Category Archives: Web Analytics

14 Web Site Graders To Test Your Redesigned Site

When you redesign or enhance your site, you make a lot of changes.  You change the content, the design, the front end technology, the back end stack, the user flows, the information architecture, everything.  It is tough to know what you have done right, and what needs help, particularly as it compares to other sites.  These sites can help show you what you have done right, what needs help, and how you compare to other sites.  I use them… and so should you.

  • https://website.grader.com/ – the gold standard of online web site graders. Shows performance, SEO, mobile capability, and security.
  • https://www.semrush.com/ – this site gathers a LOT of marketing information about your site… Monitor this information before and after your cutover.
  • https://validator.w3.org/ – Are you W3C Compliant?  Are you writing valid HTML?  Using this throughout your development will ensure your site is as readable and indexable as possible.
  • http://www.webpagetest.org – How long does the first view of my page take?  How about the second view?  This grader shows you both… just like the Developer Tools in Google Chrome.
  • https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ – another technical site grader that can give you guidance where to increase performance.  Be careful trying to get 100/100, though… not everything NEEDS to be done.
  • http://nibbler.silktide.com/en_US – Evaluates your site down in four areas – Accessibility, Experience, Marketing, and Technology.  Still useful to get another view of your site.
  • https://www.woorank.com/ – “Run a review to see how your site can improve across 70+ metrics” – Marketing, SEO, Mobile, Usability, Technology, Crawl Errors, Backlinks, Social, Local, SERP Checker, Visitors.
  • http://www.similarweb.com/ – Another great site for a large, corporate web site.  But not a lot of information about performance.  Good to monitor usage and marketing metrics.
  • https://moz.com/researchtools/ose – Moz is known for its SEO tools, and this is an easy dashboard of information to monitor before and after your redesign.  The free version is useful, but the Pro version is even better.  Not a lot of tech help here, though.
  • http://www.alexa.com/ – 7 days for free, the paid version is the only one really useful.  Lots of marketing information is available, though.
  • http://builtwith.com/ – Very technical.  Shows you the infrastructure and software choices made by the development team.  You will be surprised.  Helpful for technology and information security teams.
  • http://www.google.com/analytics  – Free analytics tool.  Tells you who uses your site, how much, where they are from, what browsers, what time of day… a plethora of information.  Including Page Speed.
  • https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools – Free tool that shows you what index errors Google has encountered, things to make your site more indexable, and what your pages look like to the Google Search Crawlers.  Use this.
  • http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster – Everything that Search Console is for Google, this site is for Bing.

So did I miss any tools that you use?  Are any of these ones you have struck off your list?  How do you measure results of your site before and after?  Leave a comment and let me know!

EDIT: Two more sites were recommended to me that help redesign projects, so I am adding them here:

Forty SEO Checklist Items for Agile Teams

If you are building a web site on an Agile team, you need to find ways to save time.  These two checklists will help you with that.  The first checklist, for on-page optimization, is helpful when building a new page or significantly modifying an existing one.  This is a good set-up for success criteria for a user story or sprint.  The second checklist, for on-site optimization, is good for regression testing or stabilization, and is a good baseline for success criteria for the release.

Do you have any feedback?  Things you disagree with?  Anything I missed?  Please leave feedback.

On-Page Optimization

  1. URLs
    • Readable by a human
    • 115 characters or shorter
    • shorter URLs are better for usability
  2. Head Section Order
    • Meta tags are in the right order: Title > Description > Keywords.
    • these tags are used to render the title and description in the search engine results pages
  3. Title Tag
    • 6 to 12 words , 70 characters or less
    • Unique across the site
  4. Description Tag
    • include the most important info and  keywords before the SERP cutoff
    • approximately 160 characters including spaces.
    • make it compelling – don’t want to waste your prime real estate
    • Unique across the site
  5. Keywords Tag
    • Even with the controversy of their value, include it as a best practice
    • List keywords in order of importance, separated by commas.
  6. Meta Robots tag
    • <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
  7. NoFollow prop on anchor tags
  8. View State tag
  9. Heading Tags
    • make sure your first heading tag is an <h1>,and that there is only one on the page.
  10. Canonical tag
    • rel=canonical
    • Helps prevent duplicate content within your site
  11. Hreflang
    • rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”
    • Tells Google what language to target for search purposes
  12. Images
    • Use page level keywords in your image alt attributes
    • Ensure your images have proper descriptions for Accessibility Standards
    • Alt attributes are also required to validate your HTML code.
    • Ensure file names reflect the content of the image
  13. Geo Meta Tags
  14. Overall Word Count
    • More than 250 words is recommended,
    • Quality content is key.
    • avoid duplicate content and thin content
  15. Dashes vs. Underscores in URLs
    • Underscores are alpha characters and do not separate words.
    • Dashes (i.e. hyphens) are word separators, but not too many or things could look like spam
  16. Links
    • use fully qualified links, i.e. http://www.URL.com
    • 100-200 links on a page is a good high end target
    • Make sure your link text uses keywords and is relevant
  17. Make JavaScript/CSS External
    • Ensure the most important part of your page is the first thing the  bots crawl.
    • externalize code to ensure there aren’t unnecessary lines above the body text.
  18. Make sure there are no misspellings or grammar mistakes
  19. Make sure your page is W3C valid HTML
  20. Last but not least, make sure it is relevant content

