Better backlink data for site owners

Webmaster level: intermediate

In recent years, our free Webmaster Tools product has provided roughly 100,000 backlinks when you click the "Download more sample links" button. Until now, we've selected those links primarily by lexicographical order. That meant that for some sites, you didn't get as complete of a picture of the site's backlinks because the link data skewed toward the beginning of the alphabet.

Based on feedback from the webmaster community, we're improving how we select these backlinks to give sites a fuller picture of their backlink profile. The most significant improvement you'll see is that most of the links are now sampled uniformly from the full spectrum of backlinks rather than alphabetically. You're also more likely to get example links from different top-level domains (TLDs) as well as from different domain names. The new links you see will still be sorted alphabetically.

Starting soon, when you download your data, you'll notice a much broader, more diverse cross-section of links. Site owners looking for insights into who recommends their content will now have a better overview of those links, and those working on cleaning up any bad linking practices will find it easier to see where to spend their time and effort.

Thanks for the feedback, and we'll keep working to provide helpful data and resources in Webmaster Tools. As always, please ask in our forums if you have any questions.

View manual webspam actions in Webmaster Tools

Webmaster level: All

We strive to keep spam out of our users’ search results. This includes both improving our webspam algorithms as well as taking manual action for violations of our quality guidelines. Many webmasters want to see if their sites are affected by a manual webspam action, so today we’re introducing a new feature that should help. The manual action viewer in Webmaster Tools shows information about actions taken by the manual webspam team that directly affect that site’s ranking in Google’s web search results. To try it out, go to Webmaster Tools and click on the “Manual Actions” link under “Search Traffic."

You’ll probably see a message that says, “No manual webspam actions found.” A recent analysis of our index showed that well under 2% of domains we've seen are manually removed for webspam. If you see this message, then your site doesn't have a manual removal or direct demotion for webspam reasons.

If your site is in the very small fraction that do have a manual spam action, chances are we’ve already notified you in Webmaster Tools. We’ll keep sending those notifications, but now you can also do a live check against our internal webspam systems. Here’s what it would look like if Google had taken manual action on a specific section of a site for "User-generated spam":

Partial match. User-generated spam affects

In this hypothetical example, there isn’t a site-wide match, but there is a “partial match." A partial match means the action applies only to a specific section of a site. In this case, the webmaster has a problem with other people leaving spam on By fixing this common issue, the webmaster can not only help restore his forum's rankings on Google, but also improve the experience for his users. Clicking the "Learn more" link will offer new resources for troubleshooting.

Once you’ve corrected any violations of Google’s quality guidelines, the next step is to request reconsideration. With this new feature, you'll find a simpler and more streamlined reconsideration request process. Now, when you visit the reconsideration request page, you’ll be able to check your site for manual actions, and then request reconsideration only if there’s a manual action applied to your site. If you do have a webspam issue to address, you can do so directly from the Manual Actions page by clicking "Request a review."

The manual action viewer delivers on a popular feature request. We hope it reassures the vast majority of webmasters who have nothing to worry about. For the small number of people who have real webspam issues to address, we hope this new information helps speed up the troubleshooting. If you have questions, come find us in the Webmaster Help Forum or stop by our Office Hours.

Update (12:50pm PT, August 9th): Unfortunately we've hit a snag during our feature deployment, so it will be another couple days before the feature is available to everyone. We will post another update once the feature is fully rolled out.

Update (10:30am PT, August 12th): The feature is now fully rolled out.

Easier navigation without GPS

Webmaster level: All

Today we’re unveiling a shiny new navigation in Webmaster Tools. The update will make the features you already use easier to find, as well as unveil some exciting additions.

Navigation reflects how search works

We’ve organized the Webmaster Tools features in groups that match the stages of search:
  • Crawl: see information about how we discover and crawl your content. Here you will find crawl stats, crawl errors, any URLs you’ve blocked from crawling, Sitemaps, URL parameters, and the Fetch as Google feature.
  • Google Index: keep track of how many of your pages are in Google’s index and how we understand their content: you can monitor the overall indexed counts for your site (Index Status), see what keywords we’ve found on your pages (Content Keywords), or request to remove URLs from the search results.
  • Search Traffic: check how your pages are doing in the search results — how people find your site (Search Queries), who’s recommended your site (Links to Your Site), and see a sample of pages from your site that have incoming links from other internal pages.
  • Search Appearance: mark up your pages to help Google understand your content better during indexing and potentially influence how your pages appear in our search results. This includes the Structured Data dashboard, Data Highlighter, Sitelinks, and HTML Improvements.

