Google Webmasters 101
When you optimize a website as per the search engine algorithms, its visibility and the search rankings improve. As a result, you will see an increase in the number of visitors, out of which some of them may be converted into customers as well. In order to boost your SEO efforts, it’s necessary for you to have a good understanding of what exactly Google wants from your website. This is where Google Webmasters comes into the picture.
What is Google Webmasters?
You need to make sure that your website is running smoothly without any problems. Also, it’s important to keep an eye on your website regularly so that if any problems arise, you can rectify them immediately. For this purpose, there are many free and paid tools, but nothing compares to Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). Apart from notifying you of any issue and suggesting measures to solve them, one can use Google Webmaster Tools to boost the SEO efforts as well. So, if you want to boost your organic search rank on Google, then you need to follow Google Webmaster guidelines.
Moreover, Google Webmaster Tools provides insights about your website which you may not get from Google Analytics. This includes insights about your web traffic or any marketing efforts on your website. Plus, you get detailed information from GWT. Some of them can even be too technical, and you may have to ask your web development team to look into it for solving the matter, if any. The tools provided by GWT are for free and focus on different SEO factors. Therefore, with Google Webmasters, you can make a step by step modification to your website to boost your optimization process.
Getting Started with Google Webmaster Tools
To begin, you need to sign in to Google Webmasters Tools. You will be asked to add your website details. The next step is to get your website verified.
Getting your website verified is important because you do not want someone else to get access to your website data. Hence, you should verify that you are the owner of the website. Click on “Verify this Property”, and you will be directed to the verification page. There are multiple ways to verify that you are the owner of the website. You can upload an HTML file which is one of the preferred methods to verify. To verify your website using an HTML file, follow these steps.
- Download the blank HTML file provided by Google Webmaster Tools and upload it to your server through FTP. Make sure you give the HTML file a name that is specific to the verification process.
- Visit the created page and confirm that the file is uploaded.
- Go back to Google Webmaster Tools interface, check the “I’m not a robot” option and then click the “Verify” option. This completes your verification process.
Alternate ways to verify your ownership include the following:
- HTML Tag: Here you need to copy and paste a meta tag provided by GWT into the head section, before the first section (as shown below) of your website’s homepage and then click “Verify”.
- Domain Name Provider: Select your domain name registrar or provider from the drop list. You will get a unique verification token and instructions on how to use it. This step varies for different domain name providers
- Google Analytics: If you use Google Analytics, then you can verify your ownership by using your tracking code. This tracking code should be added in the head section of your page and you should have the permission to edit the Analytics web property.
- Google Tag Manager: Use your Google Tag Manager account to verify. However, you should have the permission to manage the Task Manager container to go ahead with this alternative to verify your ownership.
Once the verification process is complete, you will see the GWT dashboard. It will give you an overview of the most important things such as the current status of crawl errors, search queries, sitemaps, etc. You can customize the dashboard settings as per your preference.
Go the right corner of the page where you see the cog settings icon. Clicking on it will give you a drop-down list of various settings that you can do.
- Webmaster Tools Preferences: In this option, you can select your preferred language, choose whether you want to be contacted by email and also what problems you want to be notified about.
- Site Settings: You can select the country you want to target, tell the search engine whether your website should show up with “www” or not, set the frequency at which Google bots will index your website.
- Change of Address: If your website is moving to a new domain, then you can inform Google about it in this setting.
- Google Analytics Property: In this setting, you can link your Google Analytics to Google Webmaster Tools account. This way you get better access to data from both these accounts.
- Users and Site Owners: You can edit who can access and manage your GWT account.
- Verification Details: This section will allow you to view any verification problems and successful attempts.
- Associates: This setting allows you to link Google accounts to GWT account. However, unless you add other Google accounts as admin, they won’t be able to access the data.
After you have configured your settings, you can go through all the important sections.
This option is displayed at the top of the dashboard. Site messages are used by Google to communicate with the website owners. It notifies the owners regarding regular maintenance issues, any virus that is affecting your site or any other program that is causing problems. Therefore, you do not have to go about scanning the website to identify any issues as Google will do it for you free and at the same time, bring any problem to your notice.
This section will show an overview of how your website appears in the search engines. Clicking on the “I” icon from the main menu will display elements that affect your search rankings. This will include the title, snippet, sitelinks, URL, search within a site, event-rich snippet, and author information.
This section allows you to help the search engine to identify structured data on your website without any code to implement it.
You get information about structured data on your websites such as hcard, schema.org, breadcrumbs, and other data formats.
This section will provide some really good optimization tips. The title and the meta description tags influence the search ranking. If there’s any problem with them, GWT will inform you about it. Common problems with the title and the meta description tags include they are too long; they may not be unique, etc. It’s important to consider these improvements because if the content for the title and the meta description is not well-written, then readers may not come to your site. Readers tend to read the title and the meta description before deciding to click your website link. Therefore, you need to ensure that you take Google’s suggestion into account and come up with great content description for your audience.
