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Get Ahead Online

Google Webmaster Tools

Identifying ways to increase the effectiveness of your website is important for any business with an online presence. Laurence Knopf highlights why Google Webmaster Tools should be a key factor in your SEO strategy

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Google Webmaster Tools—the SEO super tool

Whether your business website is brand new or has been online for some time, using Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) should be one of your top search engine optimisation (SEO) priorities. It works in tandem with Google Analytics, but where Analytics looks at how users view your site, GWT gives you Google’s view of your site. It covers aspects such as search terms—which you can get from Google Analytics—but also looks at sites that link to you and any technical issues that your own site may have. It also gives a platform for Google to communicate with you if they feel your site has been hacked, contains malware or happens to be contravening their guidelines in a way that could get you penalised by them.

Shortcuts to saving

There are ways in which you can save time by connecting to your accounts. Firstly, you will need to sign in to the GWT website from your Google Account—or instead start by creating a free account if you do not already have one. If you already use Google Analytics, it helps if the account you use is the same one that you have used to sign up for that service. In addition, if you have not signed up for it already, you will find doing so indirectly saves you a lot of time and HTML coding.

Previously, to use the toolkit, you needed to enter some specific code directly into your own site. Providing you have signed up for Google Analytics, you can now neatly avoid this step by configuring the GWT service to connect to your Analytics service. You need to verify ownership of the website, and then the option to use your Analytics account to do so will simply appear as part of that process. Once completed, simply click on the button to set up a new GWT account.

The higher the percentage of pages with errors, then the less favourably Google will rank you within its search result

The use of a sitemap will also assist you further in creating more of an accurate analysis, so one of the first things to do is submit an XML sitemap file to GWT.  This gives it a cast iron list of all the pages and content on your website—it helps them see the pages without having to crawl the site in its entirety, and this is very important for larger sites. If you do not have a sitemap, there are plenty of online tools available to create one; you will find that content management systems like WordPress or Drupal also have capacity or modules to generate one for you.

Once you have uploaded the XML file to your site, of which your developer can help with, copy the web address—this will appear on a normal webpage on your site and probably something like this http://yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml—and submit it into the Sitemaps section within GWT. It may not automatically upload your new information on the first occasion, but it should not take more than just a few days. Giving the toolkit more information about your site allows you to use some of its major features.

Know the basics

There are various sections within GWT, which can be handy for different scenarios, but here is a simplified list of the best:

O Site links: These additional links appear under your listing in Google when someone searches for your brand. Using this feature, you can also select links that you would prefer not to appear underneath your entry in the search results. If your site does not yet have site links, it may be because the site is new or has not built enough valuable or unique content on individual pages to warrant Google ‘awarding’ them.

O Links to your site: It can be quite difficult to get a very clear view of which websites link to yours, especially if your site is fairly old and many inbound links. Links are such a fundamental aspect of SEO; it is a good idea to always have a comprehensive list and monitor it.  In this section of GWT you can see the links that Google can see—which will not always be all—but it is a very good place to start.

O Crawl errors: In this section, you can see the parts of your site that are causing errors when Google attempts to crawl them. The higher the percentage of pages with errors, then the less favourably Google will rank you within its search results.

O Crawl stats: This section shows you how often and how much of the site Google is visiting.  If you have a large site but Google are only indexing a small percentage, then this may mean that many of your site pages are not actually getting the right exposure in Google.

O Site performance: In this section you can see how quick your pages load and whether Google views the pages that are loading at above or below average speeds. It is important to  remember that Google really loves the sites that work well for users—if your site is slow, then Google will be less likely to favour it. 
O Malware: In this section you will be able to see if Google thinks someone has hacked your site and is using it to spread malware or worse still, hijacking it to sell things like Viagra and Valium—which is really not something that you want.

O Messages: Google is tightening the noose on old SEO practices and if you ever get penalised because of these or any other technical issues, this is where you will be notified. It is the only place that Google will communicate directly with a webmaster about specific site issues.

So, if you want to improve the performance of your website then GWT is something that you really should think about when considering SEO. Performance on Google can have a major effect on how much traffic your website receives and how successful it is overall. Methods such as GWT can give this a boost and leave you with a stronger online presence, which in turn will help increase the amount of business your receive.

Laurence Knopf’s SEO Rescue is an expert UK SEO company working with businesses of all shapes and sizes. The team focuses on helping firms to get more traffic and a higher conversion rate while maintaining the quality of your online business profile.

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