Utility Spotlight: Bing Webmaster Center

Lance Whitney

Those of you who manage a Web site and need to see which pages are being hit should find a helpful hand in Bing Webmaster Center. The Webmaster Center can tell you what pages Bing is indexing or crawling, and the keywords people are using to find them. Because Bing has continued to grab more users since its debut a year ago, you may find it useful to see how many people are discovering your site through the Microsoft search engine.

To access the Bing Webmaster Center and set up an account for your Web site, first log on to the site with a Windows Live ID. The Webmaster Center will ask you to add your site by typing in its URL, a link to your sitemap (if you have one), and your webmaster’s e-mail address if you wish to be contacted by Bing over specific issues related to your site.

Next, the Webmaster Center will give you two ways to authenticate your site to ensure that you have access as a webmaster. You can download an XML file called LiveSearchSiteAuth.xml, which contains the necessary authentication code. This file is automatically generated for you to copy to the root of your Web site. You could also copy a meta tag with the necessary tracking code. This tag also is created for you to insert within the head tag of your index or default Web page. After authentication is set up, your site URL automatically appears in your site list.

From the site list, you can click on your site’s link to display a list of various statistics. The Summary section shows you the top five most accessed pages on your sites, as shown in Figure 1. You can see the page titles, a score assigned to each page, and the date the page was last crawled. This section also displays the total number of pages on your site that have been indexed by Bing. You can click on the number to view a Bing search page of all the crawled pages to determine if they represent the right cross-section of your site.

Figure 1 The Bing Webmaster Center can show you the five most frequently accessed pages on your sites.

Figure 1 The Bing Webmaster Center can show you the five most frequently accessed pages on your sites.

The Crawl Issues section identifies any pages Bing can’t index. This includes pages that are linked but can’t be found, pages that are blocked from being indexed, pages with too long a query string, pages potentially infected by malware, and pages Bing doesn’t support and therefore won’t index. You can filter these results to either include or exclude specific subdomains on your site to make sure all the right pages are being crawled.

The Backlinks section includes a list of internal and external pages that link to your pages to help you learn how people are discovering different pages on your site. You can download up to 1,000 of these results as a .csv file[ML1]  to save and analyze offline. The Outbound Links section shows you pages that your own site links to so you can see where your visitors go when they leave your site. You can also export Outbound Links as a .csv file.

The Keywords section lets you enter keywords related to your site so you can determine the terms people are using at Bing to find your site. Enter the keywords you already use for search engine optimization (SEO) to see how effective they are, or try different terms to see how SEO-friendly they may be for your site. You’ll see the same details for each link that you find in the Summary section. Finally, a Sitemaps section lets you submit the URL for your sitemap to Bing, while the Profiles section lets you change your sitemap’s address, the authentication method and the webmaster’s e-mail address.

The Webmaster Center gives you the basic options to track your Bing indexing and site hits. It also has links to other tools. A robots.txt validation file checks your site’s robots.txt file—a text file used to prevent certain pages or page types from being indexed—to make sure it’s compatible with the bot Bing uses to crawl your Web site. The HTTP compression and HTTP conditional Get test tool checks your Web pages to see if they support these methods as a way of reducing bandwidth and speeding up access to your site.

There’s a question mark link to the Webmaster Center FAQ on each section, leading you to help on that specific segment. You can also learn more by participating in discussions at the Webmaster Center Forum page. Finally, the weekly Webmaster Center blog offers helpful hints not just on the Webmaster Center, but on SEO in general, so you can make sure your site is generating enough traffic to make your company happy.

Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney* is a writer, IT consultant and software trainer. He’s spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world in the early ’90s.*

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