Webmaster Tools by anusornkuanhra


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									A   D     V      A         N         C         E               P        O         R          T   A   L
    c re a t i n g c o m m u n ity, giving voice, and promoting women

                 WEBMASTER TOOLS


            L a u r i a n @ v t . e d u • w w w. p o r t a l . a d v a n c e . v t . e d u
Creating a website can be a large labor of love. Luckily, there are tools out there to help making, tooling, and updat-
ing your website to keep running as you always imagined. In this instruction book I’ve tried to cover some of the not-
so-obvious basics: broken links, redirecting, searches, and statistics. If there is anything that you would like to see
added or need help with, or if you find something in this tutorial that is not clear, please feel free to contact me, Lau-
rian Vega (laurian@vt.edu), and I’ll be happy to try and assist.

                                                broken links
A broken link is when there is a link to a file on your website that no longer works. This can happen because the file
has moved (have you ever tried to access a file through a newspaper and found a blank page instead?), the server
that is hosting the webpage is broken, or the original typed in address in the html is wrong. Detecting these errors can
be tricky - especially when you have hundreds of links on your web site. Luckily there are some free tools out there
that will go through each webpage, list all of the links, and make sure that they point to file that exists.

My favorite tool is actually a webpage itself: Dead-links.com. It employs a spider to go through each webpage (called
crawling) on the website you give it.

To use this tool, type in your website’s web-address. (Don’t forget the http://) Next select the button that says
“Launch the Spider”. The webpage will change and show you a mini picture of your website, the url you gave it, and
then the internal links it is following. In the example below, I am crawling http://www.casadevega.com (my hus-
band’s website!).

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Internal links are links to pages inside your website. Links in a navigation menu are good examples of internal links.
Next to each link is a battery of information. Check out the FAQ for more information about those. After your internal
links have been checked your external links will be checked. External links are links to files that are outside of your
website. For example, if you had a link on your webpage to a Washington Post story, that link would be external.

At the bottom, after the program has finished running, a list of broken links will be displayed. The website that I
searched had 4 links to report. Sometimes these links are not really broken; they only took a long time to load. It is
best to click on each link yourself and make sure that it is in fact broken before trying to fix it. (You can see that I
clicked on the purple one in the picture below.) The error encountered by each program is also listed next to each
link. These can provide hints as to why the link is broken. For a list of common errors look at this webpage:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_HTTP_status_codes. The errors in the example below are 404 errors, which
means that the file is not where it should be.

After you have fixed all of your errors, try running the broken link checker again and make sure that all errors you
want to fix are now working.

How often do I run the broken link checker?

I run this program once a week, both before and after any major revisions have been made. Nine times out of ten this
program is done running in under 30 minutes. This, however, does depends on how big your website is. If it is only a
dozen links, expect it to be finished in seconds.

What if I don’t like using this program?

There are definitely other choices out there. I also enjoyed working with Link Sleuth
(http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html) which has an application you can download. I have also used the
W3C Link Checker (http://validator.w3.org/checklink) - which provides more information about the errors.

                                   google’s webmaster tools
Google is starting to host a series of useful and free tools. In this section I’ll briefly cover Google’s Webmaster Tools
and in another section I’ll cover their free customizable search tool.

How Google Works

Google works by looking at statistics like frequency and use. When you first create a website it hasn’t received a
whole lot of use and so it is likely that Google would not have taken the time to properly crawl your website much
deeper than your homepage. This is problematic if you want people to be able to use Google to search for content on
your website or if you want to get a good amount of Internet traffic. However, Google has been helpful and provided

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tools to help it index your webpage. Some of the easiest ways to boost your web-statistics are to sign up for things
like Google Webmaster Tools and to create a sitemap.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google’s Webmaster Tools allows you to do so many useful things! My favorite fea-
ture is all the neat things it shows you about links to your website and how it helps
you make your website more visible to the general public. “Google's free webmaster
tools provide you with an easy way to make your site more Google-friendly. They
can show you Google's view of your site, help you diagnose problems, and let you
share info with us to help improve your site's visibility in our search results.”

