About Online Matters

Archive for the ‘SEO Tools’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Web Site Latency and Performance Tools

It is back to the blogstone. And once again, I have broken my own rule about writing long posts infrequently. This one is a continuation of my previous posts on improving web site performance. What especially motivated me to go back to this topic was a request I received from Justified on my site performance posts:

My fellow classmates use your blogs as our reference materials. We look out for more interesting articles from your end about the same topic . Even the future updates about this topic would be of great help.

What a nice compliment. I wouldn’t be a very good marketer if I didn’t respect the wishes of my ‘customers.” So, I continue the series on web site performance issues and my saga to improve the performance of this blog. Having said that, a number of things have happened since that last post.

First, as noted in a previous post , I had the opportunity to go to SMX West earlier this month. While there, I attended a session titled “Diagnosing Technical SEO Issues”, with Adam Audette, Patrick Bennett, Gabe Gayhart, and Brian Ussery as the panelists.  One thing I learned is that the term “site performance” has a general usage different than what I am covering here.  Site performance is usually defined as including:

  • How easy a site is to crawl.
  • Infrastructure issues, including URL structures, template coding, directory structures,  and file naming conventions.
  • Latency issues such as html redirects, http headers, image compression, and all the other items I have been covering in this series.

The point is, what this series of posts are about is only one element of site performance which is web site latency and response times as seen by Google and other search engines.  In the future, I will use this technical term in these posts.  I have to decide – for purposes of rankings – whether to change the names of my posts, the URLS,  and all the core meta data to reflect this change or whether I will stay with web site performance as the keyword I want to optimize for. That decision will probably be made based on the keyword search volumes as shown in the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. (Actually I have now changed the keyword I am optimizing for to web site latency as I am testing some theories I have on page optimization in the SERps that has nothing to do with site performance. So it just goes to show…)

Second, as also noted in the third post in this series on web site latency, Google has announced and deployed a new web site performance tool within Google Webmaster Tools, as well as a Firefox/Firebug plugin.  So in order to continue to explore the topic of AboutOnlineMatters site latency, I need to cover that tool.  But then we get into the whole issue of the core set of site performance tools to use for evaluating site latency issues.  We already discussed and showed our results from pingdom’s latency analysis tool, but there are many more, some of them providing similar analysis and, as I was bemused to discover, often providing differing results for the same items.

So what I’ve decided to do is to provide some discussion of web site latency and performance tools and toolbars before we get back to analyzing AboutOnlineMatters, and then I can show how I used the tools to debug my site latency issues.

Here are the tools I plan to cover, and just so you know, I may cover some or all of them in flash/video, which would be a first for this blog.  Although I’m not a big video fan (I can take in more info more quickly by reading), I know many people prefer than format so I want to try and accomodate them along with my current readers.

