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Bing has officially completed the launch of its new Bing Webmaster Tools, which streamlines the old tool suite while offering a number of new features. 

According to the announcement, the process managed to condense the old version’s 47 unique links to just 17 different links without losing any of the functionality previously available. This was done by bundling redundant or related functions into more powerful tools.

At the same time, Bing announced it had introduced a new URL inspection tool, a Robots.txt testing feature, a site scan tool, and revamped webmaster guidelines. 

Choose Your Bing Webmaster Tools

For now, webmasters can choose to use the new or old version of Bing Webmaster Tools. The old suite is available at https://www.bing.com/webmaster/. The new version can be found at https://www.bing.com/webmasters/

However, the old version won’t be sticking around for too long. The announcement says it will be disabled sometime next month. 

Enhanced Tools

While streamlining the platform, Bing expanded the functionality of several tools. These updates include:

  • Backlinks lists backlinks for any site, including similar websites.
  • Keyword Research lets you filter data by countries, languages, and devices. 
  • URL Submission is better streamlined for easier navigation. This includes simplifying URL submission via the Bing WordPress plugin for faster indexing. 
  • SEO Reports provides improved classification of errors or issues. 

New Tools

Along with the consolidated and enhanced tools from the old version of Bing Webmaster Tools, the company revealed several new tools. These include:

  • URL Inspection: A beta feature that allows Bing to inspect crawled versions of your site for potential indexing issues.
  • Site Scan: A site audit tool that crawls and checks your site for common SEO issues which may affect your search ranking. 
  • Robots.txt Tester: Check your robots.txt file using the same inspection tools Bing uses to verify your URLs.

BingLogo

On October 1st, Bing is shutting down Link Explorer, a link analysis tool that has been available from the company since June 2012, according to a new announcement. This is likely bad news for the many webmasters who used the tool to gain a deeper understanding of their own inbound links or to get a look at the links pointing to competitors’ sites.

According to the announcement, Bing isn’t shutting down the tool due to lack of popularity or demand, but because they had simply outgrown it. The size and architecture of Bing’s index have reached the point where there is just no way for Link Explorer to prove effective.

“We will no longer be able to power Link Explorer inside Webmaster Tools,” the company says — while suggesting its own Inbound Links tool as an alternative. Bing’s Duane Forrester explains the Inbound Links tool is more efficient for assessing your own links.

Link Explorer’s powers were limited since its inception as it only gave a view of a limited sample of your backlinks, meanwhile the Inbound Links tool you can view and export up to a million inbound links in just a few clicks.

Forrester also encourages those who used the tool to evaluate their competition to look for one of the many third-party alternatives available, saying the third party tools “provide even more comprehensive link analysis” than provided by Link Explorer.

Google has been emphasizing the importance of mobile design and usability over the past year and now the search giant has added mobile usability reports to Webmaster Tools. Many believe this could be a sign that Google may be making mobile usability a ranking factor sooner rather than later.

The tool is intended to show whether your mobile site has any of the common usability issues that degrade a user’s mobile browsing experience.

Currently, the tool included specific errors for showing flash content on mobile (which can also result in a warning on mobile search results for your site), missing viewport meta-tag for mobile pages, improperly small fonts which are hard to read on mobile, fixed-width viewports, content not sized to viewport, and clickable links and buttons spaced too closely together.

John Mueller from Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst team based in Zurich said they “strongly recommend you take a look at these issues in Webmaster Tools.”

Of course, Mueller could simply be encouraging this because it improves user experience, but there is strong evidence to suggest Google will eventually make mobile user experience a ranking signal within search engine algorithms.

You can see an example of the reports below:

Mobile Usability Reports

Google-Webmaster-Tools-LogoGoogle Webmaster Tools (GWT) is Google’s direct line to every website owner, which consequently makes it the most important set of tools and webmaster has at their disposal. GWT allows webmasters to identify any problems with their site including alerting you to any penalties placed on you by the search engine and checking for signs of malware that may have infected your site.

Probably the most surprising thing about Google Webmaster Tools is how many webmasters go without ever opening the dashboard of GWT. It isn’t like the cost is keeping them away. Seeing as Google Webmaster Tools is free, the best assumption is that many webmasters stay away from GWT because they are intimidated by the wealth of data and tools all in one place.

