Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WebMasterTools Overhaul

If you use WebMaster Tools, you've noticed Google has introduced a new lay-out and changed some calculations.

Good parts about the new lay-out:

  • It's less click-intense, with more info on the same page
  • The report of backlinks matches alternate measures much more closely
  • Some concepts are now more intuitive
Bad parts of the new layout:
  • Backlinks still make no sense: an opportunity was missed
  • It lacks design grace
  • There is no explanation as to why the backlinks counts fluctuated so much
The backlinks issue interests me. If you are up on these things, you know you can find the backlinks for any site by Googling links:sitename. But the search results often produced a different total count than the old WebMaster Tools? Why?
And since Google knew it and said it, why not explain the reason? The answer is probably something to do with available computer data resources and integration, but I'd like to hear it. Nothing hurts Google's image with me more than handing down new systems as if they were chiseled on stone tablets, without any sort of explanation.

One thing I noticed with the new version is that my own backlinks dropped -- a lot. I don't mind drops if the new data is better, but is it? There are still 27 links from one blog, 33 from another. I don't take them seriously, but instead, monitor trends.

It's like taking a class where the only goal is constant improvement, and you work your way up from a B+ to an A-. Then they recalibrate, and you're at C-. It doesn't matter much, but you feel you have a right to know why.

If you read this column because you take your comic seriously and you're out for the odd tip or quirky remark, I'm sure you have WebMaster Tools. If you don't, and your comic is getting fairly sizable (50+ pages, I'd say), it's time. It's especially valuable for scrutinizing your tags, your backlinks and submitting site maps.

If you've ever seen those circulars for Sears tool sets, WebMaster Tools is still very much in the starter range. I'd like to think that the recent overhaul presages more tools.