Keeping your SEO Agency in Check: A Guide to Monitoring Activity for Free

To a lot of people, search engine optimisation is considered to be a very dark art. You’ve heard that being found in Google is a sales department’s dream and so you’ve hired an agency that seems to have a good track record. From that point on you’re fed reports each month by a company that doesn’t want to lose your business – so it makes sense to do your own digging around right?

Don’t be fooled by the pie charts and graphs above, this guide is not for a techie, it’s for whoever it was that put their neck on the line to hire an agency.

Link Building

Link building is a basic principle of SEO that’s becoming less important but remains integral to the success of your campaign. There are two distinct angles to link building; quality and quantity.

Quantity of Links

 

Finding out how many links you have is easy. A free tool at ahrefs.com will let you grab a ton of information on how many links have been built/removed and when. All you have to do is type in your website URL and hit ‘search links’.

The number that you’re interested in is ‘referring domains’, this is the number of unique domains that are linking to you as opposed to the absolute number of links…

Sidenote: 10 links from 10 different domains is (almost always) far more powerful than 10 links from 1 domain.

If you scroll down a bit you’ll see a graph that shows links built over time. This is a simple visualisation of link activity. If that’s flat lining or going down, then an SEO company that is supposedly ‘building links’ is not building links.

But remember, ahrefs.com takes some time to pull data – there’s every chance that a link built a month ago hasn’t been picked up yet. Take what you see with pinch of salt.

Quality of Links

Not long ago, SEO was a link quantity game – it was a desperate attempt to buy, steal and cheat as many links as you possibly could. If you try that now, you’re going to have a bad time. Google has put more focus on link quality than ever, so even if you’ve got tons of links pointing to your site they could be doing more harm than good.

Identifying Quality

Real easy – load up ahrefs.com again and do the same search on your domain. This time, hit the ‘external’ tab and you’ll be given a list of links (more detail is given for the tool’s paid users).

This table is showing you all of the pages that your links are on; in the above case ahrefs.com has found a link to inbound.co.uk on techwyse.com/blog/. Ignore the rank numbers for now – we’ll look at another tool for that. Just go ahead and click through to find out what that page actually looks like.

Using your eyes

There’s no easier way to spot the quality of a link than by looking at the page/domain it’s on.

But what would the ideal page for our link look like?

It’s totally natural:
The person who added your link put it in a relevant article where it made sense.

There’s few other outbound links:
Other links going out of the site are to quality relevant sources – there’s no sidebar stuffed with links out to irrelevant sites.

The site has a community:
The ultimate evidence of a quality site, one that has a Facebook page with a bunch of fans or blog posts with dozens of comments.

The site is a brand:
Not all brands have Facebook pages; so if there’s no community, is there at least a strong brand. i.e. is the domain jjbsports.com or buy-trainers-now.info?

These are just a few of the tell tale signs of quality. However sourcing links of high quality takes a huge amount of time; a true high quality link can be worth thousands of pounds.

Using some metrics

Opensiteexplorer.com is a tool from SEOmoz – it simplifies quality into a simple number (called Domain Authority) that ranges from 0 to 100. Head over to the site and enter the domain in question into the big search box.

You’ll get a whole load of information as shown above, but what you’re really interested in is this ‘Domain Authority’ metric. Simply speaking, the higher the number the better any given page will rank on the domain.

Domain Authortiy is not perfect and it’s definitely exploitable; so you’ll want to mix this up with a bit of the eyeballing that we talked about earlier. But it’s safe to say that anything with domain authority above 70 is seriously good; 20 to 30 is about the average.

Content Development

I’ve spent way too much time talking about links. SEO is not just about links anymore, it’s about website quality and links alone do not scream quality. Your SEO agency should have put together a content development plan; if they haven’t then they are going down the old school link-link-link route of doom.

Content development isn’t just a case of saying ‘we need to rewrite your content’. It’s about putting together a structured and visualised plan of how your site’s content will look in the future. Every site, no matter what niche, needs a section of quality content that provides substance for a user – whether it’s a DIY guide for some fancy chair that you’re selling or a recipe section for your restaurant’s website – there’s always something!

Links work best when they’re natural, and having a content section that is ‘linkable’ can pay dividends. It also makes life a lot easier for us agencies to get links if we can provide a quality resource instead of some terrible sales page.

Web design is also another key area for development here, I won’t go into detail about that – but a good SEO agency would recommend structural/design/functionality improvements to your existing site. Don’t assume that it’s an upsell, a lot of sites are not fit for SEO for a ton of reasons.

Analytics

And finally, there’s Google Analytics, a free tool that provides more information about your visitors than you would ever need. If you don’t have access to this or you’re not sure what it is, your agency will be able to share it with you; if they don’t have access to this or they’re not sure what it is – you’ve done gone picked a stinker. What I’m trying to say is, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t see these details if you’re working with a self respecting SEO agency.

Analytics will graph your traffic overtime and give you a clear insight into SEO performance. The whole principle of SEO is to bring in more targeted traffic and that’s exactly what these graphs will show you.

The reports that your agency sends you each month are great; don’t ignore them. But if you’re ever in doubt about how things are going and how much time and effort is being spent on your campaign then there’s no reason for not digging deeper.

To find out more about Boss Digital, get in touch with our team today.