You're reading...
Websites

Making the most of Webmaster Tools

When it comes to search engine optmisation (SEO) lots of time’s often spent on keyword analysis and fishing for inbound links, but housekeeping to make sure the right pages are in Google’s index will also yield results.

Google’s free Webmaster tools are incredibly useful. In this post I’m going to share a handful of practical ways you can put Webmaster tools to use right away.

Before I start, here’s a great video from Google I found recently that summarises some of these concepts.

Let’s go through some of the tools as they appear in the left nav.

Site Configuration

Sitemaps

Here’s where you can submit XML sitemaps to google. There are lots of free online tools that can help you create sitemaps. For large sites I’ve found downloading Xenu Link Sleuth to be worthwhile. It will crawl your site and report on broken links, as well as generate an XML sitemap you can submit to Google. A sitemap won’t help your pages rank any better but if you have a lot of pages it can help ensure Google isn’t missing any.

Crawler acces

Once you’ve had a go at creating a site map using a link crawling tool, you may be shocked by the number of URLs and how many are not useful. For example, if you have print friendly pages on your site, you probably don’t want these URLs indexed and competing with your ‘normal’ pages.

In the crawler access section you can block search engine robots from indexing sections of your site. Be as thorough as you can.  

Remove URL Tool

This can be used in conjunction with broken link reports (see Crawl Errors Report below) to remove pages that no longer exist from Google’s index. (In time pages should drop out if there are no links to them, but this tool can ensure anything you need removed comes out of Google’s index. First the page must be either blocked to search engines or produce a page not found status.

Your site on the web

The Search Queries Report in this section is magnificent. It shows you keywords used to search in Google for which your site was returned in the results. You’ll find impressions, Click Through Rates (CTR), the average positions in Google’s search engine results page, and percentage changes over time.

You can also filter this report to find specific URLs on your site and see how they’re performing in search. Take a look at this screenshot. 

A Google Webmaster Tools screenshot

A Google Webmaster Tools screenshot

The Links to Your Site Report is also pretty amazing. It allows you to drill down and find all the links to your site that Google knows of. You start viewing by the domain that links to you, then drill down to the pages on your site that get the links, then click through again and see the actual URLs of the pages where you’ll find the links themselves. Great for seeing how your site is being promoted by others.

Diagnostics

Spend as much time as you have to on the Crawl Errors Report – this will show you the Page Not Found results from your site in Google’s index. Down the bottom of the report you can download a spreadsheet of the sources of all the crawl errors. That is, a list of URLs on your site that produce a page not found and, next to that, where the broken link is (whether it be internal or external).

HTML Suggestions will also show you lists of duplicate title and meta description tags (which can be a good indication you may have duplicate content issues to sort out).

The Fetch as Googlebot tool can also be a useful way to check the status of pages – as Google’s robot sees them. Are your redirects working as expected? Are your friendly Page Not Found (404s) actually producing the 404 status you want?

Labs

Finally, in the Google Labs section, where new tools are tested, the Site Performance Report is worth viewing. At a glance you can see patterns in site load times. While you can run better performance tests, it’s difficult to get trends over time, which is exactly what this will show you at a glance.

If you own a website, it’s well worth making sure someone has set up and is monitoring your free Google Webmaster tools account, to make sure your site stays on the right track in search indexes.

Advertisements

About dalway

Damian Alway has over a decade of experience in print & online publishing. He’s managed several large websites across government, not-for-profit & commercial sectors, worked as a production editor in a print environment & as a freelance publishing services consultant.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Making the most of Webmaster Tools

  1. My brother suggested I might like this website.

    He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how much time
    I had spent for this information! Thanks!

    Posted by køb rosenrod | May 13, 2013, 10:49 pm
  2. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as
    though you relied on the video to make your point.
    You clearly know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just
    posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something informative
    to read?

    Posted by iphone yahoo mail | February 24, 2014, 1:23 am
  3. Hi outstanding blog! Does runhing a blog similar to this take a massive amount work?
    I’ve absolutely noo expertise in programming however I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near
    future. Anyways, should you have any suggestions or techniques forr new blog owners please share.
    I knnow this iis off subject however I just wnted to ask.
    Many thanks!

    Posted by conqueror papers | October 29, 2014, 2:42 am
  4. Very good post. I definitely love this site. Thanks!

    Posted by a5 envelope | November 18, 2014, 3:12 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

Tweets

%d bloggers like this: