Google Webmaster Tools 101

  |  December 13, 2010   |  Comments

A look at six main features provided by these free tools to make your site more search engine friendly.

Want to tune up you website and get it running smoothly? One of the key weapons you need in your arsenal is Google Webmaster Tools. This is a set of free tools provided by Google designed to help diagnose problems with your site, make it more search engine friendly, and overall, improve your site's visibility. In this column I will discuss some of the main features provided by this must have tool.

Setup and Getting Started

Let's get started by looking at the Google Webmaster home page. Here is where you will sign in and get your account set up. It will help to have a Gmail account ahead of time, if you don't already have one. Before you sign in, you can watch an introductory video or click on some of the help links to learn more.

gwt-homepage

Diagnosing Problems

Now that you have signed in, you will see a dashboard with subcategories of choices on the left. I prefer to start off with finding out what's wrong with my site or what's broken. So let's begin by looking at the diagnostics category. First, click on "crawl errors" and see if there are any broken links. If there are any that show up in the report I would go ahead and get those fixed. The tool will also show you which links are broken and where they are so you can easily find them. I would recommend checking this regularly.

Next, check your crawl stats to see if there are any issues with the Googlebot's ability to see your entire site. This report will show you the number of pages that are crawled per day, the number of kilobytes downloaded, and the average time spent downloading each page. What you are looking for is to decrease time spent downloading per day. If you have pages that download longer that would suggest you have some performance issues. This could be images or other media that may not be optimized correctly or possibly server problems or even code that is not up to speed. Chances are if Google is having trouble your users might also be having some issues.

crawl-stats

HTML Suggestions

Next, we will see what Google suggests we do to improve your visitor's user experience. From an SEO perspective I would first focus on the "Title Tag." If you have any missing title tags you should address those right away. Having one to three highly relevant keywords in this tag is recommended. If you find you have duplicate title tags you may want to modify them so each page is unique. Remember when you do SEO you are optimizing not just your whole site but each and every page on your site. If you have any long, short, or non-informative title tags you should address them as well using SEO best practices.

html-suggestions

Relevance and Keywords

Now let's look at your keywords under "Your site on the web" section. This will show you a list of keywords that Google thinks are relevant to you site. You may want to validate that this is a good representation of what your site is all about. You can even click on each keyword to get further insight into specific pages that contain that keyword and which Google thinks are relevant.

Of course, if you feel there are keywords or subject matter that is important to you and is not represented here you should take action and either add that content to your site or modify specific pages to better represent those keywords.

Search Queries

Click on the search query link to get important search intelligence. As you can see, the report shows a lot of information centered around keyword performance and how it changes over time. Based on the results of your report, you should look for opportunities to improve. Seek to improve your CTR (click-through rate) or what you can do to achieve more clicks. You can even click on each keyword to drill down for more specific information.

search-queries

Link Strategy

We are all looking for ways to find good, relevant links to our website. If you click on the "Links to your site," you will find a report that shows what Google thinks are the most important links. Furthermore, you can see how the data is linked. You can also see who links to you the most and the content on your site that gets the most links. All helpful in learning where you need to improve.

From an internal linking perspective, click on the "Internal Links" to see how you rate with your site's internal linking structure. Which pages internally are getting the most links? Do you have important pages that should have links to them? Take action.

Site Performance

Another aspect of the toolset is to check on your site performance. Click on the "site performance" link under Labs to get this report. This report can be used to help improve the speed of your site. Just like the crawl stats, you may discover there are things that are slowing down your site. There are, of course, help documents to give you ideas and tools on how to improve performance.

site-performance

There are many more features of Webmaster Tools like submitting an XML Sitemap to make sure Google has indexed your entire site. But these tips will give you plenty to start with. As a result of using this free tool from Google, you should find that your overall site performance has been enhanced and will serve you better.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ron Jones

Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.

Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.

Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.

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