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Finding Help at Google Groups
The Google Webmaster Help groups is an online forum where you can raise your technical concerns and be heard. Some of the more frequently asked questions already have existing threads, with suggestions from experts, Google employees, and other members (there are about 7,500 users already). You can also post your questions and follow links to other sources of information.
Managing your Site
But the meat of the changes lies in the site management tools. Let’s you want to check in your site, www.abc123.com. Visit “My Sites” and you’ll see your sites registered in a handy chart form and whether they’ve been verified or not. You can also find other tools, like reporting spams, or requests for re inclusion.
You can also perform diagnostics at the indexing summary page, which lists all of the obstacles the Google spider encountered when it went through your site. This includes HTTP errors, restrictions from robot txt, URLs that were unreachable or timed out. You can then check the specific pages where the errors occurred (for example, you’ll see a link was disabled). Google also records the last time that they tried to access that page, in case you had already made corrections since then.
Anther welcome feature is being able to submit the preferred domain name (should you drop the “www” or not?). This is a great boost in link canonicalization and helps in issues with duplicate content, that could affect sites that don’t use the function of “301 re-direct”.
Query stats reveals ranking, and which types of queries get you in the top rankings (a tool for search engine optimization strategies!) There’s the additional practicality of being able to check your performance in different geographical locations, That’s fantastic if your website is targeted towards particular demographics. Google also gives crawl stats so you know which of your pages get the most visits and had the highest individual rankings.
Another interesting feature is page analysis. It lets you compare your own anchor text and how other websites commonly describe you—peer feedback, so to speak. In terms of marketing strategy, understanding where your appeal lies and how the web world views the significance of your content may help you discover which pages to build. Who knows, they may be link opportunities here—and we all know the importance of links in Google search engine ranking.
The index stats enable you to link out to the different searches, which may be useful for those who don’t know how to use these functions (although some believe that precisely because this feature is targeted to newbies, it would’ve been more user-friendly if a pop-up box could briefly explain what each one was about). Experts at Search Engine Optimization may not find anything new here, though.
All in all, the Webmaster Tools are very useful, powerful, and geared for both professional webmasters and the man-on-the-street running a small home-based business and wanting to check whether or not his website’s performing well. While the new name is quite a mouthful—so much for the old adage that business names should be short and sweet—changing it does do justice to Google Sitemap’s attempts to be more than just an indexing tool.
About the Author: Philip Nicosia is the webmaster of XML-Sitemaps.com which provides a free Google sitemap generator and Google XML sitemap validator for webmasters.