How To Jump Start Your SEO Technical Audit Using The SEO Toolkit for IIS

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In my opinion, SEO Technical Audits are the most powerful deliverable in SEO.  That should sound familiar if you’ve read my column over the past few years, since I’ve written about the power of audits several times.  The reason I think it’s the most powerful deliverable is simple.  Performing a thorough SEO technical audit reveals the strengths, weaknesses, risks, and opportunities of the site in question.  What I love about audits is that there are times serious issues could be revealed in a relatively short amount of time.  And if a company moves fast to rectify the problems discovered during an audit, it has the potential of seeing a tangible SEO impact quickly.

Although audits are so powerful, I find it’s still a confusing topic for some marketers that aren’t familiar with SEO.  Where do you start?  Should you outsource the audit?  How long will it take?  And what type of impact will it have?  These types of questions often lead to delay, and delay won’t lead to anything but more 404’s, more canonical problems, more sitemap issues, and more application errors.  And as you can imagine, that’s all not good for your SEO health.

Say Hello to the SEO Toolkit for IIS

So, if you’ve been delaying an SEO audit, I’m going to help you get moving today by using one of my favorite SEO tools, The Search Engine Optimization Toolkit for IIS (developed by Microsoft).  It’s a phenomenal tool for analyzing a website from an SEO standpoint, and it provides a wealth of information for diagnosing various SEO issues.  In order to run the SEO Toolkit for IIS, you’ll need Windows and IIS installed.  The IIS extension is free and can be downloaded here.

My goal today isn’t to explain everything the SEO toolkit can do, since that would be a huge post.  Instead, I’m going to show you how to jump start your SEO audit by analyzing a single report.  The report we are going to focus on is the Violations report, and as you can guess, it provides an organized list of technical SEO violations from the site you choose to crawl.  There are times this report alone can help you fix numerous issues hindering your site from an SEO standpoint.  And by the way, there’s a good chance that you had no idea these violations were present. Let’s jump in.

Ready, Set, Go

After installing the SEO Toolkit for IIS, you’ll need to analyze/crawl a website.  This is how the toolkit identifies the violations we will be analyzing.  You can access the toolkit via IIS Manager in Windows.  You’ll see “Search Engine Optimization” listed in Features View.  Once you double click the toolkit icon, you’ll be taken to the home screen for the SEO Toolkit.

SEO Toolkit Home

Click “Create a new analysis”, enter a name for your project, and enter the domain to crawl.  Click the dropdown arrow to adjust additional settings, like the max number of URL’s to crawl, and click OK.

SEO Toolkit New Analysis

While the toolkit crawls your site, grab a cup of coffee, read some of my previous posts, and get ready to drill into your new reporting.  The crawl will take varying amounts of time, based on your own site, the number of URL’s that are being crawled, and the settings you selected.  Once the crawl is done, you’ll have a boatload of data to go through.  But, before you get too deep into the reporting, let’s focus on just one report for now, the Violations report.  Remember, our goal is to jump start your audit, not cover everything in the SEO Toolkit for IIS.

The Violations Report

On the left hand side of the toolkit, you’ll see the major report categories.  Click the Violations report, which has a yellow icon with an exclamation point.  When you click this report, you will see a list on the left containing report subcategories including:

  • Violations Summary
  • Pages with Most Violations
  • Violation Categories, and
  • Violation Levels

SEO Toolkit Violations Report

Each report enables you to drill into the various problems found on the site in different ways.  Let’s keep this simple, so we’ll stick with the Violations Summary report.   When you click the report, you’ll notice a list of violations on the right side, organized by violation level, category, and count.  There is a dedicated SEO category for violations, but we’ll take a look at all violations found during the crawl.  Let’s face it, there are definitely some violations outside of pure SEO that you still want to fix.

Example 1: Title Tags

So, you might be excited at this point, sitting and viewing the total number of violations found on the site in question, organized by category.  But the SEO Toolkit goes much deeper, and provides SEO’s a plethora of information for each violation.  I’m going to click “The title is empty” violation to bring up more details about the crawl.