Tool Function
Charles A desktop application that provies a HTTP proxy / HTTP monitor / Reverse Proxy that enables a developer to view all of the HTTP and SSL / HTTPS traffic between their machine and the Internet. This includes requests, responses and the HTTP headers (which contain the cookies and caching information). A great tool for understanding what calls/requests are being made and how they impact web site latency.
curl [url] curl is a downloadable command line tool for transferring data with URL syntax.
dynamic drive Image Optimizer is a web-based service that lets you easily optimize your gifs, animated gifs, jpgs, and pngs, so they load as fast as possible on your site. It provides images in a range of filesize (for the same size image) by decreasing the DPI of the image. It also easily converts from one image type to another. Upload size limit is 300 kB.
Firebug Firebug is a Firefox plugin that provides a number of tools for developers and technical SEO work, including web site latency and performance analysis. I will cover many of the plugins later, if a get the chance. In the meantime, take a look at this article at webresources depot to find a good list of useful Firebug plugins.
Google Page Speed Page Speed is an open-source Firefox/Firebug add-on that performs several tests on a site’s web server configuration and front-end code. It provides a comprehensive report and score on issues that can effect web site latency, as well as recommendations for improving site latency. This is how Google sees your web site latency and is the first tool you should run to understand if you have web site performance problems from Google’s perspective, which over time will have a larger impact on your rankings.
HttpWatch HttpWatch is a desktop (downloadable) HTTP viewer and debugger that integrates with IE and Firefox to provide seamless HTTP and HTTPS monitoring without leaving the browser window. It is similar in functionality to Charles.
JSMIN JSMin is a Javascript minifier. Basically, it acts as a filter which removes comments and unnecessary whitespace from JavaScript files. It typically reduces filesize by half, resulting in faster downloads. It also encourages a more expressive programming style because it eliminates the download cost of clean, literate self-documentation.JSMIN can be downloaded as a MS-DOS .exe file or as source code that can be compiled.
Live HTTP headers A Firefox toolbar plugin that allows you to view http headers of a page while browsing. Analysis of headers is important to understand if certain key functions/libraries that effect web site latency and performance, like gzip, are active on the web server serving up pages.
Lynx A downloadable text browser that allows you to view your site as the search crawlers do. Also a way of ensuring that people with text-only browsers can use the site – however this is a pretty minimal use nowadays.
NetExport NetExport is a Firebug 1.5 extension that allows exporting all collected and computed data from the Firebug Net panel. The structure of the created file uses HTTP Archive 1.1 (HAR) format (based on JSON)
Dean Edward’s Packer A web-based JavaScript compressor.
Pingdom Full Page Test Pingdom’s Full Page Test is a web-based tool that loads a complete HTML page including all objects (images, CSS, JavaScripts, RSS, Flash and frames/iframes). It mimics the way a page is loaded in a web browser. The load time of all objects is shown visually with time bars.
ShowSlow ShowSlow is an open source tool that helps monitor various web site latency and performance metrics over time. It captures the results of YSlow and Google Page Speed rankings and graphs them, to help you understand how various changes to your site affect its performance. This is a great tool to see how the two tools results compare, but also to understand which items they are analyzing. Showslow can be run from within your Firefox/Firebug toolbar or be installed on your server. Be forewarned, to run it on your toolbar you will need to make some settings changes to the about:config page and your results will show publicly on www.showslow.com.
Site-perf.com Site-Perf.com is another performance analysis tool that visually displays web page load times. It is similar to Pingdom’s Full Page Test Tool, although it provides a little bit more detail and better explanations of what the load times mean. It also has a network performance test tool that is handy in understanding what portion of your web site latency and performance issues are coming from your host rather than from the site – and let me tell you that can be a lifesaver as you watch your performance go from great to lousy to great again. The page test tool provides an accurate, realistic, and helpful estimation of your site’s loading speed. The script fully emulates natural browser behavior downloading your page with all the images, CSS, JS and other files, just like a regular user.
Smush.it Smush.it runs as a web service or as a Firebug plugin that comes with ySlow V2. It uses optimization techniques specific to image format to remove unnecessary bytes from image files. It is a “lossless” tool, which means it optimizes the images without changing their look or visual quality. After Smush.it runs on a web page it reports how many bytes would be saved by optimizing the page’s images and provides a downloadable zip file with the minimized image files. smush
Wave Toolbar The WAVE Toolbar provides button options and a menu that will modify the current web page to reveal the underlying page structure information so you can visualize where web site latency issues may be occurring. It also has a built in text-browser comparable to Lynx.
Web Page Test webpagetest.org is a hosted service that provides a detailed test and review of web site latency and performance issues. It is probably the most complete single tool I have found for getting an overview of what is happening with your website. I like this better than yslow or showslow, but I would still use Google Page Speed Test as that is how googlebot sees web site performance.
Web Developer Toolbar If you do any web work, this is the one must-have plug-in for FireFox. It contains a series of developer tools that let you visualize various web page elements and determine if there are html, css, or javascript errors. This is just one of its many functions.
Webo Site Speedup Webo site speedup deserves special mention. It is actually not so much a tool but a fix. It comes as an installable application for your web server or as a plugin for WordPress or Joomla. There is a free community edition and a premium edition with extra features that runs $99. It performs a range of functions to boost web site latency significantly, including compression of images/css/javascript, combining multiple css or javascript files into a single file, moving javascript to the bottom of the page rather than the top, and minifying javascript, among numerous other functions.
wget wget is a free utility for the non-interactive download of files from the web. It runs in the background (so you can be doing other things) and supports http, https, and ftp protocols, as well as retrieval through http proxies. You can use it, for example, to create a local version of a remote website, fully recreating that site’s directory structure.
Xenu Link Sleuth Xenu Link Sleuth spiders web sites looking for broken links. Link verification is done on ‘normal’ links, images, frames, backgrounds and local image maps. It displays a continously updated list of URLs which you can sort by different criteria.
ySlow ySlow, developed by Yahoo!, is a FireFox/FireBug plugin. It is a general purpose web site latency and performance optimizer. It analyzes a variety of factors impacting web site latency, provides reports, and makes suggestions for fixes. This has been the most commonly used tool for analyzing web site performance until now.
YUI Compressor The YUI Compressor, developed by Yahoo!, is a JavaScript minifier designed to be 100% safe and yield a higher compression ratio than most other tools. It is part of the YUI library. The YUI Library is a set of utilities and controls, written with JavaScript and CSS, for building richly interactive web applications using techniques such as DOM scripting, DHTML and AJAX. YUI is available under a BSD license and is free for all uses.
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PostHeaderIcon Comparing General Purpose SEO Toolbars

