I’ve spent a great deal of time lately discussing Google’s Webmaster Tools, but I haven’t discussed Yahoo’s webmaster tools (since late 2007), and it’s time to revisit them to see what’s changed since then. Not all of these are brand new features, but they might be new to you.
Yahoo doesn’t actually refer to its webmaster tools as “Webmaster Tools,” so I’m using the phrase in a generic sense. Technically, Yahoo calls it Site Explorer, but so many people think of Site Explorer as a backlink checker that I wanted to differentiate among its different components.
URL Removal Made Easy
If your site has URLs that you want excluded from search results, I typically recommend solutions such as the meta “noindex” tag, exclusion via robots.txt, or password-protecting the URL itself. For 99 percent of exclusion needs, these solutions will work.
In rare cases, however, you may need to take more drastic measures. Suppose you’ve already deleted a page from your server, but Yahoo is taking too long to notice the URLs absence and process the 404 directive, resulting in the URL still showing up in SERPs (define) with potentially embarrassing results. In this case, you might want to visit Yahoo’s URL removal tool, which will delete the URL from Yahoo’s index. In the left navigation of Site Explorer, find the “Delete URLs” tool in the “Actions” section.
You should use all URL removal tools with extreme caution, and Yahoo’s is no different. The following are some important points to remember while using this tool:
- A deleted URL will disappear only from Yahoo’s index, not from all engines’ indexes, and more importantly, not from the Web in general.
- You can only delete up to 25 URLs from a given site. So if you have hundreds or thousands of URLs to delete, you need another solution.
- Because of the odd way Yahoo Site Explorer classifies URLs, you can inadvertently do some real damage if you delete a “directory”-based URL. For example, suppose you need to delete your /products/ page. You should think twice about such an action, because this deletion will also wipe out any URLs like /products/residential/, /products/commercial/, /products/new/, and so on. In other words, any URLs that are “nested” beneath the URL that you select for deletion, will also be deleted. This is amply spelled out in Yahoo’s warning: “This URL and ALL URLs in its subdirectories will be deleted from the index,” but you can’t be too careful.
Update on URL Parameter Tool
The discussion of Yahoo’s URL parameter tool from my older column is still relevant, so I won’t spend a great deal of time rehashing it. One important improvement, however, is that you can now filter up to 10 parameters, instead of three, which was the maximum when I first wrote about the tool. This is a great improvement, because most sites with very problematic URL dynamism have more than three URL parameters, but few have more than 10.
This section is similar to Google’s Crawl Errors section, and its contents are exactly as you’d expect. The Crawl Errors section lists URLs on your site that are, for various reasons, inaccessible to Yahoo’s crawler. This includes 404 (page not found) errors, pages excluded by robots.txt (which I don’t personally consider errors), and so on. While I’d love a feature that allows users to export error URLs to a .CSV file, this is a great start.
The goal of this section is to show you which Yahoo search queries lead to “views” and “clicks” from Yahoo SERPs. It took me a minute to realize that “views” is basically an “impression,” meaning that someone sees your page information on a Yahoo SERP. A click, of course, is that subset of views in which the user actually clicks from the Yahoo SERP over to your site. This is a great start, but for now (as the “Beta” label suggests), the data looks incomplete.
The Site Explorer “Statistics” section provides a snapshot of data about your site, including the total number of crawled pages, “all known” pages, inbound and outbound link data, and the total number of known hosts on your site. While these numbers aren’t clickable yet, the data is interesting for several reasons. First, few sites measure the number of outbound links that a site has, which is refreshing.
Also, while the “public” version of Site Explorer lists the total number of URLs that link to a site (or to a specific URL), this report consolidates that data into the total number of domains linking to you. This added dimension helps you better visualize your link portfolio by helping you sniff out site-wide inbound links and other phenomena that may inflate your link count.
Yahoo and Google aren’t the only engines with noteworthy toolsets, of course. In an upcoming article, I’ll dissect Bing’s webmaster resources and do my best to contrast its services with those of Google and Yahoo, and break down how they can help busy Web marketers and not contribute to the phenomenon of “analysis paralysis.”