On-Site Optimization

  1. Site Map
    • Have an HTML sitemap with every page on it,
    • Every page should link to that sitemap page
    • Have an XML Sitemap to submit to search engines
    • The site map should always have fully qualified URLs.
  2. Text Navigation
    • Use text navigation, not JavaScript or Flash navigation that spiders can’t see.
  3. Pagination
    • rel=next and rel=prev
  4. Fully qualified domain
    • 301 redirect from domain.com to www.domain.com
    • Make your site available over http and https
  5. Robots.txt File
    • tells the search engine spiders what to index and what not to index.
    • Ensure XML sitemaps are listed in the robots.txt file
  6. Social Sharing
    • Make sure they are all set up and working properly
  7. Web Analytics
    • make sure you have it – GA, Omniture, etc.
    • Make sure you have only one of each analytics tag on your page
    • Ensure your analytics are set up properly – test with Fiddler, firebug, etc.
    • Monitor them regularly
  8. Server Configuration
    • Regularly check your server logs, looking for 404 errors, 301 redirects and other errors.
  9. Privacy Statement
    • An important element to Bing. It’s best practices to include one anyway
  10. Static Pages
    • Do not use more than two query string parameters
    • use mod_rewrite or ISAPI_rewrite to simplify URLs
    • use the Canonical tag.
  11. Check for Duplicate Content
    • check out CopyScape.com . Use it regularly.
  12. Find and Fix Broken Links
  13. Google Search
    • site:www.prnewswire.com
    • Home page should appear first
    • Track how many pages are indexed
  14. 301 redirects
    • Do not use multiple 301 redirects
  15. Site wide Uptime
  16. Cache your site
  17. Improve Site Speed
  18. Improve Site Performance
    • Compress images
    • Minify CSS and JS files
  19. Set Up a Google Webmaster Tools Account and check it regularly
    1. https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home?hl=en
    2. Register all versions of your domains and subdomains
    3. Check Health ad Crawl Errors Reported
    4. Review Mobile Usability Issues
    5. Check for Manual Penalties Reported
    6. Check blocked content
    7. Ensure CSS and JS is not blocked
  20. Set up Bing Webmaster Tools as well

SEO Checklist Source URLs

Blogroll – SEO, Web Analytics, Usability, Upcoming Conferences, and Other Interesting Stuff

These are just some of the articles I have read in Google Reader over the last month and a half that I have found interesting.  I thought maybe you would too…

SEO

Web Analytics

Usability

Upcoming Conferences

Other Interesting Stuff

Analytics Tool Wars – Dodge, Parry, Thrust, Spin!

On October 10, Yahoo! launched their new free analytics tool named Yahoo Web Analytics, a rebrand of IndexTools which Yahoo purchased earlier this April. This isn’t very different than Google’s move to buy Urchin in 2005, refine it, and make it available free to the public. However, what is different between Yahoo’s analytics tool and Google’s tool is that Yahoo is not aggregating the data. This is important enough to say it again… you are not analyzing aggregated data with Yahoo. They store all their data in its raw form, allowing for real-time reporting. This is why some think that the two products do not really compete against each other, because they target different audiences.

Not to be outdone, Google announced on October 22 that they were releasing an “Enterprise” feature upgrade to their product. This upgrade includes custom reports, advanced segmentation, an API for developers, updated interface, motion charts, and integration with Google AdSense.

Was Google resting on its laurels, and now feels threatened by the new Yahoo product? Did Google release these new features to combat the release of Yahoo Web Analytics? Could be. It would be interesting to track the number of users of each of these two products over time, just like we track the number of browser users and the number of search engine users.

20 Reasons Why DHTML Layers are Bad

A bit of background before I dive in to the post… My team and I are responsible for developing and supporting the Brand web sites for Bristol-Myers Squibb.  The Brand Teams and external Marketing Agencies develop a concept for their site, and they deliver a fully functional version of the site in  HTML to us to implement.  We take that HTML, squeeze it into our custom content management system, and hook up all of our custom features.  This custom content platform that we call LaunchNet has built in registration management, site search, web analytics, SEO helpers, and a full suite of other tools. 

With an environment like this, managing expectations becomes essential.  Sites need to be streamlined for industrial-strength campaigns involving thousands of concurrent users and possibly millions of site users per month.  From this perspective, DHTML layers is one of the banes of development.  I have broken out why DHTML Layers make me lose my hair into 6 categories: Performance, Metrics and Analytics, Accessibility, Implementation, user Experience, and Search & SEO.

Performance

When using DHTML Layers, your users are now loading multiple pages combined into one, some of which they may not even view, wasting download time and bandwidth.  Pages are slower to download, and are slower to draw inside the browser.  Processing is now heavier on client side, and is heavily dependent on JavaScript, which is known to be a memory hog.

