Google recently announced that they’ve created a new site with Webmaster resources, oddly enough called Google Webmaster Central. You can check it out at http://www.google.com/webmasters/. Normally I think of sites like this as for Webmasters who are really into SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) but I think anybody with a Web presence could find this useful.
The resource center is actually a series of tools. The first one allows you to enter a URL and get information on whether Google is indexing your site, whether pages from your site are included in Google’s search engine, and the most recent date that your home page was successfully indexed. Google then follows with a soft pitch for its Sitemaps product. If you enter a domain that has no indexing, however, Google just says something like, “Hey, we haven’t indexed any of your pages. Subscribe to Google Sitemaps!” The page does link to some general Webmaster information, but I’d love to see some kind of checklist that newer Webmasters can go through so they don’t get stopped by something really silly (like someone on their team well-intentioned-but-badly-informed throwing up a robots.txt that blocks the entire site, etc.)
A set of Webmaster tools lets you submit sitemaps for your domains, but you’ll have to verify ownership of the Web site first. You can do that either by putting a special META tag in the header of your site, or by uploading an HTML file to a specific directory. If you’re using blog software like Movable Type, WordPress, etc., the META method is easiest — just edit your template and you’re good. Once you’re verified, you can submit site maps for your domain, see any crawling errors, and analyze your robots.txt file. (Which I guess addresses some of the issues I had in paragraph #2.)
You can also see where your site ranks for certain queries searched at the Google search engine. This might appeal more to the SEO and SEM crowd. I’m a bit bewildered that ResearchBuzz ranks so high for a search for RedRoller, but I don’t know what I would do about it.
This site also features a roundup of ways to submit content to various Google properties (very nice — great to see all this in one place), a series of Groups dedicated to Webmastering and Google (hmm… not as busy as I would have thought), the Google Webmaster blog o’ course, and a Webmaster help center that will try to answer some of the common Webmaster questions/problems with Google.
Even institutions and personal sites could benefit from making sure their site is indexed and checking to see what problems (if any) Google is having with a site crawl. (How useful if your site going to be for your patrons if they can’t find it?) On the other hand, Google’s challenge will be is providing useful help to a range of Web wranglers — from beginners to experts — without giving away too much of their “secret sauce” (which of course they don’t want to.) Meanwhile I’m going to play with these sitemaps tools for a while…