When I first started out with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), I would sometimes come across a ‘website grader’ that purported to have all the answers. Plug in your url, and it will tell you exactly what you need to do to rank well in search engine results. There are still many of these tools out there, some intending to be more helpful, and others really just designed to suck you in and sell you their SEO tools or services. Can you really trust a website grader?
I regularly use a couple of website graders that offer good insight into the health of a website. For me, it’s often a first step when researching a new or potential client’s existing website, but I dig in deeper from there. I don’t recommend counting on one tool for 100% of your guidance, but online graders can be a good starting point. The more you understand about online marketing and search engine optimization, the better the context you have to process the information it gives you. Blindly following automated suggestions without a greater context of understanding can result in misplaced priorities or even negative consequences. The following website graders are generally trustworthy, but it’s always a good idea to use more than one tool and combine that information with human guidance as well.
Woorank offers a comprehensive overview of your website health either through their website or the Chrome extension. They analyse your site in 12 categories, and pinpoint the top five recommendations. They recently upgraded their service and one of the big additions relates to mobile optimization. They even provide screenshots of how your site looks on a smart phone and an iPad.
As an SEO professional, I don’t know if I always agree with the priorities given, but it does a good job overall as far as automated tools go. It puts a big emphasis on DMOZ listings, for instance, which has been losing importance in recent years, and is so arbitrary. Some sites get submitted and never even reviewed for years, while others may get added right away. That being said, submitting your site only takes a few minutes, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to try. Registering your domain for a number of years in the future is also a relatively minor and somewhat controversial recommendation – some people say two years, while others say it will only help if you do ten. Some people say it doesn’t matter at all. Again, if you plan to keep your domain name a long time, it certainly won’t hurt to register it for 10 years in advance, and it might just help. (If you do this, keep your eye on the pricing, as some domain registry services actually increase the annual price when you tack on years!)
One weakness I’ve noticed with online graders is that, while they try to analyze your social activity, they’re not always good at detecting your accounts correctly. I’m not sure how their algorithms pick up social sites – sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t. I have one site where the Twitter username matches the domain name, is linked to from the site, and links back to the site from Twitter, yet Woorank thought they didn’t have a Twitter account. On other sites, they pick up the social media accounts just fine. This can lead to an inaccurate analysis in the ‘Social Monitoring’ section.
Grader from Hubspot
You can also try out Hubspot’s free website graders – one for Marketing, one for Search, one for Twitter, and one for Books. The Hubspot Grader that’s most comparable to Woorank, and most comprehensive, is the Marketing Grader. I find it’s a little more thorough in some areas, and the tool allows you to compare your site to a competitor’s. It breaks down your marketing system and gives you three top recommendations in each of three key areas – the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and analytics. Grader doesn’t go into some of the more technical aspects that Woorank includes, such as pageload time, microformats, or code validity.
One nice improvement at Marketing Grader compared to Woorank is the ability to correct it’s auto-detection of your social media accounts. Before it runs your analysis, a box pops up with the accounts it thinks you have. You’re given the opportunity to say it, “Looks good,” or to fix it. This allows the tool to more accurately analyze your social interaction. It goes into quite a bit of detail on how you market your business and build relationships. It tells you, for instance, how often you link back to your own site, if you link to a landing page with a conversion form, and how often you reply to other people’s tweets.
Hubspot’s Search Grader will give you your top-ranked keywords, which are included in Woorank’s comprehensive report. You would expect Twitter Grader to go into more detail regarding your Twitter interactions, but, aside from a numeric grade and a reprint of your Twitter stats, it seems to offer very little. There is actually more detail regarding your Twitter interactions in Marketing Grader’s social section. Book Grader is intended to specifically help you market your book online, but it doesn’t seem to be very well developed yet – it gives some basic Amazon stats with no real recommendations.
While website graders have come a long way and can provide some useful information, it’s important to remember they are just one tool of many used to evaluate your website. The graders here will most likely help you if you follow their recommendations, but no automated tool can take the place of a seasoned professional to digest the information and prioritize recommendations for your particular situation.
One other point to take into consideration is that most free tools, especially complex well-developed ones, need to be monetized in some way. You will see plenty of ads or links selling you SEO services, domain name registration services, or social media services. Basically, anything they recommend you do, they’ll also offer a way to help you get it done, and that’s how they make their money. While most free graders are probably built with the intention of selling their own services, these two tools genuinely try to offer accurate, useful information at the same time.
Do you want a complete human website evaluation? We manually test every page on your site for usability, look directly into your website code, and analyse our findings together with information from tools such as these. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our Comprehensive Website Analysis.