Google's Webmaster Tools interface has undergone a big change today with a new visual design and recategorisation of many of the tools and reports. While Google's tools alone are just an additional aid to typical SEO evaluations, they've certainly improved over time and these days offer some good data "from the horse's mouth" - much of which still requires expert interpretation, of course.
New Google Webmaster Tools features
While most of the changes are visual, or just a renaming of links, there are a couple of prominent additions:
There's now a summary page for each verified site, which inclues search queries, external links, and crawl errors. All reasonably handy, although nothing groundbreaking.
"Change of address"
This seems to be mainly a list of instructions on how to migrate a domain name (yes, it's all about the 301s) althoug there is a form to submit a new location for a site. It's not clear what impact this would have, above and beyond Google finding the new location during crawling - and more importantly, whether this will help sites that haven't implemented proper redirects. We'll let you know if we find anything more about this feature once we've used it.
Links to help files
In the bottom right of each page, there's now context-specific help for each report (links to Google's knowledgebase). Let's be honest - some of the content there is fairly lightweight, but it will certainly be of use to newcomers to online marketing in general and Google SEO in particular.
How Receptional use Google's Webmaster Tools
A significant part of advanced SEO is gathering and interpreting data - so that we can make evidence-based recommendations to increase traffic and conversions via organic search optimisation. Most organic search traffic originates from Google, and so any data provided by them is a useful piece of the puzzle. But it is only a piece - and we tend to export the data from Google in order to process it alongside all of the other data we use using in-house tools and technologies.
If you need help getting the most of Google Webmaster Tools, contact us for more information.