Account-level administrative tasks now accessible from the Settings menu

Account-level admin tasks such as setting User permissions, Site Settings, and Change of Address are now grouped under the gear icon in the top right corner so they’re always accessible to you:

This is the list of items as visible to site owners, “full” or “restricted” users will see a subset of these options. For example, if you're a “restricted” user for a site, the "Users & Site Owners" menu item will not appear.

New Search Appearance pop-up

Beginner webmasters will appreciate the new Search Appearance pop-up, which can be used to visualize how your site may appear in search and learn more about the content or structure changes that may help to influence each element:

To access the pop-up window, click on the question mark icon next to the Search Appearance menu in the side navigation.

It includes the essential search result elements like title, snippet and URL, as well as optional elements such as sitelinks, breadcrumbs, search within a site, event and product rich snippets, and authorship information.

We hope the new navigation makes it easier for you to make the most of Webmaster Tools. As always, if you have additional questions, feel free to post in the Webmaster Help Forum.

Verify your site in Webmaster Tools using Google Tag Manager

Webmaster level: Intermediate

If you use Google Tag Manager to add and update your site tags, now you can quickly and easily verify ownership of your site in Webmaster Tools using the container snippet code.

Here’s how it’s done:

1. On the Webmaster Tools home page, click Manage site for the site you’d like to verify, then select Verify this site. If you haven’t added the site yet, you can click the Add a site button in the top right corner.

To do this, you must have "View, Edit, and Manage" account level permissions in Google Tag Manager.

2. On the Verification page, select Google Tag Manager as the verification method and follow the steps on your screen.

3. Click Verify.

And you’re done!

If you’ve got any questions about this verification method, drop by the Webmaster Help Forum.

Easier management of website verifications

Webmaster level: All

To help webmasters manage the verified owners for their websites in Webmaster Tools, we’ve recently introduced three new features:

  • Verification details view: You can now see the methods used to verify an owner for your site. In the Manage owners page for your site, you can now find the new Verification details link. This screenshot shows the verification details of a user who is verified using both an HTML file uploaded to the site and a meta tag:

    Where appropriate, the Verification details will have links to the correct URL on your site where the verification can be found to help you find it faster.

  • Requiring the verification method be removed from the site before unverifying an owner: You now need to remove the verification method from your site before unverifying an owner from Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools now checks the method that the owner used to verify ownership of the site, and will show an error message if the verification is still found. For example, this is the error message shown when an unverification was attempted while the DNS CNAME verification method was still found on the DNS records of the domain:

  • Shorter CNAME verification string: We’ve slightly modified the CNAME verification string to make it shorter to support a larger number of DNS providers. Some systems limit the number of characters that can be used in DNS records, which meant that some users were not able to use the CNAME verification method. We’ve now made the CNAME verification method have a fewer number of characters. Existing CNAME verifications will continue to be valid.

We hope this changes make it easier for you to use Webmaster Tools. As always, please post in our Verification forum if you have any questions or feedback.

Make the most of Search Queries in Webmaster Tools

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

If you’re intrigued by the Search Queries feature in Webmaster Tools but aren’t sure how to make it actionable, we have a video that we hope will help!