Simon Heseltine created an extensive overview of Google Webmaster Tools’ features and capabilities, as well as how you can leverage these tools to optimize your site and ensure everything is working as it should be. If you aren’t using Webmaster Tools, you are missing out and your site is likely suffering because of it.

Bing Webmaster Tools

Big may not get all the praise and attention of Google, but they have been steadily growing their audience for years. They still have a ways to go in search traffic to be realistic competition for Google, but Bing has expanded their search abilities and community to the point where it is a mistake to completely neglect the search engine.

If you are a webmaster, chances are you already use Google’s Webmaster Tools, but it is shocking how many don’t bother to signup for a Bing’s Webmaster Tools at the same time. Just like Google’s tools, Bing’s Webmaster Tools make a huge variety of data available to you to help inform your SEO practices and identify any potential issues.

Most importantly, Bing’s Webmaster Tools are the primary line the search engine uses to communicate about issues with site owners.

If you’ve used Google Webmaster Tools, you probably already have a good idea of what you can accomplish with Bing’s and you can probably make your way around the tools on your own. But, if you’re new to webmaster tools or want to know all the cool things Bing’s Webmaster Tools can do, Simon Heseltine has shared a guide to the tools at Search Engine Watch. Get yourself familiar with the tool, then make sure you sign up. There is no reason you should be missing out on such a free, versatile and important set of tools for your website.

Google is making it easier for webmasters to identify and address smartphone specific errors they might not have known about in the past. Previously, detecting and fixing errors that happen on smartphone errors was complicated, so the search engine added a section to the crawl errors report in Webmaster Tools that displays the more common errors Google sees webmasters make in regards to how mobile users access their site.

Pierre Far, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst announced the feature earlier today, saying that some of the errors may “significantly hurt your website’s user experience and are the basis of some of our recently-announced ranking changes for smartphone search results.” While Google is trying to help make it easier for webmasters to solve problems with their site, the search engine is also using this as another means to push webmasters towards making their sites more mobile friendly.

The new report for smartphone errors looks like this:

Smartphone Errors

Some of the errors included are:

  • Server errors: A server error is when Googlebot got an HTTP error status code when it crawled the page.
  • Not found errors and soft 404’s: A page can show a “not found” message to Googlebot, either by returning an HTTP 404 status code or when the page is detected as a soft error page.
  • Faulty redirects: A faulty redirect is a smartphone-specific error that occurs when a desktop page redirects smartphone users to a page that is not relevant to their query. A typical example is when all pages on the desktop site redirect smartphone users to the homepage of the smartphone-optimized site.
  • Blocked URLs: A blocked URL is when the site’s robots.txt explicitly disallows crawling by Googlebot for smartphones. Typically, such smartphone-specific robots.txt disallow directives are erroneous. You should investigate your server configuration if you see blocked URLs reported in Webmaster Tools.

Not only are these errors capable of ruining the user experience for visitors on mobile devices, they can severely damage your site’s visibility if you don’t resolve the issues quickly. At least now there is a convenient way for you to find the problems.

Google-Webmaster-Tools-LogoThere’s a new manual action showing up in Google Webmaster Tools, according to Jessica Lee from Search Engine Watch. Webmaster Tools was updated over the summer so that site owners could be notified when a specific type of manual action had been taken against the site, and since then the waters have been fairly quiet. This new type of manual action, referred to as “image mismatch” is the first change we’ve seen since then.

Google says:

If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that some of your site’s images may be displaying differently on Google’s search results pages than they are when viewed on your site.

As a result, Google has applied a manual action to the affected portions of your site, which will affect how your site’s images are displayed in Google. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches. Actions that affect only part of your site are listed under Partial matches.

If you end up receiving that message, it is up to you to ensure that your site is showing the same images to users both on your site and within Google image search results. It is possible “anti-hotlinking” tools can cause the issue, so you may have to look through your site’s code on the server.

As with all manual penalties, once the problem is fixed you have to submit your site for reconsideration and wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, after you’ve waited for what seems like forever, you’ll get a message in your Webmaster Tools account informing whether the manual action will be revoked after review.

Manual actions are penalties at real, living Google employees have placed against your site after determining that you are violating Google’s guidelines. The majority of manual penalties have related to outright spammy practices such as user-generated spam, hidden text, and unnatural links.

