Google Webmaster Tools is a free service from Google that provides webmasters with tools and data about their site. I want to touch on some of the benefits of authenticating your site through this service. The first step is to have a Google account (set it up here).
The Diagnostic Tools section provides information on any crawling issues that Google may be having with your website. This section will provide a list of problematic URLs with a short description of the problem. You can use this data to further investigate the individual pages on your site that may be hindering Google in the indexing of your site. If you have too many errors, your URL structure may not be Google-friendly.
I really like this section. You can find the top queries in Google that return your site as well as the top keywords generating clicks. The tool even allows you to define your search parameter to a specific month, 4 weeks ago, 3 weeks ago, 2 weeks ago, or even last week.
This section also provides “crawl stats”. It shows the last 90 days of activity from Googlebot (Google’s search engine spider). Here you can see the number of pages crawled per day, the number of kilobytes downloaded per day, and the time spent downloading a page. The number of pages crawled can be used as a gauge on how Google-friendly the URL structure is. The time spent downloading a page can be a indicator as to whether you have any performance issues with your site.
The section also provides a graphical representation of your Google Page Rank for all of your pages combined. It also provides the page URL with the highest Page Rank. There is quite the debate as to whether Page Rank is something that should be monitored. I believe that it is a “loose” indicator on how authoritative a site is compared the webosphere.
Understanding that links can influence your search engine rankings, this section provides some additional insight on external links as well your internal linking structure. The section provides a list of pages that have inbound links pointing to them. You can use this tool to track you linking efforts to see if they are effective. The tool also provides insight on the website’s internal linking structure. Analyzing this data may help you find areas of your site that are not linked effectively with other pages on the site.
The Sitemaps section allows you to claim any current general, mobile, code, geo, or video sitemaps. Sitemaps help assist Google in finding all of your content that they may not otherwise discover. Read more about sitemaps.
There are some effective tools within this section that can help you with your overall search engine optimization strategy. You can have your current robots.txt file analyzed or you can generate one if you currently do not have one for your website. The robots.txt file can prevent search engines from indexing certain areas of your site (i.e. admin section), certain files, or even prevent certain search engine robots from crawling your site.
Set Geographic Target: This tool allows you to define your geographic area that you want to associate with your site. Currently the tool allows you to limit by country. My guess is that as local search continues to grow, e will see state or regional geo-targeting options.
Set Preferred Domain: This tool allows the site owner to choose either the www or non-www version of the URL as the one you would like used to index your site’s pages. This is also referred to URL canonicalization. Search engines can see variations of the same domain as different pages and this can cause confusion and possible ranking reductions.
Enhanced Image Search: This tool allows the Google to index your images and to include them in the image search. This can be an effective strategy for sites to drive additional traffic through Google’s image search. Now if you are a professional photographer, you may want to opt out of this to protect your images.
Remove URLs: This tool allows you to remove content from the Google index. You may be saying why in the world would someone not want their content in Google. Well maybe the site had a promotional page that is no longer valid or the content page was removed from the website.
Enhanced 404 Pages: This tool creates a custom 404 error page widget. Instead of providing the un-friendly default system 404 error page, you can now enhance it to make it easier for site visitors to find the information they need on your site.
These are just some of the features and uses of Google Webmaster Tools. At Sales & Marketing Technologies our team of marketers can help you to decipher what your website needs to help it be optimized for search engines and usability. Contact us today for a free consultation.