Maile shares her approach to Search Queries in Webmaster Tools

This video explains the vocabulary of Search Queries, such as:
  • Impressions
  • Average position (only the top-ranking URL for the user’s query is factored in our calculation)
  • Click
  • CTR
The video also reviews an approach to investigating Top queries and Top pages:
  1. Prepare by understanding your website’s goals and your target audience (then using Search Queries “filters” to support your knowledge)
  2. Sort by clicks in Top queries to understand the top queries bringing searchers to your site (for the given time period)
  3. Sort by CTR to notice any missed opportunities
  4. Categorize queries into logical buckets that simplify tracking your progress and staying in touch with users’ needs
  5. Sort Top pages by clicks to find the URLs on your site most visited by searchers (for the given time period)
  6. Sort Top pages by impressions to find valuable pages that can be used to help feature your related, high-quality, but lower-ranking pages
After you’ve watched the video and applied the knowledge of your site with the findings from Search Queries, you’ll likely have several improvement ideas to help searchers find your site. If you’re up for it, let us know in the comments what Search Queries information you find useful (and why!), and of course, as always, feel free to share any tips or feedback.

Discover your links

Update on October 15, 2008: For more recent news on links, visit Links Week on our Webmaster Central Blog. We're discussing internal links, outbound links, and inbound links.

You asked, and we listened: We've extended our support for querying links to your site to much beyond the link: operator you might have used in the past. Now you can use webmaster tools to view a much larger sample of links to pages on your site that we found on the web. Unlike the link: operator, this data is much more comprehensive and can be classified, filtered, and downloaded. All you need to do is verify site ownership to see this information.

To make this data even more useful, we have divided the world of links into two types: external and internal. Let's understand what kind of links fall into which bucket.

What are external links?
External links to your site are the links that reside on pages that do not belong to your domain. For example, if you are viewing links for, all the links that do not originate from pages on any subdomain of would appear as external links to your site.

What are internal links?

Internal links to your site are the links that reside on pages that belong to your domain. For example, if you are viewing links for, all the links that originate from pages on any subdomain of, such as or, would appear as internal links to your site.

Viewing links to a page on your site

You can view the links to your site by selecting a verified site in your webmaster tools account and clicking on the new Links tab at the top. Once there, you will see the two options on the left: external links and internal links, with the external links view selected. You will also see a table that lists pages on your site, as shown below. The first column of the table lists pages of your site with links to them, and the second column shows the number of the external links to that page that we have available to show you. (Note that this may not be 100% of the external links to this page.)

This table also provides the total number of external links to your site that we have available to show you.
When in this summary view, click the linked number and go to the detailed list of links to that page.
When in the detailed view, you'll see the list of all the pages that link to specific page on your site, and the time we last crawled that link. Since you are on the External Links tab on the left, this list is the external pages that point to the page.

Finding links to a specific page on your site
To find links to a specific page on your site, you first need to find that specific page in the summary view. You can do this by navigating through the table, or if you want to find that page quickly, you can use the handy Find a page link at the top of the table. Just fill in the URL and click See details. For example, if the page you are looking for has the URL, you can enter “?main” in the Find a page form. This will take you directly to the detailed view of the links to

Viewing internal links

To view internal links to pages on your site, click on the Internal Links tab on the left side bar in the view. This takes you to a summary table that, just like external links view, displays information about pages on your site with internal links to them.

However, this view also provides you with a way to filter the data further: to see links from any of the subdomain on the domain, or links from just the specific subdomain you are currently viewing. For example, if you are currently viewing the internal links to, you can either see links from all the subdomains, such as links from and, or you can see links only from other pages on

Downloading links data
There are three different ways to download links data about your site. The first: download the current view of the table you see, which lets you navigate to any summary or details table, and download the data in the current view. Second, and probably the most useful data, is the list all external links to your site. This allows you to download a list of all the links that point to your site, along with the information about the page they point to and the last time we crawled that link. Thirdly, we provide a similar download for all internal links to your site.

We do limit the amount of data you can download for each type of link (for instance, you can currently download up to one million external links). Google knows about more links than the total we show, but the overall fraction of links we show is much, much larger than the link: command currently offers. Why not visit us at Webmaster Central and explore the links for your site?

About badware warnings

Some of you have asked about the warnings we show searchers when they click on search results leading to sites that distribute malicious software. As a webmaster, you may be concerned about the possibility of your site being flagged. We want to assure you that we take your concerns very seriously, and that we are very careful to avoid flagging sites incorrectly. It's our goal to avoid sending people to sites that would compromise their computers. These exploits often result in real people losing real money. Compromised bank accounts and stolen credit card numbers are just the tip of this identity theft iceberg.

