As an SEO, I use a wide range of tools to help me with my job. There are loads of tools out there and being honest, I often forget about some of the ones I have available to me. Today I wanted to show you the contents of my bookmarks when it comes to technical SEO. I’ll talk about the tool itself and highlight some SEO tasks that it can help with.
I will be talking about XML Sitemap Validator, Bulk HTTP header response checker, W3C Internationalization Checker, Web Page Speed Test, SEO Toolkit for IIS, Built With, Schema Creator, Reverse IP lookup, Spy on Web, Check Websites on same IP C Class and Screaming Frog.
What it does: Checks your XML sitemaps for broken URLs.
Why this matters: Having broken links in your XML sitemap can cause the search engines to lose trust. Bing confirmed this in an interview over on Stone Temple last year. The key thing to remember is that all URLs in your sitemap should return a status 200 header response. You do not want to see any redirects, 404s or 500s.
What it does: Allows you to check the HTTP header codes of a bunch of URLs at the same time. You can also compare the responses for different user agents such as Googlebot
Why this matters: Checking header response codes is important because you need to keep an eye out for any responses that are not 200. These are commonly things like 404, 500, 301 and 302. Sometimes there are good reasons for 301s and 302s, but you’ll want to keep an eye on them and fix them if appropriate anyway. Checkout this guide to learn more about the different ypes of HTTP responses.
What it does: You can enter your URL and the tool will look for elements of the page that indicate whether it is targeted to a specific language or country.
Why this matters: If you are targeting a specific country or language, you need to make sure you are sending all the right signals from a markup perspective. There are some subtle signals that can help to send signals to the search engines of what country you are targeting. It can also highlight where you may be accidently targeting the wrong variation of a language such as US english instead of GB english.
What it does: Lets you compare the speed of your website against your competitors. The output is a video which shows each site loading side by side. You can also change the location of the test server to take account of where servers are located.
Why it matters: Whilst site speed matters a little from an SEO point of view, to me it is even more important for users. Particularly if you are an eCommerce website, so you should make sure that your website loads as quickly as possible. Using a tool like this one can be quite powerful as it gives a great visual indicator of how fast your site really is. Showing this to your bosses or to developers can be a great way of getting buy in for site speed improvements.
What it does: A more appropriate question in the case of the SEO toolkit is what doesn’t it do! There are loads of things it can do, but the main thing that I tend to use it for is crawling large websites and gathering data about each URL. The crawl can be incredibly powerful, especially if you crawl from the cloud.
Why it matters: When doing a technical SEO audit of any site, you should start with a deep crawl of the site to gather as much data as you can. For example you’ll want to gather header response codes, META data and URL structures. This gives you a great starting point and can often highlight a bunch of technical SEO issues very quickly.
What it does: Tells you lots of information about what it sitting behind a website. For example what framework it is built on, what CMS is uses, what analytics package it uses etc.
Why it matters: It can be useful to know this kind of information because there can sometimes be technical SEO problems caused by the software / platforms used. For example, there are known issues with using a .NET framework as well as using WordPress. So being aware of these can help you spot problems pretty quickly.
Extra tip: Check out the Built With trends page for some interesting stats on the usage of various web technologies.
What it does: A really easy interface to generate the correct Schema.org markup for your content. You can input your content such as a person or organisation, then copy and paste the output onto your website.
Why it matters: Use of Schema.org vocabulary in search results is growing and you need to take advantage of it to give the search engines more information about your content. This tool makes this process painless and super easy.
What it does: Allows you to input a domain and returns a list of other domains that are hosted on the same server. You can also enter an IP address.
Why it matters: There are a few uses for this one. One of which from a technical perspective is seeing what other domains are on the same server as your own site – if any of these sites are spammy or have very bad link profiles, it is possible for Google to associate your website with them.
Something to note here – many shared hosting packages could have hundreds of sites on the same server which are all controlled by different owners. So be careful here and don’t automatically assume that sites on the same server are controlled by the same people.
What it does: Spyonweb also does a reverse IP lookup as outlined above. But additionally, it allows you to check for websites that are using the same Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and Google Adsense accounts.
Why it matters: There are occasions where someone else may be using the same Google Analytics code as you. This happens more often that you’d imagine. This tool allows you to find websites that are using your Google Analytics code quickly. It also helps when trying to identify link networks who leave foot prints such as the same Adsense code.
What it does: You can enter a list of domains and see very easily which ones are hosted on the same C Class IP.
Why it matters: This is a tool more for technical link analysis than on-page SEO, but it is really useful so I wanted to include it. If you are doing link profile analysis, you can upload a list of domains and easily find foot prints of sites that are hosted on the same C Class IP.
What it does: A very powerful crawler which will return a bunch of info about a set of URLs such as response code, META data, rel=canonical tags and duplicate content.
Why it matters: This should be part of any SEO’s toolkit. Doing technical site audits with Screaming Frog is really easy, it is similar to the SEO toolkit I mentioned above but I’ve included it for two main reasons. Firstly it is very powerful but super easy to setup – SEO toolkit can take a bit of work to setup. Secondly, you can use it to crawl lists of URLs which are across loads of different domains, this can be useful for link profile analysis for example.
There you have it, I’d love to hear what other tools you guys use, feel free to leave a comment and let us know or ping me on Twitter.
(originally posted May 10 2012)