SEO Diagnosis for non SEOs

Note: This post was formerly called SEO Diagnosis Dinosaur, but I’ve recently changed it (2013 - Jan) because it was dumb :)

Professional SEO agencies receive quite a few enquiries when something goes wrong. Maybe you’ve noticed a traffic drop or something funny in search results, then panic sets in, and you call an SEO agency for help.

A doctor could diagnose your illness much faster if you gave him specific information, the same goes for SEO consultants who might spend working hours figuring out something you should have told them from the start.

The SEO Diagnosis Dinosaur (the tool below in this post) will run through a sample set of questions and checks that you should be doing before you contact professionals. By going through the list of questions, and clicking on the output button - we’ll auto-magically give you the information you need to give to an SEO.


  • Read the questions and click on the appropriate answer in the radio boxes (little circles)
  • You can press the Clear button at any time to start over
  • At the bottom of the form you can click on the Output button to get your information

1. Did you notice a problem with your Analytics or Google

Did you see a drop in your Analytics platform, or did you notice a problem with rankings in Google search results?

2. Is your analytics platform reporting properly?

For Google Analytics users, please download the GA Debugger and follow these instructions, then come back and answer this question. If you’re using Omniture or other platforms, please consult your representative.

Sometimes paid traffic (example:Adwords) can appear in Organic reports, please double check this.

Is your Analytics reporting correctly?

2. Have you double checked that your rankings have actually dropped?

Sometimes we panic because a rank tracker or an actual Google search shows incorrect results. This can happen for a variety of reasons including problems with SEO tools and personalization in search results

It’s best to double check this is actually happening, here’s one way:

Using Google Chrome:

  • Go into incognito mode (CTRL + SHIFT + N)
  • Please make sure you’re not signed in
  • Perform your search in your specific country - If you’re a UK business, go to
  • Notice the location setting on the left hand side. Try changing locations and write down the results

Did your rankings actually drop?

3. Looks like you have a problem. Is it affecting pages or keywords?

The first step is to check your Analytics platform for drops. The instructions below are primarily for Google Analytics, although *most Analytics platforms contain the same type of reporting.

1. Checking page problems

  • Log in to your Analytics Platform and go to your organic traffic report
  • You’ll need to guess some timelines, start with current week versus last week
  • Set your primary dimension (filter) to landing page. Look for unnatural drops among the pages
  • Is it single pages? Is it a folder group? Please note this.

2. Checking keyword problems

  • Log in to your Analytics Platform and go to your organic traffic report
  • You’ll need to guess some timelines, start with current week versus last week
  • Set your primary dimension (filter) to keywords. Look for unnatural drops among the keywords
  • Are they branded keywords, or non branded? Please note this.
  • Filter your report to only include the problem keywords
  • We need to associate these keywords with pages, if possible, add landing pages as a secondary dimension so you can get a better idea of what’s going on
  • Are these keywords from the same page? Group of pages? Please note this.

Page Level Checks

The following are a simple set of base checks you can do, but are not completely comprehensive. You may find some problems during your checks but if you’re unable or not confident in fixing them, you may want to seek help

Check robots.txt

  • Go to this page and enter in the affected page URL
  • If you see Access Allowed, you’re fine and this check is complete.
  • If you see Access Blocked, this means that Googlebot can’t get to the page.
  • you’ll need to remove the robots.txt block from that page to fix it.

Check for NOINDEX

  • Go to the affected page and open the source code (CTRL + U on Google Chrome)
  • Search for (CTRL + F on Chrome) for “NOINDEX” without quotes
  • If you find NOINDEX it in the source code, this could be the problem
  • NOINDEX tag will prevent this page from appearing in search, you’ll need to remove it.

