Some SEO experts are recommending that we seriously consider using both Google and Bing Webmaster Tools to gain valuable insight into the factors that are contributing to our SEO success (or failure.) Both sets of tools include diagnostics such as indexing and crawling. Recently, (November 2013), Bing introduced “Connected Pages” to help you glean valuable information from your social media pages as well. (Will this be something that Google will follow suit with?)
For those of you not familiar with webmaster tools, they’re free tools that help: improve the visibility of your website in the search results, diagnose problems, analyze data about internal and external links and much more. To learn more about using Google Webmaster Tools, visit the Google Help Center and to learn more about Bing Webmaster Tools, visit the Bing Webmaster Getting Started Checklist page.
For starters, one of the first things that you need to do (to get the most out of these tools) is make sure that you have a search engine sitemap on your website. A search engine sitemap (in XML format) is a file that contains a list of the URLs of the website pages that you would like indexed by the search engines. Actually, it contains more than that. It also contains important metadata (an additional information layer) with information such as when the page was last modified, how frequently it changes and how it ranks in importance relative to other URLs.
If you’re using WordPress, you can install an XML sitemap plugin, or if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can create a sitemap file manually and FTP (file transfer protocol) it to the public folder of your website. (I use XMLSitemaps.com to generate the sitemap and Filezilla client for my FTP program.)
From what I’m reading, Bing is really differentiating their tools from Google’s through their new SEO reports and analysis features. For example, Bing’s tools will let you know if you’re missing meta descriptions and alternate tags on your images. (For those of you who aren’t quite sure what those are or why you need them, check out my post 4 SEO Tips to Optimize your WordPress Blog.)
Resources to Learn More
For those of you looking for more information (including screenshots), check out Google Webmaster Tools vs. Bing – Which is More Informative? by Kristi Hines. If you’re interested in a comparison of the two tools (along with some detailed insight) check out “Bing vs Google; Webmaster Tools Comparison” on Website Magazine’s website. I found both articles to be very interesting.
Now, over to you: Are you using Google webmaster tools? Bing’s? Both? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Note: This article was originally published on July 17th 2012 and was updated on December 4th, 2013. Interestingly enough, when I wrote this article, Bing was introducing their “disavow” tool. As we all know, Google has since followed suit. Now that Bing has introduced a way for us to connect our social media pages, will Google follow suit again?