A Guide to Google Webmaster Tools

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Google Webmaster Tools is essential for the monitoring of any site, providing you with insider information on how their search engine views your site, whether it currently has an issues and even if the security has been breached with malware. Like all Google products, it’s free and easy to use. Here’s a rundown on the different components.

The first thing to do is to verify your website – you need to prove that you’re the owner. Google provides multiple methods for doing so, and if you’re unsure how, speak to the current web master of your site. Once verified, you can begin monitoring.

The Dashboard

This is the main screen for Google Webmaster Tools and gives you an overview of the status of your site. It branches off into different sections, and also displays three main widgets by default.

Crawl Errors

“Crawling” is how Google finds and maps your site. Their “spiders” begin on the main page of your website, and follow as many links as they can until hopefully all of your pages are included in the crawl and added to Google’s index. If a page isn’t linked from anywhere, it cannot be crawled and therefore won’t show up in Google searches. The Crawl Error section of Google Webmaster Tools shows you if any errors or missing pages are occurring.

Search Queries

Search traffic is an essential source for all websites, and here Webmaster Tools shows you which keywords are the best for returning a page to your site. From this data you can find the top traffic driving keywords, and use the data to determine the percentage of people who see your link who then click on it. This is very useful for determining how to focus your site.

Sitemaps

Here you can check and test the validity of sitemaps – blueprints of your site’s link network – and add them to your Webmasters account.

You can view each of these widgets with more information under their individual sections.

Messages

From time to time Google will communicate directly with webmasters, usually to inform them of issues, security breaches, oddities they’ve detected and recommended updates. If you have heavy SEO done, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your messages as this is how they’ll inform you if your site has been penalised. There are also good messages too, such as those letting you know of increased traffic and other achievements.

Settings

Here you can supply your geographical settings so that the data will be relevant to your target audience. You can also stipulate the domain name you prefer to show in the search results, and slow down Google’s crawl rate if it’s causing issues for your site.

Fetch as Google

A very valuable resource that Webtools provides is the ability to see your website as Google sees it. By selecting “Fetch as Google” (which you can do 500 times per week), you can see the date and time, the HTTP response, and the HTML code with the first 100kb of visible text. With this you can make sure the Google crawler is seeing your page the way you want it to, and that it will get the information required to index it most effectively for you.

Google +1 Info

Google’s social media network is having an increased (though still not overwhelming) influence on its search engine, and with the various sections you can find out how many +1’s you’re gaining, how they’re affecting your rankings, and the demographic of those +1’s. Google is becoming increasingly concerned with user experience and human endorsement of content, so this is a good thing to be aware of going into the future.

 

Google Webmaster Tools is a great tool to make the most of any website and provides useful statistics in a variety of areas at a glance. It’s worthwhile monitoring them regularly to ensure your site is making positive progress.

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Katie is a lover of words and art, born and raised in Christchurch. With a BA in English and Japanese, she’s happiest tapping away at her keyboard writing copy or articles, or else working on the latest illustration. To balance the creative side, Katie is also very motivated and a bit of a perfectionist, which helps with her SEO duties. Although her hobbies could probably be described as art, art and more art, she also enjoys long walks, good friends and travel.

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