Google Webmaster Tools has announced the addition of “Labs” section which includes two new features for webmasters.
• Fetch as Googlebot &
• Malware details
It appears that Google is taking the ‘Labs’ route to introduce new features to a larger audience and thereby illicit more feedback and shorten the test phase. This also means that these features are not as robust as the others that are available in WMT and should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Fetch as Googlebot
Out of the two, ‘Fetch as Googlebot’ is of more interest to SEO professionals as it enables them to see what Googlebot sees. It is different to seeing the cached version of the webpage, which can be retrieved by using the “cache:www.xyz.com” query in Google search, and then clicking on “Text-only version”.
It is also different from simply viewing the source code of the webpage because:
1. It shows HTTP header information which is not available if you simply view the source code. This information will allow you to check and test redirects implemented on a particular webpage.
2. It enables you to test if the server is returning any information differently then what it is supposed too.
3. It also enables you to find if the server returns a different page to Googlebot than that to the user. In order words, you will be able to determine if any “cloaking” has been done in the past or outside your knowledge.
All in all, this feature empowers webmasters to trouble shoot and test URLs specifically for cases related to Googlebot as it uses the same user-agent and IP range as Googlebot.
Previously, Google webmaster tools reported when a site was flagged for having malware. This feature takes it a bit further by providing snippet of codes that is/are considered to be malicious.
This will help you to quickly identify and eliminate any malicious code that has infected your website. It would thus reduce the probability of your website being flagged by Google as “This site may harm your computer” if your websites happens to be infected. You can read a detailed deliberation on this on Google Online Security Blog.
Both these features provide some much needed information along with ease of accessibility to webmasters and would certainly help us all in making informed decisions.