This is the third part of a series that takes a close look at Google's Webmaster Tools (GWT). The first examined the Site configuration section. Last time, I looked at the "Your site on the web" reports. Today I'll begin to discuss the third and final section of GWT reports: the Diagnostics section.
While each of the three sections contains helpful information, the Diagnostics section provides the information from which you can most easily produce a to-do list for improving your site's visibility. Today I'll be discussing the Crawl errors section of the Diagnostics reports.
GWT's Crawl errors section is one of the most important reports that Google offers. It shows pages that Google either can't access regularly or can't find at all. Remember one important aspect of SEO (define): a page will never show up in the SERPs (define) if the search engine can't find it. This report area is one of the best ways to ensure that your pages are found and to diagnose crawling obstacles. Following are the types of crawling errors shown in this area:
As you go through these reports, don't let the mere presence of multiple errors worry you. An error is a problem only when it concerns an important URL and Google's inability to crawl it. That's something you should address immediately. On the other hand, if older, obsolete URLs show 404 errors or your robots.txt disallows 5,000 pages and you want it that way, don't worry that these "errors" are really hurting your site.
GWT also includes these same reports for two different types of mobile content: compact HTML (CHTML) and mobile WML/XHTML, so depending on how many different types of content you offer and whether you've submitted mobile-specific site maps, you may have multiple versions of these reports to examine.
In my final column in this series, I'll discuss the other half of the meaty Diagnostics section of Google Webmaster Tools, which includes crawl stats and HTML suggestions.
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Erik Dafforn is the executive vice president of Intrapromote LLC, an SEO firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Erik manages SEO campaigns for clients ranging from tiny to enormous and edits Intrapromote's blog, SEO Speedwagon. Prior to joining Intrapromote in 1999, Erik worked as a freelance writer and editor. He also worked in-house as a development editor for Macmillan and IDG Books. Erik has a Bachelor's degree in English from Wabash College. Follow Erik and Intrapromote on Twitter.
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