A few months ago a friend of mine made one of the most important purchases that someone can make in his life by buying his first house. Like most first time home buyers he wasn’t able to build it from scratch and ended up buying an older home that needed some occasional maintenance. Squeaky doors, clogged drains and leaky faucets are all items that need to be fixed from time to time. Depending on the problem, you can fix some of these items yourself and if you can’t you should at least be aware of them so that you can call in the professionals.
Building a profitable website can be very much like maintaining a home. There are too many site owners that are in the dark of where potential problems could be hiding. In order to find issues or evaluate progress, owners need to get there hands of a few items that can shed some light on how things are doing.
Now if you’re a professional home builder you probably have more then just a tool belt, you may have a garage full of screw drivers, socket wrenches and maybe even a welding kit. But if you’re someone that only has a few of hours a week to fix a wobbly table or replace a light bulb I have comprised a list of tools that should be in everyone’s arsenal to help keep an eye on how things are going.
The Tool Belt:
Tape Measure (Google Analytics)
Every website owner needs to have some sort of analytics program installed on their website and Google Analytics is a great choice. Learn how visitors are interacting with your website and gain valuable information to help increase ROI. Google Analytics has advanced options for experts but also offers a straight forward interface that a novice is able to use and understand.
WD 40 (Google Webmaster Tools)
Gain insight into how Google views your website. Find out how your site is being crawled, set your preferred domain, submit an XML sitemap and much more. Webmaster Tools offers a variety of different information that should be taken advantage of.
Drill (Google Keyword Tool)
Find out which keywords can drive the most traffic to your site. Many site owners have been marketing their product online for years and still don’t know which phrases can generate the most traffic. This tool will give you an idea of what query’s people are using to search and how competitive the phrases are. Now it won’t tell you which keywords will convert the best but you will be given a starting point of where to focus your attention.
Reciprocal Saw (Xenu Link Sleuth)
A tool that all website owners should utilize, Xenu will crawl your site to find broken links. Use it to find a number of issues including obtaining a list of Title Tags and get an idea of whether there may be duplicated pages on the site.
Ratchet Set (Search Operators)
Learn which websites are linking to you and what pages have been indexed in Google? Type these search operators into Google or Yahoo to find answers to these questions.
- Find pages indexed in Google and Yahoo:
- Links pointing at the entire site (Yahoo):
- Links pointing at the entire sites minus the site itself (Yahoo): linkdomain:cnn.com -site:cnn.com
- Links from educational websites pointing at the website (Yahoo):
- Links from government websites pointing at the website (Yahoo):
Hammer and Nails (Adwords Preview Tools)
Are you a Google Adwords advertiser targeting specific areas? Use the Adwords preview tool to test your ads within those cities. This tool will allow you to check your campaign in specific locations within different Google domains (ex. Google.ca, Google.co.uk)
Stud Finder (Sitemap Generator by Audit My PC)
Been procrastinating putting that XML sitemap up? Sitemap Generator will help you easily build an XML sitemap which you can then place on your website. The XML sitemap will allow search engines to easily index your web pages and should be included on each website.
Chisel (WebConfs Header Check)
Find out what the web server returns when requesting a URL. This is a great tool to use if your website uses redirects. Learn whether your redirects are 301 permanent redirects or 302 temporary redirects.
Are you currently living in Canada or Europe but are targeting your website towards the US market? MegaProxy allows you to search Google or Yahoo within the States to find out where your site is ranking.
Glue Gun (Whois Lookup)
Use this tool to find out when the site was registered and how long until it expires. You will also be given a glance at other information such as IP Address and IP Location.
Pliers (Link Diagnosis)
Use Link Diagnosis to analyze the links pointing at your website. Learn which pages are acquiring links and what anchor text is being used. Once you’ve finished using it on your website, check out your top competitors.
Allen Key (Robots.txt Generator)
Use this generator to easily build a Robots.txt file. It’s straightforward and gives you the option to target specific bots.
Power Sander (CopyScape)
Has someone stolen the content you have worked so hard to produce? Using CopyScape you will be able to find out whether your text is being used on other websites. While it’s a good tool, it also never hurts to spot check content yourself manually in Google and Yahoo.
Utility Knife (DCCheck)
Find out where your site is ranking within different Google data centers.
Pressure Gauge (Google Trends)
Find out how different search terms compare with each other over a set span of time. You are able to compare how these phrases are searched in different geographic areas.
Caliper (MSN Adlabs)
Adlabs offers a number of features which you may find helpful including keyword research tools and demographic predictions. If you want to find out whether more men of women are searching for a particular type of product you can use Adlabs to help figure this out.
Bar Clamp (TheWayBackMachine)
Ever wonder what your site looked like a few years ago? Use the WayBackMachine to find out.
The Foremen (Matt Cutts – Google Webmaster Guidelines)
No, he’s not a tool, but you better be careful if you don’t follow his guidelines.