Note to readers: click on the link to download a copy of my analysis of general purpose SEO toolbars.

One of my more unusual pet peeves in SEO is the number of general purpose SEO toolbars available for use. Actually not so much the number, but the fact that each one claims to be the best of the best, each one has its champions in the community, and each reports slightly different data for certain metrics. Which one is best for me and in what situations? Which provides the most accurate data?

I have been asked so many times by customers “What is the best general purpose toolbar for Firefox?” that I finally decided to do a detailed comparison, if nothing else to satisfy my curiosity about:

  • how similar the features/functions of these toolbars are.
  • how accurate they were (e.g. did they all get the same numbers for similar analyses).
  • which one was best in which situation.

I could spend days writing reviews of these toolbars, but very few would read these and I doubt the added information would prove all that useful versus downloading and trying the tools. SEOs are, by definition, very much experimenters. They prefer to test rather than read or guess. On the other hand, a high level visual summary, which can provide a sense of the tools coverage as well as its focus/strengths, would probably help those evaluating tools so they can know which features they should explore in which tool.

Ergo the table below, which shows a feature-by-feature comparison of six popular SEO toolbars for Firefox – FoxySEO Tool, SEMOMoz, SEOBook, SEOpen, SEOQuake, and SEO for Firefox. Hopefully the categories and line items are self-explanatory. If not and I get enough comments, then I will add an addendum explaining the line items – but that would be painful and probably not add a lot of value for most of the audience.

No doubt, readers are going to be upset because I didn’t get to their favorite toolbar, and for that my humble apologies. In the process of this research, I found several more general purpose SEO toolbars, like ToolbarBrowser, which need review. I will have to cover those on in a separate post and I will update the downloadable pdf comparing all of the toolbars as I extend the research.

What I found interesting:

  1. There was no single metric/line item that all six toolbars analyzed except the number of backlinks to site in Yahoo! SiteExplorer.
  2. Five of the six tools included metrics for PageRank of the current page, pages in Google Cache, number of backlinks to page in SiteExplorer, DMOZ Entries, Keyword Density, and Meta Tag Analysis. These were the most widely shared metrics.
  3. Each tool has different strengths and weaknesses. For example:
    • SEOBook’s toolbar clearly has a much deeper set of tools for keyword analysis compared to the others.
    • FoxySEO tool has a broader coverage of metrics in the social media, site performance, and indexing domains.
    • SEOQuake and several others provides the set of analyses for every line item in the SERPS, which is very handy for competitive analysis.
    • SEOMoz, on the other hand, has fewer tools but they cover areas not included in other toolbars, as well as including metrics unique to SEOMoz – e.g. MOZRank, MozTrust. The toolbar also links to the SEOMoz Pro tools on the SEOMoz website, where you can run other, deeper analyses. Clearly, its purpose is not to perform all the analysis “on page” but rather to give a high-level view from which further data can be gleaned by using the more detailed SEOMoz tools. However, those tools (and the toolbar) are only available to paid SEOMoz members.
  4. As far as accuracy goes, when checked most of the tools reported consistent data on everything but link-related metrics, where the data tended to vary widely. Yahoo SiteExplorer links probably had the least variation, but when you looked at bookmarks on social media sites or directory entries in DMOZ or Yahoo, you can see results that differ by a factor of 10 in some cases. What is even more interesting, when I manually went to some of these sites and typed in the same query, I actually got a set of results that differed from the data I got in SEOQuake and FoxySEO Tool.

