5 Tips for Getting Started with Google Webmaster Tools.  

By Anthony Coe | Google AdWords

Sep 12

So you want more organic traffic and leads right?

Google Webmaster Tools (WMTs) is an awesome free tool that offers you plenty of valuable ways to manage how Google indexes your website pages, diagnose technical issues and gain key insights into how your website displays and performs in the search engines results.

In this post, we have handpicked a few of the most important WMTs features to ensure your website is correctly optimised to be crawled, indexed and ranked by Google. But first a few points on getting your site verified:

Getting Verified

Before you can start using Google WMT for your website, you need to verify that you own the site.

Google has made this easy with multiple ways to verify, such as uploading a file to your server, adding an HTML tag into your code or using Google Analytics.

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The easiest and our recommended method would be to use Google Analytics (provided you already have the relevant tracking code snippets for the service installed) as you won’t need to edit code or modify your anything on your server to do the deed.

To get this right:

  1. Ensure that your Google Analytics account is linked to the same Google account as Google Webmaster Tools.
  2. Select Google Analytics from the verification options

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  1. Hit verify
  2. And this screen should appear:

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Boom! Now you’re in business.

1.)          Country Targeting

If you have a generic top-level domain name, such as .com, .info or .biz (see other examples), and you are targeting users in a specific region (i.e. Australia), Google WMT allows you to specify the country that you are targeting.

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This will ensure that Google knows that your webpages should come up for queries in the search engine relevant to this region. For example: Google.com.au.

To enable geographic targeting:

  1. Click Search Traffic (on the left menu)
  2. Click International Targeting
  3. Click Country.
  4. Tick ‘Target user in {Region}’
  5. Select the relevant country
  6. Hit save.

This tool is especially useful if your website is not hosted in your target region (i.e. you are targeting Australian searchers, but your site is hosted in Texas).

Also, take note that Country Targeting isn’t available for sites that have country-coded top level domains, such as www.example.com.au (targeting Australia), as Google will already have associated your domain with a particular region. See an example below:

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2.)          Submitting an XML Sitemap

Although Google does a smack-up job of finding your webpages on their own, submitting an XML sitemap helps Google (and other search engines) understand how your content is organised as well as allowing Google to discover any new or recently modified pages.

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If you don’t already have an XML sitemap and need to create one there are plenty of free tools on the web.

To submit your XML sitemap

1.)    Click Crawl (on the left menu)

2.)    Click Sitemaps

3.)    Click Add / Test Sitemap (on the right)

4.)    Insert the URL of your sitemap.

Once you have submitted your sitemap, check the history below to identify any issues.

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3.)          Managing Crawl Errors

The crawl errors page can be easily found under Crawl left menu.

Crawl errors arise when Googlebot (Google’s web crawling bot) is unable your website content. These errors can either be Site errors or URL errors.

If you are not technically inclined, items such as DNS, server response codes and soft 404s may seem daunting at first, but getting to know the basic terminology will assist in diagnosing issues, understanding their severity and determining the appropriate next steps.

You are also going to need some help from a website ninja to implement the changes.

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    • Site Errors: These include DNS, Server Connectivity & Robots.txt fetch errors over the past 90 days.
    • DNS: DNS stands for Domain Name System, a system that associates your domain name (https://www.example.com) to the IP address of your website. Errors occur when the DNS server cannot recognise your hostname (https://www.example.com).  If the DNS button is not showing a green tick, notify your hosting company with an attached screenshot.
    • Server Connectivity: This typically occurs when Google is being blocked from accessing your site or your server is taking too long to respond.  Google provides a comprehensive list of possible server connectivity errors and solutions at Webmaster Tools support.
    • Robots.txt Fetch: Before Google crawls your website they attempt to access your robots.txt file (a file on your server that providers instructions to Google & other bots on which pages they are allowed to access). If the server responds with an Unreachable Error (5XX), Google will postpone its crawl of your website at a later date.  Learn more about Unreachable Errors.

To diagnose URL crawl errors:

1.)    Click one of the URLS Error Categories listed in the grey bar (Server Error, Soft 404 or Not Found). Below the graph, a list of errors will appear.

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2.)    Then click on one of the listed URLs and a pop-up will appear providing error details as well as pages linking to the error URL.

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Depending on the nature of the errors, different actions will be required – such as modifications to the server configuration, reformatting robots.txt files and 301 redirection.

By regularly attending to crawl errors on your website, you can ensure that your content is always accessible to both search engines and users – improving your chances of achieving higher search engines rankings and better user experience.

4.)          Analysing your Backlinks

Links to your site can have a positive influence on your search engine rankings and provide valuable traffic to your website. But if they are from low quality sites or setup to manipulative search engines rankings, they can also have the reverse effect on rankings – potentially getting your site penalised.

Therefore, it is important to regularly assess your backlink profile and weed out potentially harmful links to your website.

Although there are a number of online tools available for analysing the quantity and quality of backlinks (such as Ahrefs, OSE & Majestic SEO), Google WMT’s “Who links the most” report is the most comprehensive list of backlinks that you will find.

The downside is that the report doesn’t give you any indication as to the quality of domains linking to yours.  So, we recommend downloading your link data from WMT and analysing this data with third party tools, such as MozCheck.com & Open Site Explorer. We recommend spending some time getting to know key metrics such as Domain Authority, MozRank and the NoFollow Tag.

Once you have identified potential any harmful links to your website, you should make contact the relevant webmasters and request that they remove your links. If they don’t comply after several attempts, consider using Google’s Disavow Tool.

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  5.)          Search Query Report

The search query report incorporates several key performance metrics on a query and page level to help you monitor the success of your SEO efforts.

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Some of these useful metrics within the report include:

      • Queries: the number of different keywords for which your site’s URL appeared.
      • Impressions: the number of times your site appeared in the results for a particular query.
      • Clicks:  the number of times users clicked your listings (this figure is typically rounded).
      • CTR: the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions multiplied 100.
      • Ave Position:  the average ranking position for a particular keyword.

By using the “With Change” button you can compare these metrics to a previous period to analyse whether particular pages are increasing or decreasing and optimise your SEO plan accordingly.

Also, be sure to use the filters tab if you only want to see results for a particular location or device.

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Conclusion

In this post, we have outlined 5 key ways you can fire up your SEO with Google Webmaster Tool. We covered setting your target location, submitting an XML sitemap, managing crawl errors, analysing backlinks and getting to know the search query report.

 

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