It’s only the first beta, but the recently-released IIS Search Engine Optimization Toolkitfrom the IIS team at Microsoft is a project that needs watching. Currently it has only three features, Site Analysis, Robots Exclusions and Sitemaps, all of which can be handled through other means. But the SEO Toolkit provides an easy, mostly intuitive and extensible interface to handle these functions.
Robots Exclusion, one of the least understood aspects of SEO for many beginners, really isn’t hard. Notepad on the server can handle your needs, provided you know what needs you have, and the process should only take a few minutes. Per server. Per change. And that’s where this tool becomes useful. The SEO Toolkit can run against any IIS server, local or remote, and makes changes to the robots.txt file simple for anyone to do. Yes, you really do need to know why you’re making the changes, but this is a toolkit, not a Wizard.
Sitemaps are also just simple text files, and anyone with Notepad can create and edit one as well. But Sitemaps have a lot of code to them (alright, it’s just an XML file, but to non-coders that really does look like difficult code…) and are incredibly easy to break by forgetting a bracket. The toolkit not only makes editing a breeze, but lets you browse through the site graphically and choose the URL for the Sitemap entry. Frankly, there’s no other sitemap editing or creation tool that’s this easy to use.
But the crowning glory of the SEO Toolkit is its site analysis features. Sure, there are tools that can do this, but nothing this easy and free. Not only can you crawl the site, seeing it the way search robots and browsers do, but you get very detailed reports on the site and general guidelines on fixing common SEO problems. You will receive an analysis of your site that includes links and references within and to each URL, an analysis of keywords on pages and even the routing a robot takes to get to your pages. While it doesn’t fix your site to make it more friendly to search engines, it does give you the information you need to make the changes, which is 90% of SEO anyway.
Remember, this is just a beta. That means the feature list can only grow. Microsoft’s IIS developers have taken to releasing many tools like this, and even major updates to existing features, completely outside the Windows release schedule. These out-of-band releases, including the SEO Toolkit, can be downloaded at no charge from the IIS support site. We’ll be watching this toolkit, you go ceck out the others.