So which toolbar is right for you depends on:

  • What metrics you feel are important to you.
  • What services you subscribe to.
  • How cluttered you like your Firefox screen.
  • How much performance degradation you are willing to tolerate. In the case of tools which provide metrics for every line in the SERPs, the wait time can be substantial.

How Can You Tell Someone is a SEO Tool Addict? Look at Their Firefox.

As you can see from the picture, as a self-confessed tool addict I have all of them running – which explains why I never use Firefox for anything but SEO work. Advantage to Chrome for regular browsing and social media work, at least until all the SEO plugins port over to Chrome.

Category/Feature Foxy SEO Tool SEOMoz SEOBook SEOpen SEOQuake SEO for
Firefox
General
Site Found Date/Age + + +
Google Page PageRank + + + + +
Google Site PageRank +
Google Cache + + + + +
Google Info +
Google Site +
Google Similar Sites +
Quarkbase Info +
Error 404 page check +
robots.txt check + + +
robots.txt viewer +
W3C Validation + +
Site Header Check +
XML Sitemap Checker + +
Links to SEOMoz tools +
Show Nofollow tags + + +
Web Server Type +
Wayback Machine Archives +
Traffic Measures
Alexa + + + + +
Bing +
Google Trends +
Quantcast + +
SEMRush rank +
SEMRush price of CPC +
SEMRush Traffic + +
Compete.com rank + + + + +
Compete.com uniques + + + +
Google Trends +
Search spider simulator +
Site Performance
Network World Response +
Page Loading Test + +
Ping Test +
DNS Test +
Geo Location +
IP Address + + +
IP Search +
IP Neighbors +
My Server Header + +
My IP Information +
Copyscape +
Internet Archive +
WhoIs + + + + +
Proxy View +
Measures of Content Indexing
Google Pages Indexed + + + +
Google Search Domain +
Google Images +
Yahoo Pages Indexed + + + +
Yahoo Search Domain +
Bing Pages Indexed + + +
Bing Images +
Bing Search Domain +
Google Webmaster Tools – Top Searches +
Ask Search Domain +
Link Analysis/Metrics
Google Links + +
Google Webmaster Tools – Backlinks +
Site Explorer Backlinks Site + + + + + +
Site Explorer Backlinks Page + + + + +
Site Explorer for this Site +
Site Explorer for this Page +
Site Explorer .edu links + +
Site Explorer .gov links + +
Site Explorer .mil links +
Bing Links + + +
Bing Site +
Alexa Backlinks to Site +
Blog links +
Majestic SEO Linkdomain + +
Internal links to page + +
mozRank of page +
mozTrust of Page +
Domains linking to site +
Root domains linking to page +
mozrank of subdomain +
Domain mozRank
Domain mozTrust
Social Media Visibility Metrics
Google News +
Google Blog +
Google Groups +
Yahoo News +
Ask News +
Bing News +
Bloglines +
Delicious + + + +
Digg + + + +
Digg Popular Stories + +
MySpace +
Stumbleupon + + +
Technorati + + +
Twitter + + +
Wikipedia + +
Yahoo Answers +
youtube +
Tools to Bookmark in Social Media
Reddit +
Facebook +
Mixx +
MySpace +
Propeller +
Squidoo +
Stumbleupon +
Technorati +
Twitter +
Yahoo! Buzz +
Set Bookmarks in Search Engines
Ask +
AOL +
Google +
Live +
Yahoo! +
Directory Entry Metrics
About.com +
DMOZ + + + + +
Google Directory +
Yahoo! Directory + + + +
Best of the Web + +
Business.com +
Keyword Analysis Tools
Keyword Density Checker + + + + +
Keyword Importance +
Keyword List Generator +
Keyword List Cleaner +
Keyword Highlighter +
Keyword Typo Generator +
Meta Tag Analysis + + + + +
Shows images alt text +
SEMRush Domain Report + +
Domain Name Search +
Google Adwords CPC +
Google Adwords Traffic Estimator +
Google Sponsored Links +
Google Adwords Keyword Tool +
Google Search-based Keyword Tool + +
Google Trends Searches + +
Google Insights Search + +
Google Suggest +
Keyword Discovery +
Quintura
SEOBook Keyword Suggestion Tool +
Wordpot +
Wordtracker + +
Yahoo! Search Results +
Rankings
Keyword Rank Checker +
Site Comparison Tool +
Other
Google Translate +
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