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About the Blog

The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?


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Thursday, February 08, 2007

New from Google: WebMaster Tools


As long as I'm blogging about Billy Joel and technology, check out this new service from Google - Webmaster Tools.

First of all, I didn't realize that the "link:" parameter in Google returned only "a sub-sampled list of backlinks." According to the linked article, this is done intentionally to prevent search engine manipulation. I can only assume this means they don't want spammers using the information to target specific sites, or other search engines to reverse engineer their search algorithms and compete with them more effectively.

At any rate, this new tool gives you a much larger list of sites that link to pages on your own site. Sign-up is easy: you have to verify you are the site owner in one of two ways: FTP'ing an HTML file to your site's domain (they give you a convoluted name to use), or putting a harmless META tag in your site's index file. The thought here is that if you have permission to upload files and/or edit files in the domain, then you must be the site owner.

Once you're past sign-up, the tool is very rudimentary. This actually surprised me, since most of Google's tools are very slick looking and extremely user friendly. This one is a simple tab & menu interface, the lists it returns only allow viewing of (max) 100 items at a time, and each page comes up with a "Do you want to display secure and non-secure items on this page?" message every time I click a link (yes, I know I can turn this off, but I shouldn't have to adjust browser settings to use one of their tools!). There is a spreadsheet download option, though, which puts all the data into Excel for easy manipulation, so if the interface really bugs you, at least there's a workaround.

All of that said, the information is very interesting, both in terms of what sites are linking to mine and also the most popular search terms that bring back pages from my site (including their average position in the result set).

Links to my site were mostly from Jeff Porten's blog, The Vast Jeff Wing Conspiracy or from Jason Bennion's blog, Simple Tricks and Nonsense, or from a comment thread on John Scalzi's blog, The Whatever (note that most blogs make your name in a comment entry a link back to your site - lest you think I spent all of my time self-pimping my blog in Scalzi's comment threads). There are a couple of other sites that link back to me, and I knew about most of them through Technorati searches, through comments on my blog by the site's author, or just through word of mouth. The only one that was truly new to me was this review of a Billy Joel concert in Johannesburg, which quotes (and links to) my review of his Madison Square Garden concert, calling it a "good well informed review." So hey, that's cool - a positive review of a review inside of someone else's positive review. You don't see that everyday.

On the search term side, Google Analytics provides a ton of great data on the search terms people used to get to my site, but this is a little bit different: this list includes search terms that return pages from my site, even if no one has clicked on my page as a result. The results are somewhat illuminating. Here are some samples:

brian greenberg (average rank in results: 6)
tables in blogger (average rank: 1)
i should be sleeping instead of dreaming about you lyrics (avg. rank: 8)
how to get hair like emmy rossum (avg. rank: 9)
lee teabing da vinci (avg. rank: 18)
"550 permission" blogger (avg. rank: 1)
country song "i should be sleeping" (avg. rank: 3)
"sleeping positions" "what they mean" (avg. rank: 7)
aladdin and jasmin (avg. rank: 12)

There's also a Page Analysis tab, which tells you the keywords Google has indexed in your domain, as well as the keywords most often used in links to your site (which Google also indexes, improving it's search results).

All in all, a nice tool for the toolbox. Check it out yourself, why don'tcha?

posted by Brian at 12:14 AM


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