We all take Search for granted a little these days, but I’d be willing to bet that the majority of bloggers weren’t as good at searching as they’d like to be, I know I’m not. So with that in mind, and the fact that i’d like to improve my own Search skills, I figured I’d show you a few neat Google hacks, starting with how to check your blogs general health
Important: When you see something like [this] it simply means enter the word “this” in the search box, without any quotes. Its a relatively new way of writing search terms that both engineers and search marketers use — and it makes life a little simpler if we’re all on the same page.
Checking Your Google Health
These hacks you can do right from the Google homepage. They can give you a general idea of the health of your blog in terms of Google indexing and ranking.
Check your blog neighborhood
I wrote about this command in With Linking, Careful the Company you Keep. The point is, many professional search marketers believe that staying on theme in Google’s eyes is an important factor in ranking well. And for what it’s worth, so do I. Try this:
If your domain typically starts with a “www” then do
Provided your blog is old enough for Google to have figured out your theme, then you’ll hopefully see a whole bunch of very similarly topic’d blogs in the results. See the results for my Search and marketing blog as an example.
If those results bear no resemblance to your chosen topic, you’ll need to take a very careful look at what you or your users and linking to, and take steps to correct it. Caveat: With some kinds of sites that’s neigh on impossible, dont worry if you can’t, it’s not the end of the world.
Check for indexing issues
It’s worthwhile checking your blogs overall health periodically. The main tool for this is the simple
[site:MyDomanName.com] command. It tells you how many pages Google has indexed from your blog, and more importantly, can give you some clues as to any issues your blog may be suffering due to over zealous indexing or poor website managment.
If you look at this command for Performancing.com for example, you’ll notice a couple of little areas that might need further inspection. On looking closer, neither are cause for worry. The first result is simply a category rss feed, and the
/user/N urls are actually on our robots.txt file, so Google is just reporting that it knows of the pages, but has not indexed them, hence them not having a snippet.
Possible problem areas you may see from running this search would be:
- Duplicate pages – where the same page show’s twice but with differing urls. This is usually best tackled by making sure no links on your blog are linking to alternate urls for the same content, or if that’s not possible, by specifying the urls you dont want indexed in your robots.txt file
- Junk pages being indexed. On every dynamically created website there will be “junk pages”, pages that are NOT essential for Google to spider. Some think the more pages indexed the better, but i disagree, I think you should control what pages matter and don’t matter in your robots.txt file.
- No results at all!
In case of your search returning no results at all — answer the follwing questions before pressing the panick button.
- Is your blog new? If newer than a few months, you most likely have nothing to worry about.
- Is Google in the process of updating? Check the Search blogs and forums, if there’s an update going on, it’s most likely just a temporary glitch
- Is your robots.txt file correct? Does it validate and are you sure that you’re not blocking Google? Check your logs, and do your homework.
If all of the above is good, and you still see a screen like this (pic above) then you could be banned. This can happen for all kinds of reasons, and it’s well beyond the scope of this post to go into it. You’ll need to get in contact with Google to sort the mess out.
As an aside, it’s thought that Chris Pirillo’s Gada.be was removed as it was generating thousands of dynamic subdomains – not that Google just don’t like Chris…
Also, as a last resort use Google’s new sitemap tool to get an in depth look at your indexing. You shouldn’t need to do this unless you really feel there is a problem, but it’s a very useful way of spotting 404 problems for example. I’ll be writing about this seperately shortly.
Check who’s linking to you
Warning: This search in inaccurate. Contrary to what many people think, Google does NOT show you all of the sites that link to you. They show a sample of the data they have. This is not a matter of opinion, Google will tell you exactly the same thing if you ask them.
With that caveat aside, it’s still useful to have a look at what Google will give you for the
[site:MyDomain.com] command. Just go ahead and type that in and see what it throws back at you. You may see a correlation between who’s linking to you, and who’s
[related:] to you. That’s not a coincidence.
Remember, that query will not show all the links Google know’s about. They also have a habbit of mucking around with queries like that in an attempt to stop people from trying to reverse engineer algorithms, and build tools based on searches like that.
Interesting nonetheless though.
So, Now You Should Know
You Should be well equipped to check your blogs general health in Google now. For the most part, bloggers simply don’t need to worry too much about this stuff, it’s best left to Google to work these things out (and they’re pretty good at it), but it doesn’t do any harm to just check that all is well and you’re not making mistakes, or going off course with your blogging.
If you have any thing to add to the above, I’d love to hear it…