The title “webmaster” gets thrown around loosely these days. Every blogger who has their own personalblog.blogspot/wordpress/blogger/tumblr.com that they update once a year considers themselves to be a webmaster in the loosest terms imaginable.
These “webmasters” don’t care about conversions, click through rates, rankings, backlinks, domain authority, mobile performance, or a host of other statistics that help to determine the health and performance of a website. If you are serious about your site and want it to perform well then learn to love these tools that help to diagnose and gauge your websites performance as well as tailoring it to fit your audience’s needs.
The big bad voodoo daddy of free tools for webmasters is without a doubt Google Analytics. This immensely powerful tool gives you a wide range of data to work with that can show you exactly where you need improvements in your site, or what you can better focus on. Exploring everything that Google Analytics can help you with and the different ways it can be applied could challenge War and Peace for length, but here are a few of the most powerful features on this free tool.
While GA will not tell you particulars about specific visitors, it is great at showing you trends. See how your audience is finding your site, how many are returning vs. new visitors, if they’re viewing on mobile, and a host of other stats. For developing sites, one of the most useful tools through audience tracking is the Visitor Flow feature.
As you can see, this breaks down visitors by demographic (geography in this case) and then shows what landing page they arrived on, and where they went on the site. More importantly, it shows how many “Drop Offs” each page has. A high drop off can inform you to broken links or pages, poor content, and more. Fixing these problem areas can immediately increase your sites performance.
This is a very wide category within GA, but it provides the meat of what many webmasters focus in on. As you can guess, this breaks down where your traffic is coming from in these areas:
These categories can help you to manage your SEO performance, ad campaigns, and social media profiels which helps you to determine where you need to focus your efforts and just how effective your ad campaigns are.
If you don’t read any farther, then at least activate Google Analytics and explore it for half an hour. No free service is as easy to use and offers up such a scope of information to help you better improve your sites performance. More likely than not, once the tool is up and running you’ll be sucked in for hours at a time.
While it may not look as pretty as Google Analytics, Moonsy is a great simple tool to help you check up on a wide range of schematics, especially if you’re looking into other domains and competitors. From the top toolbar you can use these handy (and free) features just to highlight a few. To note: no imagination was spared in the naming of these tools.
To be clear, this tool is not going to blow you away with its beautiful design or ease of use. However, the information it provides and houses in one place makes up for most of these faults. Moonsy really shines when matched up with the next tool on the list…
As just mentioned above, Domain Authority and Page Authority are a metric that SEOmoz has come up with, and the SEO giant also offers Open Site Explorer as a very powerful link metric tool. Designed to compare competing sites, you can run up to three basic reports a day if you haven’t paid for the service – which is why this is ranking below Moonsy on this list.
You can enter up to five URLs at a time but for this example we’ll look at Buzzfeed, Mashable, and – of course –instantShift.
What this tells us is that, between the three, Mashable has the best chance of a higher ranking in Google’s search engine result pages because of its higherMozRank, MozTrust, External Followed Links, Total External Links, Followed Linking Root Domains, Total Linking Root Domains, and Linking C Blocks. Granted, putting instantShift into the ring against Mashable and Buzzfeed doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but think about comparing your site to your ranking competitors for your desired search terms. You can get a great sense as to why your competitor’s pages are ranking like they are, and can then try to emulate their success to push them out of the top spot.
While Open Site Explorer may be one of the most powerful tools on the list (depending on your needs, it’s a tossup between it and Google Analytics), it falls below Moonsy due to one key aspect. In order to unlock its full potential you need to pay a monthly fee. Many webmasters find it worth the cost, but that doesn’t mean you will. Even with its limited scope as a free tool it still manages to be very helpful and offers a great overview of what is happening on and off your domain.
“More Americans have smartphones than passports.” This is one of the statistics that GoMo shows you while you wait to see what your website looks like on a smartphone. The mobile trend is growing as smartphones become the norm. The baby-boomers are becoming more tech literate and there are more tweens tweeting from their smartphones every day. Becoming mobile friendly is more important than ever, especially if you’re trying to catch the local consumer’s eye.
GoMo allows you to quickly and easily see what your site will look like when viewed from a smartphone, and you can quickly determine if you need to make changes or incorporate a mobile design. For example, this is the example that GoMo showed for instantShift’s homepage.
So if your site comes back and looks like something that needs a microscope in order to be seen and you dodecide that a mobile friendly platform is the way to go, well GoMo can help you out. GoMo will link you to a directory where you can find developers that specialize in creating mobile friendly platforms. Getting this process started may have to be your next big step for your sites longevity. Tablets and phones are only getting bigger pieces of the pie and the trend doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon.
Nothing kills a site’s performance faster than broken links. Users have a frustrating experience trying to navigate a site and will be hard pressed to return which results in lower conversion. And, sometimes more importantly, if you rely on search engines for the bulk of your traffic you could experience a huge hit if you have a plethora of broken links. Search engines rely on internal and external links to not only index your sites pages, but to tell how well your website is built and how much care is taken. If your site has too many broken links, expect to see a drop in your rankings.
With that being said, Validator is a great way to find, fix, or remove these broken areas of a site. Not only does Validator find broken links, but it also searches out broken code that can affect all different parts of a website; from comment tabs, images, to text font. Validator does this by searching through your page’s code and finding errors that need to be addressed. While most sites are based around HTML/XHTML, Validator can read and find errors in most markup languages.
Better yet, Validator offers a number of ways to do this. The quickest way is to simply check with the pages URL code, but you can also upload your sites files, or by directly inputting the code. This means you can find use with Validator in every part of website development, and you can even use it for broken link building strategies.
If you want to bring your site to the next level then it is in your best interest to utilize the tools that are at your disposal. Not doing so can leave you in the dark as to exactly what is working within your site and what needs to change in order to increase traffic and conversions. Incredibly strong tools like Google Analytics are only limited to how you use them, while tools like Validator and GoMo offer niche services that can’t be passed up.
Looking beyond just the inner workings of your site, Open Site Explorer offers not only free competitor analysis, but a way to track your link building efforts and weight of your domain. However, the free service through Open Site Explorer is very limited since it only gives you three searches per day. This is great if you’re just checking in every now and then, but if you’re trying to get to the bottom of your rankings you’ll burn through this in no time flat.
This is when tools like Moonsy come into service. It may look incredibly basic, and a bit cumbersome to use, but with it you can gleam most of the information that Open Site Explorer charges for. Granted, it’s not presented in an easy to read table and graphs, but it works in a pinch if you’re not wanting to pay for the service.
While a great webmaster doesn’t need to rely on these tools, they help to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Since they’re all free, you’re only risking your time if you try them out. You may not find them all useful right away, but odds are that their worth will become apparent the more you work on a website. Give them a try and let me know what you think.