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August 8th

The Noob’s Guide To Google Webmaster Tools

The Noob’s Guide To Google Webmaster Tools

webmaster-tools google

 

What Is Google Webmaster Tools?

Welcome welcome readers! Whether you’be been here before or your first time, you’ve landed on the website of the greatest inbound lead marketing agencies this side of the Mississippi. We have one question for you. You interested in getting more good karma from the mighty mighty Google in the form of glorious free organic traffic? We all know that Google would like you to spend money on Adwords and paying for traffic, but most sites are salivating at the chomp to get a taste of that delicious organic search traffic and thus are throwing money and effort at search engine optimization (SEO).  SEO is a marathon and sometimes a technically overwhelming endeavor, however we fancy ourselves pretty good at it and we recommend no matter what SEO path you take, you need to get your GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) set up.

And since SEO is one of the most effective ways to “attract” traffic which allows the inbound marketing model to be so successful I think you should take a look into how GWT aids in SEO efforts. If you havent heard that term check out our post on what inbound marketing is to fill in the gaps.

Regardless if you plan on doing SEO yourself, outsourcing it or paying for in-house work it is worth your time to familiarize yourself with webmasters tools.

First off, it’s free! So you have no excuses on that front, plus webmaster tools from our friends at Google gives you insight with cold hard data. This allows you to make better informed decisions and if necessary hold whoever is doing your SEO accountable.

Here is how GWT works.

How to add a site to your google webmaster tools account

Adding Your Website To Google Webmaster Tools

 

First signup for GWT here (again it is free, so don’t stress about cash) and once you login you will need to add your site. Click the button shown in the above picture and webmaster tools will prompt you to verify you actually own the site your attempting to add to GWT.

Webmaster-tools allows you do do this 4 different ways:

  • Add a DNS record to your site’s domain configuration
    • Basically you sign into whatever provider you bought your domain with and add custom DNS records following GWT’s instructions
  • Add a custom meta tag via HTML to your sites homepage
    • GWT will provide a custom snippet of code that you simply add as a meta tag to your homepage HTML. Basically copy and paste. Really simple.
  • Upload an HTML file to your hosting backend/server
    • Like above, GWT provides a file that you simple upload via your hosting cPanel or FTP to your website directory
  • Link your GA (Google Analytics) account to GWT
    • If you have already added GA tracking to your site, this will verify automatically. This is the method I use most of the time because you should have GA no matter what!

webmaster - tools google dashboard

Google Webmaster Tools – Dashboard

 

Once your site is officially verified by the sentient AI’s over at Google central, you should start seeing data about your site in your dashboard view. If you don’t see it immediately, don’t panic as it can sometimes take a up to a few hours before the data begins to populate. But don’t worry, it is coming.

The webmaster tools dashboard shows you a general snapshot of everything from what keywords are ranking and driving you traffic to simply how much overall raw organic traffic you are actually getting.. Furthermore,  you can see if the Google bot is experiencing any crawl errors when checking out your site, how many different sites are linking to you, how many pages Google has indexed (meaning how many pages Google knows about on your site and has decided is worth storing in it’s index) if you have any manual spam actions (only if your buying shady Russian SAPE links in bulk or something like that) any of these areas that have anything needing your attention will be highlighted in the menu on the left.

Site Configuration

 

Just like everything else, Google isn’t perfect. So configuring your site can help them do a better job of ranking your website. When configuring there are a few areas that you should be familiar with:

Google Admin Sitemap

Google Webmaster Tools – Sitemaps

 

Sending your sitemap to Google via webmaster-tools aids the Google bot in knowing what pages and content you have on your site. Think of it as sending the Google bot a text telling it where you are and what you have going on. If you don’t tell Google what is on your site via submitting a sitemap Google may decide to not index all the pages you want it too. Ultimately Google decides what to crawl and index, but usually any pages or content on your sitemap get indexed, which naturally leads to more opportunities to capture some organic traffic.

