Mark Munroe
Author Archives: Mark Munroe

SEO Testing on Staging: Catch problems before the damage is done

As an in-house SEO for large dynamic sites like Trulia, I spent way too much time chasing problems and reversing code that never should have been pushed in the first place.   Let’s face it, life would be much more pleasant if we could catch those problems before they get pushed live.  This should be done in an automated way so that human error is removed from the equation.  As an SEO, I should never be required to manually review code to check meta robots tags and everything else that can go wrong, that is waaaaaay too risky.

Look what happened one of SEORadar’s customers prior to using our service.  They accidentally placed a noindex tag  on their key pages with this nasty line of code:

screenshot-2016-09-19-12-15-56

And the aftermath was not pretty! 

Noindex disaster

Yikes!  They identified the problem after 5 days and it took almost a full week to push the fix due to internal processes. The really sad thing is they did not fully recover and ended up about 15% lower in overall traffic.   Recovery from disasters are often extremely painful, so of course, the best thing is to prevent the disaster in the first place.

Testing is hard and things slip through the cracks (which is why we built SEORadar in the first place).  SEORadar gives you great piece of mind by monitoring your site and letting you know when something nasty happens.     But let’s face it, Google is fast now and will crawl and index those unplanned changes in a jiffy.   So sometimes you are working against the clock while the rest of your company responds with their feet in quicksand!  Quick, delete that meta robots noindex before Google picks it up  and results in grief for you and your company.

While we will always continue to monitor your sites,  we want to catch those problem changes before they get pushed live. I’ll show you how to do it with SEORadar.

How it works

The audit reports work just like our standard reports.  Instead of comparing the live site to the previous archive, you are comparing the live site to staging.

For example, maybe an important keyword has been deleted from a title.  You will get an alert like this:

screenshot-2016-09-14-12-25-45

 

Or even worse, maybe something like this happened!

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Of course, now that you have caught this on staging, you can halt the site push and get it fixed.

You can also run various diff reports that will compare full HTML, content or just SEO elements.  Your QA team will love this!

screenshot-2016-09-14-12-34-06

No VPN Access Required

When we first built this feature, we hit obstacles and friction because we required VPN access or login/password to staging environments.  We recognize that companies need to protect everything behind their firewall, so we came up with a solution.  Using our Chrome extension, your browser will retrieve the test pages and send them out to our servers to run the comparisons.  No need to open up your VPN to us!  Simply install the Chrome extension which you can find here.

Step 1.  Install the Chrome Extension from here 

Step 2: Add the staging domain from manage->domains screen.

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Step 3: Associate staging domain with primary domain

You can label the staging domain.  This is useful if you are access it via IP address or if you have multiple staging environments.

Important: If you want us to test robots.txt on staging, check the box below.   That makes sense if your robots.txt on staging is a replica of live and part of your site update. (We respect robots.txt, so it is possible we could be blocked if you tick it).

 

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Step 4: Authorize the extension with your authorization/API key.

That can be fetched by logging in and going to the user->settings screen.

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Step 5: Kick off the crawl from the extension

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That’s it.  We will test and compare all the URLs that are configured for the live domain.   And now you will really be able to breathe easier when that major update goes live.  Of course, things can still break so you still need SEORadar auditing the live site, but this makes things much, much safer.

This feature is available in our enterprise edition.  Contact me for a demo of this feature or if you are an existing customer who would like to upgrade.

Request a Demo

Analyzing SEO Site Changes and SEO Testing

As SEOs we always want to understand the impact of site changes.   Yet analyzing the data is challenging, especially in an enterprise environment with frequent site pushes and page updates.  One of the biggest challenges is tracking when the change happened,  what exactly was the change and what other changes might have occurred which would impact the analysis.  SEORadar makes this part easy with our source code archive and change and alert history.  We keep that permanent change record needed for your analysis.   With our new ‘Change Analysis’ feature, things just got a lot better!

Unlike traditional AB testing where metrics become available immediately, with an SEO change you need to wait before you can even begin your analysis. Google needs time to index the change. Then you need to accumulate at least 2 weeks of data.  This is the challenge, in a busy life of an SEO! Going back in time to analyze a change impact is particularly painful.   Now, you with single action you can schedule a change analysis and SEORadar will send you an email when that analysis is ready to be viewed.

Here is how you do it!

