The 45 second over-the-phone blind SEO analysis
Ok we might not have won any ‘SEO awards’ (whatever the hell they are), spoke at a Moz conference or any of that jazz, but dang nabit we know how to talk SEO over the phone.
You might already be saying something like:
“45 seconds is not enough time to do a true SEO analysis”
“Why would you be put in that position in the first place?”
I know, I know.
I get it. It is not a reasonable amount of time to do an SEO analysis but the time may come where you have to do this.
A note on over the phone SEO analyses
The main factor in a successful verbal analysis is the fact that there are no visual reports. It is just you and them on the phone. There are no charts or graphs to rely on. Sure you can have them open URLs and send them an impromptu report, but a lot of the time the client is busy, distracted or even driving.
In this scenario the client is dying to get off the phone and is trying desperately to hang up. After all, she or he gets 5 of these calls per day and the fact that your Aunt Arlene referred your agency doesn’t make it much better.
Whaddya mean by blind?
By blind I simply mean you haven’t seen this site before in the past
Qualify any and all blind-analyses with the notion that this data is your ‘best guess’ and based off of a very quick analysis.
Overall most SEO prospective clients are more than willing to wait for an email, but there are times when people ‘just want the facts’ and do not want a second phone call.
To begin the over-the-phone blind analysis, start by poping open 5 windows:
Screaming Frog SEO Tool
I also use the Wappalyzer Firefox plugin to see what stack they are running.
Remember we aren’t running full reports using any of these tools. They are just being used to glance at what is going on, and report basic metrics.
In this example lets pretend we receive an incoming call from a VC group that are behind ello.co and need some info about SEO.
Use Google.com to check indexation. In the first few seconds I paste the URL into each window. In the Google window I run a site:ello.co
There is a lot you can tell from a few Google searches. Do a basic Google SERP checklist:
- is the site indexed?
- how many pages are indexed?
- what do they look like?
- are their sitelinks?
- is there a knowledge graph present?
- are there any rich snippets?
What kind of stack are they running?
You can tell so much about an SEO client by seeing their web framework, hosting, server, plugins, and analytics.
I’ll tell you how much I love Wappalyzer: it is the only browser extension I use.
Yes, it has its faults.
No, it is not always right.
But it does a great job of telling you what is going on behind the scenes.
It will tell you things like:
- this site was built using Dreamweaver 2.0 and has Flash installed
- this site was built using Godaddy site builder
- this is a Magento, Joomla, or WordPress site
- this site is running Google Analytics or Clicky
In other words, it is a great conversation piece. It is a great way of impressing your SEO client while on the phone, in most cases.
Take a quick glance at basic on-page optimization
For this we will be doing a basic Screaming Frog crawl, and only looking at the main dashboard.
When you see something like this, a huge red siren should go off in your SEO agency:
Stop the presses.
Cancel all of your SEO tools.
You can stop the analysis here. At this point you’ve come to the conclusion that this company has made zero attempt at on-page SEO. Some say on-page SEO is “half of SEO” while others say it is even more.
By looking at this tiny snippet from Screaming Frog you can see that not only has this company neglected their meta-description tags, but it is twice the size of what an acceptable meta description tag should be.
If you are on the phone with this company and not able to sell them SEO you might want to rethink your career. There are always seats open selling timeshares.
Talk to them about site speed
In this case, Ello is murdering it with site speed.
Not much to talk about here. But in most cases you wanna look for huge number of requests (over 100) and really large page sizes.
Look for huge images, lots of CSS files, and anything else that might be holding the site back.
In my experience, site speed is one area of SEO that a lot of people neglect that is an easy layup in most scenarios.
Tip: if you are running WordPress check out our guide on site speed optimization.
Next, look for SPAM
This portion is what I call the off-site spam assessment plan. It is quick, dirty, and not always right but it gets the job done on an informal chat.
This is usually when I’ll glance at Ahrefs. Sure Ahrefs can be used for many, many things but in this case we are only using it to look for signs of blackhat SEO or webspam.
Why only spam? Well, you aren’t here to deliver the good news. You want to pick apart this persons site to find as many aspects outside of Google’s Guidelines as possible.
Again, this is only a quick glance. We could later find a few hundred spammy links we didn’t know about.
Since there aren’t any glaringly obvious anchor text mishaps, and we don’t see any bad links we can skip the off-site spam assessment for now.
That is not to say you shouldn’t talk about a link acquisition plan.
Finally take a glance at Moz’s Open Site Explorer
Over the past few years I’ve really learned to trust Moz’s overall domain / page scoring system. I talk to 100’s of SEO’s every week and whenever a domain is brought up the question is asked “what is their PA/DA?”
Yes, I know this score can be gamed and manipulated. I do not put all of my eggs in this basket nor do I share it with most clients in the assessment phase. Not because I want to hide it but it is more of a process to explain the scoring system than anything.
A final word
Of course I don’t condone this as normal behavior. If you are going to be working with a client, they deserve to have a full workup of their site. Even for the smallest websites this process can take hours.
On the other hand I’ve spoken to a lot of SEO’s lately about doing quick over-the-phone assessments for clients and how to get the most out of them.
Part of this process is about helping our clients get the best results possible, the other part is actually making money. The entire process is based on fear. I talk about fear a lot during the sales process. Some people have criticized me for this, but I stand behind it.
Most people should be afraid of their overall status online. There are droves of business owners that have gone through half a dozen SEO companies with horrific link portfolios just waiting to get slammed by Google. Is it our place to coddle a potential client, tell them everything is going to be OK, and how we are going to grow their business no matter what? We think not!
Our job is to be honest with our prospects. A lot of the time, this means referring them out to another SEO company, scrapping their entire website and starting over, or not taking them on at all.
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