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Why website graders don’t work

This article is a guest post from Dr. Adam Stetzer, the president and co-founder of HubShout. Adam and his team contacted me to check out this great new tool they’ve built which is a different kind of spin on your average website grader.

We exchanged a bunch of emails talking theory on what would make a tool like this different from all the other website graders out there and the culmination of that chat was this blog post. We determined that it would take something pretty special to bust through all the average tools out there, and it sounds like Adam and everyone over at HubShout is seriously committed to make that happen. Check out their new website grader and see how their approach is different. Read on to find out why most website graders simply don’t cut the mustard.

The website grader craze

At HubShout HQ, we’ve been fascinated by the website grader craze over the last 3 or 4 years. We’ve been watching closely as people flock from one grader tool to the next hoping that each will contain the magic secret for why their website is not on page 1. In the end, it is false hope as most of the people who use these website grader tools will simply never find themselves on page 1. And I don’t say that to be flippant. It’s just a fact that page 1 competition for any term with significant economic value has become very steep. For the do-it-yourself SEO blogger out there, this is a steep climb.

But making matters worse, I noticed that many website graders focus on the wrong thing. They are overwhelmingly focused on on-site SEO when the real missing link is just that, links. Consider the average website grader that runs through the standard list of H1’s, META tags, alts and divs. Perhaps a more sophisticated tool looks at the URL string and volume of words. Okay. These are all good things, but they are simply too basic for what it takes to get on page 1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a website grader that runs the text from your page
through Copyscape to ensure it is unique, yet we all know there are scores of people out there trying (fruitlessly) to rank with content that is not original.

The missing ingredient

The biggest factor missing is a serious look at the backlink profile. How many links does the website have? How good are those links? How many links do the competing websites that are on page 1 have? As we debated the website grader world at HubShout, we thought these were the BIG questions, but we didn’t see them being addressed by the free tools. Furthermore, where was the analysis broken down by industry? It is the case that a local roofer in a small city needs fewer links than a plastic surgeon in New York City.

Our final observation

Few tools that do get into off-site SEO and backlink analysis discuss the difference between total links and root domain links. In our experience, this is a critical difference. You can gain 10,000 links from a single include statement to a footer on a big website. But does Google really weight that as strongly as 10,000 unique domains linking to your website? Of course not.

Conclusions

Most website graders actually waste peoples’ time. If SEOMoz tells us that 70% of ranking is the result of off-site SEO (i.e., links) then why are 95% of website graders focused on on-site SEO? This is sending people off in the wrong
direction. Don’t get me wrong; solid on-site SEO is critical. But I would hazard to guess that most people who visit a website grader have the basics mostly covered. What they really need to know is: do they need 100 more backlinks, or 1,000 more, to get to page 1? And even if they could get those links, how entrenched are the websites that are already on Page 1? I’m not saying we have built that tool, but we’re going to start building in that direction and see what happens.

Dr Adam Stetzer has been in the information technology field for over 15 years working with Fortune 100 clients such as General Electric, Verizon, AT&T, ChevronTexaco, Ford, Pepsi and Coca Cola. He is President and Co-Founder of HubShout, an SEO reseller that offers both software and services to small, medium and large clients. The HubShout white label SEM software platform supports hundreds of clients integrating over 15 relevant data sources at industry-leading prices. The firm also offers SEM services that emphasize both accountability and transparency. Dr Stetzer is active in many SEO forums and frequently guest-blogs on various outlets.

4 thoughts on “Why website graders don’t work

  1. The SEO graders are actually dedicated to the on page SEO. Beside the grader whuch actually analises the SEO for a given keyword there are also page analysers like the one at seoeta.com.

  2. Also, while these are the best website graders known to man, they aren t perfect. If you assess your website multiple times with the same grader, you will probably see your score change. If you got an 85 and your competitor got an 86, don t get too upset. This may not mean that your competitor really has the upper hand.

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