Google made a couple relatively quiet announcements this week that have pretty big ramifications for webmasters who want to get more traffic to their sites.
If you're a Webmaster Tools user, you can thank Google for a new "Site Health" feature. In a nutshell, it's Google's way of helping you prioritize what you're doing in WMT by highlighting the "health problems" your site has. In fact, they've even redesigned the homepage around this concept.
Do you like the new design? Share your opinion in the comments.
The thinking is that you can see what needs attention the most, in order, according to Google. Given how much sites generally rely on Google for the majority of their traffic, whose advice would you rather take in this department?
If you don't want to see sites listed by priority, you have the ability to view them alphabetically like before.
The new home page is only available if you have 100 or fewer sites in your account, but they don't all have to be verified. Google says it will be available for all accounts in the future. If you have over 100, you can still access Site Health info from the top of the dashboard for each site.
So what's included in this site health data? Malware detection, important pages that have been removed with Google's URL removal tool, and important pages that are blocked from crawling in robots.txt.
Google will provide additional info about any of these things as they're found.
In a post on Google's Webmaster Central blog, Webmaster Trends Analyst Susan Moskwa writes, "A word about 'important pages: 'as you know, you can get a comprehensive list of all URLs that have been removed by going to Site configuration > Crawler access > Remove URL; and you can see all the URLs that we couldn’t crawl because of robots.txt by going to Diagnostics > Crawl errors > Restricted by robots.txt. But since webmasters often block or remove content on purpose, we only wanted to indicate a potential site health issue if we think you may have blocked or removed a page you didn’t mean to, which is why we’re focusing on 'important pages.' Right now we’re looking at the number of clicks pages get (which you can see in Your site on the web > Search queries) to determine importance, and we may incorporate other factors in the future as our site health checks evolve."
"Obviously these three issues—malware, removed URLs, and blocked URLs—aren’t the only things that can make a website 'unhealthy;' in the future we’re hoping to expand the checks we use to determine a site’s health, and of course there’s no substitute for your own good judgment and knowledge of what’s going on with your site," she adds. "But we hope that these changes make it easier for you to quickly spot major problems with your sites without having to dig down into all the data and reports."
It's important to note that it may take several days for Google's health warnings to go away after you fix the problems. Hopefully they can do something to speed that up in the future as well. If you're still seeing it after a week, Moskwa says, the problem may not be resolved.
Feedback from webmasters about site health has been generally positive, but some still want more. For example, on Moskwa's post, Antonio Ooi comments, "We're more interested to know what is missing, critical level (high, moderate, low) and recommended action/solution. For example, which image alt, meta tags, video sitemap etc are missing/invalid and how to fix. Or what else that has yet to be implemented on our site to take advantage of the new Google search engine's cool features and so on. This will not only make us work smarter, this will also make Google team work smarter."
Another commenter going by "knowj" says, "It would be a great feature if the Webmasters Tools API allowed developers to feed error reports/logs into for websites/applications.This could generate an RSS feed/alerts ordered by priority/severity. This would create a useful single location for keeping track of the health of websites."
What do you think? What else should Google show you as part of its site health feature? Let us know in the comments.
Now on the Analytics side of things…
In addition to launching a premium version of Google Analytics for bigger sites, Google announced the launch of Real-Time Analytics. What this means is that you can now see how your traffic is coming in as it happens, which could be huge for helping you shape your promotion strategies, and play to your strengths.
Essentially, it can help you do what you're already doing with the data you get from Google Analytics and do it faster.
"One way that I like to use these reports is to measure the immediate impact of social media. Whenever we put out a new blog post, we also send out a tweet," says John Jersin of Google's Analytics team. "With Real-Time, I can see the immediate impact to my site traffic."
"For example, last week we posted about the latest episode of Web Analytics TV and also tweeted about the post," he adds. "By campaign tagging the links we shared, we could see how much traffic each channel is driving to the blog as it happened. We could also see when we stopped receiving visits from the tweet, which helps know when to reengage."
He says he also uses real-time analytics to make sure campaign tracking is correctly implemented before launching a new campaign.
The new real-time reports are only available in the new version of Google Analytics. You can find a link to the new version at the top of Google Analytics if you're not already using it. So far, only a few users have access to the reports, but they will be available for all in the coming weeks.
Do you think real-time analytics data will help you improve the your site's traffic? Tell us what you think.