A Beginner’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools
Anything that helps your website perform better is a good thing. Which is why, if you have a website, it’s worth getting to grips with Webmaster Tools – a free service from Google that allows you to identify any problems with your site, check your indexing status and optimise your visibility.
To begin working with Webmaster Tools, you’ll have to confirm that you are the owner of the site. Google offers a number of verification methods to do this, such as uploading a HTML file into the site, or through a Google Analytics account.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll come across your dashboard where you’ll find all the useful stats regarding your website. It can take some time for Webmaster Tools to start displaying information, so make sure Google is pointed to your website by adding a sitemap via the ‘Crawl’ menu.
While that’s happening you can set up your preferences. This can be useful to you in a number of ways:
- target a specific geographical area
- set your preferred domain.
- view Google Webmaster Tool data in Google Analytics.
- add users/restrict access
- associate a Google+ page
Next, it’s time to remedy blatant issues. If you’ve had your site for a while, you might be surprised to find a lot of problems with tags or meta descriptions in the ‘HTML Improvements’ menu. Likewise, the ‘Crawl Errors’ section will highlight broken links, while the ‘Security Issues’ tab will bring any malware to your attention. There may also be messages from Google alerting you to other issues requiring remedial action.
The ‘Index Status’ tab lets you know how your pages are being indexed by Google. It’s worth checking in here from time to time as a drop in the number of pages could indicate a problem with your website’s robot.txt.
Improving your website’s performance
It’s not all about things that have gone wrong. Google Webmaster Tools is more about metrics – finding out what is getting indexed and what’s getting you that all-important traffic. Perhaps the most useful tab here is ‘Search Traffic’. You can see what visitors searched for, how many found what they were looking for, and, perhaps most importantly, the CTR (ClickThrough Rate) to help you gauge how your content is performing.
The ‘Top Pages’ view in ‘Search Queries’ is useful too, as you can track the popularity of new content with your readers. You’ll also be informed of traffic increases and the keywords that made those increases happen, so you can take the appropriate action to keep the traffic coming.
These are just a few basic ways you can use Google Webmaster Tools to bring about significant improvements to website performance. As you see the results, you’ll be eager to delve deeper and discover other ways Webmaster Tools can make your site work harder for you.
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