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Published: Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Maximize Your Website's Search Engine Placement Using Microsoft's Free SEO Toolkit

By Scott Mitchell


Introduction


Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the practice of improving a website's position in search engines' results using unpaid techniques. The driver behind SEO is that a better (higher) position in the search results will, most likely, lead to more click throughs, increasing the website's visibility, audience, and profit. A previous article here on 4Guys, Search Engine Optimization Enhancements in ASP.NET 4, explored some of ASP.NET 4's new features designed to aid with SEO. Another helpful tool for SEO is Microsoft's SEO Toolkit, a free IIS add-on that you can run from your computer to inspect a local or remote website and identify potential issues that may impact its search engine rankings.

Using Microsoft's SEO Toolkit is simple. Once installed, run it and specify the website you want to analyze. The SEO Toolkit can analyze both local websites or remote ones. After you've specified the URL of the website to analyze, the SEO Toolkit will crawl the site, exploring its pages and identify potential issues that may affect the site's search engine rankings and offer suggestions on how to fix them. This article walks through getting started with the SEO Toolkit, showing how to use it and how to analyze its results and implement its suggestions to help improve your website's search engine placement. Read on to learn more!

- continued -

Installing the SEO Toolkit and Examining Its Options


The SEO Toolkit is not a stand-alone desktop application; instead, it is an add-on for IIS 7 (or beyond) and is used from within the Internet Information Services Manager. Consequently, to install the SEO Toolkit your computer must have IIS 7 (or beyond) installed.

To install the SEO Toolkit, start by going to the SEO Toolkit homepage. There you'll find a green button titled "Install Now," that, when clicked, launches Microsoft's Web Platform Installer. (If you do not already have the Web Platform Installer on your machine it will download and install that first.) Once the Web Platform Installer has been launched, click the "Install" button to download and install the necessary files.

Install the SEO Toolkit using the Web Platform Installer.

After the installation has completed, open IIS Manager. (A link to the Internet Information Services Manager should be under the Administrative Tools section in the Control Panel. See How to: Open IIS Manager for step-by-step instructions.) You should see a new option under the Management section titled Search Engine Optimization.

Access the SEO Toolkit from within IIS Manager.

The SEO Toolkit offers three tools, which you can find by double-clicking the Search Engine Optimization icon in IIS Manager:

  • Site Analysis - analyzes a local or remote website and makes suggestions on how to optimize the site for search engine crawlers.
  • Sitemaps and Sitemap Indexes - one way for a search engines to index your site is to crawl it, which involves indexing a seed page (such as the homepage) and then indexing those pages the homepage links to, and the pages those secondary pages link to, and so on. Search engines can also use a sitemap file, which is an XML-formatted file that explicitly tells the search engine what pages to index, how frequently they are updated, and other pertinent information. (The sitemap file for a search engine is not the same thing as the ASP.NET sitemap file, Web.sitemap.) This tool offers a GUI interface for creating and managing sitemap files.
  • Robots Exclusion - you can use a file named Robots.txt to specify certain files or directories that search engines should not index. This tool offers a GUI interface for creating and managing a Robots.txt file.
This article focuses on using the Site Analysis tool.

Running a New Site Analysis


To start a site analysis, open IIS Manager, double-click the Search Engine Optimization icon in the Management section, and then click the "Create a new analysis" link under the Site Analysis heading. This displays a dialog box that prompts you to name the analysis and provide the URL from where the analysis will being. Again, this URL can be for a local website, such as http://localhost/Default.aspx, or for a remote website, like http://www.4guysfromrolla.com. Additionally, you can specify the maximum number of URLs to crawl, the maximum download size per URL, authentication information, and other configuration options from the Advanced Settings box, if needed.

Create a new site analysis report.

Once you have specified the website to analyze, click the OK button to start the analysis. Over the next several minutes the SEO Toolkit will crawl the website you specified, indicating how many URLs have been processed, the total number of encountered links, how much data has been downloaded, and the total elapsed time.

Crawl Any Remote Site, Regardless of What Web Server Powers It
As I noted earlier, the SEO Toolkit installs as an IIS add-on, meaning that you must have IIS 7 (or beyond) on your computer in order to install it. However, there are no such web server requirements for the site analysis tool. The site analysis tool simply crawls a website, downloads its content, and examines the HTTP headers, directory structure, URLs, and HTML - there's no IIS 7-specific magic going on. Consequently, you can use the site analysis tool to analyze websites powered by IIS 6, IIS 5, Apache, or any other web server.

Once the analysis has completed, a comprehensive report is displayed that includes:

  • A summary of the analysis.
  • A list of violations found during the analysis. This includes:
    • Information entries, like whether a page would be excluded from a search engine due to a Robots.txt rule,
    • Warnings, like a missing <h1> tag or a title that's too long, and
    • Errors, like broken links or a missing or empty page title.
    What's more, these violations are broken down into categories like Content, Performance, SEO, and Standards.
  • A breakdown of the content that was crawled. There are reports that show duplicate files, status code summaries, content type summaries, and so forth.
  • A performance breakdown, showing slow loading pages and average, min, and max load times for files by directory and by content type.
  • A detailed links report where you can see what pages have the most links, what pages are most linked to, what links are blocked by Robots.txt, and link depth, among other data.
The screen shot below shows the site analysis report when run against 4GuysFromRolla.com.

The site analysis report details any violations, as well as providing information on the website's content, performance, and links.

In addition to listing the violations it encountered, the SEO Toolkit also provides recommended actions. To see these, simply double-click one of the violations. This brings up a dialog box that lists the violation details and recommended actions to resolve it. It also lists all pages that exhibit that violation. This dialog box can also show the raw content of the page with the violation, the inbound and outgoing links, and all of the violations associated with the particular page.

Double-click a violation to see details about it and a recommended course of action.

To Learn More...


The SEO Toolkit is a free, easy to use tool for analyzing your website to find issues that may be hindering your website's position in search engine rankings. It takes just a few minutes to install and run and can provide a wealth of information and simple steps you can take to help boost your search engine placement, which will lead to increased traffic. To learn more, check out the SEO Toolkit tutorials on www.iis.net. If you have specific questions or run into any stumbling blocks while using the tool, check out the SEO Toolkit forum.

Happy Programming!

  • By Scott Mitchell


    Further Readings:


  • Download Microsoft's SEO Toolkit
  • The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Toolkit (a short walk through by Scott Guthrie)
  • SEO Toolkit Tutorials


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