Google Webmaster Tools is a necessary program to help make your site more Google search friendly. Webmaster Tools (WMT) provides detailed reports about your sites visibility on Google search. Some of these reports include inbound and outbound links, when the last time Googlebot accessed your pages, how many pages on your site are 404′ing, etc. Because Webmaster Tools is so comprehensive, this will be a two part series. Today I will discuss how to create an account, and the reports found in the Settings and Diagnostics tools. Next Monday I’ll go into the remainder of the reports: statistics, links, sitemaps and tools.
Here’s how to add your site to WMT to begin seeing reports on your site.
1. Create a Google account if you don’t already have one.
2. Once you’ve created your Google account, go to Google Webmaster Tools and login.
3. Once you’ve logged in successfully, you should see a screen that says ‘you haven’t added any sites yet. Go to the open field box in the upper left hand corner and add your site and click, ‘add site’. See screen shot below:
4. Once you’ve added your site, the next step is to verify your site. Google WMT needs to know that you are the person that will be making changes to your site based off of WMT reports it’s providing you. To verify your site, you have a couple of options.
a. Add a meta tag
b. Upload an HTML file
Once you’ve decided and implemented which verification method to the back end of your site, go back to your account at WMT and click, ‘verify site’. Google WMT will then check to see whether you’ve added the meta tag or the HTML file to your site. If you have and Google finds it, then you’re good to go and you should see something like this in the dashboard section of your account:
To view reports and stats about your site, click on your site name:
Once you’ve clicked on your site name you’ll be in the overview section of WMT. Now remember if you’ve just verified your site it will take WMT time to generate reports and data about your site.
Overview: The overview page will give you some of the most important data about your site like errors found, whether or not Google has successfully access your home page, index status and top search queries on how people found pages within your site. A lot of this information will also be presented in the reports off to the left hand navigation.
Geographic Target: Within the settings section you can geo-target users that enter your site to a particular country, or you can gain information about any user that enters your site.
Preferred domain: The preferred domain allows you to tell Google WMT how you would like your main domain structured. Whether it be a www.domain.com or just domain.com with no www, or can you set it up not have a preferred domain which I don’t recommend. Setting a preferred domain is the smartest thing to do here since Google will use that preferred domain and point any traffic to it specifically. Rather than having potentially two different domains (one with a www and one without the www) that will point to certain pages on your site.
Image Search: By opting into enhanced image search, Google will use the image labeler to associate the images included in your site with labels that will improve indexing and search quality of those images. What this really is is a way to help Google improve the relevance of images indexed by the Googlebot.
Crawl rate: With the crawl rate don’t get confused with it being the number of times Googlebot actually crawls your site. It’s merely the time it takes Google to crawl pages on your site which if it’s too long, can overwhelm your site’s servers. The recommended setting is to let Google determine my crawl rate setting.
Web Crawl: The web crawl identifies errors as Googlebot crawls your site. If there are any pages with errors, then Google can’t crawl them and therefore they will not be indexed and will not show up in Google search. If you do have errors, it’s best to fix them ASAP so these pages can be crawled the next time. Web crawl errors could insist of 404 pages, time out URLs, URL’s restricted by robots, no follows and http errors.
Mobile crawl: Unless you’re site is created specifically for viewing on mobile cell phones, you probably don’t have to worry much about mobile crawl. According to Google, Google mobile web search crawls and indexes sites that have been specifically designed for mobile phones and devices. Mobile crawl in WMT reports errors and problems encountered by Google’s crawlers while accessing pages on your site that are targeted specifically for viewing on cell phones and other mobile devices.
Content Analysis: Content analysis allows you to see potential problems with site metadata like page titles and meta descriptions. This report can also tell you how many pages on your site have the same meta descriptions, how many are too short and how many are too long. It can also tell you how many missing page titles you have and whether or not Google deems them as informative or non-informative. The recommended character length for page titles is around 60 characters whereas meta descriptions should remain around 160 characters long.
Stay tuned for next week I’ll be diving into the last four reports in Google’s Webmaster Tools; statistics, links, sitemaps and tools!