Tracking Results and Measuring Success : Competitive and Diagnostic Search Metrics (part 1) - Site Indexing Data

11/8/2012 2:47:37 AM
In this section, we will start looking at metrics that you can use to diagnose specific SEO issues. An example of this would be finding out whether a major section of your site is not indexed. Another example is seeing how your traffic growth compares to that of your competitors (this helps you decide whether you have set the right objectives for your efforts).

1. Search Engine and Competitive Metrics

Numerous tools allow you to monitor your site and those of your competitors, providing insight into your SEO progress. You can also use these tools to figure out what your competitors are doing from an SEO perspective. This type of intelligence can provide you with new ideas on how to adapt your strategy to get better results.

As with all such tools, it is always important to understand the context of the tools and to have an idea as to what you are looking for. Better knowledge of your competitors’ strategy is certainly one valuable goal. Detecting a problem in how your website is crawled is another.

By selecting specific and actionable goals, you can set yourself up for the highest possible return.

2. Site Indexing Data

It is valuable to know how many pages in your site are in a search engine’s index. This is interesting for two reasons:

  • To determine whether important parts of your site are not in the index. If key parts of the site are not in the index, you can embark on an effort to determine why.

  • To learn about your competitors’ sites and strategies.

You can get basic information on the number of indexed pages for a site using the command in Google, Yahoo!, or Bing. Figure 1 uses the results for Dennis Mortensen’s blog.

Figure 1. Site indexing data

As shown in Figure 1, Google reports 566 pages in the index. Is that all of his pages? Many site owners will have a pretty good idea of the number of pages on their site and therefore can get a gut feeling as to whether they have a problem. One important thing to note is that the results that site: commands return are not that accurate. You can use them to give you a gut-feel sense, but that is all.

You can improve this data by performing your site query and then appending "&start=990&filter=0" to the end of the Google SERP URL. This will give you more accurate totals for the number of pages indexed.

If you think many pages are missing from the index, you can begin to explore a bit deeper. You can start by narrowing down sections of the site. Figure 2 shows the 2007 blog post archives on Dennis’s site.

Figure 2. Indexing data on a website section

As shown in Figure 2, this reports 87 pages in the Google index. By using these different command structures, you can isolate what portions of the site appear to be less well indexed than others. You can also combine the site: command with other operators. For example, consider combining it with the inurl operator, as in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Site command combined with inurl

Figure 9-16 shows that there are 8,840 pages of the xbox360 subdomain on the website in the index.

So far, we’ve shown website indexing tools that you can use on any website, which is great for competitive research. However, you can pull more accurate statistics for your website using Bing Webmaster Tools. You can also pull site indexing data from Google Webmaster Tools (Google WMT), but this tool is limited to reporting against pages that appear in your Sitemaps file.

Both of these tools are very useful, and you should consider using them on every site you touch. The tools provide lots of valuable data, at no cost, and with little effort to boot. For example, Figure 4 shows the opening screen for Bing Webmaster Tools (Bing WMT) for

Figure 4. Bing Webmaster Tools

As per Figure 4, it looks like Bing has 2,570 pages from the site indexed. If you enter the command in Bing itself, it shows something rather different (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Bing site command results

This search shows 11,800 indexed pages. Of the two, you should consider the report from Bing Webmaster Tools to have more accurate data than the results from a site search at Bing.

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