Basic Steps in Researching a Partner Website

One of the most common issues we come across are websites that search engines seem to not cache/index for whatever reason. During our initial research of any new customer, we first make sure the advertiser has not been penalized and/or banned from the search engines. I thought it would be good to share how we go about determining if a website is in trouble with a search engine or just needs help being found.

The first step is to visit the website in question and pull some quick stats on it. We use our free SEO Toolbar to pull stats initially which will show pages indexed and backlinks on Yahoo, Google & MSN. Another great toolbar to have is the Google toolbar so you can see the PageRank and also have quick links to Google stats including Google cache.

The next step is to review the cache of the website on Google, Yahoo and MSN. This is a very important step because a website that has a recent cache is a website that search engines know about. If there is no cache, you must then look for reasons why the site has no cache on the search engine(s). With the cache comes the cache date, which tells you the last day that search engine visited the website to take a quick snap shot of that page. If the date is older than 30 days, finding why the robots have stopped visiting the site is a must.

Next depends on what you’ve found. If there is no cache, no backlinks or no pages indexed, you need to see if the site is in trouble. If you go to the search engine in question, enter the website url in their search box and enter, this will tell you quite a bit.

  • If the results show nothing, it could be a result of a website that needs help being found or a site that is banned.
  • If the results show a listing or many listings, which includes the url in question, a title and description, then the site is a good site.
  • If the results show only a hyperlinked url with no title or description, this can usually be a sign of a penalized website. It’s not always the case, but this has always been a good indication of things to come.

Next step depends on if you suspect a penalized or banned website. If you do, you must begin looking for signs of black hat techniques on the website. This also means you must be familiar with search engine “no-no’s”. We begin looking for hidden text on pages, text filler pages, directory style pages with cookie cutter content, doorway pages, redirects, relationships with other sites and many other common reasons a site is penalized and/or banned.

Another important step is to review the backward links, or otherwise known as inbound links. The sites that link to a given website are where strength could really be received. If there are links coming in from .edu or .gov sites, then you know it’s a powerhouse. If the inbound links are coming from links pages where there are hundreds of other links, you know it’s not so strong. If there are 10′s of thousands of inbound links, you know it’s a very popular site. So look for a site that is strong or popular because this tells you search robots will visit often.

These are the most basic steps of researching a website. There are many additional things one can look for to determine the reliability of the website. One of the most important factors in any research is relevance. If you can find a website that is within your demographic, the benefits are the best you can get. So be smart and do the leg work. You can also ask us for help if needed.