If you have been into SEO for a while now, you may be aware that search engines, particularly Google, have free services dedicated to help webmasters optimise their sites. Adwords, Analytics, Insights for Search, AdSense—these are just some of the many freebies that it offers. One of my definite favourites is Google Webmaster Tools. It is incredibly easy to use and it is immensely helpful for our SEO campaigns. Now do not worry if you are not familiar with GWT because that is what I am here for.
Read on to find out how you can set-up and use this freebie effectively:
1. Verify ownership
To get started with GWT, you have to log in using your Google account, preferably what you use for Analytics. Then, head to Google Webmaster Tools and choose Add a Site.
You have to verify yourself using your GA account. If you are the administrator, you can just click Verify immediately. But if you are not into Analytics yet, you can try any of these three alternate methods:
a) Upload an HTML file to your website server. This will be easier if you have FTP access to your domain.
b) Inlcude a meta-tag to your homepage. You can either edit your site or, if you are using WordPress, you can use plug-ins.
c) Add a Domain Name System to your configuration.
2. Use the Dashboard
Once you have claimed ownership of the site, you will immediately be shown the Dashboard. This is basically a summary of the important details of your domain.
On the left hand side, you will see a menu that features the following:
Messages - Google uses this to inform you of important announcements regarding your site, such as WordPress updates and malware threats. You can opt to forward these messages automatically to your Gmail or other email accounts.
Sitemaps – Before you can submit one, you have to create an XML file first. Then, submit it by typing in the URL. Later, you can check and see the info gathered by Google regarding any problems it encountered while crawling your site, how many Webpages it found, and how many are already indexed by search engines.
Diagnostics - This is an important section in GWT because it alerts you of current and potential problems for your site, such as these:
a) Malware – Google scans websites for these as an effort at protecting their browsers. If they detect harmful software on yours, that means that your site has been hacked or compromised. In addition, they also provide guidelines or suggestions on how to get rid of malicious software effectively.
b) Crawl errors – As the name suggests, these are problems that Google crawlers are experiencing on your site. Common errors are missing pages and restrictions for robots.txt files.
Labs – This feature allows you to experiment on different tools from GWT, such as the following:
3. Customise crawler access
There are particular pages on your site that you do not want search engines to index. You can prevent them from doing so by creating a robots.txt file. This is an “instruction” per se to spiders, limiting them from gaining access to certain webpages.
With the use of GWT, you can create and preview what you made before you upload it. You can find out if you did it properly or if you have to enhance it further.
4. Earn sitelinks
Results pages of Google may show additional links from your site which they find relevant or compelling. These will let you dominate the page, which means that your visibility is increased.
Currently, these are automated, which means that you have to earn them from Google by improving the quality of your internal links. Use only anchor texts and Alternative texts that are brief, clear, and relevant to your niche. They should also not be repetitive of keywords.
Now if you think a sitelink URL is not helpful for your site, you can demote it by heading to Site Configuration and clicking Sitelinks. There is a For this search result box where you can indicate the URL that you do not want the link to appear. And in a Demote this sitelink URL, indicate the sitelink URL that you wish to remove.
5. Target keywords
Use the Search Queries report to identify how often your keywords or pages appear in results pages and how many clicks they have garnered.
There is a tab for Top Queries that tell you which are your top search terms. And for better organisation, you can sort them through clicks, positions in SERPs, or number of searches.
6. Index new content
You can ask Google to crawl particular Webpages on your site via Fetch as Googlebot. This will only take a few minutes, and then you will be given a report about what they found. You will be presented with a raw HTML, which is basically what users and search engines see when they visit your page.
This tool is also immensely useful when you have new content on your website. You can hasten the process of indexing by submitting a URL and having it crawled by search spiders.
And when you click on Submit to Index, you can make sure that this page and the pages it links to are included in Google’s index. You are only allowed to do this for 10 times a week, but that is more than enough to boost your site’s rankings.
Google Webmaster Tools can help you understand how search engines view and assess your site. It also helps you detect any problems that could jeopardise your ranking in results pages. So, I suggest you sign up immediately and get started with optimisation.
About the Author:
Emma Tomlinson is the Head of Retail at Smart Traffic, an SEO agency London listed at the Top 10 of the Microsoft Tech Track 100 for 2011.
Thanks for sharing in details. A very useful post for a beginner blogger.
Santanu recently posted..Latest Google panda update 22 disclosed
Glad to know that you get something useful here bro