When you work in, on, or around the Web, you tend to collect tools. A site here, a toolbar there...you really can't help it. Here's a total must-have for your SEO toolbox...but don't tell the developers and designers.
The Web Developer extension from Chris Pederick is a hugely popular and useful tool for Web developers and designers everywhere. But this browser add-on is an equal-opportunity tool that should be in every SEO's toolbox as well for quick snapshot views and reviews of sites. It will require the use of one of the following browsers, Firefox, Flock, Mozilla or Seamonkey, but will run on Windows, Mac OS X as well as Linux, and it's free.
While you may find many uses for the extension beyond SEO and even more SEO uses than listed here, below are some of the top ways to put it to use. The best way to follow along though is to first install it, view a site that you are familiar with, and then try some of the methods listed below:
Is all that great copy on the page really text that the search engine spiders can eat up and use for indexing the pages, or is it really just a bunch of images? Select Disable All Images and you'll quickly find out.
Use the Display Alt Attributes feature to view the alt attribute text of all images on a page. You should do this to make sure that none of the images has been stuffed with keywords, which won't help in ranking and doing so may actually hurt rankings.
While text is best for navigation and links, if images are used for this, it's especially important to make sure the alt attributes contain the textual equivalent to capture any value the search engines may give to images used for links.
Select View Link Information to view all the links on a page. Are there more links on a page than you thought? If this is your site, are there any links leading out to sites that you weren't aware of?
Use View Meta Tag Information to quickly see all the meta information for a page to make sure that each page has a unique, keyword-rich and relevant description.
Use the View Response Headers and check the 404 Error page of a site by going to a page that doesn't exist, like yourdomain.com/errortest and make sure that it returns a 404 Error and not a 200 "OK" response.
Use Linearize Page to see the order of content based on how search engines will read the content. Is the most important content toward the top or buried at the bottom? Does the content read logically, or are "paragraphs" all jumbled because tables have been used poorly to lay out the content?
Select Outline Headings and Outline Current Element to see whether HTML headings have been used (e.g., H1, H2, etc.) to help highlight important page elements. Headings will be outlined and when you mouse over them (or any element), you'll see the HTML trail in your toolbar, identifying the HTML tags because of the Outline Current Element function, which will allow you to see whether the heading tag is an H1, H2, or other tag.
Bonus...for a little known but very useful feature, select Persist Features if you want to click-through to different pages of a site while maintaining some of your selections, like outlined headings and displaying alt attribute text as you move from page to page.
While the Web Developer extension won't stop the need for a deep dive into a page's code--there's also a View Source feature for that too--it will satisfy and simplify many of the routine tasks associated with a quick SEO review.