SEO Toolkit Title Tags

When you double click the violation, the report will bring up all of the URL’s it found with empty title tags.  How awesome is that?  If you click a URL in this window, you’ll have several options for analyzing the page.  The Violation tab is the default tab when you click a URL.  If you click the Details tab, you can view additional URL information, such as the metadata associated with that specific URL, the time it took to download, the header response code, etc.  In this example, you can clearly see the title tag and meta description are empty.

SEO Toolkit Violation Details

Yes, this is a wasted opportunity.  But worse, it’s a wasted opportunity across 1,672 URL’s!  If you click the Content tab, you can analyze the actual HTML for the page.  This can enable you to pinpoint coding errors for the page at hand.  And to find additional violations for the page, you can click the Violations tab.  It will list all the violations for the page in one nifty tab.  You can see this page I’m analyzing had redirect issues, broken links, and image optimization issues.

SEO Toolkit All Violations

Example 2: Canonical Problems

Jumping back to the main Violations Summary report, let’s drill into another example.  We all know that canonicalization issues can wreak havoc on a site, so let’s see what the SEO Toolkit finds on this front.  I’m going to click “The page contains multiple canonical formats” error to see what we find.

Drilling into the report reveals content that can be found at multiple URL’s.  This can help you track down duplicate content, and more importantly, how that duplicate content is being generated.  For some URL’s, you can see canonical issues with trailing slashes, default.aspx being added to the end of directories, or separate URL’s containing the same content.  Talk about a jump start… the report I’m looking at listed over 3K URL’s that might have canonical problems.  For larger sites in particular, this can track down serious canonical issues in a short amount of time.  Then it’s up to you to drill into those URL’s to find out what’s going on.

SEO Toolkit Canonical

Example 3: Redirects

Let’s look at another example from the Violations report.  We all know that redirects can be problematic SEO-wise, depending on how they are set up.  For example, 302’s, meta refresh redirects, daisy chaining redirects, etc.  I’m going to click “The page contains unnecessary redirects” violation to see what we find.  By the way, I love this report.  It’s an easy to way to track down all the redirects occurring on a site, including the ones you don’t know about

In this example, I quickly found some redirect issues that can be causing serious problems.  The first is related to how 404’s are being handled.  I see a redirect from a page to a URL with “Not-Found” in the querystring.  It ends up all 404’s are not actually 404’ing.  They are 302 redirecting to an error handling page.  That’s across the entire site, and I picked that up in 2 minutes via this report.  The second error reveals that requests for certain pages on the www subdomain 302 redirect to a subdirectory.  This is happening across many URL’s.  The 302’s can be killing the rankings for those pages.

SEO Toolkit Redirects

On a similar note, there’s a separate violation for “The page uses a refresh definition instead of a redirect.”  As you can guess, the SEO Toolkit flags meta refresh redirects so you can change them to 301’s if needed.  Again, using the Violations report can greatly quicken up the process of finding these errors.

SEO Toolkit Meta Refresh Redirects

Example 4: Noindex

If you haven’t run into a situation where the meta robots tag was being used improperly (using noindex), then check out my post about how one line of code could kill your SEO efforts.  If you mistakenly add noindex to a page, then you are telling the engines to not index that page.  That means it has no shot of ranking…  The SEO Toolkit provides a listing of all pages that contain noindex, so you can make sure the meta robots tag is being used correctly.  Using this report, there are times I find key pages that have noindex present, while my clients had no idea that it was there…  They simply thought the content just didn’t rank well.  That could be a costly problem SEO-wise.

Clicking the “The page was excluded by a noindex attribute” reveals all of the URL’s containing noindex.  You can easily right click and view each URL to see the content, and you can export the URL’s to Excel for further analysis.  Talk about a quick fix… you can easily have a developer remove the noindex tag, and then use Google Webmaster Tools to fetch the pages and submit them to the index.  Boom, Bang, Pow. Problem solved.  🙂

SEO Toolkit Noindex

The Violations Report – Just the Beginning

I can keep going here, but I’ll stop based on the length of the post!  I hope you see the enormous value in jump starting your SEO Technical Audits by using a tool like the SEO Toolkit for IIS.  We just scratched the surface with what you can find using the tool, and we still ended up uncovering serious issues.  And by the way, I didn’t even cover tracking down querystring parameters, broken links, excessive outbound links, infinite redirect loops, or too much script code.  Yes, they are all there in the Violations report.

