target website or URL. It also shows the quantitative changes in these links over the past 7 days with the difference represented by either a red (negative growth) or green (positive growth) subscript. In a practical setting, this information is ideal for providing quick insight into current backlink trend changes.

Under the same tab, the “New & lost backlinks” graph provides details about the total number of backlinks gained and lost by the target URL over a period of time.

The combination of these particular features works very well for common backlink analytics, such as tracking backlinks profile changes and identifying specific periods of link growth or decline.

Additional tools for checking backlink trends:

Supplemental readings:

Creating your toolbox

This is only a sample of tools you can use for your SEO analyses and there are plenty more, with their own unique strengths and capabilities, available to you. So make sure to do your research and play around to find what works.

And if you are to take away only one thing from this post, just remember that as you work to build your own personal toolbox what you choose to include should best work for your needs and the needs of your clients.

Theresa May Coughs Up New Housing and Energy Policies in Speech to Annual Conservative Party Conference

The UK Prime Minister’s speech to Conservative Party Conference

During a Conservative Party conference dominated by speculation over who is best suited to lead the Party in the future, Theresa May sought to use today’s speech as a platform to re-assert her own leadership credentials and to present her vision of a renewed “British dream”.

However, confronted by an intruder with a mocked up P45 unemployment form and troubled by a persistent cough, that not even the Chancellor’s throat sweets could remedy, this was undoubtedly a challenging experience for a Prime Minister under close scrutiny.

While the headlines tomorrow will focus on the series of unfortunate events that hampered the Prime Ministers delivery, the speech itself contained several significant policy announcements aimed at progressing the Prime Minister’s ambition of leading a Government that offers a “voice to the voiceless”.

In a big shift away from the Cameron/Osborne focus on building homes for owner occupation, May promised a significant expansion in council housing with local authorities to be given new freedoms to build their own homes, while also being forced to assess local need and set targets to construct more housing in their area. Additionally, a further £2 billion will be invested to build affordable housing.

This policy demonstrates the importance that the Prime Minister places in reconnecting the Party to young voters, many of whom have struggled to afford housing and favoured Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party during the General Election. The eagle-eyed may also have spotted that the title for this year’s conference “Building a Country that Works for Everyone” contained a clue to the policy announcement to come – even if the slogan itself couldn’t make it to the end of the speech.

The Prime Minister confirmed that she would push ahead with the Conservative manifesto pledge to introduce legislation to cap energy prices, which many speculated had been set aside following the General Election. A draft Bill will be released next week setting out the Government’s framework for implementing this policy. This section of the speech was redacted in the version handed to journalists before the Prime Minister stood up, showing it was meant to be the ‘rabbit out of the hat moment’ that headline writers would focus on – sadly, for Theresa May, events ensured this was not meant to be.

Other policies announced include a review of the Mental Health Act by Professor Sir Simon Wessley aimed at addressing any injustices present in the current system, an extension of the free school programme and the introduction of an opt-out organ donation system in England.

By urging her Party to speak for “ordinary working people” and tailoring a policy platform to match, there are parallels between this speech and May’s initial address outside Downing Street last July. This was also evident in the tone of the speech, which was often of a personal nature.

In the later part of her speech, May received a standing ovation when arguing that “the test of a leader is how you react when tough times come upon you”. Faced with a challenging set of circumstances for a Prime Minister delivering a conference speech, May proved once again that she will continue to confront adversity head on.

If you would like any further information or detail, please do not hesitate to contact the Public and Corporate Affairs team.

MEANINGFUL WORK: BRINGING HOME THE IMPACT OF ADCOLOR

ADCOLOR exists to establish a community of diverse professionals to support and celebrate one another. Every year, those diverse professionals attend a conference full of the brightest, diverse and innovative minds in the industry. This year, a total of nine GSD&M employees attended, and they returned with meaningful, game-changing insights and inspiration. Along with our attendance, we were an incredibly proud sponsor and as such, wanted to create something as a little reminder of the change we have the power to make. These pins were sent home with every attendee:

 

I caught up with the folks who attended to see what they learned, so I’ll let the people at the forefront of diversity and inclusion do the talking.

How can the ad industry influence and inspire more work toward diversity in other industries and beyond?

