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by Stephen Logan on 14th October 2009
Google have unveiled a raft of new changes to their Webmaster Tools section in recent months. This week we’ve seen two more, with the inclusion of a ‘Fetch as Googlebot’ and ‘Malware details’ features.
Both can provide significant assistance to Webmasters and site owners alike. Helping to unlock the secrets of what the Googlebot is able to see when crawling a site, whilst also ensuring that it hasn’t been infected with malicious Malware software. Essential for SEO and security.
Internet users are susceptible to a Malware attack whenever they visit a site or open an attachment/document. These coded pieces of software that fluidly travel across the net can become embedded within websites, whether deliberate or not, helping their viral spread from machine to machine. They can be programmed to do almost anything, although their most regular purpose is to steal user information and data. Some may also be created simply to cause widespread damage, destroying any computer hard drives that are unfortunate to get in their way.
Awareness of Malware is increasing all the time, but with added publicity comes an increased threat of more vociferous forms in greater numbers. In an effort to counteract this, Google have implemented automatic scanners to detect Malware issues within the pages that they’ve indexed. Whilst cloaking may prevent some being obvious, this development, which is being integrated within their SERPs as well as Webmaster Tools, should help eradicate many Malware strings.
To help Webmasters recognise when their own site is carrying Malware, Google Labs have also developed a new feature that provides a report on issues within your own content. This is a fantastic yet hugely simple innovation. By identifying Malware early, it is easier to stop its spread. Plus, if your site is riddled with Malware issues, consumers may be less inclined to visit, so the earlier it is detected and eradicated, the better it should be for you.
Malicious viruses aside, Google has also been busy helping to make their indexing process a little more transparent. The Googlebot is their version of a site crawler/spider, which analyses the information on a page and will index it with an assigned weighting. By using the brand new Fetch as Googlebot Webmaster Tool, you have the opportunity to see exactly what it sees.
From an SEO point of view this is incredibly useful. It provides a unique insight into what is visible to the Googlebot and, more importantly, what isn’t. We spend a great deal of time explaining to clients the difference between what a visitor will see and what a search engine spider can see; this tool will help to make this process far clearer and remove any possible ambiguity.
As an SEO Company, Fetch as Googlebot could prove invaluable; however, it should be noted that the same will also be true for Webmasters, website owners and people trying to get a handle on exactly what SEO is all about. By stripping back the bells and whistles that modern websites have and just showing the bare content, you will be able to pinpoint exactly where your pages are failing and where optimisation is required.
Google receive a lot of criticism for their secrecy and access to information (not to mention their near monopoly-like size); however, with simple innovations such as these, it’s easy to see why they are still regarded as major innovators, able to provide services that really add value to most users’ Internet experience. Whilst Fetch as Googlebot and the Malware details applications may not be groundbreaking in terms of their technology, they could ultimately have a hugely positive influence on the way Webmasters and consumers use the Internet.
So, credit it where it’s due, Google look like they’ve come up trumps with their latest Lab creations.