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August 6, 2008

Live Search Updates Webmaster Tools

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Lisa’s soaking up the sun in Ensenada by now – lucky girl. On the up side, in Lisa’s absence, we’ve all gotten to enjoy the guest blog posts by some of the brightest and most impressive minds in search. And there’s more to come! Thanks, ladies!

It turns out that not everyone’s gotten to enjoy leisure time lately, as the Live Search Webmaster Center team has been hard at work preparing to roll out the first major update to their Webmaster Tools since the November debut. And it appears that the new features address anticipated improvements to the Webmaster Tools.

The first thing that caught my eye is that the little “(beta)” has disappeared!

Webmaster Center this morning:

Webmaster Center following this afternoon’s update:

That’s right. Live Search’s Webmaster Center is out of beta. When I talked to Program Manager Jeremiah Andrick, he said that Webmaster Center’s release from beta is just the beginning of their efforts to support the Web publishing community.

Jeremiah explained, “We have staffed a team of folks that are committed to providing more data about your site to improve crawling and developing a strong community around these tools to help answer your questions. We rely on the webmaster and publisher industry to provide us feedback on where we can improve and will continue to add new features and improvements in the future.”

So what exactly are these nifty new features?

Crawl Issues: Webmasters and SEOs will be pleased to see the report of issues Live Search found when crawling and indexing your site. The four issue types reported on are 404 errors, URLs blocked by Robots Exclusion Protocol, long dynamic URLs, and unsupported content-types. According to Jeremiah:

“By addressing these issues, webmaster can improve how Live Search sees them… We expect that a webmaster will use this report to identify these problems on their site and fix the issue with the broken link, or create a 301 redirect the URL to a more appropriate location.”

Backlinks: The new incarnation of Webmaster Tools offers an enhanced look at inbound links from external sites. Along with the increased quantity of reported inlinks – up to 1,000 can be downloaded – the improved backlinks tool is capable of filtering results by a number of factors. The new filter functionality allows sorting of backlinks from specific sites, sub-domains, or sub-folders, as well as backlinks from specified top level domains.

More actionable data: The other cool new features included in today’s update are intended to help make the data gleaned from the tools more actionable. Understanding that webmasters and SEOs will often need to import the data into offline programs such as Excel in order to analyze it, this update makes possible just such an action. The download option makes the first 1,000 results available in a CSV file that can be opened with Excel and other database or custom reporting tools. Advanced filtering, as demonstrated in my explanation of the improved backlinks feature, lets webmasters filter results by up to two sub-domains or two sub-folders, allowing for easier access to the desired gems without having to excavate entire mountain ranges. Both the download and filter options have been enabled on all reports, both old and new.

From the look of it, this update has gone a long way to improving the resource that is Live Search’s Webmaster Tools. Interested in seeing the update yourself? I don’t blame you. Give it a spin and let us know what you think!

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