As the SEO industry grows, agencies are finding better and better ways to support the clients and teams with which they work. One area of SEO that continues to be particularly challenging is providing recommendations for on-page SEO in a way that encourages buy-in (a common SEO problem) and actually gets implemented.
On-page SEO can be relatively straightforward if the same person or team responsible for SEO strategy is also in charge of making updates in the CMS of the website, but that’s usually not the case. Because on-page recommendations typically have to be approved before going live on a website, most recommendations for on-page SEO have to be presented in a spreadsheet or Google Doc. However, isolating page copy, headings, and the like from their context within the website’s overall design can be confusing for team members who are used to looking at their content directly on the webpage. If you’re an SEO professional, you’ve probably been in a situation where you’ve made recommendations for headings tags, copy changes, or internal links, and a client or senior team member has asked “can you show me on the actual site what you’re recommending so I can see it?”
Humans process visual information up to 600 times faster than textual information, so it makes sense that clients or team members want to see the changes that are being recommended exactly as they would appear on the site. And of course, savvy SEOs have our solution to this: screenshots! Lots and lots of screenshots, we love ’em. Screenshots solve everything, right? Well, not exactly. If you consider the time it takes to recapture via screenshots what your client or team has already created on the page, then editing the content via the DevTools console or through photo editing tools to show changes, and then screenshotting the changes for juxtaposition, it’s not the most efficient use of time and resources.
UpBuild recently began to wonder whether there might be a way to provide SEO recommendations that could close the gaps between the SEO professionals and the developers, copywriters, and leadership team that has to approve and implement everything, without wasting time and money or losing our sanity in the process. One possible resolution to this ongoing challenge comes in the form of visual website feedback tools intended for web designers and developers.
Read on to find out how using visual feedback tools could simplify your process for providing On-Page SEO recommendations, and potentially remove roadblocks to buy-in, approval, and implementation.
What Are Visual Feedback Tools?
Visual feedback tools are a resource primarily used by UX designers and developers to recommend changes to a website’s layout and features, directly onto the website. These tools typically come with a whole host of features that make providing feedback on a webpage seamless and intuitive. For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on tools and features that we think have potential to benefit the on-page SEO process.
Using Visual Feedback Tools for On-Page SEO Recommendations
By far the most impactful aspect of a visual feedback tool is the ability to edit and comment in a webpage directly. There’s no copy-and-pasting, screenshots, or custom element extraction necessary. The tool UpBuild has begun using, and the one we’ll demonstrate for this post, is called Pastel. (Note that this is not a sponsored post; UpBuild and Pastel are not affiliated in any way.) Unlike most tools that seem to be geared more towards development teams and foregrounding features like bug reporting, we found Pastel, and tools like it, to be better suited to the job of communicating on-page SEO recommendations because of its focus on appearance.
Below are the features we found to be the most useful to our process and the ones we recommend looking for when choosing a visual feedback tool for on-page SEO recommendations for your clients or team.
Ease of Use
One of the reasons we’ve been using Pastel is that it finds a nice balance between functionality, cost, and ease of use. Anyone can start using Pastel immediately after signup, at no cost and with a minimal learning curve. To start using it, you just enter any URL into the website URL form field found at the top of a ready-made dashboard (see above). Entering a URL creates what Pastel calls a Canvas, which is an editable visual reproduction of the website. It has a similar look and feel to what you may see if you use tools like WAVE, which flags elements on a webpage that may not meet accessibility standards.
Once the URL is entered, your Canvas should look like the above image, which was created from entering the URL for The Museum of Bad Art, or MOBA. Once you’ve entered the URL, your Canvas is ready for immediate feedback, given in the form of comments and edits. Each Pastel Canvas can house comments and edits for an entire website. To navigate to and edit other pages on the same Canvas, simply toggle from Comment Mode to Browse Mode.
You can also see both a desktop and mobile version of the website to address any device-specific changes or recommendations (see below).
Once you’ve decided which page to start on, you can begin adding comments and making edits. We found using comments for non-text elements and edits for text elements to be the most logical way to use these features.
Commenting on Non-Text Elements
Most visual feedback tools incorporate commenting features, and we found this to be great for recommending updates to elements that are typically not visible to the viewer, unlike headings or page copy. These peripheral elements include things like image alt text, page titles, and meta descriptions. Additionally, we recommend using comments to call out elements that are absent from the page, such as a missing H1 heading tag.
To add a comment in Pastel, simply click anywhere on the page to open a comment box. Once you’ve added your comment, select who will be able to see the comment after feedback is shared — “Everyone” for any person who has or will have access to the Canvas, or “Team” for anyone you’ve directly added as a team user to your Pastel account — and then hit Post Comment.
Besides these non-text elements, comments can also be used to suggest updating or adding internal or external links, as Pastel does not currently have the ability to add links directly to text like you might see in Suggest Mode for a Google Doc. (However, you can edit anchor text for links that already exist on the page.)
Editing for Text Updates
The ability to directly edit text content on a web page was a big differentiator when comparing visual feedback tools. This feature is an excellent way to suggest grammar, spelling, or keyword-informed changes to headings, existing anchor text, and page copy.
To edit the text on the page in Pastel, simply click anywhere in the element box where the text is located and select “Change this text.” (Keep in mind that wherever you click your cursor will be the permanent marker point for that comment, so, try as much as possible not to cover up the text.)
Once you’ve edited the text, select “Save changes.” Any comments or edits made on the page will be tracked, numbered, and organized by page and time in the left-hand window (see below).
Selecting the comment/edit will expand comment details, which will allow you to see replies from team members or clients — both before and after edits — as well as attach items, and update the comment’s status (see below).
Sharing and Exporting Feedback
The ability to export may not be necessary for every SEO workflow, but we have found it to have potential benefits for clients who use popular project management tools like Asana or Trello. Once you have completed your edits for the page or site in Pastel, you can share them with your team or client with the Canvas’s unique link (see above), or export the feedback to a designated project management tool (see below).
On-Page SEO Recommendations for Multiple Pages
One of the best and worst aspects of Pastel, and other visual feedback tools, is the ability to capture a whole site’s worth of recommendations in a single Canvas. This can result in some pretty messy issues when it comes to organizing and prioritizing your feedback, especially when working with multiple pages. For instance, you can’t easily filter comments down to a specific page within one Canvas, and you can’t sort Canvases by the most important pages. Even worse, you can’t even sort by oldest comments, only most recent, so if you wanted to prioritize your recommendations according to the most important pages, you’d either have to create your comments in reverse order (i.e. putting the least important pages first), or instruct your web team to process them in reverse order. Yikes.
The only real way to prioritize pages is by creating a separate Canvas for each page or page template. Unfortunately, only paid versions of the platform allow you to use Folders to organize multiple Canvases. So, until Pastel adds more robust features for navigating multiple pages on a site, it may still be beneficial to force some level of organization with an external tool (or spring for the paid version of the tool). If you decide to use the free version, whether of Pastel or some other tool, you can download UpBuild’s free template: On-Page SEO Optimization for Multiple Pages which allows you to consolidate and organize your recommendations.
If you’re currently using a Google Doc, a slide deck, or a spreadsheet to deliver your recommendations, consider experimenting with a tool like Pastel to see what meets your specific needs. If you’ve found a tool you like to use for providing On-Page SEO Recommendations or have questions on using visual feedback tools like Pastel, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!