Handy Tools

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Handy Tools

Handy Tools

Once you have your website up and running, you can choose to use other handy tools and resources that are available on the Internet to help you to track the statistics related to your site and analyse them, enhance your site, or also in conjunction with your site so as to increase your presence on the web and also indirectly helps you to get more traffic to your site. There are many such user-friendly tools that you can find on the Internet and the good thing is that most of these tools are free. This chapter deals with some of the handy tools that are available on the Internet that will help you in many ways with your website. It is entirely your choice whether you want to use them or not. The word website is being used here for maintaining uniformity and ease throughout the chapter, but it would do well to also remember that these points can be applied to a Blog as well.

There are many user-friendly tools that you can use for making your Internet presence successful. Most of the tools that we will mention here are free and will go a long way to assist you in making your SEO experience much easier. If you do not have or are not yet ready to have your own website, we recommend you create a website on any of the free website hosting services or start a Blog to practice and learn the nuances of Search Engine Optimisation.

Free Website Hosting Services - If you want to create your own website without spending any money you can resort to these services which offer free website hosting. There are many of them out there, like Freeweb7, Webs, Google Sites, etc. These sites allow you to have a sub domain of their own website. So the URL of your website will look like xyz.abc.com. where xyz is the name you have chosen and abc is the domain name of the hosting website. This can be overcome by a "domain forwarding facility" by your domain name seller. You buy a domain name for your website from any of the domain name selling services and then tweak the account so that your domain name will be displayed instead of the original site name. For example, take the site sites.google.com/site/enemyintheranks. In this case, the website is Enemy in the Ranks, which is hosted on Google Sites. As can be seen the URL of the website is too long. Therefore a domain name, www.tapriaI.in was registered. It is small and easier to remember and type, and also relates it to the owner of the website. Thereafter, the domain forwarding service was used to redirect all visitors looking for the site URL www.taprial.in to the original website hosted on Google sites. Now the original Google site can be promoted as www.taprial.in and the URL displayed is also the same. Similarly, when someone lands up on our page through the earlier address he sees the latter domain name. However, there is a problem with the domain forwarding service. All the pages of the website will reflect the same URL. Most domain sellers also offer some free sub-pages. That means you can also give unique URLs for at least some of your pages. Like the "About us" page would be www.taprial.in/aboutus.. However, for a website with many pages, it is indeed a problem.

Of all the services we have tried out so far, Google Sites is our favourite and we also found it pretty simple to use compared to others. You can access it on your Google home page by clicking on the "more" link on top and selecting "sites". Your Gmail ID is good enough for you to start working on a website and you do not have to register again. Likewise, we found the Blogger by Google to be the easiest Blog platform for beginners.

Domain Name Availability - Before you make your entry into the league of website owners you will have to decide what your domain name should be. There are two parts to this, one your domain name has to be unique and it is indeed a time consuming job to find a domain name that you are happy with and which is also available. All domain name sellers registered with ICANN (International Corporation of Assigned Names & Numbers) offer the facility to check for domain name availability. The list of registered vendors is available on the ICANN website, http:// www.icann.org/. It may so happen that a domain name you want is not available, and when you check on the Internet what that website is all about, you realise that there is nothing on that page beside some gibberish or maybe some ads. What a waste! Well, the fact still remains that the domain name belongs to someone else. So, if you are very desperate and want to try to get that domain name, you can use a web service called http://www.internic.net/whois.html or http://www.whois.net to find out details like owners and their contact details. Yes, you can buy off the domain name from the other person if you want to.

The next step after choosing a domain name for you is to decide on your Top Level Domain (TLD) or extension like .com, .net, .in, etc. If your business is local you can go for a country specific domain like .in or co. in, which are cheaper otherwise, it would be better to stick to the .com or .net. Here you need to keep in mind the fact that if a domain name extension of your preference is already taken, try to look for a different name rather than settle for the second best extension. In a recent case, it was reported that a leading telecom provider in India who was using the. in domain got into a tussle with a teenager who had bought the .com domain with the same name. Since the telecom company is bigger and there is a question of brand name, chances are that the company would get the decision in their favour if the case ever went to the courts. Nonetheless, it was a big oversight by the telecom provider not to have booked the .com domain in advance since they could certainly afford it. Therefore, if you are runningna business and hope to be at the top some day, make sure you also buy the most relevant extensions with your domain name, which definitely should include the .com, .net and the local country extension, .in, in the case of India.

