Google’s Webmaster Tools helps us to see our website as Google sees it. It tells us what is being indexed, what is getting linked, and what is getting traffic. This blog post breaks down each of the site-specific sections of WMT and gives a brief explanation of how each of these sections can be useful to your SEO efforts.
After logging in to Webmaster Tools and clicking on your website, we come to the Site Dashboard. The site dashboard shows an overview of a website’s Crawl Errors, Search Queries, and Sitemaps. See more information on each of these sections below.
Here we can find messages that Google has regarding your site. Google will alert you if it finds any major issues with the site. For example, if Google finds that there are unnatural links pointing to the site, or that the site has been hacked, a message will be sent to alert you of the issue. It is important to pay attention to any messages received from Google WMT.
Search Appearance > Structured Data
The structured data section gives a brief overview of the rich snippets you are using on your website. It will also let you know of any errors that it finds with the structured data. See this post for more info on Structured Data.
Search Appearance > Data Highlighter
The Data Highlighter section gives an alternative to adding structured data with rich snippet markup code. While this feature is limited compared to using Webmaster Markup, it is easier to use for people not comfortable editing the code of the website.
Search Appearance > HTML Improvements
The HTML Improvements section gives a snapshot of any issues with your site’s title tags, meta-descriptions, and content that is not indexable. We can use this information to quickly find titles and meta-descriptions that are not fully optimized.
Search Appearance > Sitelinks
Sitelinks are the links that display in search results underneath your main URL (see image below). These sitelinks are automatically chosen by Google for certain queries. In this section you can choose to remove any links you wish not to appear as a sitelink.
Search Traffic > Search Queries
The data in Search Queries tells us what types of content rank the best and bring in the most traffic. This information can be great for coming up with keyword opportunities. The section also shows us the click-through-rate for each of your top keywords and landing pages, which can help you to determine your SEO strategy moving forward. In regard to SEO, the Search Query section is one of the most revealing sections of Google WMT.
Search Traffic > Links to your Site
Another great resource in regard to SEO is the Links to Your Site section. The section shows us the total number of external links to your site and an overview report of who is linking the most, the pages with the most links, and the anchor text used. This section is great for getting a brief review of how your website is being linked to.
Search Traffic > Internal Links
This section gives us a report of all internal links in your site. This section can be good for finding internal linking issues and for finding pages on the site that are not getting enough exposure.
Search Traffic > Manual Actions
Another section that is important to pay attention to is the Manual Actions section. Here we can find actions taken by Google to demote your website’s pages from its search results. These actions can be caused by issues such as spam, sneaky redirects, keyword stuffing, and other black hat SEO techniques. The Manual Action that we are most likely to see is “Unnatural Links to your site.” In the Manual Action section, Google tells us the reason for any action taken against our site and the part of the site that has been affected. This section also gives us the opportunity to “Request a Review” after the issue has been resolved.
Google Index > Index Status
Here we can see the total number of pages on our website being indexed and the number of pages indexed over the past year. By clicking on the advanced tab we can see more information, such as the number of pages being no-indexed and removed from the site.
Google Index > Content Keywords
This section shows a list of the single keywords that Google thinks your website relates to. By clicking on each of these keywords, you can see where they are found throughout the website. You want to be sure that no “spammy” keywords are showing up in this list.
Google Index > Remove URLs
Here you can submit URLs from your site that you don’t want to be indexed on Google. There is a link in the section that explains the requirements for removing URLs from Google’s index.
Crawl > Crawl Errors
The Crawl Errors section is another great resource within WMT. The section shows us any issues that Google found when crawling the site. This is excellent for finding broken links and any errors users are running into when trying to access the site. The section also tells us where these problematic links can be found on the web.
Crawl > Crawl Stats
This section tells us the number of pages crawled per day over the past three months. It is a good idea to check this number regularly to be sure that the number is growing, especially if you are adding new content on a regular basis.
Crawl > Fetch as Google
Another useful section on WMT is the Fetch as Google tool. This tool allows us to see a URL as Google sees it. This is great for troubleshooting and for checking that Google is seeing the page as we expect it to. The tool also gives us the option to submit a URL to index. We can use this feature to submit new and updated URLs to Google. In addition, the tool gives information on each of our ‘fetches’ such as the URL’s download time.
Crawl > Blocked URLs
This section gives us a brief description of your robots.txt file. It lets us know the number of pages being blocked and lets us check to be sure the file is working as expected. The tool also lets us test specific URLs to be sure that the robots.txt file is handling them correctly.
Crawl > Sitemaps
Another very useful section of WMT is the sitemap section. Here we can see all of the different types of sitemaps that Google has found on our site, along with stats for each of them. We can also submit and test sitemaps here.
Crawl > URL Parameters
This section allows you to tell Google how to handle particular parameters on your site. This can be useful for dealing with duplicate content on the site caused by variables and parameters. However, you need to be very careful with making configurations in this section of WMT because mistakes can lead to pages being dropped from the Google index.
This section will show any security issues, such as site hacks and malware, that Google has found on your website. It also gives suggestions on fixing the particular issue and allows us to request a review once the problem has been fixed.
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