Thursday, March 20, 2008
Today's the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, so now is a perfect time to start your spring cleaning. But as a webmaster, your chores don't end after you've cleaned the garage—you'll probably also want to do some cleaning on your server as well.
Before we get to the interior, step outside, and see how your site looks from the street—or in Google search results. Just head on over to your nearest Google search box, and do a site search on your site using the query format site:example.com. Just like you keep your street number visible on your house, and maybe even your name on the mailbox, check to see that your visitors can easily identify your site and its contents from the title and snippet listed in Google. If you'd like to improve your current appearance, try out the content analysis feature in Webmaster Tools, and read up on how to influence your snippets.
Speaking of making your address visible, how are you listed? My name is Michael, but I'll also
answer to Mike or even Wysz. However, I only expect to be listed once in the phone book.
Similarly, your site may have pages that can be accessed from multiple URLs: for instance,
example.com. To consolidate your site's listings in
to tell Google (and other search engines) how you'd prefer your pages to be listed. You can also
let Google know about your preferred domain
via Webmaster Tools. And just like I'd want my bank to understand that deposits to Mike and
Michael should route to the same account, those redirects can help Google appropriately
consolidate link properties (like PageRank) to the destination page.
No matter how clean your home is, all that work may go unnoticed if your visitors can't get in the door or find their way around. Review your site's appearance and functionality on multiple browsers to make sure that all of your visitors get the experience you've worked so hard to design. Not everyone uses Internet Explorer, so it's a good idea to test using browsers representing different layout engines. Firefox, Safari, and Opera all see things differently, and these three browsers likely control how at least 20% of your users are experiencing the web. For some sites it can be dramatically higher—The New York Times recently reported that around 38% of their online readers used either Firefox or Safari.
If your site requires the use of plug-ins, check to see how this additional content behaves across different operating sys