The right Webmaster Tools for the job
Let's talk tools of the web trade. Namely, Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo's Site Explorer, and Microsoft's Live Search Webmaster Tools.
The three major search engines, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live each offer website administration tools. Within these online areas the search engines tell you how they view your site, what they like, what they don't like, and they give you a change to tweak how your pages are indexed.
We use these tools at OrangeCoat because getting indexed and maintaining good site reputations within the search engines are important for online marketing and SEO. The tools are priceless for tasks like finding duplicate content or old/dead links, submitting sitemaps and checking on robots.txt performance.
Google Webmaster Tools is light-years ahead of Yahoo Site Explorer and Microsoft's Webmaster Tools I'll highlight the setup and the main features of each service.
- You'll need the respective free accounts with Google, Yahoo, and MSN/Live.
- Sign up and add the site(s) - all three allow for managing multiple domains and subdomains
- Prove you're the owner by adding their validation file in the domain's root directory OR by adding an invisible meta tag to the homepage.
Features of Google Webmaster Tools
- Request removal of URLs, folders, or even the entire site
- Submit a sitemap telling the engines about pages on your site and their relative priority. This is particularly useful for pages that wouldn't normally by found by regular crawling.
- robots.txt validator - shows any errors in the indexing rules you've defined
- Shows warnings and error like, Page Not Found (404), timeouts, unreachable pages.
- See the last time the homepage was indexed.
- See search terms for which your site is in the Top 20 overall, where those terms rank, and how ofter they are clicked.
- Index statistics for your site - pages indexed, crawl rates, cached content, related pages
- Lists pages with no or duplicate title or meta description - handy for SEO reasons
- List of other sites linking to your site and where you're linking to offsite
- See, and even disable, any Google sitelinks.
- Throttle crawl rates - useful for large sites so Google doesn't bog down the server indexing tons of pages at once
- Specify if you prefer www.example.com or example.com in the search results.
- See which images within your site are indexed.
- Set a geographic preference - meant for international sites to pick a country
- Subscriber stats for your RSS feeds - if you use Google's methods
Features of Yahoo Site Explorer
- Request removal of pages - similar to Google
- Submit a sitemap.
- Submit an RSS feed - may help get fresh content indexed more quickly
- See indexed pages.
- Dynamic URLs - allows up to 3 pattern rewrites of page addresses, like if you want to hide or rename ?parameter=x in the URL. This is a hack, as good site should really use aliased links or Apache rewrites and not need such SE side fixes.
Features of Live Search Webmaster Tools
- Submit a sitemap.
- See your top 5 pages. Big whoop
- Search which keywords yield which pages - the same thing can be accomplished in Google by searching for
- Robots.txt validator
- Top inbound and outbound links
Room for improvement
- Google and the others don't yet allow for easy sharing of this information with other users.
- Using the term "Webmaster" is pretty lame. Even more lame is that Microsoft copied the lame name from Google. Double-lame.
Feel free to comment on any similar tools or features I left out.