Webmaster Tools: Why you need to check this regularly
Webmaster Tools is a free tool kit provided by Google where you can carry out a range of tasks to either help improve the optimisation of your website or find out a little more information about how it’s performing.
Some of the important things you can do include:
- Asking Google to re crawl your website after some recent updates
- Checking in on some errors that Google has found when crawling your website
- Looking at who is linking to you
- Getting an idea of how you’re performing within search engines
As a website owner, it’s very important you use these tool kits provided by the search engines because they will help you achieve better optimisation and overall search engine performance.
This article focusses on some of the important information you can find out using Google Webmaster Tools, but there other good toolkits like Bing’s that you should also familiarise yourself with.
Here’s six things that you can find out and work on from the information presented within Google’s Webmaster Tools;
1. Webmaster Tools shows you who is linking to your website
With the algorithm updates that’s happened over the last two years relating to link spam, this section is by far one of the most important ones to look for (In fact I had this as point five but now moving it to point 1).
You would use this to find out who is linking to your content, what is your most linked to piece of content and an idea of the text within the link they are using.
Take time with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine (other drinks are available of course!) and separate the good from the ugly. Take your ugly list and start looking into these websites with the intention of making contact to ask if they can remove their link to you (which you are fully entitled to do).
The aim of this exercise to be left with a link profile that has naturally been built from a result of you building your brand awareness and people talking about you in the right way. Some examples of links that could land you in hot water are:
- Ones you have previously paid for, that are marked as “follow”
- Those coming from article directories
- Links coming from thin and manipulative looking directories (i.e. directories that are simply there for link building purposes and barely has any traffic other than the people who are trying to get a link removed)
- Any links from site with security concerns; viruses, malware etc
- Ones from websites with extremely poor content, thin content that adds absolute no value to the end user
Unfortunately some of these links used to work (to an extent) and some people chose to follow suit just to compete and survive. Thankfully Google has implemented changes to stop this and make sure that people earn their stripes through excellent service/product delivery and a good reputation.
At the risk of this section turning into a tutorial on how to remove links and not Webmaster Tools, I just need to say that if you have no success in getting your links manually removed then jump to point 6 in this article to learn about the Disavow process.
2. Webmaster tools can show you crawl errors
If you’ve recently made a lot of changes to your product database, maybe you’ve removed some products or you’ve migrated to a new shopping cart, then Webmaster Tools will show you what pages Google’s trying to access but can no longer find.
These pages are referenced as “404’s” and too many of these can hinder your optimisation and search engine visibility.
In the area that Webmaster Tools shows you this (Crawl > Crawl Errors > Not Found), you can retest if you’ve fixed the broken link or reactivated the page through your CMS or shopping cart. Once satisfied you can then “Mark as Fixed” and the error will be removed from the list – until the next time of course.
3. Webmaster tools allows you to force a new crawl of your website
Again you may have made a lot of improvements to your content, either within your category or product pages, to improve the optimisation and usability. In Webmaster Tools you can fetch Google back to analyse the changes and update their indecies.
This is particularly useful if you’ve noticed that one of your meta titles or descriptions has a spelling mistake, or simply not as strong for CTR (click through rate) as your competitors. Simply hop into your CMS or Shopping Cart, make the improvement then use WMT (Webmaster Tools) to fetch Google back. Updates can be taken in and presented within the search engine results pages within 24 hours.
4. Webmaster tools shows you errors relating to resources within your sitemap
It can happen that a robots.txt file or a delayed repsonse on the server can prevent Google from accessing a resource (whether be a page or image) from your sitemap.
In the first point I explained how Google will show you a list of the pages it can’t access, however that section won’t give you insight into the reason why – other than they believe it doesn’t exsist.
In the sitemap section of WMT it will give slightly more insight and could say some of the following:
- “When we tested a sample of the URLs from your Sitemap, we found that the site’s robots.txt file was blocking access to some of the URLs”
- “When we tested a sample of the URLs from your Sitemap, we found that some URLs were not accessible to Googlebot due to network timeouts”
- “Sitemap contains urls which are blocked by robots.txt.”
5. Webmaster Tools gives some insight into the keywords people use to find your website
Not only does WMT give you insight into what people are typing into the search engine before landing on your website, it also gives you information such as:
- Impressions – how often you’ve been presented to the end user within the search results (but not necessarily clicked on). You could argue that this gives you another idea of your overall search visibility
- Clicks – an idea of how many visits you’ve had from that keyword within the time frame you’ve stated
- Click Through Rate (CTR) – this is basically a percentage comparison of clicks from the number of impressions, which can be used to tell you how well your meta title and description are performing
- Avg. Position – they do give you some insight into rankings, but again this may not reflect exactly what you see on the screen due to different proxies, browser cache, location and generally how Google now presents its results
So there’s some cool statistics you can pull out but I wouldn’t recommend just using this. Combine this with the data you get from things like Google Analytics, Moz Pro, SEO Powersuite Rank Tracker just to name a few.
6. Webmaster Tools lets you tell Google what links to ignore
As mentioned at the end of point 1, this is the place you go to tell Google you’ve tried to get the links removed but had no joy. Now you need them to ignore the links you submit to help reduce the impact they are having on your search engine visibility.
To do this effectively, follow the instructions outlined within their help section and then follow this link (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main) to submit your file for review.
You can come back to this file at a later date and download it to make updates before re-uploading. It’s not entirely certain what other things Google does with this data (other than using this to ignore links that point to you of course) but it’s still a great tool offering all the same.
Thanks for reading..
So that’s my quick round up of some of the key areas within Google’s Webmaster Tools. Watch out for our overview of the Bing tool kit and the additional information and features they offer you.
If there’s anything you’d like us to look at for you then please do give us a call, otherwise enjoy the rest of your day and best wishes with the success of your online business.