Every webmaster (at least that I know of) wants to know how the search engines see and evaluate their websites ... especially how Google sees them. Google webmaster tools was created with this concern in mind.
Anyone who has used them knows how important tools those are; You can see information Google collects about your websites, see what matters for their index and it includes also tools that you can use to help Google "see" (crawl) your sites easier.
The tools were recently updated (1 1/2 month ago I realized the changes) and they contain even more useful stuff for anyone that owns a site ... I am going to give a brief description of the most important things one can find when visiting the tools ...
Keep in mind, that in order to take advantage of all the features you have to have a Google account (gmail possibly) and verify that you are indeed in control of the site and can administer it.
Webmaster tools is devided in 5 sections: Diagnostics, Statistics, Links, Sitemaps, and Tools
Here you can find errors and problems encountered by Google's crawlers while accessing pages on your site. It can be very useful to know what pages Google hasn't been able to see. You can thus go and correct the errors and the next time a crawlers passes by that page can actually search through your wonderful content.
- Top search queries See which google search queries returned snippets of content from your site (with a link to your site), and which of them were clicked. The keywords for which your site was visited for can be found with any decent statistics package out there (ie Analytics) but the list of Ranks your site holds is very helpful in knowing if your optimization methods have paid of and which have not ...
- Crawl stats gives a rough indication of the pagerank distributed among your site's pages. Not an exact pagerank is given but presumably the "low pagerank" indicates pagerank from 0to 4 or 5, "medium pagerank" indicates 4 or 5 to 7 and "high pagerank" from 8 to 10 (I would appreciate any different opinions on this assumption)
- What googlebot sees is almost self explanatory. It lets you know what anchor texts googlebot has encountered that are pointing to your site but also what keywords it encountered in your sites contents.
- Pages with external links is reporting all the links that Google has encountered that point to your site. Where exactly those links exist, which pages they point to and when those were discovered is also reveal to us.
- Pages with internal links can help you understand how visible are the internal pages to your site. All the links to internal pages from other pages within the site are revealed.
Here you can add a sitemap for your site. The purpose of the sitemap is to help googlebot crawl all your pages. This is especially useful for sites with lots of internal pages that their internal linking is not very efficient.
One can submit a list of all the pages urls in a .txt format but also a more sofisticated .xml map with additional details of the frequency each page should ideally be crawled.
Here a one can find some tools that could be very handy to a webmaster. See whether your robots.txt file blocks specific URLs or even googlebot itself. Advise Google to associate a particular geographic location with this site if you are targeting users within that area. Enable Google's enhanced search for images on your site. See all verified owners of this site, and optionally reverify them. See statistics about how often Google crawls your site, and optionally adjust that speed if desired. Associate a preferred domain with a site, to always or never show the leading "www." in Google's search results. And last but not least remove content from the Google index that was wrongfully crawled or has no value.
From all these its pretty obvious that google does indeed value links and anchor texts a lot. But this is not some new knowledge, webmasters have known this for some time now. The good thing is that Google FINALLY lets webmasters know about it and also helps them understand how well their sites are doing and helps them improve them and correct problems that might arise.