Do you make use of Google Webmaster Tools?

Everybody knows that if you want to run a successful website, Google is one of the most important factors to consider.

How Google understands, interprets and indexes your site, is crucial to where your site appears in the SERPs, and how well your site preforms in the SERPs (specifically the Google SERPs) can be a big determinant how much traffic your site receives, and ultimately how popular/successful your site it.

Google Webmaster Tools is a very useful tool which is often underused by site owners, in order to improve the quality and quantity of traffic that your site receives. In this article I will outline some of the key features I find useful, and some of the main reasons why I use Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools

Why Google?

Google has a monopoly on the search market, with more than 90% of all searches being done through Google – according to StatCounter Global Statistics. Therefore the chases are the majority of traffic your site receives through search is from Google. It would be naive to ignore Bing and Yahoo’s search tools available to webmasters, however if you plan on just focusing on one, Google is probably the wisest choice.

Google is renowned for its major updates, with Penguin and Panda just two recent examples. Webmaster Tools can be a great aid in helping you understand how your site has been affected by the changes and why, so you can either keep doing things the way you are, or change your strategy.

See how well you are doing

The most recent Google Webmaster Tools update has divided the dashboard into five easy to understand sections: configuration, how your site is set up (locality, URL preferences, sitelinks etc.); health, how Google crawls your site and any errors, or malware it detects, and the URLs Google is denied from crawling; traffic, how do people find your site, which search queries do you appear for, who links to your content with what keywords and how does Google+ influence your visitors; optimization, tips and tweaks on how you could adjust your content and sitemap to improve your search position; labs, the latest tools Google are trailing that may be of use.
Webmaster Tools Options - Dashboard, Messages, Configuration, Health, Traffic, Optimization

Find crawler errors

One of the main reasons I use Google Webmaster Tools is because it lets me see how Google views and interprets the sites I administer. Therefore should there ever be an error, I am able to understand what Google is struggling to read/crawl, and therefore try to address the issue. Google lets you view and test specific URLs your robots.txt file is blocking Google from indexing and crawling – there is a difference. If you are denying it access to something by mistake you can then rectify this.

Google also lets you see any pages it cannot find. If you run a content management system based site (like one powered by WordPress) it is common that you will change things using the system, and unforeseen errors will be created leading to pages not being found where they either should be, or once were. Google lets you see when it can’t find pages, along with when it is denied from accessing pages, and when inadequate redirects are in place.

If you don’t use Google Webmaster Tools and don’t reduce the problems Google encounters when crawling your site, the likelihood is that your site will suffer in the SERPs – there isn’t much debate about that.

Labs

Google say that:

“Webmaster Tools Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime. They may change, break or disappear at any time.”

however this doesn’t mean that these tools should be ignored, in fact I think they are probably one of the most overlooked resources that Google provides webmasters with.

One of the current ‘Labs’ tools that I think is very useful is the ‘Site performance’ tool. Google may not have generated any information about your site, however if you are one of the lucky ones to be analysed, this can prove a very interesting tool. In Google’s own words:

“This page shows you performance statistics of your site. You can use this information to improve the speed of your site and create a faster experience for your users.”

As page load time becomes more and more important to users and therefore search engines alike, this page is of crucial importance for many people.

Improvements

You might not expect it, but in the ‘Optimization’ section, under the ‘HTML Improvements’ section Google will actually suggest areas where you could improve your code to ensure that your content is the best possible. Common errors Google suggests for correction include missing or duplicate title tags, (in most cases, and SEO no, no) and meta tag issues.

Traffic

The tools in the ‘Traffic’ section are probably the ones I use the most. ‘Search Queries’ gives you a fantastic incite into where your site is appearing in search results in all different locations across the world. If you pair Webmaster Tools with Analytics, this can become a lot more useful.

Links to your site and internal links lets you see your post linked to content, and the keywords that are linking to it. Generally speaking, if you want to rank well for a keyword, you need to have some links (internal and/or external) using that keyword.

The great thing about Google Webmaster Tools is that it integrates with many other Google programs, in order to improve your total control and visibility of your site. AdSense, Analytics, YouTube and AdWords are just some of the other Google products that Webmaster Tools integrates with.

