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March 21, 2011

SEO Tools for Microsoft IIS Servers

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One of the most frustrating things that I have come across is a CMS (Content Management System) that has poor support for SEO. Basic tools such as generating a sitemap, searching for broken links or checking markup are often unavailable. This blog will focus on SEO tools available for websites built on Microsoft IIS and how effective they are in covering a website assessment.

At Bruce Clay we group core SEO requirements in 3 broad categories: Technical, Expertness/Linking and Copywriting. These are broken into sub areas of which some are shown below

Core SEO elements:



Tools such as the MS IIS Search Engine Optimisation Toolkit, and Expression Web SEO Checker help to optimise or support the technical aspects of your website. These include sitemaps, robot exclusions, HTML and structure.

 

 

The IIS SEO Toolkit helps web developers and server administrators to improve their Website’s relevance in search results.

It has a fully featured crawler engine and reporting which helps understand the route search engines reach your content. This is important since the preliminary step for Search Engines is to index your content. What do you want indexed? Are there parts of your site you do not want a robot having access? And are there any errors in your URLs that are preventing a spider from crawling?

In addition this toolkit has Robot Exclusion Features and the ability to generate Sitemaps based on the architecture of your site. A robots.txt and a sitemap are mandatory files when setting up a website on GWT ( Google Webmaster Tools). GWT helps webmasters see how Google is crawling and indexing their site and also provides data for ranking and traffic reports for SEO specialists.

Microsoft Expression Web is an HTML editor and general web design product by Microsoft. It supports XHTML, XML, CSS, W3C accessibility standards and also integrates with Visual Studio. It was released at the end of 2006 and has had positive reviews. Last year Expression Web 4 provided a new reporting tool, the SEO Checker.

The SEO Checker analyses page structure and content based on 50 rules that the Expression Web team have researched. What does the SEO checker do? It focuses on HTML markup and relevant content. This covers the sub categories of HTML and structure in BCA core technical requirements mentioned above.

The SEO checker’s rules provide guidance in the following categories mentioned in MSDN blog, Using the Expression Web SEO Checker.

Content is not where search engines expect to find it

e.g. a missing title tag, empty H1, or missing ALT attributes

Relevance: Title tags are used to identify what your page is about and hold important keywords. This is what appears in SERP (Search Engine Results Page). H1 is an important element of page structure and is a must have element in grouping content in headings. Alt attributes label images and are needed for accessibility requirements as well as appearing in Google Images.

Content or markup follows patterns that may be associated with deceptive practices

Relevance: This a test to see if you are inadvertently stuffing keywords or have excessive content in your page, metadata and ALT attributes or using redirection inappropriately which can penalise your position in search engine rankings.

Content or markup interferes with the ability of search engines to analyze a page

Relevance: This is similar to running your page to in W3C HTML Validator. It will look for missing tags and see if HTML elements are nested correctly. It checks to see if the page is well formed and parsed correctly.

Content or markup reduces the appeal of a page in search-engine results.

Relevance: This analyses how optimum your title and metadata schema is. Are elements missing and are they too short in length. This is the information that is displayed in SERP (Search Engine Ranking Results Page)

Content causes search engines to consider two or more pages to be relevant to the same search term.

Relevance: This analyses your site for duplicate content. Is your title and description unique? This information can also be obtained in HTML suggestions in Google Webmaster tools. It also checks malformed URLs that can result in duplicate URLs such as session IDs, uppercase characters and redundant forward slashes.

Content or markup blocks search engines from analysing your site.

Relevance: This checks to see if content is being blocked from search engines. Are there any errors that are preventing your site being crawled properly? This covers hyperlinks with the nofollow attribute, hyperlinks with too many parameters or invalid chars attributes in the <meta name=”robots”>

The above tools are great for webmasters and server administrators who maintain a MS IIS site. It’s particularly helpful if they are using a CMS that lacks SEO support. Note that these tools do not analyse Expertness/Linking or Copywriting as described in the BCA core SEO elements above. For link profiling a good set of tools would be Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer. For copywriting the Bruce Clay SEO Toolset can come in handy for optimising content on webpages.





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