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A Short But Sweet Guide to Google Webmaster Tools

June 28th, 2010 | | Basic SEO Tips, Nuts & Bolts of Optimization

There are certainly a lot of tools available on the web that can help you trouble shoot your SEO ranking issues.  Google Webmaster Tools is one of the first places to start as the online interface provides detailed reports about your site’s visibility on search. For those who may be new to SEO, this guide to Webmaster Tools will point you in the right direction to make your site more search friendly and in turn boosting your rankings.

From the Beginning: Adding a new site to Google WMT is incredibly easy. All you need to start is a Google Account, so if you already have a Gmail set up for the site, or an Adwords Account, you are all ready to go. From the WMT login page just login and follow the steps below:

  • Click “Add Site” once logged in to Google WMT
  • Verify your site using one of the options below the ‘add a meta tag’ option, or ‘Upload an HTML file’ option.
  • Click ‘Verify Site’and Google WMT will check to see whether you have added the meta tag or the HTML file to your site.
  • Start analyzing— it will take Google a bit to begin collecting data on your site, but soon you’ll be able to explore the three main tabs, Site Configuration, Account Diagnostics, and Your Site on the Web.

Site Configuration: This section of Webmaster Tools is what you will cover when you are first getting started. Under this section you can control general settings, like preferred domain, and crawl rate. You can also tell Google about any change of address to your site, while the other tabs in this section cover the basics of a site, including:

  • Sitemaps: Once you create your site’s XML sitemap, this is where you will submit and update as needed. The tool will also tell you how many of your sitemap’s URLs are indexed by Google.
  • Crawler Access: Once you create your sitemap, you will also want to generate a Robots.txt , which will help prevent the bots from crawling unnecessary sections of your site. This tab will help you test your Robots.txt, as well as generate it.
  • Site Links: Here you find additional links to your site that Google will sometimes generate in order to help users navigate your site. Site links are automatically given to certain sites and while you cannot choose your links, you can opt to remove them, though this is not suggested.

Account Diagnostic: The diagnostics tab on the left provides some good information about your site that you do not want to overlook. If you are using Webmaster Tools to try and combat a poor performing site, this is one of the first tabs you will want to review. Under Diagnotstics, you will find the following information:

  • Malware: Detects any malware on your website
  • Crawl Errors: Identifies errors as the Googlebot crawls your site (404 errors, time out URLs, URL’s restricted by robots, no follows, http errors).
  • Crawl Stats: Identifies the Googlebot activity on your site in the last 90 days including the number of pages crawled per day, the number of kilobytes downloaded per day, and the time spent downloading a page
  • HTML Suggestions: Shows potential problems with site’s meta data, such as duplicate data, missing data, data that is too long or too short, or non-informative metadata. You can easily download the information for easy reference while you correct any of the problem areas.

Your Site on the Web: This tab is a great source for stats about your website and its relationship with not only searchers but other sites on the web.

  • Search Queries: This section shows the percentage of searches for a particular keyword, the keyword itself and the position organically, in which the keyword is ranked via Google. It’s a great source for identifying that you’re receiving the traffic you want, while also providing insight about traffic that perhaps you don’t want.
  • Links to Your Site & Internal Links: Here you can see all of the anchor text located within your site, as well lists of the links that point to your site including internal and external.
  • Keywords: This section identifies the most common keywords Google found when crawling your site. This is a good indication as to whether or not you are successfully hitting the keywords you’re trying to target.
  • Subscriber Stats: This WMT Report is only used for sites that have a feed that users can subscribe to, like a blog.

Labs: This section provides a couple of extra tools that can be particularly useful. The Fetch as Googlebot allows you to see what your site looks like to bot. This can help you make sure the bots can read your most important information and that it isn’t buried in the bottom of the page somewhere. The is also the Site Performance tool which provides some general statics for your site including load time which can play a big role in rankings.

While the stats and tips provided by Google Webmaster Tools are Google specific, the tool can help your site be more easily found on other search engines as well as many engines use similar performance indicators. To be sure that you’re covering all of your bases however, it is our recommendation that you also open an account with Bing Webmaster Center and Yahoo Site Explorer.

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