Bing is rolling out a long list of new features and improvements for its Webmaster Tools offering. The updates focus on providing webmasters with the ability to "share more data" with the search engine and that's exactly what it has done. As Bing closes in on 30 percent search market share, many of these features will become essential in the search marketers toolbox in 2012 and beyond.
Crawl Detail Information
Bing is expanding its Crawl Details information, showing inbound links to a given URL regardless of the header response code. Previously, users of Bing's Webmaster Tools were limited to seeing only those inbound links which pointed to pages returning a 400 header response code (e.g. 404 - file not found). Now, anything listed under the 200, 400 and 500 codes will, by URL, display inbound links to the URL. Search marketers will also be able to see any URLs listed under the Robots.txt and Malware headings - which is important for a variety of reasons obviously including the influence on rankings.
URL Normalization Suggestions
Bing will also be placing URL normalization suggestions within Webmaster Tools accounts. These suggestions are disabled by default, but BWT users can add them selectively and are able to increase the number of query string parameters that can be normalized per site from 25 items to 50. The timing of this update could not be better as the holiday shopping season is fast approaching for ecommerce merchants/Internet retailers. While there are certainly instances when 50+ parameters are needed, those with "parameter heavy" URL structures should look into ways to solve any canonicalization issues which maybe negatively impacting rankings.
In order to claim a website/domain in BWT, webmasters need to verify ownership. Nothing new there. Previous choices were either a code snippet that needed to be added to page headers or by uploading an XML file, but now, webmasters have a third option – placing a CNAME record in their DNS. While the merits and risks associated with adding an additional CNAME into the DNS are unknown, this may signifiy Microsoft's willingness to play a more involved role in the search marketer/search engine relationship. WM recommends using the XML verification method as it remains the least intrusive.
The most important addition to Bing Webmaster Tools I believe may just be the integration of data from adCenter within webmaster tools accounts. When viewing traffic data and looking at which keywords drove traffic, webmasters will notice an average CPC column. The new feature also allows for a quick view of keywords and associated CPCs.
Bing Webmaster Tools is still playing catch up to its competition in Google Webmaster Tools, at least in terms of features, but these additions show it is inching ever closer to the search giant - just like its search market share.