Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Labs added to webmaster tools.

Google has added a couple of new features to webmaster tools under the label "Labs"

Fetch as Googlebot.
With Fetch as Googlebot you can see exactly how a page appears to Google.

The first is basically a way to see how Googlebot sees your site, from the header information returned to the code contained in the page.
A great way for webmasters to check whether the content they think Googlebot is seeing, is actually what Googlebot does see (in relation to hacked sites, malware, bad code etc).

The other feature allows webmasters to check if Google has detected any issues with malware on there site and supposedly will report any "Malware details" it finds.
I say supposedly because luckily all my sites reported "Google has not detected any malware on this site."
This is a great addition to webmaster tools, but (as with all webmaster tools) only allows you to check your own verified sites.

Unfortunatly its not all good news...
The WMT's PageRank Distribution information that is usually provided under the Diagnostics >> Crawl stats tab, seems to have gone missing.
I have heard a Google employee say in the past that the webmaster tools pagerank information, is updated more often and is a more reliable way to judge the PR of your site, rather than using the toolbar PR, so I suspect its only a glitch and will be back soon.
UPDATE: The official response from Google is that the PageRank Distribution information was removed intentionally and will not reinstated.

Susan Moskwa
Google Employee
We've been telling people for a long time that they shouldn't focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it's the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it. :-)

My personal opinion on this subject is, I would rather the PR displayed via the Google toolbar was abandoned before the Pagerank distribution in WMT's.
But I do understand their point of view in that PR should not be obsessed over and to concentrate more on building your site and less on pagerank.
If they are serious about this, then I would expect them to reset all toolbar PR to N/A and/or remove it all together.
Update #2
About the toolbar PR

Susan Moskwa
Google Employee
Hey folks,

Re: Toolbar: My impression is that PageRank in Toolbar is aimed more at the casual browser of sites who wants to get a general feel for the authority of a page. For this reason many people still believe we should leave it in Toolbar. Toolbar isn't primarily aimed at site owners who are looking for precise & reliable metrics that they can judge their site by or make decisions by. That's one reason it made sense to remove it from Webmaster Tools, which is designed specifically for site owners in a way that Toolbar is not. Personally I would love to see us remove PR from the Toolbar, but mine is not the only opinion in Google and the folks I have most contact with--site owners--aren't the only users or stakeholders of Toolbar.


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