2011 is almost in the history books, so now seems like a great time to take a look back over the year and remember what we’ve been up to here at Bing Webmaster Tools. First hand it’s easy to see how quickly a year can slip by. Being inside a search engine is an amazing place, and this year saw solid growth for our Webmaster program. We covered a lot of ground attending conferences all around the US, met a ton of folks face to face and brought an entirely new depth to our Webmaster tools. Let’s take a look at some of the work, improvements and new tools launched this year.
Traffic Reports Depth
Early in the year saw us adding more information in the Traffic reports. This includes the new detailed traffic stats feature. We are showing much more information to the webmasters including:
• Average impression and click positions for their top 100 queries
• The specific pages showing up for a particular query, including their impressions, clicks, CTR, average impression and click positions, and position details.
• Their top 100 pages including their impressions, clicks, CTR, and average impression and click positions.
• The specific queries showing up for a particular page, including their impressions, clicks, CTR, average impression and click positions, and position details.
• Trending over time for their top 100 queries.
These additions made it easier for Webmasters to see which phrases were driving traffic, and to which pages on their websites that traffic was going.
Around this same time, maybe a little earlier, we addressed the need to install Silverlight to view the reports by moving the tools to HTML5. With this move, we made it easier for users to interact with our reports and saw report load times slightly improve as well. This move meant our reports were now viewable in all modern browsers and on smart phones as well.
Users asked loud and clear for ways to control the crawler, so in addition to the usual avenue open via your robots.txt, we built a tool that allows you to easily drag and drop a graph to set the crawl rate specific to your website. It’s as simple as creating the crawl patter you want. This means it’s easy to tailor our crawling efforts to times when your bandwidth is least affected. Telling us to stay away during peak business hours, and visit when everyone is asleep is as easy as clicking your mouse. We added a checkbox for you to let us know if we’d encounter AJAX URLs along the way, and there is an option to simply let us figure it all out for you.
The times shown were all GMT, so we added a layer to display your server time relative to GMT, hopefully making it easier to understand when your peak business hours hit, and allowing you to build a control graph around those hours.
Our Index Tracker tool received a thorough backend rewrite, improving coverage, performance, depth and latency. When these improvements released, even brand new websites saw all of their data as the Bing index held it. No longer having to wait 48+ hours meant Webmasters could understand what Bing was actually indexing and how it was performing much faster.
We introduced user controls and permissions. Site owners could now grant admin, read / write, or read-only access to other users for their site using their existing verification code. This made it much easier for businesses to manage their accounts, share access and control who could turn the knobs and pull the levers. This layer of control allowed businesses to manage account ownership and access at a new level, ensuring, as employees moved around, access and control of these tools remained in hand.
We enhanced the Sitemap UX by showing not only user submitted sitemaps, but all sitemaps we know of. We also expanded the types of feeds we accept enabling folks to submit Atom, RSS and xml.
User Experience & Communications
Working to make it easier to navigate inside the tools, we added a second layer to the tabbed navigation, which you see when logged in.
In an effort to improve communications, we enabled the ability to tell us where to email you and what to email you. If there was an alert appearing inside your account for malware, as an example, you can now opt to receive an email alert to the address of your choice. This made it much easier to know when something was happening.
Our “Block URLs” feature got a backend overhaul to include more built-in safeguards, helping to protect webmasters from accidently blocking large numbers of URLs. While the control is still in your hands, there are added layers of checks on our end that prompt confirmations before actions take place.
We did some work on how we cache all of your website data, as well, resulting in a dramatic drop in latency from, in some cases 5 seconds for a report to load, to 400 milliseconds for the same report now. That dramatically improved the performance of reporting.
Know more, faster
Later in the year, we expanded user email communication preferences and controls. It’s easy to stay up to date on the latest announcements and alerts applied to your account. You can set frequency preferences, select options on which alerts you want notifications for and set a dedicated email and contact number.
Expanded Crawl Details
The expansion of Crawl Details meant you would now see all URLs attributed to header codes and notations made. This was a great step forward to understanding which URLs Bing was having issues accessing, and makes it much easier to understand if any high value URLs are being seen by us in ways you’d like to change.
To help you manage parameters in a more in depth manner, we expanded the number of parameters you could assign us to manage from 25 items to 50. This made it easier for larger and older sites to manage legacy URLs.
Webmaster Account Verification
This was one folks were asking for all year, and we managed to get it in with one of our Fall releases. Being able to verify a website via a DNS change. Past choices included adding a snippet to your <head> code or uploading a dedicated XML file to the root of your site, and both options remain as valid ways to verify your domains. This third option will allowed you to place a discrete CNAME record to your DNS to validate a domain as well.
adCenter CPC Integration
In an effort to help businesses understand how they can easily expand their inbound traffic, we began showing CPC data from adCenter inside your Webmaster accounts. When looking at Traffic data, to the left of the keywords you now see CPC amounts associated with those keywords in adCenter. This is an excellent way to understand the practical cost of driving more traffic through paid search, and can help in targeting keywords you perform well for in organic search, thereby increasing your business’s footprint on the search results page.
We met with thousands of people face-to-face, and we’ve spent time with everyone from single person businesses, to startups and large brand names. It’s been a solid year of gathering feedback and working to improve our products. We’re looking forward to more of the same in 2012, with you telling us what you need most from us.
It has been an incredibly busy year for the small team here at Bing Webmaster Tools. We’re excited for 2012 and meeting even more folks at the shows. Keep your eyes open for more updates and new tools as we make our way through 2012. Above all, thank you for supporting Bing Webmaster Tools as we continue to grow and improve.