Sitemaps must be submitted in an XML format and can’t have over 50,000 URLs / exceed a 10mb file size. If you go over either of these limits, then you simply need to break your sitemap up into smaller ones and submit each one individually.

For an easy, non-tech savvy approach simply head over to XML Sitemaps throw in your homepage URL and let the tool generate the sitemap for you. Upload this sitemap to your hosting and then tell Google where it can find it.

If you are using WordPress, simply add this plugin, and then in GWT click “submit sitemap” and enter the sitemap location as /sitemap.xml

All done!

Once this is done, give Google some time to process ( a few days as there are literally trillions of sites it has to keep track of) and eventually you will see this section populated with a graph showing how many pages you submitted via sitemap and how many Google has decided to index.

Don’t be alarmed if Google decides to not index all the pages you submit, this is always the case and very common. As long as Google is indexing most of your pages, you are all good.

If you want to influence Google to index pages it has previously decided not to, bulk up the content on those pages, make sure all your title and meta tags are optimized and shoot some internal links from other pages on your site to the pages you are trying to get indexed. This will tell Google that these pages are important and it needs to index them.

Google Webmaster Tools – Crawler Access

 

Naturally some pages on your website you actually won’t want Google to index, pages like private login areas, RSS feeds, backend word-press pages and basically anything you don’t want potentially showing up in Google search results.

By creating and submitting a robots.txt file you can tell Google and other crawlers what content and/or pages you don’t want indexed. But, some people and tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists think that Google may ignore this anyway. Thus anything super sensitive you should block with password protection just incase.

Or just don’t put super sensitive stuff online, because lets be real….privacy online is well on it’s way to being impossible.

Through the GWT provided robots.txt generator & tester, you can have the file generated and tested before you commit to uploading it. Whatever you do, for SEO purposes make sure you DON’T tell Google to not index your whole site, because then your not getting any search love.

If you do mess up with instructions in the robots.txt in this same area you can fix it and request it be removed.

Be prepared to wait a few weeks if this happens.

webmaster tools google sitelinks

Google Webmaster Tools – Sitelinks

 

Sitelinks determine how your site may show up in search engine results pages (SERP’s).  You are not guaranteed to have sitelins in SERP’s, but usually as websites grow in size & traffic Google generates these automatically. However, if you don’t like how Google executes sitelinks, in webmaster tools you can sort of control and change it.

The reason I say “sort of” is because you cannot directly tell Google what pages you want to use for sitelinks, but you can tell it what pages you don’t want.  If you know exactly what pages you want showing up as sitelinks in SERP’s then you can tell Google every page but those ones are not options thus forcing it to only choose the pages you want.

A tedious work-around, but effective none-the-less.

GWT-Change-of-Address

Google Webmaster Tools – Change Of Address

 

If you are planning on changing the URL/domain name of your website, best to pre-emptivley let Google know so that you don’t lose traffic for months while you wait for the Google bots to figure out you have moved.

Like verification that you own the site, webmaster tools gives you 4 options in which all are required for accomplishing this:

  • Setup Your New Site
    • Before you make the official switcheroo make sure that the new site at the new address is ready to rock and roll.
  • Redirect the old traffic
    • On your old address utilize a 301 redirect (permanent redirect) to let Google know that you have moved. Think of it like letting the post office know you have a new address, but you don’t do that until you’ve actually moved to your new place.
  • Add your new site to GWT
    • So the same process as you did for your old site and also remember to verify it as well.
  • Tell GWT your new domain
    • In the change of address section shown above, simply select the new domain address/url and viola!

google webmaster tools settings

Google Webmaster Tools – Settings

 

Is your target audience primarily in a specific country? Then you can let Google know this in this GWT section. Lets say  my target user for Klicker lives in the good ol’ USA, I would then simply notify Google via GWT this is the case. This lets Google know to be less likely to have your pages show up in SERP’s for other countries because most likely the content isn’t for users in different countries.

Also in this section you can select a preferred domain name. This will be:  http://yourdomain.com or http://www.yourdomain.com.

