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Diagnosing SEO Issues with live search webmaster tools

This was a sponsored session, Microsoft was the sponsor, so its a semi sales pitch. I thought it would be good info for our pay-per-clicking friends, though!!

Obviously, website traffic is mission critical. SEO drives over 30% of traffic to the largest sites, and about 80% of traffic on smaller sites, and around 40% of traffic for medium sites. You must be found in search, it can make or break your business.

Session flow:

  • How search works
  • Fixing Issues – troubleshooting process
  • Case study
  • Demo
  • Q and A

Search engines work with 3 big components:

  1. Crawling – data is actively crawled and found. This happens with little spiders and bots. Make sure your robots.txt file supports crawling.
  2. Indexing – data is included and stored on the search engine’s servers.
  3. Ranking – data is rated, MSN search uses links as a trust method (similar to Google’s page rank) and websites with trusted links and relevant content are ranked. You can use rank checker and backlink data to in the webmaster tools section to check.

    Dynamic Ranking – based on your need and your keywords, what is the most likely content to satisfy your need?

    Query Parsing – totally missed it sorry for daydreaming….

What if I’m not in MSN? To troubleshoot if you are not in Microsoft search start with crawling then go to indexing and ranking. First check your branded search, then your keyword searches. Make sure you are coming up where you should.

Fixing issues: Ask:

Is my site showing up on the first page?

  • Is my page indexed at all? (site: operator) If you’re indexed then your issues aren’t crawler they are probably relevant keywords.
  • Does the SERP result look compelling? Something that gets people excited to click on.
  • Good title, description, correct URL. Should your page be cached?
  • Common issues slide would have been nice to include here, but the presentation isn’t online…I wonder if I will ever get back to finding it???

    Case study: Microsoft MVP profile page. Why wasn’t it showing up in search results? What to do?

    1. Recreate the issue: try to find the page in search
    2. Check Microsoft webmaster tools – check the crawl issues report. This will tell you about 404 issues, pages with too many query parameters in the URL, or pages that have content Microsoft doesn’t support. I see this tool working great for Advanced Access clients and also clients who just launched a redesign.
    3. Use the http header tool checker for firefox. Also check the https, dig around to find the issue. In this case it was 3000 broken links and 404’s on a 4000 link site.

    Demo time!!! Only about half the room has created a Microsoft account. The rest of us were encouraged to do so now, lol 🙂

    Microsoft has a self service tool set so let’s see how it compares to Google. There is an online forum, and a 3 business day turnaround time too if you are an advertiser and have questions.

    Supports up to 125 sites – you do have to verify the site before they will report on it though. (aka you can’t go tracking your competition) You’ll verify by adding code just like you would for Google analytics.

    Deep index will let you scroll through your deep indexed results

    Crawl date will also tell you how frequently you’re crawled and when the last time Microsoft was at your website.

    Penalties will tell you any problems Microsoft has with your domain or your pages. This lets you know right away what the issues are so you can get re-evaluated if necessary.

    Content type, for example Microsoft doesn’t link or rank .exe or .swf (FLASH) files. If you built complicated pages that Microsoft is not sure what they are or what they are downloading, they will be ignored.

    Webmaster tools also helps with crawl issues on 404 errors, not just on your website. Its other sites linking incorrectly to you or people typing you in wrong or going to an old page they had saved. This is great so you can really tie up all loose ends on your traffic.

    Regarding dynamic URLs, Microsoft can’t spend all day crawling your mile long
    excluded pages, you can specify in robots, meta header, and sometimes it gives conflicting data if you tried to put it in multiple places.

    So what else you got for us, Microsoft???

    Filtering functionality – See up to 1000 results, which you can filter down into. Take your data offline into excel and then distribute to your clients or to your team.

    Robots file checker – allows you to check your robots.txt file and make sure there are no problems with your robots file. If you don’t know code you may have accidentially grabbed a robots file that disincludes certain search engines, make sure you check to make sure its done right. Or hire a professional like Cal Coast.

    Ping service – If your site updates you can ping it again. Don’t just ping your website though, its not going to get you better rankings. Be diligent.

    Comprehensive back link reports – Allow filtering, downloads, see who’s linking to you. They support up to 2 levels of sub domains and 2 levels of sub folders. Results are RIGHT now, real time, not cashed, coolio.

    TIP: Look for the green boxes – they will give you a page or domain score. The boxes give you visibility into that ranking process. 5 green boxes = GOOD, 0 green boxes = you suck get to work 🙂

    Things Microsoft is looking into for the future of the webmaster:

    • More troubleshooting tools (thank you)
    • More data to pull (thanks but sort it well)
    • Content management. Ability to request content be removed and be added.
    • Statistics about your customers and marketspace (love it!)
    • Publisher cues to improve crawling, indexing, and display

    Feedback???? Post your comments here or on


    When is the best time to check the backlinks? Don’t worry, anytime of day is good. Give it about 2 or 3 days after you implement the code, though.

    Is there a way to find out what exact page of my website other websites are linking to? Can I found out where the outbound links are? No, booooo. Angela’s not smiling, looks like we are still waiting to get our hands on this important data.

    Over time my MSN indexed pages have significantly decreased, why? There are many reasons, over the past 6 or 8 months they have increased capacity to report and crawl. Maybe Microsoft better indexed the most relevant pages and got rid of any duplicate content? Also check the webmaster tools, eigh? Also remember quantity isn’t necessarily a measure of success.

    Do you have a tool to validate HT access files? No, they haven’t heard of one either. Darn, one of our clients who will remain unmentioned needs it bad.

    Can we get .pdf files indexed? Can we get them verified? Yes. Yes for verification if its on your domain.

    Are there plans to incorporate video search stats in the future? Possibly, this would fall under the content management category of where they want to expand to in the future.

    Why should we use your webmaster tools? Convince me your stuff is better. All data is different, webmasters should use all major tools to get the biggest picture for our clients. Microsoft does provides 5 different data types others do not, though, mainly with the page scores. Export your .csv files from Yahoo, Google and Microsoft and bring them all together to get a clear picture. So, they think they can dance, huh?

    Can I run a beta site thru webmaster tools? No, MSN needs to crawl the site first. Like the Millionaire Mind book says… set sail and adjust course, don’t keep planning the course!!!