A Small Business Guide to Google Webmaster Tools

Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is another must have tool for all small business owners, and as with Google analytics it’s free and often not installed. GWT is the main dashboard for communication with Google for all performance and health issues regarding your website so it is crucial that it is setup and monitored regular.

First let’s start with getting your website verified by Google so you have full access to Google Webmaster Tools. Simply add your website URL and then click “verify site”. Now if you have just completed out analytics setup you should have installed the tracking code in the of your website. This means you can choose the “verify with analytics option”. If you have not already setup your analytics in the then there are a couple of other option but you will need to have access to either your website code or hosting C panel.

Now your website is verified, GWT will start recording search data and monitoring your website. So let’s have a look at the many features GWT gives you access to.

Dashboard: This gives you a quick over view on what’s happening with your website and will also show any messages that Google has sent you, I recommend checking this page at least once a week, now Google has an email address for you, they will email if there is a critical issue. You may wish to change the email address from the Gmail one if you do not monitor it regularly.

Site Messages: Shows all message sent to you by Google.

Search Appearance: Here you can check and control how your site is appearing in Google.

Structured data: If you are already using “Micro formats” to implement “rich snippets” you will be able to check that Google is seeing them correctly.

Data Highlighter: A great tool that allow you to use rich snippets without changing your website code. Simple highlight the data and tell Google what it is.

HTML Improvements: See if Google has detected and problems with your websites HTML code.
Site Links: These appear under your websites search results, if pages are showing up that you wish to remove, you can denote them here.

Search Traffic: This section deals with and displays the search terms that visitors are using to find your website.

Search Quires: Here Google will show you all the search terms that where your website was displayed in the search results along with the number of times someone clicked through to your site. As I mentioned in the analytics article Google no longer give you the majority of search term for organics in analytics, so GWT is the only way to find out this data. By comparing the search quires by page (GWT) and the traffic by landing page (analytics) you will be able to replace much of the data Google has removed from analytics.

Links to your site: While not a full list of Backlinks to your website, it gives you a real insight in to which of your links Google is indexing and the number.

Internal Links: This will help you keep an eye on your internal linking structure and make sure your internal links are equally spread out over your website pages.

Manual actions: This section will show you if Google has taken exception to and part of your website or SEO, but it will not show you if you have a Panda or Penguin penalty, only if Google has manually applied one.

International Targeting: Allows you to tell Google the language and location of your websites target audience.

Google Index: Great for making sure Google can see your whole website and that it not missing parts of it.

Index Status: This will tell you and keep a record of how many page are indexed by Google on a particular date. If your search traffic falls then you may have lost some pages from the Google index.
Content Keywords: here you can see the keywords that Google relates to your content and the significance Google gives each word.

URL removal: If you have pages that you do not wish Google to crawl and index, the best way is to add them to your robots.txt file. Alternatively you can add them here and request that Google removes them from their index.

Crawl: Deals with crawl and spidering issues.

Crawl errors: allows you to view any errors Google has come across when crawling your website, such as 404 page not found issues. Adding redirections using the redirection plug-in we talked about earlier can redirect these to the correct page, you can then mark the error as fixed.

Crawl stats: will show you how many pages per day of your website Google is crawling.
Fetch as Google: Allows you to request that Google crawls a page on your website and then show you the data it found, great for analysing problems.

Robots.txt tester: Your robots.txt file is very important as it tell Google which pages not to crawl and the location of your xml sitemap. There are even suggestions now that Google is not indexing websites without a valid robot.txt file. You can test the file and that Google is picking up the correct information from it. If you do not have one already then you can create one using the SEO yoast plug-in we talked about earlier.

Sitemap: Allows you to upload a copy of your current xml sitemap directly to Google as well as being able to test it. If your website is less than 500 pages you can create a xml site map at www.xml-sitemaps.com/ and then FTP it to your websites root directory. Then simply test and add it to Google.

URL parameters: Check to make sure Google does not have a problem with your URL parameters as this can cause pages to be drop from the Google Index.

Security Issues: If your website has been hacked or infected with malware, a warning should appear here.

Other Resources: Gives you links to other Google tools such as website speed tester
Labs: Author stats give you details of web pages linked to your authorship within Google.

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