Monday, 4 January 2010

Search Engine Optimization Toolkit

I recently downloaded and installed the Microsoft Search Engine Optimisation Toolkit, having been alerted to it via a blog post from Scott Guthrie. To install you need to have IIS7 administration tools on your PC - which seems a little odd as you can point it to any server and have it analyse your site. Perhaps originally it was intended for use only on sites on the specific server that it is installed, but it seems a little odd that it's not a standalone tool.

Nonetheless, it's very straightforward to install and use. Once installed using the Microsoft Web Platform Installer it appears as a new icon within IIS Manager (Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager).



Click on the icon to start a new analysis - enter a name, URL and you can fire it off.

Once complete a set of results are displayed summarising the results of the analysis. Helpfully they are presented grouped by error, which, as well as providing a straightforward way to view the potential problems, also serves as a useful learning tool for some SEO best practices.

Some of the problems that can be identified are as follows:
  • Broken links
  • Missing <h1> tag - considered by SEO experts to be one of the key fields used to rank pages... if the search term is in your <h1> tag the page be more likely to rank higher. It's also a common error to place the website title in the <h1> tag on deep pages, often simply because it's presented in the largest font. Generally you would want to put the most relevent title (usually the page title rather than the site one) in the <h1> tag, and use CSS to style it smaller should this be required by the design.
  • Missing (and too short) <title> tags
  • Missing <meta> description - perhaps not used so much now by ranking algorithms, but still often used to present summary information about the website in search engine results.
  • Multiple canonical formats - pages with the same content linked under different URLs. From an SEO perspective it's best to avoid this as search engines can penalise this (I got a few "false negatives" here though with the toolkit complaining about images which I presume is just a bug where the toolkit is assuming two different images of similar sizes and formats are returing the same content)
  • Missing alt tags
  • Invalid markup (e.g. tags opened and not closed). So the toolkit can also be used as a basic alternative to the W3C validator.
All in all, looks to be a useful tool that can be run on a site under development and content population in order to ensure best practices are being followed.

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