Domain Name Sellers - There are thousands of websites that offer domain name selling services. These domain name sellers are registered with the ICANN and are selling the domains on their behalf. ICANN actually verifies the credentials and sets standards for these registered companies to operate. ICANN is also running the website InterNIC to provide information regarding Internet domain registration services. You can use InterNIC to search domain records, file a complaint against a registrar or report inaccurate data. When choosing a Domain name registrar make sure that he would provide domain management tools to you.

W3C Markup Validation Service - W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is an international community that develops standards to ensure the long time growth of the web. Needless to say, that they ensure that the standards are followed by the website designers and developers. The W3C has made available tools to help people improve the quality of their web pages and the most recent tool released by the organisation is Unicorn, a one-stop tool that combines a number of popular tools in a single interface. It includes the W3C Markup Validator, the CSS validator, Mobile Ok checker and the feed validator. Visit the website at http://validator.w3.org/unicorn/. You can validate by URL, by file upload and by direct input. The first method is the simplest to handle. In addition, you can also choose which task you want the tool to carry out. Use the default General conformance checker if in doubt. Enter the website URL in the address box provided and click on check.

Google Webmaster Tools - Google webmaster tools help the webmasters analyse their own site vis-a-vis how the search engine sees and interact with their website. The Webmaster tools can be used to identify any issues regarding accessibility of pages, issues with title and Meta tags, links, etc. If Google search engine has denied listing your website in their index, you can resubmit a website for consideration. You can login to web masters tools with the Google ID at http://www.google.com/webmasters/.But before you can use the facility you need to add and verify a website. This is a simple process and quite self-explanatory that requires you to insert a small piece of code into your website. If you are using Google Sites then the process is even simpler wherein you are asked to just input a code into the given place in the site settings of your Google Site.

After logging in, on the following page, click, "Add a site" and type the full URL (including the http part) of the website you want to add. When you click on "continue" the site verification page opens. In the name box, enter the name of your website and select the verification method. There are three methods that you can use, Meta tag, wherein you copy the text provided in the box to the HEAD section of your site's home page. The second method is by uploading the HTML file provided by Google. Download the HTML verification file and upload it to your website. Lastly you can also verify your website by adding a DNS record in your DNS management panel with your domain name host. The text provided by Google webmasters tools should be added into the text record of the DNS control panel. After you have completed any of the three steps click on the verify button provided on the Webmasters tools page.

Similarly, if you are trying to verify a Blog hosted on Blogger and are using the same Google account for the Webmaster tools, you just need to add the Blog address in the Add Website column and the Blog will be automatically verified. Otherwise you can use the Meta Tag method to verify the Blog.

After verification of your website you will be able to use the Webmaster tools to see:

·          Upload an XML Sitemap file

·          Remove URLs already crawled by Googlebot

·          Identify issues with title and description meta tags

·          Get a glimpse at how Googlebot sees pages

·          Receive notification of quality guideline violations and file for a site reconsideration

Please note that we have used Google Webmaster tools since Google is the preferred search engine in most parts of the world. Yahoo and Bing also provide free Webmaster tools and you can and are free to use their tools.

Google Analytics - Google Analytics provides details and an insight about the traffic to your website. This gives you details like how many visitors came to your website, from where, what pages they landed on, the type of browser they were using, the most effective and the least effective pages on the website, etc. This way you can monitor the activity seen on your website and use this information to improve the performance of the website. The Google Analytics program is also helpful to business websites because it allows them to set up goals with which they can track conversions.

Here is how you go about it. You can use your existing Google Account to log in to the Google Analytics website. After you have logged in you will be prompted to add a website profile which is nothing but the URL of the website you want to track.

Click on the "Add website Profile" tab and on the next page select "Add a profile for a new domain" which is selected by default. Provide the URL of your website in the given box if the country/ time zone reflected is correct and click on finish. The next page will advise you to install a tracking code on your website, rather all pages of your website, which you want to track. The tracking code is JavaScript based and you need to copy it to the head section of all the pages you want to track just before the tag. Now click on save and finish and your analytics program is ready to go. shows what a standard dashboard looks like.

