Yesterday, Bing released a major update of their webmaster tools, called Phoenix – presumably because animals beginning with ‘P’ are in. Or they like X-Men. The update has made several improvements, but the most exciting is the addition of Link Explorer, which will help fill the void left by the much-missed Yahoo! Site Explorer (YSE).
When Site Explorer was discontinued back in November, it touched even the stoniest of hearts. It was an incredibly useful tool because it allowed you to find out what links were pointing to a specific page or domain. As link-building is an important SEO tactic, knowing how many back links you have and where they are from is essential, particularly in the wake of Google Penguin. Even more importantly, perhaps, was that YSE allowed you to look at the link profiles of competitors to see why they were higher or lower in the search results. The best thing, though, was that it was free.
The reason for YSE’s demise was essentially Yahoo!’s merger with Bing. As Yahoo! began to use Microsoft’s algorithms for search, their own tools gradually became redundant. Bing Webmaster Tools have been touted as the alternative for some time, but until now its use has been fairly limited. The new Phoenix update has changed things.
At first glance, the update has made a number of cosmetic changes, with a simple new layout. The menus flow logically and the dashboard provides a snapshot of data with clear links allowing you to dig deeper. From an SEO perspective, though, the best new tools are Link Explorer and SEO Analyzer.
Link Explorer shows all of the links that go to a specific URL, whether internal or external. As with YSE before it, you don’t need to own the URL in question in order to perform the search, so competitor analysis is now easily available again. You can also filter the results by anchor text. With Google’s recent algorithm changes, having a natural link profile is essential, and it is widely believed that the over-optimisation of anchor text can be extremely harmful. In filtering by anchor text, you can check to see how many of your links are keyword rich. Natural-looking links will have a wide variety of anchor text, with phrases like ‘click here’ and ‘read more’ in addition to brand names, keywords and other phrases. If they are all keywords, that could mean trouble.
The SEO Analyzer tool is interesting in that it scans a URL to see if it complies with what Microsoft calls “best practice”. While they don’t actually explain what this means, it appears that the tool checks Titles, H1s, meta-descriptions, image alt text and other elements of the code of a site to see if they are optimised and easy for a search engine to read. It highlights missing elements and prompts you to take action. You can also set up a regular report containing the same information. As these elements are the very basics of on-page SEO, finding out about any errors early can only be a good thing.
Overall, the Phoenix update seems great. Although there have been reports of bugs and errors, a lot of the new tools are in beta, so this is to be expected. Bing Webmaster Tools could well be a worthy replacement for Yahoo! Site Explorer.
For more ideas how Bing Webmaster Tools and other free resources can improve your website, contact KPI. Our specialists are experts in Search Engine Optimisation.