Either one works.

You just have to select which one tickles your fancy the most. The reason it is beneficial to stick to one, is Google will see non www. and www. versions of every page as separate pages, thus diluting your rankings. By picking one version of your site to stick with you combine all the powers together. Not unlike when the Power Rangers morph their animal robots together.
+10 internets for Power Rangers reference.

Don’t worry too much about crawl rate. Google will naturally figure out how often it should re-visit your site to look for new changes. If you really think that Google needs to crawl your site more often than your guessing it is, you can tell Google in this section. However, most people aren’t sure if Google even really takes this into  consideration at all. I simply let Google handle this with all my sites.

Your Website On The World Wide Web

 

The Google bot isn’t a human and thus doesn’t look at your site the same way a human does, in this section of GWT you can see how the Google bot sees your site as apposed to how us puny hairless space monkeys view it.

This is good to make sure on a technical level, nothing in your coding, HTML, PHP and so forth is coming out wonky to the Google bot.

Most of the time, you don’t need to worry about anything in this section, but it is fun to check out.

But luckily for you, through GWT you can see how Google views your website.

GWT Search Query

Google Webmaster Tools – Search Queries

 

SEO is the art of savvy and efficient targeting of KW’s that matter to your website. You also need to know that when you do rank, that people are actually clicking on your result in the SERP as Google may take this into account when deciding rankings.

You can see this data here in this section.

By monitoring this search queries section, you can chip away at increasing your click through rate so your rankings extract more value and traffic for you. This usually involves editing your title & meta tags to be more enticing to users browsing SERP’s.

This section helps you understand what content on your site is driving the most results, but if you want to find out what content is getting results for your competition, then check out this strategy we use all the time with great results.

google webmaster tools section links to your site

Google Webmaster Tools –  Links To Your Site

 

The best most effective and honestly best way to manipulate rankings in your favor is by getting other sites to link to you.  In theory this is supposed to happen “naturally” but as it is so effective, if you want an SEO game that actually moves the needle, you are going to have to put effort in getting links built from other sites to your site.

Google technically says it’s “cheating” but not unlike the Lance Armstrong situation in which when they wanted to strip him of his medals and give them to the next competitor that wasn’t “cheating” they had to go all the way down to 18th place!

Except in the SEO world you would have to go all the way down to 1,000,000,000th place.

Any-who, in this section you can see what links Google is aware of, as they don’t always index every link just like they don’t index every page of every website.

If you feel like you need to get links faster, head over to our partner page and we can help you out!

Webmaster tools -Keywords

Google Webmaster Tools – Keywords

 

You most likely have a set of KW’s you would like to rank for as well as ones you think are related to your site. This however, doesn’t mean that Google is going to agree with you 100% on what KW’s you should be rankings for.

In fact Google is most likely not on the same page as you.

In this section you can see what KW’s Google thinks are relevant to your site, how they perform, how much traffic they drive and related KW’s you could target. This does not mean you can’t target KW’s that don’t show up in this section, it just means these are the KW’s Google thinks should be attached to your site. If KW’s you want don’t show up in this section, this just means you need to do more work in manipulating and convincing Google your desired KW’s should be related to your site.

i.e link building and on page optimizations

 

Here you will also see variations for KW’s, misspellings and performance metrics of KW’s for your site.

If you want a better breakdown, think about using ahrefs to find out exactly every KW your site is ranking for.

webmaster tools - internal links

Google Webmaster Tools – Internal Links

 

Building links internally from one page on your site to another is a proven and effective way to influence rankings in your behalf. This clues Google into what each page is about, spreads link juice or rank power more evenly across your site and most importantly provided and enhanced experience for users on your site.

 

In this section you can see the breakdown of all the internal links Google sees on your site. Generally Google will catch most of your internal links and if they miss some it’s usually because the page doing the linking in not indexed which is remedied with advice from the index section above.

google-webmaster-tools-stats

Google Webmaster Tools – Subscriber Stats

 

If you are running a blog this section will come in super handy, if you don’t…well then it probably wont provide that much value for you.