Keyword Selection Tool - Google Adwords is a program designed specifically for use by the online advertise"" The online advertisers bid on keywords and Google deciding upon the budget specified by the advertisers places their ads on highly relevant WebPages. The keyword selection tool was primarily meant for the advertisers to select the keywords relevant to them based upon the competition and the search volumes. However, anyone can use the tool and especially so the content creator since it will help him to create better-targeted content. The keyword selection tool can be found at this link:

http://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal.

If you want detailed information log in to the Google Adwords website, otherwise continue with the given link. In the advanced options you can select the country you want the results for, the language and filter searches by monthly local or global, search share, average cost per click, etc. Now you can simply enter the keyword or phrase that you want to see the statistics for and hit search. The figure below shows the result from India for the word SEO.

On the left hand bar you can choose the specific category you want the search results to be displayed for, and also whether you want to search for the search term broadly (better when you are looking for alternate terms) or by exact match. Some columns may not be there and you can get the specific information by clicking on the tab "columns" on the right hand side. The facility to index the results as per your choice exist and you can choose which parameter, i.e. keyword, relevance, global monthly searches, local monthly searches, estimated cost per click, etc., to be used for presenting the results.

This search result page gives you the amount of competition for the specific keyword and its variations, global monthly searches, local monthly searches and the local search trends. There are many other keyword selection tools available on the net and quite a few are free. You can choose any of them. We use Google because of obvious reasons.

Keyword Density Tools - Frankly, there are too many keyword density tools, analysers, and checkers available on the web. Do they serve any purpose? I am not sure, besides the fact that if you have written an article and totally (impossible) forgot to mention the keyword in the article, you will come to know of it. Like we have been saying, once you have identified the keywords, do not target the number of times you use it, but concentrate on the content for a human being reading it.

Google Traffic Estimation Tool - Another free tool meant for advertisers that can be used by non-advertisers also. It can be found under Adwords program or at https://adwords.google.com/ select/TrafficEstimatorSandbox. Enter your keyword in the given box, leave the other boxes blank and then choose your target location. In the figure below we chose "Dental Health" and Google tells us that in India the average monthly searches with respect to this keyword are 6600. Other figures in the result sheet are not important unless you are using the adwords program to advertise.

Google Website Optimiser - Website optimiser is a tool that can be used to improve your pages or parts of the pages by analysing the effectiveness of prospective changes made in your website. What the tool does is, it helps you carry out experiments with your website. This is specifically useful if you are looking at conversions, which could wither mean you are selling something or you are registering people on your website. You can set up the experiment by yourself or Google conducts the experiment on your behalf. Suppose you are considering changes to your home page. You create the new version of a the home page at a unique location on your website and then let Google know about the URLs of the original and the test page in the prescribed form. You also need to give the conversion page URL, this is the page the visitors reach after they have gone through the conversion, which could mean signing up or registering on your website or making a purchase.

After you have set up the experiment, Google randomly offers different versions of the pages to different users and after approximately 100 conversions per change, gives you the feedback on your experiment. 100 conversions per change implies that if you make three changes to the page, Google will wait for 300 conversions before giving the results. After the experiment you can retain your original page or change to the preferred one. You can use this tool with your existing Google account. This tool may not be of much use to Bloggers.

Hit Counters - Hit counters are widgets that you can embed on your Blog, which keeps a track of how many people visited your Blog, and how many pages were seen by them. There are many hit counters available online for free, however, we found Histats to be good. You can download this counter at http://www.histats.com/. You will first have to register with the website and provide the URL of your Blog. You can then select the type of button for your Blog and also choose the number at which your page views or visitors counting should start. After you have registered, an HTML code will be given to you, which you will have to insert in your Blog. You can use the Add HTML gadget to place the code. As soon as you put the code in place, you will be able to see the data in real time. Remember, this is only one counter and there are many others like this which are also free. Feel free to choose any other. The advantage of having a hit counter on your website is that you straight away come to know how many people have visited your website rather than having to log into analytics. If you want you can have the counter hidden from your visitors and it would be visible only to you after you log in to your website.

