Google Webmaster tools is potentially one of the most underutilized tools available to monitor the performance and health of your website, particularly as it relates to SEO. In my last post, I have Google Analytics, Why do I need Webmaster Tools Part 2, we covered:
- Submitting an XML Sitemap
- Google Webmaster Search Queries
- Links to Your Site
- Content Keywords
- Bing Bonus
Now it’s time to go over some of the other key Google Webmaster features you can take advantage of:
- Index Status
- Crawl Errors
- HTML Improvements
- Author Stats
Google Webmaster tools tracks both the number of pages crawled and the number of pages indexed. First search engines crawl the pages on a website and then they index them to make them available to display in search results.
You want to see a steady increase in the number of pages crawled and indexed over time. That means the search engines can regularly access your content.
The number will fluctuate as new pages are added and indexed and old pages are removed. The number of indexed pages is almost always a lot smaller than the number of pages crawled because they don’t include duplicate content, pages that are determined as less useful, or that you’ve told them not to index.
One thing to note, is that Google and Bing have different formulas when it comes to indexing a website and they don’t index pages at the same rate. Which is why it’s important to set up and monitor basic statistics in both tools.
This is a great troubleshooting tool. As much as we would like to think there are no broken links on our site, things happen and broken links occur. They can be caused by something as simple as a bad URL because a character was left off during the copy and paste process. In this section of Google Webmaster tools, you’ll see:
- Server errors (call the IT guy, unless you are the IT guy)
- List of URLs that have an error – usually a 404 error (page not found)
- Access denied error
Once you’ve corrected the broken URL, you can mark it as “fixed” and notify Google. Here are some tips on how to fix broken links.
One other thing to note, while I’m on the subject, is that you should also run link checks on your site to identify any broken links to other websites. There’s nothing worse than clicking on a link that you think is going to take you to a great resource and you get an error page instead. I found this handy free tool to check for outbound broken links.
Google Makes it easy for you to find and fix html problems that can affect your SEO. There’s a nice dashboard with all of the key HTML page elements. the display includes the number of pages with an issue and a link to a list of the URLs
- Duplicate Meta description
- Long Meta descriptions
- Short Meta descriptions
- Missing title tag
- Duplicate title
- Long title tags
- Short title tags
- Non-informative title tags
- Non-indexable content
This list provides you with a starting point to make changes that may help your site’s user experience, performance, and SEO. The one thing Google doesn’t tell you which pages are missing meta descriptions, but a tool like Screaming Frog can help you with that.
Google Webmaster Author Stats
There’s a “Lab” area in Webmaster Tools where you can find one of my favorite features, Author Stats. Author stats shows results for the pages that you are the verified author. Or in other words it’s all of the articles and Google+ posts you’ve written that are associated with you as the author because you verified your Google authorship.
In the Author Stats dashboard you’ll see:
- Impressions – the number of times the pages was shown in search results
- Average position – average top position for the page
- Clicks – number of times someone clicked on the link
- Click through rate – the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions
Bing Webmaster tools includes very similar functionality and gives you insight into how your site is performing in Bing. It’s true that Google is the 800 lb gorilla and gets the majority of the search traffic, however it only takes a few extra minutes to make sure your pages are being crawled and indexed by Bing as well.
Bing also has a neat Keyword research tool. You enter a keyword in the search box and it returns a report that shows you ho many times the keyword appeared in Bing for a given time period. It also displays a list of related keywords and their search volume.
You may be wondering how often you should check Webmaster tools. I check anything having to do with errors, indexing or crawling almost every day. You want to be alerted to any potential problems as soon as possible so you can fix them. I analyze the keyword data and search trends on a monthly basis.
When a website is brand new, there’s no choice but to compare key metrics with the previous period, but once you have a year’s worth of data it’s better to compare statistics year over year because everything seems to have a cycle.
Here are a couple of additional resources for you to reference and learn how to use Google Webmaster tools to improve the performance of your website:
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