Google Webmaster Tools provides website and blog owners with a free set of statistics about their site. You might consider using Google Webmaster Tools if your web hosting does not provide a very good statistics program or want to supplement your web hosting stats program with additional information. All that is required to get started is a Google Account and going through the verification process.
Google Webmaster Tools is different than Google Analytics. Webmaster Tools focuses on statistics about your website and how it appears on the web within Google’s search engine. Google Analytics focuses on how your visitors arrive from Google searches, how you place in the search results for keywords/phrases, your click through rate and bounce rate.
We are going to focus on Google Webmaster Tools in this article and cover general information on the following sections information available to you once you sign up for Webmaster Tools:
- Dashboard Screen
- Site Configuration Screen
- Your Site on the Web Screen
- Diagnostics Screen
- Labs Screen
Ocassionally, Google will have a message for you about something they found out about your site. By default the message is put into your Google Webmaster Tools acount waiting for you the next time you login. Some of the messages Google sends you are very important. Once you setup your Webmaster Tools account, change the message deliver to the email address associated with the account so you will get instant notification.
When you click the domain name you are tracking in Webmaster Tools you will be taken to the Dashboard.
The Dashboard gives you a quick overview of some stats like search queries, crawl errors, keywords, sitemaps and links to your site. All these are also down the left side of the screen under the different sections with extended information we will be covering in this article.
The Site Configuration screen is all the information about your Sitemaps, crawler access, Sitelinks, change of Address and settings. Clicking Site Configuration on the left of the screen exposes links to this informaiton.
Sitemaps are special XML files on your web hosting account that provide information for Google, Yahoo!, Bing and other search engines that support the Sitemaps protocol. This is different than the site map you see on websites when you click the site map link provide.
Once you have created a Sitemap for your site and uploaded it to the web space, you can go to this screen to let Google know you have one.
This is the screen where you can see the last time Google looked at your robots.txt file, test your robots.txt file and remove any urls Google has indexed that it shouldn’t have.
You may have noticed that sometimes when you do a search in Google there are some extra links under the results listing. These are called Sitelinks. On the Sitelinks page Google will let you know if they have set any up for your site and what links they have used.
Sitelinks are created automatically by Google. You can not request these but if you have some Google does provide a button to block them being shown (you have to do this one by one).
Change of Address
In this screen Google lets you notify them that you have changed the url of your site. It requires the new domain name and site being setup, the domain name being verified in your Webmaster Tools account and a 301 permanent redirect instruction in your .htaccess file first.
Note: Doing this is not really necessary. The instruction in the .htaccess file serves the same purpose and is used by all the search bots.
This is different from adding and deleting pages from your site. This is just for you main url (web address) only.
The Settings screen shows what geographic area your site is targetted for in Google, where you can tell Google which version of your url (www.mydomain.com or mydomain.com) to use and set the crawl rate Google uses.
Note: Telling Google which version of your domain name to use in this screen is not going to let the other search engine bots know which version of your domain name to use. You should have an instruction in the .htaccess file for this as this provides the information to all the search bots.
The Your Site on the Web section shows you stats about how your site appears in Google’s search results. Click the Your Site on the Web link on the left to expose more links to these stats.
Search queries shows you your top queries and page in the Google search results. There is information about the number of impressions, number of clicks, the click through rate and average position in the results the phrase/page is showing. They also show you if you are improving or declining for each of these stats.
Links to Your Site
When you first click the Links to Your Site link you are taken to an overview page. It summarizes the highest domains linking to you, the highest pages linked and the phrases. All of this information can be expanded by clicking the more link under each section.
You will ask why these stats don’t match what you see in other stats programs. Google doesn’t want to let all it’s secrets out of the bag. There are people who try to manipulate the search results so Google keeps some information to themselves.
The keywords screen shows the single words your site is showing up for in Google. Not really helpful but you can click one to see the number of occurances and associated pages on your site for the word.
Internal links shows you the number of links within your own site that link to other pages on the site. This is important information because the pages are ordered greatest links to lowest. It will show you the pages on your own site that need some more links to it from within your site.
Internal linking is important for your link building strategy and to get your visitors to other sections of your site. Remember, a visitor does not necessarily arrive to your site at the home page. They can arrive on any page on the site therefore you need to help them see other parts of the site.
Subscriber Stats shows you the number of people who use Google’s RSS reader to keep up to date with your site additions. These stats require your site has a RSS feed, which most blogs have and can be added to a regular site also. The numbers do not include people who use other RSS feed readers to follow your site.
Using the Diagnostics screen you can see issues Google found while crawling your site.
Malware happens when your site has been compromised or you have installed a third party addon that contains scripting that is harmful to your visitors.
If you see the “Google has not detected any malware on this site.” message this is good! But if it doesn’t show this you need to track down what is causing the message you are infected with malware. Google now shows in the search results that they have found malware on the site, something you don’t want to happen.
Crawl errors include pages not found, what files you have restricted with the robots.txt file and if Google Mobile had problems accessing the site.
If there are any errors showing, these need to be fixed.
Page not found errors can be caused by you making a change and not using a 301 permanent redirect to indicate the page has moved or by people linking to the site incorrectly. Either way, this needs to be fixed. You don’t want visitors not getting to where they intended to arrive at.
Crawl stats shows the Googlebot’s activity on your site in the last 90 days via graphs. There will be peaks and valleys in the graphs which is nothing to worry about. If the graphs show low activity then that’s something to investigate.
Google will show you meta description problems, title tag problems and pages they couldn’t index under HTML Suggestions. These need your attention.
Each page needs an unique meta description and title tag. Google will point out it you don’t.
Labs is where Google shows some experimental and new information they are trying out.
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.
Fetch as Googlebot
Under Fetch as Googlebot you enter a page url and click fetch to see if Google can successfully reach the page. If you click the Success link it will show the code view of the page, which probably doesn’t mean much to you if you are not coding the pages yourself.
Site performance has a graph at the top of the page which has peaks and valleys. These indicate how fast or slow the site was when Google visited.
The slowness of your site can be caused by your web hosting, poor web page coding or third party features you have linked to that were not working properly.
Google itself, at the bottom of the page, recommends you use their Page Speed Firefox add-on for more accurate information.
Video Sitemaps were something fairly new when this article was written. It shows processing issues with your Video Sitemap (if you have one).
Google Webmaster Tools Summary
As you can see from all the information above, signing up for Google Webmaster Tools can provide you with some valuable information on how Google sees your site in their index. Some of this information is not only valuable to getting your site indexed in Google but also points out corrections that need to be made so your site is listed in other search engines also.
Google Webmaster Tools Interface Update
We consistently hear from webmasters that they have to prioritize their time. Some manage dozens or hundreds of clients’ sites; others run their own business and may only have an hour to spend on website maintenance in between managing finances and inventory. To help you prioritize your efforts, Webmaster Tools is introducing the idea of “site health,” and we’ve redesigned the Webmaster Tools home page to highlight your sites with health problems. This should allow you to easily see what needs your attention the most, without having to click through all of the reports in Webmaster Tools for every site you manage.
We just launched a new feature that allows you as a verified site owner to grant limited access to your site’s data and settings in Webmaster Tools. You’ve had the ability to grant full verified access to others for a couple of years. Since then we’ve heard lots of requests from site owners for the ability to grant limited permission for others to view a site’s data in Webmaster Tools without being able to modify all the settings. Now you can do exactly that with our new User administration feature.
Safely share access to your site in Webmaster Tools – Official Google Webmaster Tools Blog – March 05, 2012
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