Google Trends - Available at http://www.google.com/trends. Google Trends is a simple user interface where in you can look at the trends for a particular word across the globe. Just feed in your search term and you will be able to see a graph depicting the trends on that particular keyword or phrase. You can also select the region for which you want to see the trends. In addition, you can input multiple terms separated by a comma. This tool comes in handy to update your website at the time when people are indeed looking for a particular topic. Suppose your website is about automobiles and you come across the trending keyword Rolls Royce, you can straightaway dish out an article on Rolls Royce, of course, after a little research on why people are looking for that keyword. This small action will get people to your website and hence expose your other pages also to the visitors.

Google Hot Trends - On the same page as above, Google hot trends offer the top 100 fastest-rising search queries at any given time. If you follow this regularly you would be able to see what search term are being used the most. Unfortunately the data provided is only for the US. However, a little common sense will dictate which terms might be relevant to worldwide searches. Gives the hot trends for the US at the time of writing this chapter

When you click on a trending keyword in the list you will get a graph which will show how and when exactly the keyword gained prominence, as shown in below.

Google Insights - An extension of Google Trends but much more powerful tool Google Insights provides detailed analysis of particular search terms where you can see search volume patterns across specific regions, periods and properties. It also gives related search terms and their popularity according to top searches and rising searches. You can access Google Insights at: http://www.google.com/insights/

Google Toolbar - Google toolbar is a handy tool for everyone to use. You can install the toolbar onto your browser and it is displayed under the browser navigation bar. The toolbar includes a search bar with search suggestions, a provision to add custom buttons which allow you to access websites with a single click. Here you can add news websites, tools like dictionary and TV online, mail, Facebook, etc. You can also add bookmarks just like you do on your browser, but the advantage is that you can access your bookmarks from any computer. There is a facility for translating web pages into more than 40 languages and provides a spell check facility also. Moreover, you can customise your toolbar to your liking and add buttons including a page rank button, which indicates the Google page rank of the page you are visiting. This is handy since you must always endeavour to link to a page which is of a higher page rank than your own website. You can access the button gallery at:

http://www.google.com/gadgets/directory?synd=toolbar&frontpage=1.

Page rank- Google describes Page Rank as follows:

"Page Rank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher Page Rank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.

"Page Rank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value. We have always taken a pragmatic approach to help improve search quality and create useful products, and our technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page's importance. rs

The Page Rank is a link analyzing algorithm first used and patented by Google. Each incoming link to a web page is counted as a vote endorsing that particular page and a numerical value is assigned to the vote depending on the popularity or the Page Rank of the linking website. The algorithm then assigns a numerical Page Rank to the page. Other considerations like onsite and off- site factors also affect the Page Rank and the actual process or formula is best known to Google.

Google Alerts - Using this tool you can set up Google to send you an alert whenever the Google search engine finds any website which talks about the keywords you specify. If you want to know the latest details on some product or other newsworthy item, you can go to Google news and search for the keyword pertaining to it. At the bottom of the news search result page you will find the option of "Creating an email alert" for the keyword. When you do this and specify your email address you will start receiving alerts from Google as and when it comes across news items on the specific keyword.

Google Suggest - This tool is available right in front of you on the Google home page. You must have noticed that as you start typing a search query into the box provided, Google automatically suggests the word you might be looking for. It appears as a drop down box. Guess what, the suggestions are made as per the popularity of keywords. Use this tool to your advantage especially when it comes to keywords with more than one word.

Website Submission Service - Almost all search engines have a website submission service, wherein you can tell the search engines about your new website. If it is the first time you are submitting your website, submit only the home page (All pages need not be submitted individually). If your website design caters well for interlinking of the pages the spiders will find all of them. None of the search engines will assure you of immediate listing or any listing at all, but the fact is that the service exists for a reason and it does help to submit your website rather than wait for the bots to come to your website in their own time or perhaps through some other website which links to you.

