If you are part of the management team of a growing start-up or SME, you are quite likely to be among the 35% of UK businesses that have prioritised investment in SEO services through 2019.
However, recruiting and retaining talented digital marketing staff is no easy endeavour, and it can be equally challenging forming productive partnerships with agencies or freelancers.
If your company is one of the 54% that currently outsources your SEO activity to a third party, you may have some concerns about whether or not your investment is worthwhile. A recent survey in the USAfound that only 30% of businesses would recommend their current SEO provider to a friend or colleague. If this sounds like your situation, what are your options?
One route would be to seek guidance and an audit of your website by a technical SEO specialist. Notable UK based consultants offering audit services include: Richard Baxter, James Hubbard, Kevin Wilesand Andy Drinkwater.
If you’re not quite ready to go for the military grade assessment of your site, there are plenty of quick and easy to use tools that will help you to assess how well you are faring on the SEO front.
Whilst search engine optimisation practices are constantly adapting in line with the Google’s frequent algorithm changes and with wider technology developments; some areas of the subject are as important now as they were 10 or 15 years ago.
Key areas include technical SEO, content development, user experience optimisation and off-page marketing. Here’s five tools to help you assess each of those areas and more.
Technical SEO – Screaming Frog
Strong technical SEO implementation provides the solid groundwork for a successful SEO campaign. Failure to implement this correctly from the outset can lead to many problems further down the line, hindering search visibility despite strength in other areas such as backlinks to your website.
Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is one of the most renowned technical auditing tools on the market, and for good reason. It has an exceptional development team constantly working on refining it, with regular new releases of the software featuring handy enhancements. Last year they released data visualisation functionality, enabling you to visualise how your website might look to a search engine.
If you are keen to understand the technical issues with your site, consider downloading it and having a read through of the user guide to get started.
Content Development– Frase.io
High quality content is at the centre of all good SEO activity. Websites featuring badly written copy, low value or “thin” content pages, are far less likely to perform well on search engine results pages compared to sites that have invested heavily in demonstrating excellence and expertise.
However, great content unto itself is no longer the only factor to consider when building out pages, blogs and other resources. You foremost need to consider the needs of the search engine user and how well your content matches the intent of that user.
Developments in AI are making this process a lot easier and Frase.io are currently leading the way. Their software provides an intelligent solution for auditing your content and improving it to match user intent.
User Experience – PageSpeed Insights
With the release of Google’s RankBrain system a few years back, the search engine giant helped to put UX back onto the agenda of every SEO manager. The machine learning component of Google’s overall algorithm, it feeds data about how users interact with a website back to their systems. Organic listings with low CTR or pages viewed in Google Chrome with little engagement may perform badly under RankBrain compared to other sites that have invested in a high quality user experience.
Also, central to good UX, is website speed and performance. With Google moving many sites over to mobile-first indexing in 2018 it has become imperative, now more than ever, to offer a fast loading site for mobile users. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is a good starting point to check how you fare on this front.
Off-Page Marketing – Ahrefs.com
Off-page signals that may help a website to rank well include backlinks, citations, brand mentions and brand searches. Backlinks remain one of the most effective ways to build authority and rank a website for competitive search terms. However, not all links provide equal value. If you want to audit the link building work your freelancer or agency has been doing on your behalf, you’ll need a high-quality tool to help you.
Ahrefs.com is one of the most powerful backlink analysis tools on the market. You can quickly and easily review the links pointing to your domain and order them by Domain Rating and a variety of other metrics. If it looks like your provider has built a lot of links from sites with low authority scores, this may be the reason why you are failing to improve your search visibility.
Bonus Tool – Google Search Console
If your SEO provider has not installed this one for you, you should fire them immediately! Keep a close check on your Search Console profile as it contains a wealth of highly valuable and constantly changing data.
It’s from here where Google will communicate with you on important issues pertaining to your site, such as increases in 404 errors or other technical problems that need to be fixed. Be sure to login and check that any serious errors are being managed. If not, be sure to give your agency or freelancer a call to find out why not.