These are hyperlinks to a website’s subpages that appear below the main URL listing in the search results. When you have such links, Google perceives your website as an authority for the search query that was entered. Nevertheless, you do not have the option of adding which links should appear and hence, at times, there may be certain links that you do not wish them to be there. Therefore, in this GWT section, you can specify to Google which pages you want to be removed from the sitelinks list. If you’ve demoted a page, you can get it back to the sitelinks list after 90 days.
Google Webmasters will look at the top keyword searches for which your website was listed in the search engine result pages (SERPs). It will also give information about each keyword term such as the number of clicks for your website, average position, total impressions, etc. This information can be used to further boost your SEO efforts. If your page gets ranked on top of the search result but has a poor click-through rate, then you can make modifications to your page content in order to make it more appealing to your audience by optimizing meta description or optimizing other elements. This way, you can improve your click-through rate for your best performing page in the search results.
The information on search traffic can also be accessed by page data instead of the keywords. It will help you to compare two web pages thus, providing you with more insights.
This area will show the websites that have linked to your website along with the most linked web pages. You may not be able to see all the external links to your website, but this section can provide some useful data.
If your website was reviewed by Google’s webspam team, then this is where you will get the notice. You will be notified that your website got a manual spam action and the reason why it was done so. There can be several reasons why this must’ve happened. Some of them are explained in video series by Matt Cutts.
This section will display the top web pages on your website in order of the maximum number of internal links received. If there are pages, which do not have any internal link, then you should consider passing on your link juice by adding internal links from your best performing or highly ranked pages. In this way, the web pages which were not being indexed by Google spiders previously will get indexed and ranked in the search results.
Indexing basically refers to the process of adding your web pages in the Google search. If the pages are not indexed by Google spiders, then they won’t be featured in the search results organically.
Here you receive an update on how many pages on your website are indexed by Google. At times, there’s a possibility that you may have mistakenly blocked Google spiders from indexing some of your pages. So, this place will give you the details of any pages not being indexed, and you can accordingly make changes to your website setting.
In case there are pages which you do not want to be indexed at all due to some reasons, then you can delete the page from the index from this section. Some may use 301 redirects, but this won’t prevent the page from getting it indexed by the search engine. Hence, the best option to remove such pages by adding the URLs in this section.
The content keywords section will list the keywords that connect to your website as per the search engine. In fact, these are commonly used keywords identified by Google bots when they crawl your website. Should you find any keywords not relating to the services or products offered by you, then you need to consider looking into this matter. Unrelated keywords listing can be a sign that your website is hacked, and the irrelevant keyword is hidden somewhere in your pages or articles. However, if the keywords are somewhat related to your firm’s offerings, it means you are not creating content related to your offerings. In such situations, you should modify content and create relevant pieces of information on your website so that it gets featured for the right keyword phrase that you are looking for.
Here you will receive all the data relating to crawling status for a website.
This subsection will display statistics regarding how quickly Google bots are able to crawl through your website. The quicker they are able to crawl through your website, the better it is for you in terms of enhancing your SEO efforts. Google regards website speed as one of the important factors to create a good user-friendly experience and hence, it’s important that your website loads quickly. Google will show the average time to download a web page or crawl through your website. If the average time is longer, then you need to contact your web development team and make the necessary changes to reduce the loading time. For this purpose, check your file sizes, take a look at the changes made to your website, and also consider changing the format in which the information is provided.
When Google bots visit your website, you will be able to see if there are any crawl errors. Usually, there’s a log activity for 90 days, and you can use it to identify if there’s any problem that’s preventing Google bots from crawling your website correctly. The log activity will display if the crawling issue has developed slowly or suddenly. Check if you have made any changes to your website around the time when these issues have been reported, and you will be able to spot the issue.
Fetch as Google
Here you will find how Google views your pages. You will receive the page HTTP response, date and time, the first 100kb of the text that can be viewed from a page, and the page’s HTML code.
In case you want to prevent Google bots from crawling certain pages, then you can do so by blocking the URLs in this subsection. Plus, you can test any changes to your robots.txt files and check if it affects your website.
To submit and check the status of your sitemaps, you need to visit this section. Submitting the sitemap to Google Webmasters eases the process for bots to access your website. Moreover, if there’s any update on your website, the sitemap will also get updated. This will notify the Google bots that there’s an update to your website and they will visit it to see what’s the update about. In addition, if there are any errors with sitemaps, you will be notified about the same in this section.
This section will tell Google if any specific URL query string parameters should not be considered when it counts your URLs.
If there are any security problems such as any malware is found, your website is hacked or any security breaches, then Google Webmasters will report you. You need to take immediate action before the situation worsens and affects your website rank.
Apart from the above-mentioned sections, there are two other sections in GWT that include Other Resources and Labs. The Other Resources section contain tools and links to Google products and services. The Labs section is where Google will carry out tests to add new features and tools in GWT. Both these sections change on a regular basis depending on new features and tests carried out by Google.
That’s all I have in this article for you about Google Webmasters. If you haven’t started with Google Webmaster Tools, then you can begin with it now and boost your optimization process. After all, this tool is available for free. Ensure you stay updated with the latest development in GWT so that your SEO is not affected. If you have anything to add or any queries regarding GWT, then write to me in the comment section below.