Let’s say a page change was made which removed an H2 from your page which contained a focus keyword (we monitor titles, H1s and H2s and generate alerts if a focus keyword is removed).   This would generate an Alert in SEORadar.   With this feature, you will get the ‘analyze change’ button:

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When you click the ‘Analyze Change’ button, you will set the parameters for the analysis.

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  • The analysis will compare metrics prior to the change to post change, but with a buffer period to give Google time to index the change.
  • You can compare a specific URL or you can set a pattern if the URL is representative of a set of URLs.
  • Once the report is ready, you will get an email notification with a link to the report.
  • The report will analyze search conole data for clicks, click throughs and keyword rankings.  The report will look like this:

Screenshot 2016-08-08 15.35.30

 

Of course other changes might have happened to that page over the time period of the test.  Fortunately, we have the full change history for you to analyze and factor into your impact analysis. We include in the report a full list of SEO impacting changes that happened in the analysis time frame.  This will help you ascertain as whether other changes could be skewing the results.

SEO Testing

This is a great mechanism for implementing an SEO testing methodology or updating old posts that are not driving much traffic.  Simple make the changes.  We provide a report of all pending analysis and tests so you can see what tests are outstanding and when the results will be available.

Screenshot 2016-08-08 16.03.41

 

Coming soon, we  will give you the ability to define a ‘test’  group of URLs and a ‘control’ to compare the results.

This feature is available to Enterprise service levels.   Contact  us if you would like to test it out and discuss an upgrade.

SEORadar Makes the US Search Awards Shortlist

I am very excited to announce that SEORadar has made the short list for the US Search Awards in Vegas next month for ‘Best SEO Software’ .  It’s an honor to be on the short list with such fantastic applications as SearchMetrics and Linkdex.  This is tremendous validation for all the hard work the SEORadar team has put in the last 18 months.  Thanks to everyone involved!

If you are coming to the awards ceremony or PubCon let me know and we meet up.  I love to meet our users!

USSA15 Shortlist Badge

SEORadar for Digital Agencies & SEO Consultants

As an agency or consultant, you are responsible for your  customer’s organic search traffic.   Yet, your customers are often doing things to their site, changing pages, key SEO elements and frankly,  inadvertently making changes with potentially disastrous impact.

  • SEORadar will warn you as soon as  your customer takes that misstep!   You will get emails and/or texts.   For example,  see the alert below.  Did this site realize the SEO consequence of changing their title?  It turns out it was a bug which incorrectly caused the page to IP target. Wouldn’t it be great to contact your customer the very same day the problem was pushed live?Screenshot 2015-09-27 14.27.19

 

  • You will also get a dashboard to easily monitor hundreds of domains and search for the most significant site change alerts.Screenshot 2015-09-27 14.32.38

  • Our advanced search capability makes it easy to query the full alert history across all your domains.  Or use it to generate a report for a specific domain as you analyze your client’s site changes and activity for the past month.

    Screenshot 2015-09-27 14.40.49

 

    • If you need to research an issue, you will appreciate the ability to do HTML or content diffs and screenshot compares from our archive:

Screenshot 2015-09-27 14.49.08Screenshot 2015-09-27 14.52.48

  • When trying to determine the root cause of a problem, it invaluable to go to SEORadar and see the full history of changes to that page (remember that we save the full HTML and screenshots for both desktop and mobile).Screenshot 2015-09-27 15.04.08
  • SEORadar is great at catching all sorts of unwelcome surprises.  We catch deleted Google Analytics tags or Google Tag Manager, surprise redirects and more.  In fact, you can configure your own tests.  We even recently identified a hacked site because all the content changed and SEORadar lit up like a Christmas tree with all sorts of alarms getting generated.
  • Do you have WordPress customers?  Use our WordPress plugin to automatically alert us of all their content changes and detect changes that impact their focus keywords.   Or implement our API for other CMS’s.
  • Want to help your customers catch problems before they get pushed?  Offer an in-house version SEORadar to test live vs. staging.
  • Ever wish  your customer’s carefully annotated their Google Analytics account.  By enabling GA integration, we overlay changed history on top of GA data, making it easy to drill in and analyze shifts in key metrics.

Screenshot 2015-09-27 17.59.33

For a large SEO agency, an independent SEO consultant or an in-house SEO, SEORadar will protect your traffic, eliminate the fear that some unknown change is impacting your traffic and simply make your life easier.  Give te free demo a try!