Check for response codes ( here’s a handy chart for beginners)

  • Go to this page and enter the affected page URL
  • The top line will say HTTP/1.1 then followed by a 3 digit number
  • If the 3 digit code is 200, you’re fine
  • If the 3 digit code is 301 or 302, check the Location line for the new location of the page. Note this.
  • If the 3 digit code is 404, 410, 500 - your website may be experiencing server side problems or missing pages

Check for canonical tag

  • Go to the affected page and open the source code (CTRL + U on Google Chrome)
  • Search for (CTRL + F on Chrome) for (rel=“canonical”) without brackets
  • If you find the canonical it in the source code, this could be the problem
  • If the rel=“canonical” href=“URL” points to anything other than the page you’re currently on, the current page may not appear in search results.

Keyword level problems

This is probably best left in the hands of professionals

We could be looking at a penalty, algorithm update or even something more complicated. However, there are certain things you should tell the SEO agency right away:

  • Have you done article marketing, directory link building or paid for links?
  • Have you ever been penalized before?
  • If you have Google Webmaster tools set up, have you received any messages?
  • What changes have you made to your website in the last week/months ?

Hopefully this helps a few people, thanks for reading. A special thanks to Naz who introduced me to JQUERY 36 hours ago, and Tom for saving me from dumb coding errors

Dave Sottimano

Dave Sottimano

David Sottimano comes from a varied background in Corporate Marketing and Professional Sales. His love affair between the internet and marketing has finally found the perfect balance at Distilled, and continues to flourish each day. He graduated...   read more

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  1. David, that's one neat and simple tool. :D
    Good luck in your JQUERY journey!

    reply >
    • David Sottimano

      I might be addicted to JQUERY, I hope the obsession doesn't ruin me :) Thanks Max

  2. A really nice tool! I’m always inundated with clients claiming that their rankings have dropped or changed when they are getting personalised or localised results. I will be sure to direct them to this tool in the future!

    reply >
  3. Love this idea - great approach to creating something that fills the gap between nothing at all and a full-blown tool (and, let's face it, you can't build a tool that magically solves all problems). If 10% of the people who go to hire an SEO had these basic questions in their hands, we'd all be a lot better off.

    reply >
    • David Sottimano

      Yes! I love helping people out, especially in the Moz Q&A, except it takes 3-4 back and forth questions to actually determine the problem.

  4. Great little tool! Like David has mentioned above, seen a big influx of emails recently so it will this will be a good tool to direct users to. BTW, great job with jQuery :)

    reply >
  5. This is far better than the infographic/walkthrough map with lots of arrows based on YES / NO answer I saw couple of months ago.

    Thanks a ton for this David! :)

    reply >
    • David Sottimano

      You're welcome! I know exactly what you're talking about, and I agree with you 100%.

  6. Anthony Haniff

    Nice diagnostic tool, my first of port call would always be, has there been an IT upload?

    reply >
  7. this is something Ive never heard about it. Im very innovative for learning and seeking the knowledge this is really impressive. I really like Ctrl + shift + N :p this is really new for me :) thanks buddy

    reply >
  8. I love this tool its very simple. I will be sure to using this tool in future for my work..Thanks mate

    reply >
  9. I also followed the step by step check, thanks for simple but wonderful tricks. Also, my website has been effcted by Google recent update penguin, wht do you have to say for my website (mentioned in the comment).

    reply >
  10. This is such a simple but very great and usefull tool. thanks for sharing David. I have the same sentiment with Rahki. some of my monitored sites got affected with the penguin update, traffic went down severely. :( now i have to pick up the pieces and do the things i need to do.

    do you have any other suggestions how to be back on track?

    reply >
  11. Hi

    Great article shared.

    I have a question about Google Analytics Content Experiments.

    My goal type is currently URL Destination.
    And we push conversions manually to analytics after phone call matching, normally it takes one day.

    We use this code for pushing conversions.

    var _gaq = _gaq || [];
    _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'XX-XXXXXXXX-X']);
    _gaq.push(['_setAllowAnchor', true]);

    What I want to know is how do I push a conversion manually for a specific variation.

    Thanks in advance for help.

    reply >

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