Out of the many SEO tools, Google
Webmaster Tools is one of the most useful. It doesn't have all the
perks of commercial SEO suites and it is not a tool for any SEO need
but it comes from Google itself and it offers lots of vital SEO
insights. All these are good reasons to start using Google Webamaster
Tools (if you are not already doing it, of course).
What Is Google Webmaster Tools?
It is hardly difficult to guess from the name itself that Google
Webmaster Tools is a set of tools for webmasters. However, what you
don't know right away is that this is a very useful toolset that
allows you to communicate with Google and adjust many aspects of how
Google sees your site, such as list the external and internal links
to your site, adjust the crawl rate at which Google bot indexes your
site, check the keywords users typed to land on your site, as well as
the click through rate for each keyword, see your site's statistics,
and many more.
One issue that needs mentioning is privacy concerns. Since you are
giving Google a full access to your site's stats, you might be
worried about how they handle this data. While Google is a reputable
company and it is not very likely they will abuse the data you are
giving them access to, if confidentiality is a top concern for you,
think twice before letting Google (or any other statistics solution,
for that matter) to your site's secrets.
If you use Google Webmaster Tools together with Google Analytics,
the results will be even better. You can access your Google Webmaster
Tools data directly from Google Analytics, so if you are already
using Google Analytics, with just some more effort you could easily
integrate it with Google Webmaster Tools, too.
How Do I Get Started?
In order to use Google Webmaster Tools, you need to join it first.
You can do it from here.
After you join, you need to go through the verification process, so
that Google knows you are the legit owner of the site you want to use
Google Webmaster Tools on.
There are several ways to verify ownership. The first one is to
download an HTML file and to upload it to the root directory of your
site. Another one is to add an HTML tag into the head of your home
page. If you are using the same Google account for Google Analytics,
a third option to verify ownership is through Google Analytics. There
are more ways to verify ownership but if you are interested in them,
check the Google Webmaster Tools settings and you will see them.
Google Webmaster Tools to Use Daily
Once you have verified your ownership and have Google code in
place on your site, you can now start enjoying the advantages of
Google Webmaster Tools. When you log into your Google Webmaster Tools
account, the first thing you see is the Dashboard:
From here you can access all the major sections - Search Queries,
Links to Your Site, Crawl Errors, Keywords, and Sitemaps. Clicking on
any of these will open the respective section.
The Search Queries section shows the keywords that led users to
This long list shows which keywords users searched for when they
came to your site. It is best if this list matches the keywords you
are optimizing for but very frequently this list contains good
keywords you were unaware of. In this case, pick these good keywords
and start optimizing for them, too.
In the Search Queries section, you can also see the number of
impressions and the number of clicks, which gives you an idea about
the CTR for this keyword. All equal, a higher CTR means the keyword
is relevant, so you might want to invest some more efforts into this
keyword. However, if you notice that as a result of your efforts, the
CTR goes down, it is best if you don't touch this keyword anymore.
The second very useful section of Google Webmaster Tools is the
Links to Your Site section.
Here you can see where your backlinks
(internal and external) come from, as well as the pages they are
linking to. As with other link checking tools, don't expect that
every single link to your site is displayed but nevertheless this
list of backlinks is useful to check from time to time.
One of the advanced uses of the Links section is to disavow links
to your site you deem harmful. Links from bad sites can hurt your
rankings, so if you want to get rid of them, follow the instructions
The Crawl Errors section shows the errors Google bot encountered
on your site. The data you get is similar to what you get when you
use the Spider
Simulator and it shows inaccessible pages, missing pages, server
errors, and all sorts of problems that prevented Google from
correctly crawling your site. You also get some other crawl stats
(such as the number of pages crawled a day) that are useful to know.
Similarly to the Search Queries section that also deals with
keywords (but it is the ones users type to get to your site), the
Keywords section also shows keywords. However, the difference is that
here you see what keywords (and their significance) Google has found
on your site. The two lists (of keywords users type and the keywords
Google finds on your site) could be very different, which means you
are not optimizing for what users are searching for.
The Keywords section also allows to see the theme of your site,
which post Panda
has become even more important.
The last section you can access from the Dashboard is the Sitemaps
section. Here you see the sitemaps
of your site Google has found and the number of URLs in them. If the
sitemap found by Google is different from what you expected it to be,
you can submit a new sitemap for Google to use.
Robots.txt and Other Advanced Stuff
The sections described so far are the basic Google Webmaster Tools
sections. There is also a lot of advanced stuff in each of them but
we won't describe it into details. For instance, you can use your
Google Webmaster Tools to submit a robots.txt
file, or to set the preferred domain syntax (i.e. with or without
www) to be displayed in search results. Google Webmaster Tools also
allows to know if your site is infected with malware. If it is, you
need to clean it first and then resubmit it for review.
Google Webmaster Tools is a really valuable instrument for SEO. It
gives you at a glance data about all important SEO aspects of a site,
such as keywords, links, crawl errors, etc. If you don't use it
already, take the time and get familiar with it – it will help you
get better rankings for sure.