Google Webmaster tools got an update and a facelift

The other day Google Webmaster Tools got a bit of an update and a facelift. Mostly it’s the same, but a slightly cleaner look (although still not consistent with any of the other Google apps) and a little more functionality.

The cleaner look is nice, I must admit – previously it was really kind of ghetto, now it’s got an identical structure, just a better style sheet – it makes a difference. The new page is under the “Statistics” tab – they’ve added in “Subscriber stats”. Not incredibly interesting to me, since I’ve been using feedburner and Google reports exact numbers in their user agents – so I’ve been seeing my Google subscribers for awhile now (and won’t see them in tools, since they’re going to feedburner), but still a nice touch.

Unfortunately, like everything in Webmaster Tools, though, it takes a few days to update – so from the time I subscribed to a comments feed it was 3 or 4 days before it showed up. Also, if someone puts your rss feed on their iGoogle desktop it very strangely doesn’t seem to show up in Webmaster Tools. Or at least my test still hasn’t several days on. It’ll be nice for folks who aren’t using Feedburner, although, it’s only a small part of the RSS picture and really if you’ve got RSS you ought to use Feedburner.

Also, I just noticed that they have a few bits that are news.google related. They’ve got diagnostics on the “News crawl” that’ll show you of any issues G may be having pulling your content into news.google. And it also has “News stats” that’ll give you some easy links to see exactly what content is making the grade. I’m not sure if it is new or not, but if your site is on the news.google list, then it’s a good idea to make sure you’re making the most of it.

There are also tools that actually affect the index, like the remove url function. If both www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com are functioning url’s – you can tell google which one you want to be real and will unify them so everyone goes to the one you mention. Plus a couple other goodies.

If you aren’t already using Webmaster Tools, it’s definitely worth adding into your war chest for things to check in on every now and again. I find the diagnostics on the web crawl very interesting – as it will alert you to any problems that your site might be giving google (in terms of inability to get to pages, etc…) and if you put in a robots.txt it will help you test things out beforehand to make sure you haven’t gotten something wrong and then after you put it in place it will tell you which pages have been blocked so you can make sure you’re doing what you think you’re doing.

Generally it lets you in on a little of what Google is thinking and doing. It updates pretty infrequently so isn’t up to the minute information, but it is definitely worth the occasional looksee as a Google thermometer to make sure things are generally ok with the search engine. Google is opaque enough in it’s dealings that this little peek into it’s workings is very helpful and comforting.

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