You Need to Know This About Website Graders

Posted by Adam Stetzer - November 2, 2011 - SEO - 13 Comments
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I’ve been watching with great fascination as flocks of webmasters and business owners race to the latest website grader. They wait with eager eyes for the newest software widget to tell them why they aren’t ranking well in the search engines. I can understand why these tools are so popular. They play into the “magic bullet” thinking that is prevalent on every SEO forum. These people fall for the oldest pitch in the book: “With this magical pill, you can cure all your woes,” the website grader essentially tells them. So they dutifully type in their URL and pull the lever, like a slot machine in Vegas, hoping for that jackpot. But we all know the end to this story. Rather than a BIG WIN, they get a series of statements like “adjust your title tag,” “your H1 could be better” and “you should consider using your target keyword on the home page more.” Or my personal favorite, “Your website is not W3 valid.”

The Big Web Grader Myth (i.e., Don’t Waste Your Time)

The big website grader myth is that these tools really help people improve their rankings. Sure, on-site SEO technical details are important. You need to

  • Have a good title tag
  • Your H1’s help
  • The words on the page need to be unique

You also need to create engaging content that will resonate with your end-user, though this has more to do with time-onsite and link-bait than on-site SEO. Putting target keywords in your text is also an excellent idea–but this usually happens fairly naturally. Yes, on-site SEO is important. But SEOMoz tells us it accounts for only about 30% of why you rank. So where is the other 70%? Most website graders give the 70% only minor treatment, perhaps including a single stat of how many total backlinks you have according to Yahoo Site Explorer. This is a fairly useless statistic that is certainly not actionable. But armed with a website grader score, these business owners and webmasters go back to tinker with their websites endlessly, missing the forest for the trees.

What Really Helps Your Search Rankings?

70% of your rankings are driven by off-site SEO. Off-site SEO is essentially backlinks. While many have theorized that social media would soon join backlinks as a reliable signal in the search engine ranking algorithm, it has not happened yet. So why don’t the website graders give backlink analysis the time it deserves? For starters, it is a much more complicated topic. It’s fairly easy to tell someone to put a target keyword in a title tag. And the activity is short. Link building is a long-term activity that many businesses know is now a permanent line item in the marketing budget. But again, the average website grader ignores this fact. What about anchor text analysis to see what percentage of your in-bound links contain your target keyword phrase? Moreover, you could compare your backlink profile and anchor text profile to that of your competitors. If you really want to get deeper into what really matters you would be running your competitors through a keyword ranking tool to try to reverse engineer their rankings and discover which backlinks are most critical for maintaining those rankings. Yes, it’s fairly heady stuff. But this is where the real SEO war is fought. As you start to understand the importance of this off-site SEO analysis, you will start to see that most website graders are trivial.

About the Author

Adam Stetzer

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, a 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.
Hinsdale Builder
Hinsdale Builder 2 Like

I mostly use a grader it seems like about every 6 month just to see what it says. I rarely follow any of the recommendations, but it is interesting to see how my site grades over time. My recent post Commercial Remodeling Stain Project In Lansing

Steve 2 Like

Adam, you helped confirm I'm starting off right. Slow and steady with good content and comments. There is no golden egg, freedom isn't free. My recent post Definitions, Natural Law part 1

شات بنات
شات بنات 2 Like

thnaks s true, SEO is a long term activity that also requires long patience and dedication. It's satisfying to have a high grade at website grader although it's kinda frustrating if not all your deeds are recognized by it. Keywords etc.. But I guess, the social media could be the next or now the place to build links that can easily go viral in right techniques and quality content.

Sheen Edward
Sheen Edward 2 Like

It's true, SEO is a long term activity that also requires long patience and dedication. It's satisfying to have a high grade at website grader although it's kinda frustrating if not all your deeds are recognized by it. Keywords etc.. But I guess, the social media could be the next or now the place to build links that can easily go viral in right techniques and quality content. My recent post FEMA quickly replaces homes in Bastrop

Sandy 2 Like

Hey there, i`m a new Blogger and i learn soooooooooooo much about SEO and Blogging and Business and all the other Methods to push my Blog. Its fantastic and in my Head its makes .. grrrrrrrrrrrrrr *gg* Thank you Adam for sharing your experience. Wish you all the Best with your Projects and much Success.

Ricci Sionil
Ricci Sionil 2 Like

Using SEO techniques and a good website design is another key to success... My recent post Online Video Production London | On-line Video Marketing London

Ray 1 Like

I think most graders should be considered just for fun. Each of them likely has some different algorithm of some form. I doubt any of them are perfectly matched for google. Some of them can find things about your site that you missed, although most of the time not super important. Like missing image alt tags, and things like that. Another thing is it seems like there has been a lot of these graders popping up lately. I have no idea how many there are out there, but there has to be quite a few. I peek at a few of them every now and then, but do not spend a lot of time with them, nor do I really think of them as very reliable. My recent post 5 Tools to grade your website blog and accounts

Noel Addison
Noel Addison 1 Like

I definitely agree with Ray! How can we be sure that they will give us accurate result ? My recent post 5 Things to Look for in a Web Dev Company

Maxi 1 Like

“With this magical pill, you can cure all your woes ;-) you are right... Webmaster are lazy :-) sorry,... but its true. You must go with Time.. every Day the World and the Web change. I thank you for this great Post and wish you all the best in your Business and the Future. My recent post in der Flirtline den Richtigen finden

Lake Travis Realtors
Lake Travis Realtors 1 Like

I think the most important of all would be creating great content for your readers because they are actually what really matters. Probably after creating great content, you can then take website graders for your secondary consideration but they shouldn't catch much of your attention.

Michael Gibson
Michael Gibson 1 Like

Those website graders are complete and utter garbage. I hate how people try and make their website as good as they possibly can for the GRADERS and not the PEOPLE who read their blogs! My recent post THE Number 1 Greatest Source For Content In Any Niche

David Walker
David Walker 1 Like

Yep, off page SEO is vital if you want to maintain any kind of rankings - especially if your niche is competitive. If you aren't consistently working to get better you can bet one of your competitors is and they'll pass you up. I like SEMRush because they show you competitors main keywords that are driving traffic to their site, which can be handy sometimes. ~David Walker My recent post Why People Don’t Like “Free”

Adam 1 Like

Great point Richard. But our big question is WHY can't there be an off-site SEO web grader? It seems that people think of a website grader as an onsite SEO tool. At HubShout, we are thinking that an off-site website grader might be helpful.


I think that for the most part, you want to concentrate on making sure your content is readable for people and not worry so much about the website graders. However, you can still concentrate on off-site seo. This way, you will still get seo benefits while ensuring that you have good content. My recent post Amazon Introduces the Lending Library

Goa Holiday
Goa Holiday

Agreed, When I initially started to learn and work on SEO then I too have used such website graders and they always told you that you're title length is too much, Use only relevant keywords and so on. Though these points are essential but you can't rank on these tips, they never tell you anything about backlinks progress or any improvement. My recent post Goa Holiday