So, if you are struggling to get started with an SEO Technical Audit, then download the IIS extension today, crawl your site, and check out the Violations report.  I’m confident you’ll find a number of important items to change that can improve your SEO performance.

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  • Amir @ Blue Mile Media

    Nice article! I’ve been doing more SEO audits and this is great info. I’m going to use that extension and see how it is for me.


    • Glenn Gabe

      Thanks Amir. I’m glad you found my post useful. The SEO Toolkit for IIS is ultra-powerful. I only covered the violations report, and you can see the wealth of information you get just from that report. I think you’ll enjoy using the extension.

  • Mike

    It’s an amazing tool. Gives incredible insight – and for free! I usually just export all the violations and break them up in excel to be handled either by tech or editorial. Also I created an SEO scorecard – using v lookups to punch in that weeks violations “scores.” That way I can show people the good they are doing. It’s great when you fix something that then cascades across all pages on the site!

    • Glenn Gabe

      Thanks for your comment Mike. And that’s a great use of the toolkit. I like how you break up the violations for tech and editorial. Very smart. 🙂 And you’re right about fixing issues that cascade across the site. Several of the technical issues the toolkit picks up fall into that category.

  • Greg


    Wonderful post!!

    What version of IIS will this plugin run in? Also, does it access the website from a certain search engines perspective? Since it is a Microsoft product, didn’t know if it would be as helpful from an Google SEO analysis stand point?

    Thanks again, great work.

    • Glenn Gabe

      Thanks Greg. I’m glad you found my post useful (and that you are going to test out the toolkit).

      I’m not sure which version of IIS is required, but I’m running 7.5 locally. Let me know if you run into any issues installing the extension and I can look into it further.

      Regarding your second question, the toolkit covers best practices and isn’t tied to a specific engine. You’ll notice a lot of the violations it catches can be applied across the board (redirects, title tags, canonical problems, noindex, etc.) I hope that helps.

  • John

    Yes, we really need to perform SEO audit from time to time, especially now that Google makes periodic updates on its search algorithm. I hope this tool could be a great help for my site.

    Thanks for sharing about this tool.

    • Glenn Gabe

      No problem John. I’m glad you’ll be testing out the toolkit. I would also make sure to check out the performance reports. They can help you determine serious performance issues on your site.

  • Zafar

    I found your writing style more useful than this tool. I am a literature student, and I got easily obsessed with your writing style. This is very shocking for me when I hear someone talking like Shakespeare.
    Great tool, worth saving times and value. I am gonna use for my own very first website.

  • Ryan

    Awesome post, thank you for sharing this with us. Is there any software for non-IIS servers that you can recommend?

    • Glenn Gabe

      Thanks Ryan. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I use several tools and plugins when auditing websites, so it’s hard to list all of them here. I’ve written about Xenu, Sreaming Frog, etc. here on Search Engine Journal before. You should check them out. It really depends on the specific task you are looking to tackle! I hope that helps.

  • Elroy van Ouwerkerk

    Nice explanation! The tool is a great add. Used it for my own site and some other sites and as you said: “You will find broken links etc, you were not aware of”. Nice to use this tool next to other tools like Screaming frog.

    • Glenn Gabe

      Excellent, glad you were able to test out the toolkit. And I agree, it’s a great addition to an SEO’s arsenal of tools. I find the SEO Toolkit for IIS is one of the most powerful out there.

  • Justin Deaville


    That’s really helpful advice. Anyone who has a Wordtracker subscription can use the site audit tool to collect the same information

    It saves signing up for two different products.

    Hope that’s useful.

    CEO, Wordtracker

    • Glenn Gabe

      Justin, I’ll have to check out your site audit tool in greater detail. I’ll try and test it out soon. By the way, you don’t have to sign up for the SEO Toolkit for IIS. It’s a free download, and then you’re off and running (or crawling). 🙂

  • Paul

    Sounds very interesting and useful, I have downloaded and will report back with my results at a later date 🙂

  • Merit Capital

    This is really helpful suggestion for SEO professional. Search Engine Optimization Toolkit for IIS is very fantastic tool given by Microsoft.

    Thank you for nice informatiion.

  • Ahamed

    Great Post Glenn!!! Enjoyed reading your post, awesome tool but i wonder Why MS give this for FREE normally they wont give any free stuff????