Using the Expression Web SEO Checker and Report

IMPORTANT: Before you attempt to use the SEO Checker and SEO Report, I encourage you to learn at least the basics of Search Engine Optimization. You will also have more manageable results if you select the pages you want to run the report on combined with the filters OR simply run the checker on the page you are working on.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to a collection of techniques to improve your site's ranking in search engines such as Google or Yahoo or any of the others. One of the newest features in Microsoft Expression Web 4 is the SEO Checker which analyzes your site against the best practices for getting the highest possible search-engine rankings for your site.

What does the SEO Checker do?

The Expression Web SEO Checker will analyze your site using techniques similar to what a search engine would use. It then provides helpful information to so that you can optimize the pages of your site for maximun search engine ranking. The detailed report generated will look something like the graphic shown below.

Screenshot SEO Report.
Fig 1: SEO Report (Click thumbnail for larger image.)

Hovering your mouse over the 'Problem Summary' listing will give you  more details on the problem listing as you can see by the enlarged thumbnail.

The SEO Checker report lists the following classes of SEO messages:

NOTE: Clicking on the links below will take you to the online help for Expression Web 4 with many more details on each of the items listed. The same information is available from the 'Help' menu > 'User Guide' or clicking F1.

Content is not where search engines expect to find it. These rules identify content or markup that is not located where search engines are likely to look for it.
The <title> tag is missing
The <img> or <area> tag does not have an 'alt' attribute with text
The <noscript> tag is missing
The <title> tag contains placeholder content that provides no search benefit
This page contains no <h1> tag
Content or markup follows patterns that may be associated with deceptive practices. These rules identify content or markup that search engines may perceive as using practices designed to artificially inflate the search rankings of a page or a site.
The contents of the <meta name="description"> tag are too long
The <meta name="keywords"> tag contains multiple instances of a single term
The <meta http-equiv="refresh"> element is being used for redirection
The title and description for the page are identical
Content or markup interferes with the ability of search engines to analyze a page. These rules identify content or markup that prevents search engines from accurately analyzing your site.
The <body> tag is missing
The <title> tag is not defined in the <head> tag section
The page is not well-formed The <html> tag is missing
The <h1> is not inside the <body> tag section
Content or markup reduces the appeal of a page in search-engine results. These rules identify content or markup that search engines can analyze only partially.
The <title> tag contents are too long.
The description for the page is missing.
The <meta name="description"> tag contents are too short
The <meta name="description"> tag should be declared only once in a page
Content causes search engines to consider two or more pages to be relevant to the same search term. These rules identify content or markup that may cause search engines to report that more than one page is relevant to a search term.
A URL that points to a directory should end with a slash mark (/)
The hyperlink ends in an ampersand
The title is not unique
The anchor is not formatted consistently
The hyperlink contains a session ID
Content or markup blocks search engines from analyzing your site. Blocked-content rules identify content or markup that blocks search engines from analyzing your site.
The hyperlink contains an invalid character.
The hyperlink contains a nofollow attribute value
The hyperlink contains too many query string parameters

What the SEO Checker Does Not Do

While the SEO Checker can make you aware of problems and help you correct problems with the markup and content of your site, there are other things you will need to do to optimize your site for the search engines. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the search engines see your site as two separate sites or

    If you type into the search box, do you get the same number of results if you type into the search box? If not see Google Canonical problems - www versus non.www.
  • Have you taken care of building incoming links to your site from other sites? You should be linking to pages within your site as well as having external sites link to your pages.
  • Have you done the keyword research for your content? Don't guess, use some of the online tools to research what terms people use in searching for your content and use those keywords in developing your content.
  • Have you used descriptive file names to name your pages as well as your images? Remember NOT to use spaces but hyphens in naming your files.
  • And last but not least, have you developed unique and original content for your pages.

To generate an SEO report

Step 1: Do one of the following:

  • With your site open, click 'Tools ' on the menu, then select 'SEO Reports.' The 'SEO Checker' dialog box is displayed.
    Screenshot SEO Checker dialog box.
    Fig 2: SEO Checker dialog box (Click thumbnail for larger image.)

    Click 'Check' to start generating the SEO report.
  • With your site open, on the 'Panels' menu, click 'SEO.' The SEO panel is displayed.
    Click Screenshot SEO icon. to open the SEO Checker dialog box.

