An Armchair Blog Detective’s Website Toolkit
Solving technical problems using blog detective tools
Like a CSI team uses forensic tools to solve a murder at a crime scene, a blogger uses plugins and applications to solve a problem on a website. I discovered my blog crime scene several months ago as I became a blog detective.
Log Entry 11/22/13
I opened my Gmail account and saw an email from Google Webmaster Tools – an essential website forensic tool. The message said: Warning! Warning!
Becoming A Blog Detective
So, I put on my Sherlock Holmes sleuthing hat and logged into the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) dashboard to find the bad links hiding out on the “Crawl Errors” page.
“Crawl Errors” is listed under “Crawl” on the sidebar of the GWT dashboard. Click on the “Crawl Errors” link to open a new page. Then click on “Not Found” to view the problem links.
Once I found the bad links Google had notified me about via email (because I had a GWT account), I considered my options.
- Fix the bad links in the GWT dashboard using “Fetch As Google” (also listed under “Crawl” on the sidebar),
- Or log in to my WordPress dashboard where the plugin Broken Link Checker (BLC) was working 24/7 to locate broken links on my blog.
I opted for the BLC fix because it provided three easy-to-follow options for correcting bad links.
The BLC plugin, another essential website forensic tool, non-intrusively searches a site 24/7 for broken links and then lists the link errors in the BLC control panel in the dashboard of your site.
As soon as I logged into the “BLC Settings” in the control panel, I looked at “Status” and saw that I had several broken links, indicated by the “Found 12 broken links” link. I clicked on the link and a new window open with a list of three options for fixing the broken links:
- Edit URL – change the link URL.
- Unlink – remove the link.
- Dismiss – link not broken.
Since I knew the bad links were likely due to a recent permalink structure change I made, I was able to change the link using the “Edit URL” option.
On another occasion, I discovered I had bad links while checking my stats in the Google Analytics (GA) dashboard, another essential website tool.
I noticed I had a high bounce rate on a page. So, I logged into the GWT dashboard and saw a list of links pointing to 404 pages. I corrected the problem using BLC and the bounce rate dropped.
I can’t express enough how important it is to set up a GWT account for a website and then link it to an existing GA property. If you don’t know how to set up a GWT or GA account, read this Guide to Google Webmaster Tools or this one by Ileane Smith. There is also a GA plugin that simplifies the process. This will help you become a great blog detective.
If you don’t have the time or patience to set up a GWT or GA account, hire a tech person to do it for you. In my case, I was able to set up a GWT account and link it to an existing GA property but my settings needed tweaking, which required a tech expert since the problem was above my pay grade.
Hiring An Expert
I hired Mayura at Mayura4Ever to fix my GA settings and URL problems because of impulsive late night decisions I had made. On a whim, I decided to change my permalink structure, which in retrospect, was a bad thing to do.
Google got angry with me and lowered my PageRank to “0” because I had hundreds of 404 page errors on my blog.
Please learn from my mistakes. Never make changes to your site late at night when you’re tired or early in the morning before coffee.
Become A Blog Detective via the WordFence Plugin
Another great forensic website tool for a blog detective is the Wordfence Security plugin. Wordfence sends me an email every time a plugin needs to be updated. It also allows me to see live traffic in the control panel of my dashboard, tells me if anyone tried logging into my dashboard (and then block the IP address) and if there are any 404 pages. For other benefits of the Wordfence plugin, visit the plugin page for WordFence. This is a a great tool to become a great blog detective.
Like a forensic tool kit helps a CSI team gather evidence at a crime scene, these blog detective tools will help you pinpoint a problem on your website or blog that you or a tech expert can fix if the problem is above your pay grade.
- Google Webmaster Tools.
- Google Analytics.
- Broken Link Checker.
- Wordfence Security.
What tools do you use to help solve problems on your website or blog?
Do you feel like a blog detective too along the way?