At the Digital Fertilizer event two weeks ago, I briefly mentioned that businesses should use Screaming Frog to help them improve their website’s onpage search engine optimization.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to demonstrate its basic uses, so let’s do that now.

What is Screaming Frog?

It’s a small program that runs on your computer, not in the cloud.  It spiders your website’s pages, looking for links, images, CSS, script, etc.

The first thing you should do is download Screaming Frog and install it.  It’s free to download to your Mac, PC or Ubuntu.

Once you’ve installed it, open it up, and you will see this.

Screaming Frog Screen - Improve Onpage SEO

Enter your site’s URL where it says, “Enter url to spider,” and click start.  Depending on the size of your site, this can either be very fast or very slow.  In this example, I’ll use the URL of my alma mater (Taylor University) because they have a large site.

You will see the spider returning a lot of results.  As it crawls your site, it will tell you what percentage is completed.  Even before it hits 100%, you can sift through your data.

Screaming Frog crawls your site for SEO purposes

The screen is too small to show you all the different details it’s returning, but if you scroll horizontally, you will see details for every URL including its content, status, H1 & H2, meta description, and so on.

But the real power of Screaming Frog is in its tabs and filters.

How to Find Title Tags

To optimize your site’s title tags, click the “Page Titles” tab (1).  Under “Filter” (2) you have several useful options that will simplify your life.

Use Screaming Frog to improve title tags

Right now you’re seeing all the title tags, but click on the dropdown.

Use Screaming Frog Page Title filters to find missing title tags

You will see you can sort the pages as follows:

  • Missing – You want to write title tags immediately if any pages are missing a title.

  • Duplicate – Don’t confuse search engines by having duplicate tags on different pages.  Write unique tags for every page.

  • Over 70 Characters – If your tags are over 70 characters, search engines will cut it off and add an ellipsis.  To make sure search engines display your whole tag, rewrite it until it’s within 70 characters.

  • Below 30 Characters – If your tags are under 30 characters, you’re missing an opportunity to add more relevant details for search engines and people.

  • Same as H1 – Your title tag and H1 should be similar.

  • Multiple – Some pages may have more than one title.  Delete the one you don’t want to make sure search engines display the right one.

How to Find Meta Descriptions

Click the “Meta Description” tab and you can see the meta descriptions for every page.

Use Screaming Frog to Improve Meta Descriptions

Click the dropdown next to “Filter” and you can sort the pages as follows:

  • Missing – If a page doesn’t have a meta description, search engines will typically grab the first words on the page and display that as the description.  This can cause a lot of confusion for users so make sure you write a brief and detailed description of each page.

  • Duplicate – Rewrite duplicate descriptions for unique pages so your visitors aren’t confused.

  • Over 156 Characters – Search engines will cut off lengthy descriptions with an ellipsis. Make sure your full message is displayed by writing descriptions within 156 characters.

  • Below 70 Characters – You’re probably missing an opportunity to provide more useful information if you’re below 70 characters.  Expand it with more detail.

  • Multiple – Some pages may have more than one meta description.  Delete the one you don’t want to ensure search engines display the right one.

How to Find H1 & H2

To see if your pages have keywords in your primary header (h1) and secondary header (h2), click the tabs for “H1” (1) and “H2” (2) and filter (3) by missing, duplicate and so on.

Use Screaming Frog to improve H1 and H2

If your pages either don’t have keywords in your H1 and H2, or they don’t even have an H1 or H2, write them for each page.

How to Find 404 Pages

If someone clicks on a page and it returns a 404 error, it can frustrate them and make them leave.

To find your site’s 404 pages, click the “Response Codes” tab (1).  You will see you can now sort by Status Code (2).  Click on the Status Code tab until you see the arrow pointing down.  This means it’s sorting the codes by the highest number to the lowest.

Use Screaming Frog to find 404 pages
In this example you will see there are many 404 pages (not unusual on such a large site).  If you find any 404 pages on your site, you can 301 redirect those URLs to existing pages.

How to Find Alt Text

Alt text tells search engines (and people) what an image is.  They’re often overlooked when optimizing a site.  To see if your images are properly optimized, click the “Images” tab (1).  It will tell you how many images you have on your site (2).

Use Screaming Frog to find 404 pages

Clicking “Filter” will show you three valuable options:

Use Screaming Frog to optimize images

  • Over 100kb – Large images slow load time, which can negatively impact the user experience and damage your rankings.

  • Missing Alt Text – Immediately displays what images lack alt text.  Write some.

  • Alt Text Over 100 Characters – Long alt text can suggest keyword stuffing.  Shorten the alt text to include only the most pertinent keyword(s).

Now What Do I Do?

Now that you’ve found the pages that need title tags, meta descriptions, H1, H2, 301 redirects, and alt text, at every stage of the process you can export your findings as a CSV.  Do so.  Then combine the CSVs into an Excel Spreadsheet or as a Google Doc Spreadsheet.  It’ll help you keep track of the pages you’ve optimized, and those that remain.

When you have optimized all the pages, run Screaming Frog again to see if you missed anything and repeat the process.

There’s a lot more you can do with this tool, but these basic functions will help you strengthen your site’s onpage SEO.

If you have any questions, please ask away in the comment section below.  Thanks!