To get started all you need is a google account - which is also free! Sign in and get

Once you sign in you’ll see what is called your “Dashboard”. This is where all of the websites you want Google to
help you with are listed. You can see in the picture below that no websites are listed in my dashboard for now. To
have Google help you with your website, type in the web address of your website (ex: http://www.casadevega.com)
and push the “Add Site” button.

After that you are going to be asked to verify your website. Follow the instructions to verify your website. (I think the
easiest way is to upload a file so that your source code isn’t messed with.) Once you are verified, you will see the
green checkmark on your dashboard.

Site Map

In Google Webmaster Tools you will be asked to provide a sitemap. A sitemap is a list of all of the links on your web-
site. It allows Google to know what are all the links on your website that you want searched and indexed. This can
be very tedious to make, but it is worth the effort. There are a couple different formats you can use to make a sitemap.
Google provides information on how to make an XML sitemap here:
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/docs/en/protocol.html. Also, they have information about all differ-
ent types of sitemaps here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/docs/en/protocol.html

I think that creating an XML file for a sitemap is a lot of effort and not necessarily best for everyone. The format I pre-
fer to use is a simple text file. On each line of a text file you put one link to a page in your website. (Do not include
links to webpages outside of your domain!) Additionally, if you use this format, make sure to use a text editor that
does not add additional metatext to your file and does not try to wrap your lines of text if they are too long. If you are

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using a Mac, I recommend TextWrangler. If you are using a PC, I recommend NotePad. An example of what the AD-
VANCE Portal’s site map looks like is below.

Upload your sitemap to your server and then give Google the webaddress of the file. It will take some time for Goo-
gle to process your sitemap. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes, and sometimes it takes a couple of hours. One thing to be
careful for is if there are errors in your sitemap. On your dashboard click on the link to your sitemap. (In the picture
below it is the blue “1” under “Sitmap”.)

                                                                 This will give you information about how your site-
                                                                 map is being processed. Once it has been processed
                                                                 correctly you’ll able to see information about when it
                                                                 was last downloaded and how many URLS were

However, if there were bugs with your sitemap click on the “details”. Information about your sitemap will appear.
Try clicking on the link to your sitemap and make sure there isn’t any meta information visible. Any errors or warn-
ings will be listed on this page as well.

Back to Google Webmaster Tools

Now that you have a working sitemap you have to wait for google to index all of the webpages in your site. This can
take a couple of days. Again, it is worth the wait.

Once your site has been indexed here are some of the powerful tools you can work with:

• Web Crawling: Similar to checking for broken links, any links they come across that are broken will be displayed
  here. This isn’t 100% - so using another tool like one of the ones above is still recommended.

• Content Crawling: Problems with some of the content dis-
   played on your webpage can pop up here. For example, I
   needed to provide a more descriptive title of a webpage
   than “Contact”.

• Search Data: Want to know what people are searching for
   when they find your website through Google? Find out the
   search queries here.

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                                                 .htaccess files
.htaccess files are a bit technical, but not anything that cannot be easily understood.

To help deal with people stumbling around your website and finding protected files or files that do not exist, you can
make a simple fix to protect them from seeing those ugly error pages (or in the worst case - clicking off of your web-
site). With a couple of lines of code in a text file on
your server you can redirect problems to an internal
page that provides a bit more information. The AD-
VANCE Portal’s webpage to catch errors can be see

The answer to all these problems is the .htaccess file.
That is right, you didn’t read that wrong, the file name
starts with a “.”. File names that start with a “.” are
protected to mean that they are system files and as
default are hidden from users. So, be careful. After
making your file you might need to turn on a setting to
see all “hidden” files.

If your website is hosted on a server that you are not personally running, please contact your web administrator. If
they are worth their weight as a web admin, they will already have a .htaccess file in place. If that is the case, just ask
them to please put in some rules to redirect to your homepage or to a page you make like one for the ADVANCE Por-

Otherwise, you can follow this online tutorial for creating your own .htaccess file:

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