SEO-Rx Stack

SEO-Rx | Chillidog Software | $29.95

Whether you build sites for yourself, for friends or for clients then you’ll probably understand that you need to do something about SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. The trouble is, the subject is so awash with jargon and contradictory advice, that it’s hard to know where to start; especially when there are a thousand sharks swimming nearby holding signs that say: ‘I can get you number one ranking on Google for $99.99!’

The truth is that there are a number of simple, practical steps that Rapidweaver users can take to ensure that their sites follow best practice. Themeflood’s Will Woodgate offers some excellent – and still relevant – advice in his blog and really, in a perfect world there’s no reason for anyone to spend extra money when they can do the job themselves.

Unfortunately, the world’s not perfect and neither are the sites we build (or inherit from other people) so everyone needs a helping hand from time to time – and that’s where Chillidog’s SEO-Rx stack comes in. Simply drop it into a stacks page and then hit Preview and it’ll tell you how terrible (or otherwise) your SEO is on that page. Repeat for every page on the site and you’ll have a much clearer picture of how your site is going to perform.

The SEO-Rx stack roots out a selection of common SEO gotchas and deducts points for each one it finds to give you an overall score out of 100. The specific things it’s looking for are:

  • that images have the proper ALT attributes and file names
  • that the page title will make sense in search results (it shows a handy approximation of how Google will display the site in a search results list)
  • that Meta data is present and appropriate
  • that the page structure is cohesive
  • that there’s nothing blocking search engines from indexing your site
  • and that any Javascript libraries are loaded in the correct place.

Some of these issues are easy enough for the average user to fix – for example adding ALT tags to images, shortening the page title, making sure there aren’t multiple H1 headers on a page, but others are more problematic – mainly because they can only be fixed by the developers. Let’s have a look at a few examples.

First, the message ‘Image filenames should contain keywords only‘ – you’ll lose 5pts for each one of these, but unless you warehouse all your images, a Stacks bug will ignore any sensible names you enter into the fields for the image File Name and Alt Tag. In other words, if you drag and drop images onto Stacks pages, prepare to lose points.

Second, many themes allow you to change their built-in banners by replacing them with your own custom ones but insist that these replacements have generic names like ‘banner01.jpg‘ and ‘banner02.jpg‘ – there’s nothing you can do about this and each one will cost you 5pts.

Third, the message ‘js in head‘ also loses you 5pts every time it appears but there’s nothing you can do about it because only the theme developer has any control over where this is positioned. Chillidog suggests you report this to the theme developer so they can do something about it, but when we did, the dev in question suggested that moving the Javascript from where it was could cause more problems than the tiny increase in speed would be worth.

Chillidog provides plenty of advice to help you understand why all those points have been deducted but since you can only solve some of the issues yourself, you’ll struggle to get very high scores.

This is not to say that SEO-Rx  isn’t worth getting, because it definitely is. We found it especially useful as both an aide-memoire to nudge our lazy old bones into taking more care as we rushed to finish a site, and also as a way of going back over older work, produced at a time when we might have been less aware of the importance of page load times and SEO.

Chillidog has already updated the stack once and we suspect that this project will continue to grow and improve over the years until SEO-Rx – or whatever it metamorphoses into – becomes an essential tool for every Rapidweaver user.

Rob Beattie

Rob Beattie is a freelance copywriter who designs sites using Rapidweaver. He's been reviewing computer hardware, software and web services since 1981. Yes...that long. And he's also the author of 101 Things to Do in a Shed , Fishing: A Very Peculiar History , and The Bluffer's Guide to Fishing