Bad Neighbourhood Checking Tool - At times it so happens that we link to a page and do not realize the implications and at times the content on the page we are linking to is changed or updated. A perfectly normal page then becomes bad neighborhood for your website. The tool at http://www.bad-neighborhood.com/ text-link-tool.htm checks all the links in your pages and gives you a report on the questionable links. It doesn't mean that you have to remove those links; it just means that the search engine also might find the links questionable. So use your discretion. The tool also gives you details about possible Spam in the comments others have written on your article or Blog post. This you can repair by deleting the offending comments. Below gives a report on one of our blogs:

Notice how an appearance of words like sex or drugs can raise a flag for the search engines. In this case all the websites are reputed and have used the words in a totally different context. But that is the web for you; a rule made for stopping illicit activities at times ends up in affecting a perfectly legal one.

There are many other tools from Google available for use and you can look them up at http://code.google.com/intl/en/more/

FeedBurner - The FeedBurner is a tool for creating a feed, which you can embed or post in other websites. FeedBurner can be set to display titles and briefs of your last few posts. FeedBurner is covered in detail in the "promoting your Blog" chapter.

Blogger Templates - It is recommended that you go along with one of the Blogger templates available in the Blogger website. However, if you are not happy with any of those, free Blogger templates are available on the web and you can download any of them. They will work just fine. However, make sure you check the authenticity of the website. A few of the websites are:

http://freetemplates.blogspot.com/,

http://mashable.com/2008/05/17/70-plus-new-and-beutiful-Blogger-templates/,and

http://www.geckoandfly.com/Blogspot-templates/

Blogger Widgets - Widget is short for "Window gadget" and is essentially a small application, or an applet, which runs on your page or website giving information in a small window with or without a GUI (Graphical user Interface). They are similar to Blogger Gadgets that we discussed before. However, here we are talking about third party widgets. For example, you can put a widget on your website which will show the latest scoreboard of a game or positions of various teams at any given time. Here is an example of a widget that displays the final scores of the latest matches of NFL. As you can see there are other tabs in the widget that allow you to see standings and news also.

There are many widgets available for free download and embedding in your website or Blog. The widgets could be utility, communications, and informational or plain social networking widgets. Check out a list of widgets at:

http://mashable.com/2009/01126/Blogger-widgets/

 ScribeFire - If you are using Mozilla Firefox, this tool is for you. ScribeFire is an extension for the Mozilla Firefox Web Browser that integrates with your browser to let you easily post to your Blog: you can drag and drop formatted text from pages you are browsing, take notes, and post to your Blog. You can access it at:

http://www.scribefire.com/

In addition to the tools mentioned above there are many others that you can use, but quite frankly, you should be working more on filling up your website with meaningful quality content rather than spending hours and days on analysing the performance of your site. These basic tools will help you get a broad picture of how your website is doing and you can tweak it accordingly.

Alexa rank - Similar to the Google Page Rank, Alexa ranks websites based on the traffic. The traffic data is collected from various sources including the websites using the Alexa toolbar. The traffic ranking is based on an aggregate of three months historical data collected for the number of page views and the number of visitors. The ranking can be checked on the Alexa website at www.Alexa.com.

The Alexa traffic ranking for one of our Blogs.

Indiblogger - Indiblogger is a network of Indian Blogs and Bloggers. Just like other ranking systems, Indiblogger also ranks the Blogs registered with them and assigns them an Indi Rank that is based on Google PageRank. Alexa traffic ranks incoming links and some other factors. The higher the ranking the better your Blog is deemed to be.

Technorati Authority - Started as a Blog search engine, Technorati has now become much more than that. You can submit your Blog to Technorati and they will track the traffic, popularity, frequency of updates, etc., and also assign your Blog a Technorati authority and a ranking. In addition, Technorati is a powerful tool for spreading the word about your latest post. Technorati is also a good way to distribute your posts, even though you do not have much control over them. However, once a Blog is submitted, your Technorati page might find its way in the search engine results pages much higher than what your original Blog does. Either ways, your Blog gains a higher visibility. shows the Technorati ranking of our Blog.

 

Free Press Release Services - This is a handy tool for websites for issuing press releases about their new services, products, etc. There are many free press release services available on the net. All you need is a well-written text and a free registration with any number of services you want. To start with a free account is good and if you feel a particular service is delivering better results you can opt in for premium services, Anyway, the idea is to make your news travel the world. There are many journalists as well as media websites which keep a track of these press release submitted and generally if they find something interesting enough will pick it up for their media, print or electronic. Just remember to follow the optimization for content rules for the press release as well. 



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