I have just created a new page for Forensic SEO on the Simply Clicks website. We define forensic SEO as the structured, perhaps scientific, process of analysing the components behind a website’s performance. The “why?” and “how?” of keyword rankings and website visitor performance.
Simply Clicks has undertaken SEO analysis 2004, when we first introduced SEO training. However, from client presentations and questioning we can tell that the issues behind website performance are becoming a more important client issue.¬† Such questioning may range from the simple, “why does site A rank above site B?” to “Who much is competitor B spending on link buying?”.
Forensic SEO Investigations
Indeed, we have launched our own forensic SEO investigations when a long term client of ours bought into a social media service. The social media agency tried to claim that the client was receiving large amounts of valuable traffic as a result of activity on Facebook. The client web analytics showed no such thing. What we eventually established was that from nowhere a number of “junk” links began pointing to the client website. These links were the classic bottom end rented links sold by the link marketing organisations at ¬£25 per go.
Internal vs External Forensic SEO
Other cases of internal forensic SEO have involved over inflated claims by salesmen. For example “Our links have delivered x thousand visitors”.¬† A simple check of the web analytics revealed that the large spike in visitors coincided with the visit by the salesman. It looked like someone had clicked many time from the same I.P. address. Another common one is “Why has my site been banned?”. Usually after some illicit activity is the answer. But many clients are not aware of what SEO companies are doing on their behalf. Which begs a question, “What is my SEO company really doing on my behalf?”. Very little, is a surprisingly common answer. When is comes to the actual delivery of a website we are often asked why a website doesn’t perform. A simple check of web analytics will typically reveal high average bounce rates, poor keyword selection, poor landing pages, few page views, little time spent on site, complex enquiry forms etc. Establishing what is wrong with a website and drawing up a solution to put it right is a structured process.
The examples of where internal forensic SEO is a vital tool are many and varied. However, the real strength of a forensic approach is the analysis of competitor websites. In external analysis it is unlikely that you would have access to internal web analytics data. In this case the investigation relies on external tools and analysis. Tools that track rankings, tools that estimate traffic. Tools that monitor on site behaviour. In virtually all cases we are dealing with samples and calculated estimates. Nevertheless, attempting to observe, analyse and quantify the impacts of the individual and collective impacts of on page and off page¬† SEO activity are as much a science as an art.
Forensic SEO can present a stimulating intellectual challenge. It is definitely one of the most enjoyable aspects of working in search engine optimisation. Let me know if you want some help.