Step 2: In the SEO Checker dialog box, specify the pages that you want to analyze.

  • To specify all pages in a site, under 'Check where', click 'All pages.' NOTE: If you have a large site, this can give you an overwhelming report.
  • To specify only the pages you have open, under 'Check where', click 'Open pages.'
  • To specify pages from the 'Folder List,' select the pages that you want to check, and then, under 'Check where', click 'Selected pages.' If you do not have the Folder List showing, click the 'Panels' menu, and select Folder List.
  • To specify the active page, under 'Check where', click 'Current page.'

Step 3: Specify the types of items that you want to show in the SEO report.

  • To include items that are considered errors, select the 'Errors' check box.
  • To include items that you may not have to adjust, select the 'Warnings' check box.

Step 4: Click 'Check.' The check may take some time to complete, depending on the options that you selected and the size of the site. The results are displayed in the SEO panel (shown below) when then check is completed.

Screenshot SEO Report.
Fig 3: SEO Report (Click thumbnail for larger image.)

The results may be sorted by clicking on any column label.

To apply a filter to an SEO report

In the SEO report, on the column label, click Screenshot filter on dropdown. and select the filter condition that you want to apply to the list. The filter settings are saved when you close the site. If you can't find files in a new report, you may have filters applied from a previous session. You can create custom filters for your SEO report. For more information, see Customizing filters.

Example: If you have a folder named _includes and one named gallery and you want to exclude the contents of those folder from the results, click on the page label drop down and select "custom.'

Screenshot custome filter dialog box.

Under 'Show rows where': Page; select does not contain and type in _includes. Tick the Or does not contain. Type in gallery. Click OK.

Your list now shows none of the files within the _include folder or the gallery folder. Each of the labels will allow you to apply two filters.

To remove a filter from an SEO report

Right-click anywhere in the report and then click 'Clear Filters.'

Understanding the SEO Report

When you generate a report, the SEO panel contains the following columns:

  • Page - Lists the page that contains an issue and the location of that page.
  • Line -  Lists the number of the line in Code view that contains the issue.
  • Issue Type -  Lists the type of issue, either Error or Warning.
  • Problem Summary - Describes the code error or the reason the code is incompatible with the schema. The content of this column also appears in a ScreenTip when you point at a row in the panel or when you point at the source of the problem in Code view.

To sort the list of results, on the Search Engine Optimization tab, click the name of a column. To reverse a sorted list, click the name of the column again. You can also rearrange columns by dragging them.

SEO panel buttons

Screenshot SEO icon panel.

  • To open the SEO Checker dialog box, click Run SEO Checker.
  • To open the web page that contains the next or previous result in the list, and to highlight the issue, click Next Result  or Previous Result. To go to the next issue on an open page, press F9.
  • To recheck pages that were checked and have changed, click Refresh Changed Results.
  • To sort the list of results, click the name of the column that you want to sort by. To reverse a sorted list, click the name of the column again. To restrict the results to those that fit the criteria you select, click the down arrow  that appears in the heading of a column and select a criterion by which to filter the results.
  • When you right-click a row, a shortcut menu provides the following additional options:Screenshot right click shortcut menu.
    • Go to Page - Opens the web page that contains the result and highlights the issue.
    • Problem Details -  Opens the Problem Details dialog box, which contains more information about the selected issue.
    • Learn More -  Opens the help topic for this issue type, which contains more details and suggestions about how to correct the issue.
    • Select Resulting Files in Folder List - Locates the selected pages in the Folder List panel.
    • Clear Results  -  Clears the results list.
    • Refresh Changed Results -  Rechecks the specified pages that have changed.
    • Copy Selected Results - Copies the selected results of the report as a table.
    • Clear Filters -  Clears all filter criteria and sets the Filter menu of every column to All.

Problems Details and Fixes SEO Reports

While the SEO Reports can be a tool for correcting problems with your site, it is just that, a tool. If I use this site an an example and run the SEO Reports with the errors setting ticked and All Pages ticked, I get 2,650 searchability problems in 235 pages. Overwhelming to say the least!

The problems listed below are just some of those you might encounter while running the SEO Checker on your site.

The anchor text contains values that provide no search benefit

Problem Summary message reads: "The <a> tag text is too general to provide search benefit."

If I hover over one of the listings OR right click and select 'Problem Details' , I get "The <a> tag contains the text 'Home', which provides no search benefit. Consider changing the link text to provide meaningful, descriptive link text."