 

This areas basically breaks down how many people subscribe to your RSS feed, which is a dying trend anyway. So basically….don’t worry about this section.

 

Google Webmaster Tools – Diagnostics

 

This is where Google will notify you of any technical issues hampering the performance of your site. Usually it will have nothing, but keep your eye on it just in case.

gwt - malware

Google Webmaster Tools – Malware

 

Basically like above but specifically notifying you of malware on your site. In other words it will tell you “Your site has been hacked by bored Russian teenagers slipping in boner pill links to your sitemap.”

Maybe not that exactly, but you would be surprised how often that actually happens.

Google-Webmaster-Tools-Crawl-Errors

Google Webmaster Tools – Crawl Errors

 

The crawl errors portion will show you any problems that relate to your site in regards to Google “crawling” your site. In other words if the Google bot runs into issues exploring and decphiring your site, it will post the issues here. Usually that takes the form of 404 errors.

404 error is basically a missing page or dead end link.

The most common reason these happen is because other sites may link to pages that don’t exist on your website anymore but used to. Maybe you deleted a page, moved a page or possibly other sites link to your site in error and get the URL wrong thus confusing the Google bot.

 

You are going to want to fix as many of these as possible as they dilute your SEO power. You can either contact those who are linking to you in error, or 301 redirect the bad URL to a actual URL the Google bot can find.

google-webmaster-tools-crawl-stats-1

Google Webmaster Tools – Crawl Stats

 

If you have tons of pages on your website, then expect Google to re-visit or “crawl” the majority of these pages on either a daily or weekly occurrence. If they aren’t, then something is wrong.

This section will tell you how often Google is re-checking your site for changes.

Through the graphs and data tables that GWT provides, you can get a good idea if they are crawling enough pages frequently enough on your site. If they aren’t, consider adjusting the crawl rate under the settings tab or looking into other technical errors that may be confusing the Google bot.

Google-Webmaster-HTML-Improvements

Google Webmaster Tools HTML –  Suggestions

 

When Googlebot checks your content, it may find some problems with your website. These issues won’t prevent your site from appearing in the SERP’s, but may be influencing  Google to rank you lower thus negatively affecting your traffic.

Usually issues are in regards to title tags and meta descriptions. If every page on your site has unique and detailed copy for both then you won’t have any issues. Also check that all your title and meta’s are within the specified length requirements.

If this isn’t the issue, GWT will give you an URL by URL breakdown of all the suggestions and you can chip away at the suggestions it feeds you.

 

google_authorship_webmaster_tools fetch as google

Google Webmaster Tools – Fetch As Googlebot

 

With Fetch as Googlebot you can see how a page looks to Google. Just type in the URL and boom!

That is really all this section does atm, maybe Google will expand this functionality later but for now thats all it does.

webmastertools site performance

Google Webmaster Tools  – Site Performance

 

Your website’s load time is one of the most important things you should be watching. People in 2016 are breed to be ADD and if your site is loading slow, say goodbye to your traffic and engagement metrics.

Watch this section closely and do some research on the main reasons you may be experiencing slow site speeds.

 

seo-tips-image-video-sitemap-submit-google-webmasters-tools

Google Webmaster Tools  – Video Sitemaps

 

 

If you have video on your site, you will want to ensure you add those video files in your sitemap. This way, Google can index them as they may not be able to find them if you don’t.

This will help ensure that your videos are getting the traffic they deserve from Google video search.

 

Conclusion

Basically you need to understand at least whats going on in GWT so you can hold your marketing team accountable. If your handing these responsibilities yourself, then you will need to get real familiar with GWT as it shall become your best friend.

I’m Kade, and I’m all about the big picture. I love figuring out how to arrange your marketing chessboard with a killer strategy from start to finish. I help Klicker (and our clients) show up above the competition on Google, win the most attention from prospects, and not even break a sweat trying.

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