  • Cara Maschler, account director: Our best efforts are those that strive for as many diverse voices as there are in the world. When we partner with related industries, it’s plain to see that a great idea can truly be cultivated from anywhere.
  • Max Rutherford, vendor diversity director: It is imperative to champion diversity and inclusion at our respective agencies and in work we do on behalf of our clients. It has to create an inclusive environment that embraces talent with diverse perspectives in order to deliver more groundbreaking solutions for clients.
  • Eric Knittel, associate creative director: The biggest thing the ad industry could do is lead by example. We are expert communicators, and we haven’t found a way to really start the conversation about unconscious bias.
  • Laura Guardalabene, designer: Advertising has a huge subconscious influence over the general population. The more we can reflect the diverse culture that is America, the more empathy we can create for disenfranchised communities.
  • Monica Vicens, strategy director: There is a great opportunity for us to educate our clients and push the envelope (ours and theirs) to embrace the people, lifestyles and attitudes that will drive brand growth.

What was your personal most important takeaway from ADCOLOR?

  • Ana Leen, account director: Rising stars in an organization are chosen by the leaders around them. If we want more diversity in leadership positions, we need to create the scaffolding for them to get there.
  • Kirya Francis, VP solutions/decision sciences: It is important not to leave your voice and experience at the door—it is critical in making better work for our clients as well as a better workplace. In general, the ad industry excels in branding diversity, but we have a little ways to go when it comes to embracing workforce and vendor diversity.
  • Shannon Moorman, VP talent acquisition: It’s incumbent upon us in the business to highlight the wins, the good and the bad, and create platforms of communication to galvanize the racial divide across this nation.
  • Candi Clem, analytics manager: ADCOLOR taught me a lesson that I will forever cherish: I am never alone. I have a tribe of brilliant, beautiful, diverse people who have my back. Even when I’m the only person in the room that looks like me, there are a legion of others with me in spirit. I don’t have to fight this fight on my own.

 

This industry has the power to cultivate change—and it must start where the work happens. These conversations must continue to take place inside and outside of agencies and brands, and although we have a ways to go, we should be incredibly proud and excited to have minds like these fighting for diversity in our industry.

Until next year, ADCOLOR. Here’s to progress.

Why This Feminist Weed Camp Isn’t Just For White Women

Marijuana cotton candy, flower crowns, and surprising diversity. Ganja Goddess Getaway is carving a niche in the $563 billion wellness tourism industry.

“The belly dancing class will start on the great lawn in five minutes,” announces a soothing female voice over the public address system. After a pause, she adds, “I love you.”

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Amazon reportedly building rival service to FedEx and UPS

The online retail giant is reportedly testing its own delivery service so it can reduce reliance on FedEx and UPS, reports Bloomberg. The trial program is said to be underway on the west coast before rolling out nationally. According to Bloomberg’s sources, Amazon is hoping its proprietary delivery services would mean it could make more …

The online retail giant is reportedly testing its own delivery service so it can reduce reliance on FedEx and UPS, reports Bloomberg. The trial program is said to be underway on the west coast before rolling out nationally. According to Bloomberg’s sources, Amazon is hoping its proprietary delivery services would mean it could make more of its products available for two-day delivery than it can using FedEx and UPS, as well as reduce congestion in its warehouses.

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The EU is taking Ireland to court over Apple tax deal worth $15.2 billion

The EU’s competition watchdog isn’t having it anymore when it comes to large multinationals using tax-minimization vehicles in EU countries to avoid paying taxes. Earlier today the European Commission levied a €250 million bill after it found that Amazon received illegal state aid from Luxembourg. Now the European Commission has announced it’s taking Ireland to …

The EU’s competition watchdog isn’t having it anymore when it comes to large multinationals using tax-minimization vehicles in EU countries to avoid paying taxes. Earlier today the European Commission levied a €250 million bill after it found that Amazon received illegal state aid from Luxembourg. Now the European Commission has announced it’s taking Ireland to court for “failure to recover illegal tax benefits from Apple” that are worth up to €13 billion (about $15.2 billion). In a statement EC Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said:

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Equifax’s former CEO just threw an employee under the bus

Today former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who announced his retirement last week, is testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Lawmakers are grilling him about what exactly happened that led to the huge data breach that impacted 145.5 million people. In his opening statement, Smith said much of what we have already heard. He apologized …

Today former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who announced his retirement last week, is testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Lawmakers are grilling him about what exactly happened that led to the huge data breach that impacted 145.5 million people. In his opening statement, Smith said much of what we have already heard. He apologized for what happened and blamed a mixture of human and technological error.

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