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Google Webmaster Tools – What Are They and How Do You Use Them?

Google Webmaster Tools – What Are They and How Do You Use Them?

by: Andreas Mouskos

Google Webmaster tools are a free set of tools offered by Google that assist in strengthening your website’s online presence.​

 
 
 

These tools enable you to establish how effective your website is by helping you actually understand what’s going on with it.  In this way, you are better able to optimize your site in terms of search engine ranking.

As Google further elaborates, you can also use its Webmaster tools to “analyse clicks from Google Search, get alerts for critical errors or issues, and test whether Google can successfully understand your content”.

It is through this continuous collation of website data by Google that it is then able to index sites according to what it considers to be the best possible user experience for those utilizing the search engine.

How easy is it to get started?

Very easy.

All you have to do is visit http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools, sign in with your Google account and click add property (website).

Remember to add every version of your site, including all subdomains as well.  

Why you should be doing this is probably best explained by Lunametrics as follows:  

‘If you have the subdomain http://red.thingamabobs.com and the subdomain http://www.thingamabobs.com, add them both. If you only add http://www.thingamabobs.com, that’s all GWT will track; and that’s all the data you’ll get. If you have http://thingamabobs.com and http://www.thingamabobs.com, add them both. (Then fix your duplicate content issue). If you have https://www.thingamabobs.com and http://www.thingamabobs.com, add them both’.

Then what?

Once you’ve added your website, you will need to confirm that that you actually own it.  

As Kissmetrics clarifies, this verification can be established in four ways, (1) by adding a DNS record to your domain’s configuration, (2) by adding a meta tag to your site’s homepage, (3) uploading an HTML file to your server, or (4) by linking your Google Analytics account to Google Webmaster Tools.  Within a few hours of verification, data will start coming in.

What are the most frequently used sections of Google Webmaster Tools that you should be using daily?

Google Webmaster Tools has a wealth of information that you can access.  We have listed below the sections that we consider critical to access as often as possible to ensure that your website’s web presence remains strong.

Sitemaps

In this section of Google Webmaster Tools you can see the sitemaps of your website that Google has found.

Providing Google with a sitemap of your website increases your chances of attaining good search ranking as the sitemap assists Google in establishing what pages you have on your site so they can index them.

Not doing so may result in some of your pages not being indexed which will result in a reduction of traffic.  Your primary objective therefore should be to get as many of those pages indexed as you can.

According to Kissmetrics, ‘sitemaps have to be submitted in an XML format and they can’t contain more than 50,000 URLs or be larger than 10 megs. If you exceed any of those limits, you need to split up your sitemap in multiple files and then submit them’.

If you don’t know how to create a sitemap of your website, you can use XML Sitemaps to do it for you.

Robots.text

Not every page on your website is one that you want indexed or have other people gaining access to.  

These could be pages that contain highly sensitive or confidential information, RSS feeds, or any other you deem to be irrelevant for purposes of indexing.

So as to avoid having these pages indexed, you can create a robots.txt file and then use Google Webmaster Tools to submit it which in turn will block all search engines from accessing those pages, including Google.

Sitelinks

These are links to pages of your website that Google automatically generates as your site grows in popularity.  

And while this section of Google Webmaster Tools only gives you selective discretionary control as to what sitelinks and thus pages appear when someone looks for your website, you can however block the pages you don’t want made visible.

Search queries 

Identifying what keywords are directing traffic to your site is essential.  The search queries page of Google Webmaster Tools shows you those keywords.

By analyzing this list, you can determine which keywords have high search volume and which you should be optimizing for.

Through this page, you can also measure the click through rate (CTR) of particular keywords and adjust your use of those words accordingly.

Keywords

Through the keywords page of Google Webmaster Tools, you don’t only get to see what keywords users used to get to your site but also those that Google is ranking you for.

In addition, you can also identify what keywords relate to your website the most as well as variations or misspellings of keywords that your website is most relevant for.

Crawl errors

The crawl errors page will help you see any errors that Google’s bot has come across on your website, be it on the web or on mobile.

As Kissmetrics notes, ‘the most common reason that you’ll see 404 errors is because other websites sometimes link to pages that don’t exist on your website or used to exist. What you need to do is get a list of all of the websites that are linking to dead pages on your site and hit them up. When emailing them, ask them if they can change that link to a valid page. Or if you see a lot of people linking to a dead page on your site, you can always 301 redirect that old URL to the new URL’.

Keep in mind that the aforesaid sections of Google Webmaster Tools are by no means an exhaustive list of what is offered by Google but certainly represents those that are probably the most useful for purposes of optimizing your website and increasing web traffic to it.

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