If your site has been flagged for badware, we let you know this in webmaster tools. Often, we find that webmasters aren't aware that their sites have been compromised, and this warning in search results is a surprise. Fixing a compromised site can be quite hard. Simply cleaning up the HTML files is seldom sufficient. If a rootkit has been installed, for instance, nothing short of wiping the machine and starting over may work. Even then, if the underlying security hole isn't also fixed, they may be compromised again within minutes.

We are looking at ways to provide additional information to webmasters whose sites have been flagged, while balancing our need to keep malicious site owners from hiding from Google's badware protection. We aim to be responsive to any misidentified sites too. If your site has been flagged, you'll see information on the appeals process in webmaster tools. If you can't find anything malicious on your site and believe it was misidentified, go to to request an evaluation. If you'd like to discuss this with us or have ideas for how we can better communicate with you about it, please post in our webmaster discussion forum.

Update: this post has been updated to provide a link to the new form for requesting a review.

Update: for more information, please see our Help Center article on malware and hacked sites.

The Year in Review

Welcome to 2007! The webmaster central team is very excited about our plans for this year, but we thought we'd take a moment to reflect on 2006. We had a great year building communication with you, the webmaster community, and creating tools based on your feedback. Many on the team were able to come out to conferences and met some of you in person, and we're looking forward to meeting many more of you in 2007. We've also had great conversations and gotten valuable feedback in our discussion forum, and we hope this blog has been helpful in providing information to you.

We said goodbye to the Sitemaps blog and launched this broader blog in August. And after doing so, our number of unique monthly visitors more than doubled. Thanks! We got much of our non-Google traffic from other webmaster community blogs and forums, such as the Search Engine Watch blog, Google Blogoscoped, and WebmasterWorld. In December, and the new were our biggest non-Google referrers. And social networking sites such as, reddit,com,, and sent webmaster tools many of our visitors, and a blog by somebody named Matt Cutts sent a lot of referrers our way as well. And these are the top Google queries that visitors clicked on:

Our most popular post was about the Googlebot activity reports and crawl rate control that we launched in October, followed by details about how to authenticate Googlebot. We have only slightly more Firefox users (46.28%) than Internet Explorer users (46.25%). 89% of you use Windows. After English, our readers most commonly speak French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. And after the United States, our readers primarily come from the UK, Canada, Germany, and France.

Here's some of what we did last year.

We expanded into Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish.
You could hear Matt on webmaster radio.

We lauched several new features, including:
  • robots.txt analysis tool
  • page with the highest PageRank by month
  • common words in your site's content and in anchor text to your site
We met many of you at the Google Sitemaps lunch at SES NY.
You could hear me on webmaster radio.

We launched a few more features, including:
  • showing the top position of your site for your top queries
  • top mobile queries
  • download options for Sitemaps data, stats, and errors

We got a whole new look and added yet more features, such as:
  • meta tag verification
  • notification of violations to the webmaster guidelines
  • reinclusion request form and spam reporting form
  • indexing information (can we crawl your home page? is your site indexed?)
We also added a comprehensive webmaster help center and expanded the webmaster guidelines from 10 languages to 18.
We met more of you at the Google Sitemaps lunch at Boston Pubcon.
Matt talked about the new caching proxy.
We talked to many of you at SES Toronto.

Matt introduced you to our new search evangelist, Adam Lasnik.
We hung out with some of you in our hometown at Search Engine Watch Live Seattle and over at SES London.


We launched user surveys, to learn more about how you interact with webmaster tools.
We expanded some of our features, such as:
  • increased the number of crawl errors shown to 100% within the last two weeks
  • Increased the number of Sitemaps you can submit from 200 to 500
  • Expanded query stats so you can see them per property and per country and made them available for subdirectories
  • Increased the number of common words in your site and in links to your site from 20 to 75
  • Added Adsbot-Google to the robots.txt analysis tool
Yahoo! Stores incorporated Sitemaps for their merchants.

We expanded into Polish.
We began supporting the <meta name="robots" content="noodpt"> tag to allow you to opt out of using Open Directory titles and descriptions for your site in the search results.
We had a great time talking to many of you about international issues at SES Latino in Miami.

