Thursday, 7 June 2012

Looking at Your Website from Google’s Perspective

Ever since the Panda first saw the light of day, Google has been hard at work, releasing algorithm updates to its search engine after every couple of months, at times even weeks. For instance in 2012, Google announced 40 updates in February, while another 50 were announced in March!

The purpose of these updates, as most of you would know, is to find and de-index low quality websites that don’t provide people with high-quality content, and ranking the websites that do provide better content and rank them as high as possible. At least that is what Google claims is the purpose of these updates.

There has been suspicion and secrecy about what exactly is Google’s criteria when it comes to evaluating websites and the methods used by Google to rank certain pages lower or higher than others.

Luckily, there are quite a few tools out there – free and paid – that enable you to look at your website from Google’s perspective – the way Google and its bots look at your website. These tools are extremely essential, in the sense that they let you look at certain elements of your website and your SEO that Google considers to be important, especially in terms of your organic search.

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these products in any way. The following is quite simple an honest review of the products that I’ve personally used)

1. Google Webmaster Tools

A lot of SEOs and webmasters don’t use this, but in order to understand how Google works, why not go to Google. Webmaster Tools is a free service, which is beginner-friendly and explains the basics of how Google Search functions well.

What it does is that it lets you see how Google views webpages and what criteria it deems important, which of these things are high-up Google’s assessment list, and the parameters that are used by Google search algorithms.

After you sign up at Webmaster Tools, you can see which keywords Google looks at when it crawls your website. This makes it extremely simple to see and assess if your keyword strategy really is up to par or not, and also if you need to be ranking for keywords that you’re targeting.

Furthermore, Webmaster Tools also lets you see the number of search queries and the CTR for each keyword.  

Another rather excellent aspect of Webmaster Tools is its diagnostics section – it lets you check for potential malware and crawl errors. The former can get your site blocked and de-indexed pretty quickly, the latter stop search engine crawlers from indexing your site completely, which could mean that parts of your website are never indexed. 

2. SEOmoz PRO

Another gem of a tool for SEOs, SEOmoz scans your blog/website and conducts a comprehensive and complete evaluation of all of its SEO-critical aspects. Be warned however that it takes time to prepare the report (sometimes even up to a week!).

The tool provides you with information on how your pages rank, how Google crawls your website, as well as individual aspects of your SEO such as URL, title, meta information, links and common yet critical SEO errors that are found on your website. Furthermore, it then presents its own recommendations on what you can do to help Google find your website.

One of the best features of this tool is its ability to let you see the SEO of as many as three of your competitors. It does this in a side-by-side manner and lets you see the strengths and weaknesses of your SEO at a glance, and how your efforts fare against your competition. This is brilliant if you want to know how or what exactly your competitors are doing and where potential opportunities are present.

The SEOmoz PRO Tool costs $99 a month to use, however it comes with a 30-day refund option, and you can cancel your subscription at any time within these 30 days if you think the service is not worth it (I highly doubt that you’ll think that!).

3. SEO Spider (by Screaming Frog)

A brilliant tool for SEMs and IMs, and designed especially for SEO’s SEO Spider crawls websites, examines the URLs for SEO issues and returns with recommendations to make optimization easier – all automatically. Doing this manually, especially with large website, is a near-impossible task, and probably something that would take ages to do. It allows for data to be exported to Excel (.CSV format), if you want to run it through further analysis.

SEO Spider assesses your on-page SEO, such as meta information for all posts and pages, images for ALT information, titles and headlines, to name a few. The lite version is free to use, but comes with limited features.

4. Broken Link Checker (by CheckMyLinks)

One of the worst things that could happen to your SEO is broken links. Having broken links (internal or external) simply destroys your SEO efforts, however that is where Broken Links Checker comes in. It comprehensively scans your website from A to Z, in particular the links. Or if you choose, it can also simply scan a single webpage instead. One of the best aspects of this tool is that it takes just a few seconds to do so (although it does depend on the size of your website).

The program then highlights the legit, working links in green, and the broken ones in red, on the page itself. This makes it easy for you to simply spot the ones that are no longer working, and helps you to replace those links. You can also do this before the page goes live, which lets you make the required corrections before the page ever sees the light of day and well before it is indexed.

The tool even gives you the total number of broken and good links on the page in a separate box.

And the best part? The tool is totally free to use! 

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