In my last column, I talked about Google and touched on Google Webmaster Tools. Because this is a Search 101 column, some readers may not be familiar with Google Webmaster Tools - what it is, how it works, and how they can make it work for them.
So this week, I decided to write exclusively on Google Webmaster Tools, which I will herein refer to as GWT.
Google has created a suite of tools and resources to help webmasters monitor their website on Google and increase traffic potential.
Google Webmaster Tools is essentially a means for website owners to ensure that Google can easily find, crawl, index, and categorize their website appropriately. GWT provides website owners with detailed reports about their website's search engine visibility, which can be leveraged to improve outcomes. After creating an account and verifying their site, site owners can log in to access these reports at any time.
GWT will help you answer:
How does Google "see" or perceive your site?
What keywords are they associating your site content with?
How are you linking internally to the various pages on your site?
Are there any errors or issues that are preventing Google from crawling and indexing your full site content?
How well is your site found and perceived by users?
What keywords are being used to find your site in the search results?
How frequently is your site showing in the results?
How often are users clicking on your site?
What are the most successful/popular pages on the site?
How are external sites interacting with your site?
What sites are linking to your site?
Does your site appear to be infected with malware?
In addition to providing you with insightful data to answer the above questions, GWT also makes it easier for you to tell Google about your site with Sitemaps (upload an XML sitemap which helps search engines more easily crawl your site).
Using the Tools
Next we'll review each of the tools or reports available and provide some examples for how you can leverage this data.
Search queries - Top queries your site appeared for and that produced click-throughs.
Potential finding: While your site is quite visible for many of your top keywords, users just don't seem to be clicking on your listing.
Potential action: Consider revisiting your page title and description to make it more relevant or compelling for users - perhaps adding a strong call-to-action.
Potential finding: Savings or deal sites are the most frequent inbound links to your site, but are linking to the home page.
Potential action: Consider ways to enhance the prominence of the promotions page on your website as well as include contextually relevant promotions or offers throughout the rest of the site, as you know it's something others are interested in.
Keywords - Google's view of the most significant terms found on your site.
Potential finding: The way Google perceives your site is excluding an entire product line or offering.
Potential action: Create additional content on this neglected product line/offering and offer something that is of high value to your users to encourage inbound links. Ensure this page or section is well positioned within the hierarchy of your site and easily accessible via a variety of internal links.
Potential finding: You only have one link pointing into your Request a Quote page, which is a page that is obviously quite beneficial for lead generation.
Potential action: Increase the number of links pointing into your Request a Quote page by including contextual links within your Web pages. For example, after a paragraph describing your offering, include a "Request a quote now!" link.
Subscriber stats - Number of users subscribed to your site feeds (e.g., using Google Reader).
Potential finding: Not very many users are subscribing to your site.
Potential action: Ensure you are continually updating your site content so users have a reason to subscribe. Actively promote your feed so others are aware of it.
Malware - Determine if your site may have been hacked or contains suspicious software.
Action this information: If Google suspects hacking or malware presence, work with your IT team or employ third-party tools to identify and remove the malware and/or apply additional encryption to prevent future hacking.
Crawl errors - Outlines any pages that Google was not able to access.
Action this information: Address the issues that Google has highlighted in order to ensure all of the content on your site can be crawled and indexed by Google and other search engines.
Crawl stats - Lists recent Googlebot access to your website (past 90 days).
Action this information: Identify if Google is crawling content that you do not want crawled (e.g., out of date or confidential information), and then update your robots.txt file to restrict Google to only crawling specific content on your site.
HTML suggestions - Suggests how you can improve the HTML (e.g., page titles, meta descriptions, non-indexable content) on your site.
Action this information: Address any issues that Google highlights in order to improve your ranking ability (e.g., if you have the same description on multiple pages on your website, you should write unique page descriptions).
Getting started with GWT is easy. If you already have a Google account, you can sign in to Google Webmaster Tools using that (if not, just create a Google account - it's free). Next, add your site by entering the URL (make sure you type the entire URL, including the http://www part). Then type a name for your site (this is just so you can distinguish it from other sites you may add). Finally, before you can access the data, you have to verify that you are indeed the site owner by choosing one of many verification methods:
Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.