A prospective client called. As per usual, the company wasn’t getting any inquiries from its relatively new website. “We’re paying $500 a month for SEO,” said the prospect. “But I don’t understand why we’re not getting inquiries. According to our SEO report, our site has an SEO score of 82!”
Errrr . . . . “Would you mind sending me that report?” I asked. As soon as I saw it, I knew the SEO company was stringing this guy along — including telling him he could get the site to rank for important keywords, even though the site consisted of only five pages.
What follows is a brief breakdown of the report, the false information it provides, and why I don’t use or recommend these automated tools.
Test #1: Meta Title
One reason the “meta title” is important for SEO is because it’s the blue hyperlink in the search engine results listings. If it’s optimized correctly, it should appear for a relevant keyword search result, as you can see for the search, “Industrial Marketing Services” in Figure 1.
So what exactly is a “meta title”? Also known as the “title tag,” the meta title is found in your website’s html source code; you can also see it in the browser tab (go to your website home page then look at your browser tab — the words you see are from your title tag).
Since I want to respect the prospect’s privacy, I can’t show you his source code and meta title, but I can show you mine. Figure 2 shows the html source code for my website’s Service page along with the underlined title tag.
As you can see if you compare Google’s search results in Figure 1 with what’s in my title tag, they match. And, my title tag includes a search query that prospective clients might use to find companies like mine.
Figure 3 shows the result of the “test” the automated SEO tool ran for the prospect’s home page — and gives it a “pass” or green check mark. However, this “pass” should really be a total fail. Why? Because the title tag reads, “Home – [company name].”
I don’t about you, but I don’t ever search for industrial services or products using the word “home.” And, if I don’t know the company exists, how the hell would I know to search for it by name?
Therefore, this is a title tag “fail” and for this one reason alone, the SEO firm should be fired. Promptly.
Test #2: Most Common Keywords Test
Keywords are the most misunderstood aspect of SEO due to a ton of misinformation. Yes, each page of your website needs to have an optimized title tag — and that’s according to Google’s stated best practices.
In fact, Google will tell you in Search Console if any page on your website has a missing or duplicate title tag (Figure 4). And yes, having keywords on the page is good because it lets Google know what the page is about — and thus helps with indexing and ranking.
However, simply inserting keywords into your title tags doesn’t mean the website will automatically “rank.”
Ok, so what if you’ve “optimized” your content — but you’ve used the wrong keywords? This is one reason why I absolutely detest these automatic SEO reports. Because they’re machine driven, the machine can’t see if you’ve used the wrong keywords. It can only “read” that you have words — in your title tag and on your page.
In Figure 5, you can see the results of the “Common Keywords” test the SEO bot ran. The first two keywords include the company name (which I blacked out). Although the descriptive blurb about the Keywords Test notes that keywords should reflect the intended copy of the page, the remaining three keywords are so generic, the website would never in a million years rank for them.
Therefore, this keyword test is another huge fail. But wait, there’s more!
Test #3: Keyword Usage
Based on the Most Common Keyword Test, the Keyword Usage test gives this page two green checkmarks — and an upbeat “Congratulations!” for use of the keywords in the home page title — which I’ve already proven is a total fail.
Test #4: H1 Headings Status
H1 is another tag that’s found in the html source code. “H” stands for “heading.” A number of “H” tags exist: H1, H2, H3 etc. These tags are used for designing the page: H1 signifies a large font headline, H2 a smaller font subhead, etc. etc.
For SEO purposes, Google considers words in the H1 and H2 tags to be of relative importance, since they’re usually at the top of the page, and which is why for a long time, standard SEO practice included adding important keywords to these tags.
Generally, the H1 tag is the page headline or page title (not to be confused with the title tag). You can see the H1 and H2 tags for my Services page in Figure 7. As you can see, I used my main keyword phrase, “Industrial Marketing Services” in the H1 tag.
I wanted this phrase to be in my title tag, too, since this is what people might use in a search; then, if they click on my search engine listing, I want the phrase to be what they see at the top of my page — to help searchers know they’ve landed in the right place.
The prospect’s website, on the other hand, doesn’t use H1 or H2 tags strategically, but it still gets another nice green checkmark for the use of an H1 heading.
Again, this is simply a machine noting that the website has an H1 tag, but it doesn’t tell you that the copy in the tag is poorly written . . . and that it has a grammatical error. I’ve blocked it out to protect the company’s privacy.
Test #5: Inline CSS test
This test (Figure 9) made me laugh for three reasons. One, because the SEO firm is also the firm that designed the website (using a pre-built theme), you would think they would have fixed issues like this — versus sending the client a report showing these errors.
Second, why would the client care if the website is using 54 inline CSS styles? And three, what exactly is this test telling me and how is it important to getting more inquiries?
To learn a little more about this test, I consulted with Rachel Cunliffe of Cre8d Design. Her response follows:
“This test is referring to one of Google’s site speed recommendations. The inline CSS styles have been added by a slider plugin, which is likely due to the web designer adding the plugin to the theme. The test info doesn’t clarify that improving site speed can improve SEO. Basically, it makes something sound complex and that needs an ‘expert’ to fix, when in fact it’s something the web design firm was responsible for. This report should really show a site speed test versus this CSS inline styles test.”
The SEO report goes on (and on and on) for another six pages. Test after test shows how the website has “passed” for things such as having Google Analytics tracking code (although it doesn’t state if it’s the correct tracking code or if it’s on all pages), having a sitemap, and a whole bunch of other technical mumbo jumbo that has zero meaning for a business owner — but hey, those green check marks make it look like the SEO firm is doing its job.
In conclusion . . .
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen reports like this. I’ve had clients email me similar reports that agencies send them in order to scare them into thinking their SEO / marketing program isn’t working and thus the client should hire the agency because the agency can get them “TOP RANKINGS FOR HUNDREDS OF KEYWORDS!!!!”
As you can see, these reports are complete rubbish — with the main reason being, they can’t see YOUR Google Analytics and Search Console data.
If you’re the owner of a small manufacturing company, and you receive an unsolicited report from an SEO agency, you can do one of three things:
- Look at your own Google Search Console data — Search Console will tell you everything you need to know about how Google views your website.
- Have me look at the report — I’m very happy to look at your report and spend 15 minutes on the phone explaining it to you.
- Delete it and go back to running your business — As you can see from this short analysis, these reports can be safely added to your electronic trash bin.
If you’d like better results from your website, give me a shout. Whether you need ongoing strategic marketing, or a new website custom designed to YOUR business, I have the tested, proven results for helping you get more inquiries over time.
Plus, I’ll never, ever send you a “push the button” report. Guaranteed.