Virtually every webmaster has heard of Google Webmaster Tools and use it regularly to check on the health of their site, unfortunately very few know of Live Search Webmaster Center which complements Microsoft Live Search.
Recently I wrote about the significant improvements that Live Search Webmaster Center has gone through, which has really boosted the product. To put the new enhancements through their paces, it seemed like a good idea to compare what it was displaying versus what Google Webmaster Tools was showing.
Live Search Webmaster Center showed that I didn’t have anything wrong with my robots.txt file, nor was I suffering from long and complex dynamic URLs – however I did have a handful of 404 errors through the site. Live Webmaster Center had picked up that I had linked to another site without the http:// in the
href attribute, like:
- <a href=”www.domain.com/important/article/”>important article</a>
which when clicked, was delivering a 404 error on my site with a URL like:
To my surprise, when I explored that same information within Google Webmaster Tools – they had not picked up that I had linked that article incorrectly.
Moral of the story, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. While Google hadn’t picked it up or had just compensated for my mistake – simple mistakes like that may have an adverse effect on less capable search engines.
In the last few days, the Live Search Webmaster blog have posted about two significant improvements to the webmaster center, how Live Search crawls your site and more detailed backlink information.
Live Search Webmaster Center now supports the following four items, which are a great help in identifying problems with your site and how Live Search is spidering your content:
- File not found (404) errors, a straight forward date stamped account of the HTTP “404 File Not Found” errors that Live Search encountered when crawling the site. Conveniently, this includes broken links within your own site and sites that you are linking to.
- Pages Blocked by Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP), reported when Live Search has been prevented from indexing or displaying a cached copy of the page because of a policy in your robots exclusion protocol (REP).
- Long Dynamic URLs, reported when Live Search encounters a URL with an exceptionally long query string. These URLs have the potential to create an infinite loop for search engines due to the number of combination’s of their parameters, and are often not crawled. I haven’t come across one of these yet and so far I haven’t seen any documentation of what ‘exceptionally long’ means, so clarification on that point would be handy.
- Unsupported Content-Types, reported when a page either specifies a content-type that is not supported by Live Search, or simply doesn’t specify any content type. Examples of supported content-types are: text/html, text/xml, and application/PowerPoint.
In 2007, Microsoft removed the ability for users to drill into backlink data within Live Search. It took a long time, however that functionality has now been replaced within Live Search Webmaster Center and is looking quite promising.
Common functionality shared between the crawl information and back link data, is that Live Webmaster allows you to download the information CSV format. Possibly the best feature for a large complex site though, is that each of the above options can be filtered (search style) further by entering in a subdomain and/or directory to restrict the results to. The backlink interface additionally supports a top level domain in the search box, allowing you to isolate only back links originating from an Australian site by entering in .au.
The interface doesn’t support paging of results, in case you want to step through a few pages without wanting to export information in CSV format. If you do want to download more information, there isn’t an option to export all information in a hit – you can only retrieve 1000 lines of data. I can appreciate that they don’t want to provide an ‘all’ option or that they want to limit how many can be fetched at once, however there isn’t a way to set 1000 items per page to download them and then go to the next page and download them. The other issue with the 1000 lines of data, is that there is no information on how the 1000 lines are selected. As an example, the backlink section uses the language ‘Download up to 1000 results’ – however there isn’t any indication of how the 1000 are selected.
While there is still room for improvement and really, when isnt there, I’m personally encouraged by the changes that Microsoft are making to Live Search Webmaster Center. The sooner services from Microsoft start to catch up to other services offered by the leaders – the sooner more businesses and webmasters will spend investing time into the Live Search product.