Bing has unrolled a new update to its Webmaster Tools. The update, nicknamed Phoenix, brings what Bing calls a "new, fresh user experience" and some new reports that bear a striking resemblance to the former Yahoo Site Explorer. The update is all about the user experience and will change how you view and interact with your site's data.
If you haven't logged into Webmaster tools in a while, the first thing you'll notice is that the small fonts and blue and orange theme have gone by the wayside. A large display with wide, touch-friendly links replaces the old start page.
Bing Webmaster Tools now includes an easily readable dashboard with several colors and arrows to indicated changes in various metrics. Green icons with arrows pointing up are used to show and increase and red icons pointing downward for a decrease. Dashboard metrics range from Search impressions and clicks, and crawl metrics. sparkline graphs complete the new dashboard experience. This use of color is the start of a trend that continues throughout the reports.
Furthermore, many of the reports allow you to select from various controls to turn on or off various metrics. You can even drill-down deep for more data. In many reports, you can hover over a particular date to see pop-up information which often includes links for even more data in another drill-down report. The ability to mine information is a data geek's dream.
The reports, which are as stunning as they are useful, are now rendered entirely in HTML5. Previously Bing Webmaster Tools reports required Silverlight to be installed. With the changes there is now a more cross-platform experience across all browsers.
Bing Webmaster Tools includes many little features, including a date range selector and site selector. The former is a new features and allows you to select a range of dates for which you want to view data. This allows you to compare various data from different time periods and help you spot trends. There's even a shortcut to select pre-set time periods, for example, "last 30 days" or "last 6 months." The site selector, while not new, has be redesigned. It includes a search box, which is most useful if you have a lot of sites to manage.
However, some of the best additions come in the reports.
Under the "reports & Data" area, is a new feature called SEO reports. These reports run automatically every other week and scan your site for compliance with best SEO practices.
Errors or suggestions are ranked by high, medium or low priority. They include such issues as missing description tags, alt attributes or repeated page titles. These reports tell you how many pages, and the number of instances. If you've been struggling with your coders to make changes or having a hard time prioritizing tasks, this report can help.
If you're impatient and want quick answers, the "SEO Analyzer" tool under the "Diagnostics & Tools" area can give you that instant gratification by generating a report for you immediately. The inbound links report provides all sorts of information about which sites link to you. Naturally, you can view which of your URLs have inbound links and you can click to view the site that links to you.
However, the real magic comes in the new Link Explorer tool. Link Explorer allows you to drill deep into your pages to not only see which sites link to your page, but determine with what anchor text. Link explorer allows you to filter by site, anchor text or other additional features. You can even analyze your internal site links.
Many have reported that Bing has resurrected the former Yahoo Site Explorer. Speaking with Search Engine Watch, Duane Forrester of Bing notes that while there are similarities, the new reports in Bing's Webmaster tools were written from the ground-up, based on a great deal of feedback from users. He noted that some of the tools are still labeled as beta because there will be some iterative changes in the ongoing months to add more logic based on how people use the tools.
For both the SEO Analyzer and Link Explorer tools, Bing keeps privacy at the forefront. You may only analyze sites you have already set up and verified within Webmaster Tools. This involves adding your site and verifying by either placing an XML file to your site, adding meta tag to your default webpage, or by adding a DNS CNAME. Once verified, all the tools are available to your site.
Forrester suggested there are more reasons to verify your site and your contact information.
"It's very important to set your contact email in your profile because Bing will contact you immediately if it detects major issues with your site," he said. "For example, if your site is infected with malware, you'll get emailed immediately. You don't want to want to wait until you notice a message the next time you log into Webmaster Tools."
Bing will notify you for other issues, as well. If you completely ruin your site with an incorrect canonical tag, for example, Bing will notice and send you an immediate email to consider checking that.
With many all these new features, Bing Webmaster Tools is a credible, must-have tool you need to have in your SEO toolbox. If you haven't given it a try (recently), now's a great time to do so.