Archive for the 'Website Applications' Category

Parsing SEO From the Ground Up – The Finale

parserpart3We’ve talked about the parser, and how it deals with various web technologies, so lets address how you can verify what’s being parsed.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google makes content parsing verification easy with a set of tools— the Google Webmaster Tools.  If you haven’t utilized this tool set, then you’re not serious about SEO or SEM.  The Google Webmaster Tools gives you direct insight into what the googlebot— the name for Google’s parser, sees when it crawls your site.

Getting Started

The tool set doesn’t require any downloads or installation, its all web based, making it really easy to use. Like all Google online tools, it will require an account.  If you already have an AdWords or Analytics account, you are ready to go.   If not, registration only takes a minute.  You will need access to your web server.  In order to activate your account, Google requires you to verify your site ownership by uploading a file to your server.  Don’t worry, its a simple html file with a specific name, that you create.  No security issues to worry about, and you can delete the file once the account is verified.

The Google Webmaster Tools provides a great way to know how your website is being parsed.

The Google Webmaster Tools provides a great way to know how your website is being parsed.

Important SEO Metrics

Inside the tool set you’ll find a vast array of metrics.  We’ll look at few of the most important.

What Googlebot sees
This section provides the top 100 phrases and keywords in your site content– as the Google parser views your page.  If you’ve paid for professional SEO work, here’s where you can ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Top search queries
Another critical SEO/SEM tool.  What Google search queries provide you the most traffic?  You might be surprised.  Again, here you can verify that your SEM strategy is on the right track.  You can also discover other areas of potential SEM success.

Index Stats
Find out what pages Google already has indexed.  Important information, especially if you see pages missing. Also provides a list of pages that link to your sites homepage.  This is the most important stat in terms of Google organic SEO.

Diagnostics
Another important tool set.  Lets you know if Google had any problems crawling your site.  We discussed potential technology related crawling errors the last post— this particular tool provides a way to ensure those pages, and all the other pages of your site are crawled properly.

Only the Beginning of Your SEO Journey

Hopefully our walk through web crawling technology has demystified CSS web design. SEO and SEM are always a work in progress, but your web design will provide a solid foundation upon which to build.  You should also note that SEO and SEM efforts will be greatly improved with the proper use of web analytics.  Even if the parser sees the correct keywords and phrases, you must still consider the human factor.  You’ll definitely want to implement multivariate testing as a part of your analytics approach.

One final note.  It’s important to realize that the Google Webmaster Tools only gives you the Google perspective.  The MSN or yahoo search engines may view your site somewhat differently.  Yet, good results with the Google tools, generally means a good chance of success with other search engines as well.  At this time, I don’t know of any similar tools for the other major search engines.  If anyone out there knows of any, drop us a line so we can spread the word.

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Welcome to xyz.com, Please Hold…

speedtest“Thank you for calling, please hold.”

This phrase should be nominated as the most irritating phone salutation in the history of telecommunications. It’s one reason the Internet has such traction. The web serves information in an instant, and the site visitor doesn’t have to wait— usually. 

Yet, we’ve all been put on web-hold due to slow downloading pages.  The site has broken the “seven second” rule. If you’re unfamiliar, web design professionalism dictates that your home page  load completely in seven seconds or less.  If it doesn’t, you’re  losing visitors.  We’re not talking about those times when your web server suffers some technical issue.  We’re focusing on design flaw.

Do a Self-Check

Don’t worry if you’ve never designed a web page, browser technology makes checking download speeds easy. Firefox provides an add-on called Firebug.  If you’ve never heard of it, that just means you probably don’t do a great deal of web programming, its a staple of the web design community.  Google’s new web browser Chrome, provides the same functionality with it’s element inspector, inherent in the browser with no add-on install required.

FireFox's Firebug makes it easy for non-techies to test download speeds.

FireFox's Firebug makes it easy for non-techies to test download speeds.

Each tool will give you the files being downloaded— scripts, images, flash etc, and the time it takes each to download. In addition, you get the download time for the page in its entirety (don’t worry if the individual file numbers don’t equal the page total, there’s a valid technical reason).

What If Your Page Downloads Too Slow?

If you find your page downloading in over seven seconds, look to the individual file download times. Start with the largest files. Look for image files first, files with a ‘.png’, ‘.jpg’, ‘.jpeg’ or ‘.gif’ extension. Try these quick fixes:
.png
Ask your graphics designer to convert and optimize these images to either .jpg or .gif. The latter two  file formats will produce smaller file sizes.

.jpg or .gif
Ask your graphic designer to optimize these images if she hasn’t already done so.

Files with .swf, .wmv or .mpg extensions will be a greater challenge. Flash produces .swf file formats for the web. .wmv and .mpg are video. See if any of these tips help:
.swf
These are flash files. Ask your Flash designer if the file size can be reduced. Because of the nature of flash files, this may require redevelopment work. If the flash files are menus, see if they can be replaced with a CSS or java script equivalent.

.wmv, .mpg or any other video file formats
Check the compression of the video files.  Compression can effect video quality, so be careful. This can be accomplished with various video editing tools. You might also consider implementing the video in a different way.  This is something to discuss with your web designer.

Consider Your Internet  Connection Type

Both browser tools provide times based upon your particular connection.  Remember that cable connections tend to provide faster download speeds than DSL.  If your cable connection downloads your page in seven seconds flat, downloads by DSL users probably exceed the limit. Other commercial tools exist which can simulate different connections types.  They range in price, but depending on how often you make changes to your website, it could be worth the investment.

Before You Go…

Don’t just trust the fact that the page loads quickly on your computer.  Most likely you visit your company’s website everyday,  the browser will load many files from the local hard drive.  For your first time visitors this isn’t the case.  You’ll also want to clear your cache to get a true reading. Realize this means you might lose all your saved logins, so I suggest doing this on a work computer,  rather than one for personal use.