Clicking on 'Help Topic', gives me the following explanation:

The <a> tag appears to contain generic text, such as "link" or "click here." If a hyperlink points to content that is relevant to the site, the search ranking of the site may be reduced unless the anchor text accurately describes the target of the hyperlink. Search engines use the contents of <a> tags to provide details about the page to which the <a> tag links.

Many of this type of Problem Summary message relates to my menu which has to be short to fit in the allotted space. What can I do to help the search engines? I add a title attribute to the hyperlink. While this will not change the SEO Report problem summary listing, it will help the search engines understand what the text link points too.

The description for the page is missing.

Problem Summary message reads: "The description is missing."

If I click on the 'Help Topic', I get the following explanation:

Because search engines typically display the content of the <meta name="description"> tag in search results, each page should have a single, unique description that accurately describes the contents of the page.

Since the Page label column indicates the problem is with one of my included menus, it is not one I need to be concerned about. However, you should make sure that all your pages that should have a page description do.

Hyperlinks that point to a directory should end in a slash (/)

Problem Summary message reads: "Hyperlinks that point to a directory should end in a slash (/)"

The Problem Details explain that most pages in a site contain at least one hyperlink to a URL that points to a directory (such as If several hyperlinks in which the URL target is the same directory are formatted differently, they may be treated as separate links. What is delivered to the browser in the default page for that directory i.e. index.html or default.html

The <meta name="keywords"> tag contents are too short

Problem Summary message reads: file-name.html, line #: The contents of the <meta name="keywords"> tag are too short. If the contents of the <meta name="keywords"> tag are too short, search engines may not consider them to be relevant. Consider lengthening the contents of the <meta name="keywords"> tag.

Support for the keyword meta tag has  dwindled and Google no longer uses this tag in ranking web search results. If you choose to use it, limit it to 150 characters including spaces, and include only those words you use in your content.

The <title> tag contents are not unique within the site

Search engines use the contents of the <title> tag both to provide some of the details about the site contents and to provide specific details about the contents of a page. Each page should have a single, unique title contained inside a <title> tag inside the <head> tag section of the page. It should be no longer than 65 characters.

The <img> or <area> tag does not have an 'alt' attribute with text

The alt attribute is meant to be used as an alternative text if the image is not available and is required in order for your page to validate. The alt attribute text is also used by audio readers for the visually impaired. However, if you are using spacer graphics or decorative images they should contain an empty alt attribute.

The alt text should give a brief but accurate description of the image using your keywords if it makes sense.

The <noscript> tag is missing

Every page that contains a <script> tag should have a corresponding <noscript> tag. Search engines will not index the contents of a <script> tag. If code inside a <script> tag generates search-relevant page content, that content may not be analyzed by search engines at all.

The <noscript> tag is used to provide an alternate content for users that have disabled scripts in their browser or have a browser that doesn’t support client-side scripting.

As an example, the footer of this site uses a script to generate the copyright information so that it updates automatically. The <noscript> tag provides the same information in text format. Or simply use <noscript>Your browser does not support JavaScript!</noscript>

This page contains no <h1> tag

In semantic web design, headings provide important organizational and summary information. Each page should have a single <h1> tag that summarizes the contents of the page. If the page contains a significant amount of text, it should be organized with <h2> through <h6> subheadings that summarize and categorize the text that they precede. Search engines rely on correctly used headings to determine the organization and contents of a site.

Any page that does not have an <h1> tag is going to generate this error including any include pages. Use the filters to filter out these pages.

Your <h1> heading tag should match your title tag <title> tag and there should be only ONE <h1> tag on your page.


The SEO Checker is just a tool for you to use in evaluating whether you have followed good Search Engine Optimization practices in building your pages. It can be a little over zealous in giving you a listing of the problems so you will need to filter the results in the report.

Do some research and learn what are the best practices to follow in designing your pages. Soon, it will become second nature to make sure such things as page titles, descriptions, semantic markup and using your keywords are part of your web development strategy.

Don't try and fix everything that needs fixing on your site at one time. You will become overwhelmed. Take one page at a time and fix the problems with that page. Go on to the next one.

Additional SEO Resources



Copyright © 2010 Pat Geary of Expression Web Tutorials and Templates, All Rights Reserved
Written August 2010