Jun 17, 2013 11:21:00 AM

Google Webmaster Tools 101

Posted by Matthew Campion

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Google Webmaster Tools | Google Webmaster Tools 101

Improving your site’s visibility is a crucial first step to online marketing. Before you can engage prospects and ask them to buy a product or follow your brand, they should be able to access your website through any device anywhere, anytime.

The point is, your website should be running smoothly 24/7 and you should have the proper URLs indexed in search engines. It’s your job as a webmaster to "tune up" your website. There are many tools, both free and premium, that let you fix problems and improve overall site visibility, however, none of them can match Google’s very own Webmaster Tools.

Diagnose and Fix Site Problems

Once logged in to your Webmaster account, the first screen you’ll see is the dashboard. You can find pertinent information here regarding your website and other messages from Google that may concern your site visibility.

Is your site down or inaccessible? Are your pages infected with malware? Google will let you know which pages have been affected or are likely to experience problems.

It's important to analyze different diagnostics to find out potential crawling issues with your website, such as site errors and URL errors. Site errors are problems that prevent Google from accessing your site. These errors usually occur from an overloaded server or a server that is simply down. Your website may have been setup to block Google from crawling your entire site as well. URL errors are problems Google faced when trying to crawl specific pages on your site. These pages maybe internal broken links or external broken links pointing back to your site. Google provides you the information necessary to update these links and/or setup redirects for any old deleted pages.

To help with indexation, Google allows you to manage your sitemap and robots.txt files. Google gives you the ability to submit an XML sitemap which contains all of the URLs on your site that you would like to have indexed in Google's search engine, including which pages are a higher priority for Google to frequently crawl. Indexation maintance is not only about getting your pages indexed, you also want to make sure certain pages such as a conversion "thank you" page or a directory that contains an entire developement version of your site is not indexed in Google. By having Google check your robots.txt file, you can ensure you are telling them the proper pages to block from their index. If you've just updated or added a brand new page, Google Webmaster Tools even has the option to fetch "Googlebot" to instantly crawl the URL.

Get Informed and Take Action

Not all messages and notifications sent to your dashboard are bad. Sometimes, Google sends informational messages about their product and messages to help improve your website. It may, for instance, ask you update to the latest WordPress version and keep your site secured. Messages like this helps you take care of “small” significant issues that are often overlooked. Google will even occassionally congratulate you on a site traffic increase.

Who links to or searches for your website? Google’s free application lets you find quality, relevant links. Simply click on the “Links to your site” to view the comprehensive report. And when you click on the “Search Queries” link, you’ll get search intelligence report centered around keyword performance. Just click on a keyword if you want more specific information.

Improving your online visibility is daunting yet necessary. Competitors are trying hard to get noticed. Outsmart them by utilizing the best of your marketing toolbox. Start with Google's Webmaster Tools.

The Value of a #1 Ranking

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