Free Trial

SEORadar SMX Launch

We officially launched SEORadar at SMX West.   It was incredibly exciting to unveil out new booth in the exhibition hall and meet enthusiastic customers, prospects and potential partners!
SEORadarSMX
We have big plans for SEORadar in 2015, so look for some exciting, high value new features coming out very soon!

SEORadar Beta: First Potential Disasters Averted

Today now marks 28 days since we started giving out beta access.   The first 3 weeks saw daily updates as we worked out some of the bigger kinks and the next month or two will see some exciting new features.

We have heard from some of our customers on a few potential disasters which we have already detected.  Including:

  • A site which inadvertently put a nofollow on nearly all their homepage links
  • Another site whose rel-canonicals disappeared causing a duplicate content risk
  • H1 markup that disappeared on another site weakening the primary keywords.

In addition, we have an agency using the beta for daily checks on their customers websites.   We also have a major ecommerce site using the historical archive to correlate changes to traffic and rankings shifts.

We are giving out some more beta codes, so there is no reason to be caught unaware when mysterious changes happen to your pages!    Fill out the form on the right to get your Beta Code!

Signup for SEORadar Beta – SEO Disaster Prevention

I’m very excited to be announcing the availability of SEORadar for beta customers at SMX next week.  Its been a long journey which has led me to leaving a great job at Trulia to launch a new tool.   You are probably thinking that you don’t need another SEO tool!  But once you learn about SEORadar, I think you will agree that this is one tool that you have to have. You can start reading the details over here.  Don’t hesitate to  email me at mark@seoradar.com to get your beta code or fill out the form below.  Sign up for the application over here.  More details next week!
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Get Mobile SEO Right for Google

Mobile search continues to demonstrate explosive growth and Matt Cutts from Google recently stated that mobile search might actually outnumber desktop searches in 2014.   If not in 2014, then it certainly will in the near future.  Not surprisingly, desktop ad spending is expected to decline $1.4 billion.   With users and the money shifting to mobile, it is even more critical to get mobile right for search.    To get it right, there are 2 major concerns:

  • Creating a fantastic user experience from search
  • Getting the technical implementation right so technical issues do not obstruct a website from realizing the success it deserves.   

When it comes to mobile success, think like Google

As with all Search Engine Optimization initiatives (SEO), it is best to think about mobile SEO through Google’s eyes.   What are they trying to achieve and how will they measure it?  Make Google happy and the chances for long term SEO success rise! Continue reading

Google devaluing Links? What should we do?

So Google is testing out alternatives to using links in their algorithm?

That raises a interesting question? How much should I invest in linking initiatives if Google is looking at ways to exclude links from their algorithm?

For me, it’s about building a reputation that happens to get you links. A real reputation, an ‘earned’ reputation is what Google is looking for. The problem with links, of course, is the ‘faux’ reputation created by spam. For Google, reputations (as built by links) has been their differentiator that enabled them to be the dominant player in search.

I don’t see reputation as the mechanism for measuring the value of a domain or piece of content as changing. Only the way they calculate the reputation may change.

Therefore, link initiatives that are based on an earned reputation will provide other signals that will still make themselves visible to Google, even if they happen to make a major algorithm switch. Whether it is in-content mentions or social sharing, PR campaigns or other marketing campaigns which results in building your reputation, if you are building an ‘earned’ reputation you will continue to reap the benefits. So, I certainly think it is a good idea to continue pushing those link initiatives and continue to build that reputation!

BTW – I originally posted this on LinkedIn and there is a bit of discussion over there if you’d like to comment.

Long term SEO – How to win for years, not days – SMX West

I’m pretty excited to be speaking on 2 sessions at SMX west, particularly the session on Long Term SEO and how to win for years. It is a great topic and there is a grant panel, moderated by Danny Sullivan with Eric Enge, Rhea Drysdale.

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No doubt SEO has changed significantly the last few years.  I will discuss changing the mindset inside an organization, pushing aside old ideas and moving on to the new strategies that will result in perpetual success for the life of a website.  I’ll also be on creating an earned reputation, which is really what Google had in mind when the developed their original PageRank algorithm.  The key point, reputations that are earned, persist.

Hope you can make it. If you can’t, I am going to be chronicling my thoughts on the topic as my talk evolves in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic!