Using site crawlers is definitely one of the most important instruments of SEO, but it’s important to leave room for manual analysis, as they don’t have all the answers.
Technological advancements have made SEO efforts a lot more efficient, thanks to the proliferation of helpful site crawlers such as ScreamingFrog, Botify and DeepCrawl. These tools are definitely must-haves for any SEO expert’s toolbox. They can help to uncover and visualize various technical SEO issues such as invalid canonical tags, broken links and 404 errors among others.
These tools have since grown to become the go-to source of information about technical SEO performance analysis. As a result, actual SEOs spend less time in manual interaction with websites and analysis thereof, including browser website analysis and site analytics.
At first glance, this does not seem to be a problem; we know, after all, that machines are capable of doing far more than humans within a short period of time. These tools facilitate analysis of vast amounts of data/pages speedily.
Nonetheless, these tools are essentially bots, i.e. they examine the source code of a website to find any known issues according to a given audit checklist. This checklist, while helpful, does not often cover many of the issues consumers or site visitors face with a site.
Search results are offered to consumers
It is a well-known fact that search engine algorithms are always advancing, being tailored to better fit consumer requirements. This is happening at the fastest rate now since search engines came into being, in part because of machine learning technology. These advancements have made it possible for search engines to concentrate on offering consumers results that are not only contextually relevant (content-wise), but also sites with good user experience.
Research done by SearchMetrics and SEMrush have both made reference to consumer experience and user signals such as content relevance, mobile friendliness, time on site, content formatting, site speeds and search sequence/bounce rate as key factors in determining site rankings.
Nevertheless, most SEOs like Big3Media have made site crawlers the default solution for website analysis, to reduce time spent in manual site analysis. This has led to massive neglect of aspects relating to consumer experience, all of which present unrealized opportunities for fine-tuning performance.
In addition, with effect from November 2016, consumers that access websites from various mobile devices rather than desktops have increased. This causes even greater alienation between site crawlers’ audit checklists and real consumers/online behavior/needs. While technology isn’t stagnant, site crawlers are mostly still geared towards desktop search optimization.
Given these facts, it is most crucial to perform website analysis and diagnosis in the way and that consumers interact with websites, rather than depending on bot analysis of source code alone.
Consumer and experience and user signals should be prioritized
Success in SEO services is only possible by using the consumer-first approach, both now and going forward. In order to do this, it is important for SEOs to place themselves in the consumers’ shoes and interact with the website the same way, in addition to physically going through site analytics and Google Search Console.
By interacting with and carrying out in-depth website analysis, you will understand challenges faced by consumers accessing using different devices at all points from initial search and site visit to conversion.
In addition, delving into Google Search Console and site analytics can provide insights into consumer-oriented challenges. For instance, is your website optimized for both desktop and mobile search? Have you considered consumers’ content needs across devices? Is content optimized for delivery across devices? Are forms easy to fill and submit?
Both site crawling and manual interaction with websites are equally important and they must all be planned for when it comes to search engine optimization today. Each provides unique and relevant insights that can be leveraged by brands to maximize SEO benefit within organic search results. Site crawlers make it easier to identify technical SEO issues on a large scale, while manual interaction highlights any user signals/experience issues. Therefore, neither should be neglected for true success.
SEO experts must learn to place themselves in consumers’ shoes and take the journey as the latter would to understand and get rid of any UX barriers to conversion and relevance to consumer needs.