Metrics & Analytics

Layers are not pages.  This is a simple fact, but needs to be stated again for emphasis.  Layers are not pages.  This means that anything that is dependent on the construct of a page will break.  Google Analytics tags, which are designed to fire on page load, will need to be re-engineered to fire on layer loads instead of page loads. 

Accessibility

Mobile users on phones, PDAs, tablets, UMPCs, and other lightweight devices with web browsers will have difficulty.  These browsers are slimmed down versions of their bigger brothers, and do not have all the functionality needed to process JavaScript properly.  Cross Browser Compatibility is very difficult to implement and maintain with DHTML Layers.  You cannot bookmark a layer, either, so your users will not be able to come right back to where they were.  Popup blockers may block the use of DHTML layers, as this is a common delivery mechanism for advertising.  And, DHTML Layers could affect your site’s handicap accessibility.

Implementation

Layers on the site increase complexity, and make maintainability more difficult.  If JavaScript is turned off, any functionality to show or hide layers will not work, so your users will not see it.  Developers will need to spend lots of time to make DHTML JavaScript function with content management systems, particularly when custom functionality is delivered in this way.  And, if layers are big enough, scrolling can become an issue, as the layers may run off the page, hiding content from view. 

User Experience

User Experience is the biggest reason to implement DHTML Layers.  It adds slick new interface to the hum-drum of static pages.  But designers need to keep in mind that performance impacts user experience.  This is an “I want it an hour ago” generation, and waiting even 10 seconds for a page to load will mean your users have left and gone somewhere else.  Layers are a not a standard UI convention for web development, and some users may be intimidated by the change in interface.  And, some folks may perceive layers as “popups”, which is bad for perception.

Search & SEO

Implementing site search while using DHTML Layers is very difficult.  Most search products are page based, and as stated before, layers are not pages.  Your content might not get crawled, or may be crawled incorrectly.  Layers could also cause a problem with search engines.  Your page could end up not getting indexed, or not indexed properly.  Invisible content may also be viewed by search engine crawlers as “gaming the system” or a black hat SEO practice, and may negatively impact your page rank.

Conclusion

When implementing, DHTML Layers, think twice about the impact on other aspects of your site.  Ajax can do a lot of the same kinds of things that DHTML Layers can.  Adobe’s Flash and Microsoft’s new Silverlight products can also deliver great new user experiences.  All of these have benefits and drawbacks that need to be weighed before jumping in.  You may be providing a slick new experience to your users, but you may be creating more problems than it is worth.  There are lots of other alternatives to explore.

TouchGraph Google Browser

Pandia reviewed a new tool called TouchGraph Google Browser.  This tool allows you to visualize the connections between sites.  You can read the initial review on the Pandia web site, and you can check out the TouchGraph Google Browser on the TouchGraph site.  The TouchGraph team is a group of interface designers who are exploring better ways to visualize information.  In addition to the TouchGraph Google Browser, they have also developed TouchGraph Amazon Browser and the TouchGraph Facebook Browser using the same visualization technology. 

This has some really interesting implications for Search Engine Optimization, Web Analytics, and Web Site Development.  Optimizing a site to have each of its pages appear in a graph like this could have its site map generated dynamically.  Having a Web Analytics Dashboard where you could click on each of the pages, or series of pages, and view data relationships between them would be very powerful. 

Check it out and let me know what you think. 

The 6 Test Styles of Google Website Optimizer

So I attended the Google Website Optimizer webinar this Tuesday afternoon.   I did not know too much about the feature set of this particular tool, so I thought the webinar would be a good way for me to find out more. 

The class was moderated by ROI Revolution.  They are a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant and AdWords Qualified Company, and offer webinars and training classes for Google products.  You can find more information about them on their web site. 

Essentially, Google Website Optimizer is a tool designed to track results of content changes to your web site before you commit to them.  It works in a similar way to Google Analytics – you tag your pages, your content blocks, your action items, and your goal pages.  Google Website Optimizer will then randomize your content or your page to test it how you choose. 

There are 6 different types of tests that you can use:

  1. A/B Testing – this is essentially a test to determine if one page layout is more effective than another
  2. Multivariate – this tests if different content blocks (copy blocks, headers, images, etc.) are more effective than others
  3. Split Path – this will test if content changes will affect the navigation through your site
  4. Multipage Multivariate – this test will measure if content changes on one page will affect navigation on other pages, and if there are any other cross-page interactions that change
  5. Linger – this test is good for sites that have no clear conversion, and will measure time on the page instead of number of conversions
  6. Anything – an open ended type of test, particularly if your site has multiple conversion points

There was also a brief demo on how you can intertwine Google Website Optimizer, Google Analytics, and Google AdWords to measure how changes in your page affect your AdWords advertising campaigns.

Did anyone else attend the session?  Has anyone used Google Website Optimizer?  Is this a tool that you would think is useful?