In the first post of this series, we briefly explored Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT) with Sr. Program Manager Vincent Wehren. In that article, we discovered that BWT is a well-rounded suite of SEO tools that have the added benefit of the massive amount of search engine data provided by Bing. We also learned from Vincent that BWT started as just an internal set of tools that eventually evolved into the external, well-defined platform that it is today.
In this second piece, we’ll dive deeper into the history behind BWT, as well present more of the advanced reports and dashboards that BWT offers.
History Of BWT
Growing Bing Webmaster Tools from a nameless, internal toolset to a public-facing product suite was no easy task. Whereas the in-house UI didn’t have to look pretty or have intuitive navigation and controls, it was obviously very important to nail down the look and feel to something that would meet the high expectations of the search engine optimization and webmaster power users.
“The usability testing we did was a revelation,” Vincent admits. “It opened our eyes to simple mistakes we were making every time we updated the site. Research prior to this had nailed down the feature set of tools we needed to focus on, but that usability testing broke us out of our comfort zone and forced us to face some blind spots we’d grown over the years.”
As the build team continued to engineer a pretty face on top of the tools they already had, there was another concern growing day-by-day — it became obvious that more features and dashboards would be needed to round out the offering to something that was not just helpful, but absolutely desirable by the user community.
Benefiting the project greatly was that fact that all three of the program heads had been search engine optimizers previously; and, this deep, practitioner point-of-view absolutely encouraged them to strive even further that they had before.
“Fielding a ‘meme’ set of tools just wouldn’t cut it. This wasn’t an effort to best anyone per se, but the fact was, as SEOs ourselves, we saw a gap,” says Vincent. “We knew there were a series of tools missing that could provide actionable, useful data from the source. I mean, does it get better than having a search engine tell you what SEO work you need to focus on? How about seeing link data for a competitor, again, provided by the search engine? Our team set out a list of features and tools we thought would be useful. We brought in the research data and overlaid that. It was immediately evident we were on the right track. From that point on, the dedication from our Engineering and PM teams saw the final product become a giant step forward for webmaster tools in general.”
When I asked Vincent what ideas didn’t make it into the final release, he winked at me and maintains that there are “enough items left on the shelves to delight webmasters for years to come,” but isn’t able to share any of those brainstorms are at this timed due to obvious, competitive reasons. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next suite version and see what they come up with.
For now, though, search engine optimizers should find the current tools more than adequate to handle the day-to-day needs of SEO. Let’s continue on with more insight into the current feature set…
Bing now offers SEO Reports based on a small set of approximately 15 SEO best practices. The reports run automatically every other week and are available through a webmaster account. They run the same SEO best practices as the SEO Analyzer tool (see below), but for these reports, BWT scans all domains listed in an account and builds individual reports for each.
The SEO Reports are more or less read-only — otherwise, the system does the scanning of all pages (appearing in their index) and reporting automatically.
These reports provide aggregated counts of all the issues found, across the entire website scanned. Clicking on a URL specified takes you deeper into the SEO Analysis Detail, where the BWT explains the issue and shows the individual pages affected by this non-compliance with the SEO Best Practice.
SEO Analyzer is an on-demand, real-time tool. Based on the same SEO best practices as the SEO Reports, this tool will scan any URL you enter from one of your verified domains and build a report to let you know if the page scanned is in- or out-of-compliance with each best practice.
This tool can scan a single page at a time, making it great for checking new pages to understand where more work may be required. Users simply type in the URL they want scanned and clicks the Analyze button. The tool fetches the page, analyzes the page against the predetermined best practices and displays a compliance report in seconds.
- The left side of the page displays the “SEO Suggestions” based on items found out-of-compliance with the Best Practices scan.
- “Error Count” tells the viewer how many items for that particular suggestion have been found on the scanned page.
- Clicking on any “Description” filters the view on the right side to showcase only warning buttons associated with the SEO Suggestion selected.
- The right side of the page displays a view of the site with the compliance items noted where they reside on the scanned page. They are noted by the colored button with the plus symbol (+) in the middle. Hovering on any button will expand the button to explain the issue at that location. Clicking on “Expand” within the text box will expand the box to show the full explanation for the flag. Click the minus symbol (-) in the button to close the text box completely.
- Clicking “Clear Selection” clears the filters and displays the page view with all buttons present.
- Selecting “Page Source” (see image below) across the top of the page viewing window on the right side will display the page code found when scanning the page.
- Selecting “Original” simply shows the page scanned as it would appear on the Internet.
When in source view, the yellow little arrows (up and down) on the right make it really easy to navigate the errors — no need to scroll up and down — using the arrows takes you to the exact locations inside the page’s source where the errors (of the selected error type) occur.
Also worth noting: when entering a URL that redirects, BWT will show that the page was redirected and what the redirect “hops” were before we hit the landing page. This is a nice little detail that helps detect redirects.
This beta tool will allow a webmaster to explore links associated with a domain. It may be applied to any domain they choose to enter, and for the entered URL (one at a time), the tool will supply a list of known links pointing to the specified URL, and this is not limited to the domains within their account.
The default setting will be to display external links pointed at the specified URL, though this can be switched to show internal links as well.
The webmaster can also change the scope to show links pointed to either a domain, or an individual URL. If desired, the webmaster can enter specific anchor text they’d like the tool to locate as well, thus displaying the inbound links associated with the anchor text sought.
A further refinement permits the system to perform an additional query, allowing you to drill in on specific keywords which appear on pages of other sites, which point links at you. Essentially, “show me all the pages that link to me with this text on the page: ____________.”
Recently, BWT took the beta tag off and introduced some enhancements:
- Each Source URL itself is now a hyperlink, and clicking on the hyperlink explores all inbound links pointing to that specific URL
- Each entry in the Title column is hot now, too, and clicking it takes you to the linking page
There is a distinction between Link Explorer and the Inbound Links tool (which sits under Reports & Data). Whereas Link Explorer is the ideal tool for quick competitive backlink analysis on an arbitrary (that is, competitor) site, the Inbound Links tool provides comprehensive backlink analysis for your own site showing up to 1 million inbound links to the site and link text details for up 20K links per page on your registered site. The two combined make for an unmatched backlink analysis experience.
I hope you are enjoying this deep dive into this very comprehensive, free tool. In the next and final post of this series, we’ll cover more of the features in Bing Webmaster Tools, such as alerts and notifications. We’ll also speak to a few search marketers who have used BWT in real-world situations and get their feedback.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.