If you are a webmaster the first thing on your mind is, of course, that your site is found on Google. You want your site to be found in high rankings on search engines and with that, it means increased traffic which translates to sales.
Google, of course, wants really great content on its search engine. In order to achieve this, Google provides tools and support to webmasters to fine-tune their websites. These are the Google Webmaster Tools.
Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is a free service by Google for webmasters. It gives webmasters a detailed assessment of their websites. Google Webmaster Tools also report errors on their website so that people can correct them to make their websites’ content look better. In addition, Google Webmaster Tools also regularly checks your site for malware and sends important e-mail notifications (malware alerts, etc.). Google Webmaster Tools is a medium between Google and the webmaster.
So how exactly would you use the Google Webmaster Tools program to check your own website?
First, obviously, you’ve got to have a Google account. Once you’ve signed in, go straight to http://www.google.com/webmaster/tools.
There, you first find an introductory page on Google Webmaster Tools showing how it benefits your website; this page also features a video on how GWT helps you optimize your site’s visibility on search engines. You may also want to click to go to the next page.
Google wants you to verify that you are really the owner of the website. There are two sets of verification methods: one is the recommended method and the other is alternate methods. From either of those two tools, you can upload your custom HTML file to the root domain of your website, or add a meta tag to the home page of your website.
Once you’ve verified that you are the true owner of the site, you may proceed to your account’s dashboard. On the dashboard, you can study your website’s data. Some of these data are your website status search queries, sitemaps, crawl errors, and other SEO-related data.
Then you move on to the message center of your GWT account. More often than not, you encounter alerts from Google saying that a Google bot (the search engine “robot” of Google, the “web crawler”) cannot access your site, or your site has encountered an issue with malware. Of course, not all messages are negative. Google may also send you a congratulatory note on how your site performs very well (e.g., on increased traffic).
In this article, you have encountered the words crawl errors. A crawl error occurs if Google bot cannot access certain pages of your site, and therefore you’ll receive a message or messages pertaining to that. This will prompt you to fix your site’s pages and enable them to be accessible again on the Web.
Google Webmaster Tools also reveal to the website owner how many web pages Google has indexed as well as updating its number of pages.
You have seen the phrase search queries. Google tracks certain search phrases of your site which have been seen on Google’s search engine results page. Owners will also see the number of clicks which each of their website’s phrases have scored and the number of times that certain pages of their site show up on search results (called impressions), as their increase or decrease rate by percentage. These are very valuable pieces of information, especially to those who are also knowledgeable about SEO. Webmasters can also receive sufficient information about the other sites that have links which connect to their site, as well as their website’s internal links’ performance.
Website owners must be reminded though, that the Google Webmaster Tools cover only the search results performed by Google only. They don’t cover results generated by other search engines such as Yahoo!, Bing, etc.
Google Webmaster Tools, of course, optimizes visibility of the websites. This concerns more of the activities going on in the site itself to improve its SEO results. Among the features in GWT’s “Optimization” section are: sitemaps, remove URL’s, HTML improvement, and structured data.
A sitemap is a list of pages of a website – such as the home page, contact details page, articles page, etc. This feature is useful because it will enable web crawlers to track your website. It is recommended that website owners should upload their sitemap.
Remove URL’s are only used when webmasters urgently need to remove a page, especially if confidential information on that page is accidentally revealed.
HTML improvement shows website masters some information to let you decide whether or they should improve the site’s title, meta tags or other content that could not be indexed (such as pictures, videos, and audio files)
Structured Data is concerned with the websites’ microdata. Microdata is one of the three types of data that search engine crawlers/web crawlers use to obtain pertinent data about a website as well as its content. And then the crawlers will use this data to provide more detailed information for users who browse on the net. This is also an important feature for webmasters in order to provide their website better SEO results.
Another section of the GWT is Labs, which allows webmasters to try out and test experimental additional functions and features on the Webmaster tools. If these features are useful and work well they will become a regular part of the GWT; otherwise, they may disappear temporarily or permanently. The parts of this section include: author stats and custom search
Author Stats – enables webmasters to see how often their websites’ content is showing up on Google’s SERP. It shows the number of clicks and impression on each of the website’s pages.
Custom Search – allows webmasters to set up a customized search engine for their own websites, which also includes locating the search box anywhere on their own website as well as customizing the overall look and theme of the search results page.
Other features of the Labs section that are not anymore supported: instant previews and site performance.
As it is free, Google Webmaster Tools should not be expected to perform as a complete and comprehensive tool, but at least it’s good and useful enough for novice webmasters and those who are engaged in SEO.