Four under-utilized Webmaster Tools features

This week we’re going to take a quick look at four features which often go unused by websites.  Not exactly sure why this is, as they’re very useful, and at times, critical.  Still, we see folks time and again who open an account, verify their domain, yet fail to take basic actions that can help them both immediately and down the road.


Under preferences you’ll find the ability to control whether we email you alerts, which alert we email and to which address we email.  This may sound like a ploy to get you to sign up for marketing emails…but consider this:

  • We don’t email you marketing info.
  • We do email you alerts about malware.

Now, this assumes you give us the permission and spec an email address you actually use frequently.  Be sure to put in a legitimate email address here, or you could out think yourself and be responsible for missing important alerts like content we can’t reach because your robots.txt is blocking it, or that we’ve found malware associated with your site.  I suspect any savvy SEO would cringe if they realized they were missing those alerts.

URL Normalization

For a lot of sites, cleaning up URL-related issues is a pain.  Using the URL Normalization feature found inside our Webmaster Tools can help you, however.  If you put the parameter you’d like us to ignore into the tool, we’ll do just that – ignore the parameter.  In short, we’ll ignore the URL in which the parameter appears, and the content associated with the parameter.

If you do not want us to be indexing your /print/ content, then specifying print in the URL Normalization feature will alert us and will help us understand we should not index that content.  URL Normalization does not replace your robots.txt, and you should take care to not put contradictory statements in these two locations.  Robots.txt has the final say, so be careful.


This feature is extremely valuable.  Let’s look at two examples of why.

In our first example, you’d like to allow access to view the data inside the Webmaster account with a senior manager.  You can easily do so through the features in the User section.  You can control what that manager can access as well.  By selecting Read Only, they can see everything but change nothing.  Great protection when allowing those new into the tools space.

In our second example, we’ll focus on protection at a much more fundamental level.  Let’s say your SEO has left the company.  Do you have your User parameters set in such a way as to protect you against that ex-employee logging back into the tools and telling Bing to block your entire website?  That employee may not have access to YOUR network and YOUR computers any more, but they could still log into the Webmaster account and cause some damage there.  Make sure you have at least two Administrators set up who then can control what all other users can access.  If any employee who had access to the Webmaster Tools leaves your company, one of those alternate Administrators can login and change passwords for everyone, etc.  There are limits to this protecting you, but the tools exist to manage access.  The rest is in your hands to plan.

URL Submissions

We hear a lot of folks saying they don’t see their newest content in the results fast enough.  They are concerned we’re not finding it, not crawling them frequently enough, etc.  In addition to submitting sitemaps via our tools, you can also submit, directly to our index, any URL from your site.  Now, there are limits on these submissions (50/month and 10/day) to protect Bing against spammers trying to inject content.  But, for a legitimate website, this feature is an excellent way to make sure valuable content is seen by us quickly.

You have to understand, however, that with this power to submit the content can come some potentially harsh realities.  Unlike the normal process of crawling, indexing, rating and ranking that content goes through, what you submit takes a much straighter path to the results page.  This means that while you might feel your content is the best content ever created, the searcher is the ultimate judge.  If your content is shown, and searchers interact with it, that helps the content (which is new to us and has virtually no signals of its own at this point – no history, no pattern of engagement, no social signals, etc.).

This means that your content sinks or swims based on whether or not searchers interact with it.  If they do, and we sense their interactions are positive, you’re in great shape.  If they don’t, that’s a strike.  If they do and we get the sense they don’t like it, that’s a strike.  The bottom line here is your content needs to be very compelling to be successful.  And just because you think its compelling, that doesn’t means others will, too.

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