Google-Webmaster-Tools-LogoLast week SEO and online marketing professionals all had a collective freakout as keyword data stopped showing up in Webmaster Tools. They even made memes! Well there is good news, Google has said the issue was an unintended bug, and should be fixed soon.

Google made a very public switch to secure search last week, in an effort to encrypt all search information and provide “extra protection” to searchers. Webmasters immediately noticed nearly all of their keyword referral data disappeared and was replaced with “(not provided)”. The best way to deal with the issue was to access similar keyword data under Search Queries within the Search Traffic section of Google Webmaster Tools.

But there was a problem, when secure search was implemented that keyword data stopped being reported or provided within Webmaster Tools. Many questioned whether this was a mistake or a change in policy, while the regular anti-Google group proclaimed Google had lied and was intentionally hiding the data; Matt Cutts had previously estimated only one to two percent of keyword data would be affected by secure search.

Now, John Mueller, a member of the Google Webmaster Tools team in Europe, as well as a separate Google spokesperson have both clarified the missing data was the result of the bug, and they are working hard to solve the problem.

Mueller posted to the Google Webmaster Central forum, “The team is aware of the problem and working on speeding that data back up again. Thanks for your patience in the meantime.” The spokesperson told Search Engine Watch, “We’ve recently fixed a small bug related to data reporting in Webmaster Tools. We expect reporting to return to normal in the coming days.”

Google Webmaster Tools is one of the best tools at your disposal for making sure people are able to find your site, but a surprising amount of people run websites and never open it. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team calls not using the free Google webmaster resources one of the five most common mistakes a site owner can make, so it makes sense to share some information about the tool.

For those that don’t know, Google Webmaster Tools is free software that helps you manage the more technical aspects of your website. It is especially loved by SEO professionals because it offers various diagnostic reports on numerous areas of your page from the best possible source. You can find out why you aren’t ranking or review your link profile, but Webmaster Tools also provides a direct hotline between Google and website owners. If you have been hit with a penalty, you are notified in Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools is often confused with Google Analytics, which is a sort of companion software to Webmaster Tools. However, Analytics is aimed at marketers and provides data more relevant for that area. Both provide extensive resources and options for optimization, but for SEO you will be much more interested in Webmaster Tools.

You will have to be logged into your Google account which you use for Gmail or Google+, which you should undoubtedly have if you are running a website. Once you’ve logged into Google, you can go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools and begin the process of setting up your account. Bruce Clay offers an extensive tutorial with four different options for verifying you are a site owner and setting up your account.

Once you’ve verified, you are set to explore the options and resources available. It may take some playing around to get the hang of, but you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish within the software. There are also numerous guides available to help you understand what can be done with Webmaster Tools.

Manual Actions Viewer Screenshot

Google has long been alerting webmasters when they placed a manual action against the site, but last week they made it even easier to know for sure whether a site’s search rankings are being penalized with a manual action. The search engine has added a new feature to Webmaster Tools called the Manual Actions viewer.

The Manual Actions viewer is seen under the “Search Traffic” tab, and it is meant to act as a complimentary alert to the email notifications they already send out to websites receiving a manual action. With the new tool, webmasters don’t have to rely on waiting for an email. Instead, they can check their site’s condition any time.

According to Google, less than two percent of all domains within its index are manually removed for spammy practices, so most legitimate webmasters will never see anything within the tool other than a display reading “No manual webspam actions found.”

However, for those who get targeted for spammy practices, the Manual Actions viewer will show existing webspam problems under two headings titled ‘site-wide matches’ and ‘partial matches’. They will also include information on what type of problem exists from a list of roughly a dozen categories including ‘hidden text and/or keyword stuffing’, ‘thin content’, and ‘pure spam’.

For the partial matches listed in the tool, Google also gives access to a list of affected URLs for each type of spam problem. For example, if you have a notification for thin content, you will be able to see all the URLs targeted. There is a limit of 1,000 URLs per problem category, but that should be plenty for al but massive websites like YouTube.

Within the tool, there is also quick access to a new ‘Request a Review’ button that appears any time there are manual actions listed. When you click the button, a pop-up window opens which lets the webmaster give Google details on how you have resolved the issues.