Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) provides a wealth of information about your website and should be one of the first steps in your search engine optimisation strategy. GWT tells you if your webpage is being searched correctly by Google, and if there are any errors on your website. It is easy to set up and straight forward to use, but can be an enormous asset in ensuring your website’s health and effectiveness.
Google Webmaster Tools Homepage
When you log into your Google Webmaster Tools account, you will see the websites you have added. You are able to sort them alphabetically or by site health.
To the left there is a menu that takes you to messages (messages can be errors to your website, among other things), general preferences, author stats (as a verified author, you can see you stats across multiple websites), and other resources.
Adding Your Website to Google Webmaster Tools
On the Google Webmaster Tools home page, click on the “Add a site” button to the top right of your screen.
From there you add the URL of you website.
On the next page you will have to verify that you own the website you entered. To do this, GWT recommends that you upload a HTML file to your website. You then visit the page you uploaded to verify.
There are alternate ways you can also verify that you own the URL you entered. They are, a HTML tag (add a meta tag to your webpage); by using Google Analytics (useful and easy if you already have the tracking code on your website); and by signing into your domain name provider.
After you have verified your domain, you will be taken to your dashboard. Do not worry if there are no results at first, it may take a while for results to appear.
Google Webmaster Tools Dashboard
Here is an example of what your dashboard will look like once it is populated with information. You will see
- Messages related specifically to your website
- Crawl Errors – related to problems that the Google Bot had when going through your website
- Search Queries – how many impressions your website has had in Google search, and how many times your website was clicked
- Sitemaps – how many pages have been indexed by Google vs how many pages on your site map.
This page will go through each section to explain what is shown on each page and how you can use this data to improve your search engine rankings of your website. At the very end we will show you how to connect your Google Webmaster Tools account to Google Analytics to save you even more time when analysing your webpage.
The Crawl Errors page shows you where the Google bot had trouble going through your website. It shows when the error was first detected and what type of error they are; this is a great way to fix up 404 errors which are broken links, for instance. You can download a table of errors into a spreadsheet.
Crawl Stats shows the activity Googlebot has spent on your webpage in the last 90 days. From here you can get a good sense if Google is actively crawling your webpage for new and updated content.
This allows you to block pages from being searched by Google. This is handy if you have pages that you do not want to be searchable.
Fetch As Google
Fetch As Google allows you to see what Google sees when it searches your site. This is a great way to evaluate your website’s SEO. It will show you, for instance, if there is content in images that Google will not be able to see.
This page shows how many pages of your website that Google was able to crawl through and index. A steady increase means that Google is indexing your site correctly, and a sudden drop may mean your server was unable to be accessed. This page can also show if your website has a duplicate content, or if it may have been hacked. Click the advanced tab to see all these kinds of details.
If malware has been detected it will show more information here. Google also sends out notifications if malware is detected (or if your site has errors) as well – another important reason to sign up for GWT.
Traffic of your Website
Search queries will probably be one of your favourite section of Google Webmaster Tools, especially if you love vanity metrics! The search queries section shows not only how many clicks your website has received from Google search, but also how many impressions you get from the search as well. This can be a great tool to find searches that people are finding your website on but that you may not have been targeting.
Your goal should be a nice upwards trend. You can also see your website’s average position in Google’s search results, so you can track your target keywords as your website moves up or down the ranks. Ideally you will want your website to be on the first page of Google.
If you click the “With Change” tab, you will also see the % change in impressions, click throughs, and it also shows your click through rate. This way you can evaluate your website easily at a glance. With this information, you can see your best performing keywords and actively try and improve pages with poor performing keywords that you wish to target, for example.
Don’t forget to look at the “Top Pages” tab to see your best performing pages (and least performing pages).
Links to Your Site
While you can easily see where your links are coming from in other analytics packages, the nice thing about GWT is that it gives a simple overview of who links to you the most, your most linked content, and, perhaps the most unique, the name people use when linking to your website (the anchor text). You can also download this data.
This shows your own links within your website. It is sorted by the amount of links. This is a great way to see which pages may need a bit more link love within your website.
Optimization of Your Website
This shows how many pages of your website are on your sitemap vs how many pages have been indexed by Google. You want these numbers to be equal, but if you have just added pages they might not be yet.
If you do not have a sitemap added, you will have to add it first. If you have a WordPress website, I recommend a plugin called “Google XML Sitemaps” that quickly creates a sitemap for you. Install this plugin, and run the setup. It will generate a sitemap and give you a URL to paste into Google Webmaster Tools.
From this page you can also see if you have any errors in your sitemap, and check that Google is indexing all your pages.
You can request to remove a URL from Google in this section. Don’t forget to check out the removal requirements.
This is a great tool to asses your On-Page SEO issues, such as missing title tags, or duplicate meta descriptions. Click through to see your URLs with issues.
Content Keywords shows single words that Google thinks your site is about. Great to see what kinds of searches Google might display you for. If these are off topic, then you might want to refocus what you put onto your website. Also, make sure that your keywords aren’t spam.
Structured Data shows you how Google understands your website’s structured data. It has three levels – Site-level, Item top-level, and Page-level. It shows that Google is detecting markup as well as any issues that may exist.
This is how google can display inportant information about your business/webpage right in Google search. For instance, if you have special events coming up, you can use Data Highlighter to show these event dates in Google search.
Here’s a short video about it, and how to use it:
Google Webmaster Tools in Google Anayltics
You can bring some of the Google Webmaster Tools data to your Google Anayltics account so that you don’t have to visit two places. To connect, go back to the GWT main dashboard, and select “Manage Site”
Select the site that it connects to in your Google Analytics, or you can set one up if you haven’t already.
Once it is connected, GWT data is shown under Traffic Sources – Search Engine Optimization. The information from GWT shown is
- Landing Pages, and
- Geographical Summary
Hopefully Google will continue to add more integration between its Webmaster Tools and Analytics.
What do you use Google Webmaster Tools for?
I would love to know your tricks and tips with Google Webmaster Tools. What things do you look out for and how do you use the information provided to improve your website’s SEO and search rankings? Let me know in the comments below!