Friday, January 04, 2008

Improve the Webmaster Tools Authorization Process

Google's Webmaster Tools is an increasingly valuable resource for information about Google's perception of one's website, and we've been quite pleased to encourage our clients to make use of it.


However, Google could easily improve upon the authorization scheme for enabling users to access the interfaces for their sites. There are some issues that we see with some repetition, so here are some suggestions:

  • Why not allow a user that is authorized on the primary domain (like http://www.example.com) to be able to administrate additional Webmaster Tools user accounts for the site? It's inconvenient to have to add more Meta tags or HTML files to enable additional user access accounts over time. It's also sometimes causing serious time-lags to revoke some employee's access to Webmaster Tools when they leave a company. A master administrative account would be very helpful to a great many companies for these reasons.

  • Under "set preferred domain", it might be very helpful to enable webmasters to add in additional domains. You currently allow them to request either the www or non-www versions of their domains to be dominant, and I suspect you're using this to some degree to canonicalize the domains which may be mirrors of one another. However, quite a few major companies are using additional domain name variants as their primary domain names, so it could be useful to you and them both to allow them to add in a list of domains which they'd like to have canonicalized all under one main domain. For instance, if you go to www.verizon.com, they redirect the user to http://www22.verizon.com/. And Nordstrom redirects the user over to shop.nordstrom.com. There are many cases where companies have registered many misspelling domains and competitive term domains and are delivering up their main content on them as just more aliases of their primary domain. Ex: www.amzaon.com, www.maazon.com, www.amazno.com, www.amazone.com, etc. While it's best practice to redirect those alternate domains to the primary, many sites don't get that done, and there are cases where people deep-link pages on misspelled domain names. Since you don't want to penalize people for accidentally setting up duplicate content on these alternate domains, it'd be great to provide additional functionality to help get those domains all canonicalized.

  • Also, allow a user who has authority for the primary www domain to automatically be able to access Webmaster Tools for any other subdomains (like http://catalog.example.com).


For that last suggestion, you folks at Google might not realize the frequency of cases wherein websites are outsourcing some portion of their site's delivery to other companies to deliver on their behalf. So, a webmaster who has access to their www domain in Webmaster Tools may have to ask a few different other company's IT staff to enable his access to the subdomain sections they deliver in his behalf, and some portal platforms are very "challenged" to customize META tags or install HTML files.