August was an exciting month for us, as we launched webmaster central! As part of that, we renamed Google Sitemaps to webmaster tools, expanded our Google Group to include all types of webmaster topics, and expanded the help content in our webmaster help center. We also launched some new features, including:
  • Preferred domain control
  • Site verification management
  • Downloads of query stats for all subfolders
In addition, I took over the GoodKarma podcast on webmasterradio for two shows (one all about Buffy the Vampire Slayer!) and we met even more of you at the Google Webmaster Central lunch at SES San Jose.

We improved reporting of the cache date in search results.
We provided a way for you to authenticate Googlebot.
And we started updating query stats more often and for a shorter timeframe.

We launched several new features, such as:
  • Crawl rate control
  • Googlebot activity reports
  • Opting in to enhanced image search
  • Display of the number of URLs submitted via a Sitemap
And you could hear Matt being interviewed in a podcast.

We launched, for joint support of the Sitemaps protocol between us, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.
We also started notifying you if we flagged your site for badware and if you're an English news publisher included in Google News, we made News Sitemaps available to you.
Partied with lots of you at "Safe Bets with Google" at Pubcon Las Vegas.
We introduced you to our new Sitemaps support engineer, Maile Ohye, and our first webmaster trends analyst, Jonathan Simon.

We met even more of you at the webmaster central lunch at SES Chicago.

Thanks for spending the year with us. We look forward to even more collaboration and communication in the coming year.

Better understanding of your site

SES Chicago was wonderful. Meeting so many of you made the trip absolutely perfect. It was as special as if (Chicago local) Oprah had joined us!

While hanging out at the Google booth, I was often asked about how to take advantage of our webmaster tools. For example, here's one tip on Common Words.

Common Words: Our prioritized listing of your site's content
The common words feature lists in order of priority (from highest to lowest) the prevalent words we've found in your site, and in links to your site. (This information isn't available for subdirectories or subdomains.) Here are the steps to leveraging common words:

1. Determine your website's key concepts. If it offers getaways to a cattle ranch in Wyoming, the key concepts may be "cattle ranch," "horseback riding," and "Wyoming."

2. Verify that Google detected the same phrases you believe are of high importance. Login to webmaster tools, select your verified site, and choose Page analysis from the Statistics tab. Here, under "Common words in your site's content," we list the phrases detected from your site's content in order of prevalence. Do the common words lack any concepts you believe are important? Are they listing phrases that have little direct relevance to your site?

2a. If you're missing important phrases, you should first review your content. Do you have solid, textual information that explains and relates to the key concepts of your site? If in the cattle-ranch example, "horseback riding" was absent from common words, you may then want to review the "activities" page of the site. Does it include mostly images, or only list a schedule of riding lessons, rather than conceptually relevant information?

It may sound obvious, but if you want to rank for a certain set of keywords, but we don't even see those keyword phrases on your website, then ranking for those phrases will be difficult.

2b. When you see general, non-illustrative common words that don't relate helpfully to your site's content (e.g. a top listing of "driving directions" or "contact us"), then it may be beneficial to increase the ratio of relevant content on your site. (Although don't be too worried if you see a few of these common words, as long as you also see words that are relevant to your main topics.) In the cattle ranch example, you would give visitors "driving directions" and "contact us" information. However, if these general, non-illustrative terms surface as the highest-rated common words, or the entire list of common words is only these types of terms, then Google (and likely other search engines) could not find enough "meaty" content.

2c. If you find that many of the common words still don't relate to your site, check out our blog post on unexpected common words.

3. Here are a few of our favorite posts on improving your site's content:
Target visitors or search engines?

Improving your site's indexing and ranking

NEW! SES Chicago - Using Images

4. Should you decide to update your content, please keep in mind that we will need to recrawl your site in order to recognize changes, and that this may take time. Of course, you can notify us of modifications by submitting a Sitemap.

Happy holidays from all of us on the Webmaster Central team!

SES Chicago: Googlers Trevor Foucher, Adam Lasnik and Jonathan Simon