That is just a quick overview of what Webmaster Tools has to offer. If you own a website, I strongly recommend that you explore it further to help improve your sites visibility in the search results, and to enable you to weather algorithm changes (like Penguin and Panda) that little bit better.

Do you use Webmaster Tools? What are your favourite features?

17 thoughts on “Do you make use of Google Webmaster Tools?

  1. The new Google Penguin update should benefit the white hat SEO community as the algorith rewards those who practice ethical link building at the expense of those who are intent on gaming the system. After all, search engines are always trying to stay ahead of the game by delivering the most relevant results.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      Algorithm updates should always benefit white hat SEOs, however inevitably occasionally a good site can slip through the net…

      Thanks for adding a comment, welcome to the blog 🙂
      Christopher – Admin Team

  2. The problem with the Penguin update though, is that what could have been a white hat technique before can appear suspicious to the search engines now. Some of the micro-niche i have attended are now at the furthest page. Who knows what he exact Google algorithms are but i couldn’t agree more that Google Webmaster Tools help you more improve your SEO Strategies like Google Analytics.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      I would agree with you James, before Penguin it is possible you were doing well, whilst not committing any black hat SEO. After the update, some of the previously ‘white hat’ things you were doing may have turned more grey hat if you see what I mean.

      Thanks for contributing to the post James, welcome to the blog!
      Christopher – Admin Team

    • That is my opinion too. I as well as several other people I know are clueless about our plummeting SERPs as most of us have stuck to mostly white hat techniques as much as possible.

      But I guess with any change, there will always be some of us that trapped in the net regardless.

      -Jean

      • Christopher (admin team)

        Some innocent people/sites will always get caught in the net, however the thing you have to work out is, is that a price worth paying in order to help clean up the SERPs from spammy sites?

        If for every 1 good site that goes down 10 bad sites go down too, is it worth it? In theory it should be possible for good sites to adjust and climb back up, so I don’t see why not…

        Thanks for the comment Jean.

  3. On topic for the post, my fav section is Optimization. Nothing is better than having the big G themselves tell you what’s wrong with your site.

    As for the convo in the comments, Jean, you mention that you’ve ‘mostly white hat techniques’. The key word is ‘mostly’ and I think that’s where you might have gone wrong.

    Also, focusing too much on SEO is a bad thing. For example, getting loads of exact match, unrelated niche links will hurt if you haven’t built a solid SEO foundation.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      To be honest, I think it is pretty hard to do black hat SEO, without realising it. As someone at Google once said (I think it was Matt Cutts) if you wouldn’t be happy explaining to Google what you have done, and why, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

      Thanks for the comment Sandip, welcome to the community!
      Christopher – Admin Team

  4. I have always made the most of Google’s Webmaster tools and I believe it is surely the best free tool for a webmaster.
    Right from tracking, to diagnosis, to trends, it helps you to comprehensively monitor one or multiple websites or domains with out too much of technical knowledge 😛

        • Christopher (admin team)

          The really key ones I mentioned in the article David.

          Make sure you see the errors Google has, and the improvements it suggests. Address these and it will improve the way Google views and ranks your site.

          Be sure you help Google out, check where possible your code is valid, and you direct Google to what it can and can’t crawl via robots.txt and sitemap – check Google finds these and reads them how you want it to.

          Also don’t disregard the ‘Other resources’ under the ‘Optimization’ tab, most of them I have found of use at some point or another.

          When you get some time, just go through every option and look at all the resources offered in detail, to make sure you don’t miss anything.

          Hope this helps 🙂

            • Christopher (admin team)

              David, if there is anything specific you don’t know what it does, by all means ask, and I will see if I can help you out 🙂

    • Christopher (admin team)

      You are welcome Nishadha. If Google give you the option to see something, the chances are there is something useful you can do with the information! If you want to rank better, you should probably pay more attention to Webmaster Tools – go through and look at each section in detail to understand it better 🙂

  5. I really like how the new configurations of Google Webmaster tools turned out. It does make it easier to navigate and understand. I have always utilized Google’s tools and as you said they are the best.

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