Before we get started on the “Ins” and “Outs” we should first clarify what Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is. GWT is an online system that provides website owners and developers with valuable information regarding the health of their website. GWT is not only a great resource for the people working on the website (i.e. web developers) but it also provides information for the business owners that don’t necessarily dabble with the functionality of their website. In the article below we will discuss how to use the GWT reporting tools and what you can expect to learn from your account.
Getting Started with Google Webmaster Tools
You will need to first create a Google account before using GWT if you don’t already have one set up for your business.
After registering for a Google account you will next need to visit the Google Webmaster justmyfitness Tools website (see link below). Sign in with your Google account.
After you’ve signed in, add your website url.
Before GWT will start reporting on your website you will need to verify the website. There are four ways that you can get your website verified and the easiest way is to verify with your Google Analytics account. Simply follow the two-step process to get verified immediately.
Once your website has been verified it could take up to a week to really start seeing data populate in your new account. So be patient with your new account and look forward to seeing the information grow overtime.
Now that you have your website loaded and verified, we can begin to cover some of the important elements of the system. When you first login to the account you should see the dashboard view of your overall website health. This is a great snapshot about recent search queries, crawl errors, common keywords, sitemap status and links to your site. For a more in-depth report of each section in the dashboard simply click on the “More” link located at the bottom of each section. You should see 7 links in the left column under “Dashboard.” These are your primary navigation links to help guide you through your account.
In the top left column there is a section called “Site Configuration.” One of the first things you should add to your GWT account is your XML sitemap. Ask your web developer to create one for you if your website doesn’t have one yet. Once you have your sitemap URL, open the sub-section named “Sitemaps” and click the “Add/Test Sitemap” button. From here you simply add your URL and click submit. This allows you to easily submit the entire structure of your website to Google. In other words it helps Google find your existing webpages and new webpages as they are created. You don’t need to check this section often going forward, but we recommend making sure there aren’t any warnings with your sitemaps every couple of weeks.
Below the “Sitemaps” link in the left column you will find a link for “Crawler Access.” This is where you should submit your robots.txt file. The robots.txt file tells search engines which pages you don’t want crawled and indexed on your website. This can be a very valuable tool for your website because it can prevent duplicate content, un-published webpages, old webpages, etc… from being indexed. Double check with your web developer and make sure they have created a robots.txt file for your website.
The last resource that is valuable to all website owners in this section is called “Sitelinks.” Within this tool you can designate which URLs you don’t want to appear under your website’s search results. This is helpful as a website owner to display only the URLs that you think will entice people to click on your website. For instance, having your intern’s bio page displayed as a link in the search results will not be as important as your contact webpage. Visit this tool when you notice URLs displaying in the search results that you would like to demote.
There are a few other resources available in this section, but we find that they are really more valuable for web developers only.
Your Site on The Web
Under this next section you will find information about search queries, links to your site, content keywords, internal links and subscriber stats. The search queries report provides a great deal of information regarding search terms on the web that resulted in impressions or clicks to your website. It provides a good snapshot as to the keyword terms that are being associated with your website. If many of the keyword queries are closely related to your business than you are in good standing. If you find that many of the keyword queries have nothing to do with your business than you might need to re-think your overall SEO and content strategy.
The “Links to your site” report provides data about the websites that link to you the most and the content on your website that has the most links pointing to it. This is good data for website owners because it provides you with an idea of the websites that currently link to you. The next report we suggesting using is the “Content Keywords” report. This report provides information on the keywords used across your website, its variants and what Google thinks is the significance of the keyword to your website. You want your target keyword phrases to have many variants and to be considered very significant to your overall website. If not, then you should work on creating more content with your target phrases on the website. The last resource we will cover in this section is called “Internal Links.” You want to make sure that you are not only building inbound links, but that you are also setting up links between your internal webpages. This is a great way to make it easier for viewers to quickly navigate your website and for search engines to easily connect and catalog your content.
The “Diagnostics” section of GWT provides in-depth information regarding the overall health and performance of your website. You can easily check to see if there is any malware that has been added to your website, if there are any crawl errors and HTML suggestions for your webpages. The tool that you will find to be the most useful to keep your website clean and healthy is the one named “Crawl Errors.” We recommend exporting any crawl errors that are being found in the report and sending them to your web developer. They can set up permanent 301 redirects to take care of the majority of crawl errors that your website might be experiencing. We suggest checking this tool every couple of weeks to make sure you don’t have any new crawl errors. The “HTML Suggestions” is also helpful for quickly seeing if there are any recommendations for improving your SEO meta tag information.
We have only touched upon the primary GWT tools for website owners and website developers, but please take the time to review all of the resources available within your GWT account.
– Google Webmaster Tools: www.google.com/webmasters/tools/
Jessie Topper, Social Media Marketing Director at Bop Design
San Diego Web Design & Internet Marketing Agency
Bop Design understands that as a small business, it all comes down to cash flow. Smaller companies want an effective marketing strategy implemented with the least amount of dollars spent. Bop Design develops internet marketing strategies for small businesses that are highly targeted, trackable, and generate ideal new customer leads.
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