One of the best SEO tools that you can use today is the Google webmaster tools. This is a free tool provided by Google that can provide a great deal of information regarding your website.
Those websites owners who are not utilizing Google webmaster tools are definitively passing up a great opportunity to simplify and maximize the effectiveness of their SEO functions.
Here are the most beneficial features of this great tool and how you can utilize it to boost your SEO efforts:
1.Request for Google Notifications in case you Experience Problems:
The Google webmaster tools was developed by Google to facilitate more efficient communication with webmasters. Because it is not possible to communicate with the very many webmasters one-on-one, the tool provides a method of getting information about your site from Google.
In the event that there are issues with your site-for example if your server is down or it has been hacked or infected with malware- Google will inform you through email. So as to get these emails, you should activate email notifications by clicking on the gear-shaped ‘settings'(on the top right) icon and then selecting ‘Search Console Preferences’.
2.Make Google aware about Your Intended Audience:
Let us assume that you own a .net or a .co.uk domain but your intended audience is Google users based in the USA. You can utilize the site settings feature in webmaster tools to inform Google about your intended audience.
Under search Traffic go to International Targeting, select ‘target users in’ and click on ‘United States’ as your destination.
This setting means that the performance of your website will be better under Google.com when compared to Google.co.uk or any other. Naturally, there are numerous other factors that come into play, but the basic idea is that Google will show more preference to these settings.
3.Configure Your Preferred Domain:
The ‘site settings’ feature also lets you choose between the non-www and www version of your domain. So as to do that, you should get the two domains verified in your account.
The effect of this is that if you configure www.yourdomain.com to be your preferred domain, your www.yourdomain.com links will be treated by Google in the same way as the http://yourdomain.com links.
The same setting should also apply in your website.
4.Recognize the Keywords that Deliver Google Traffic onto your Site:
The ‘Search Queries’ is probably the most popular feature on webmaster tools, particularly after Google did away with the keywords data feature on Google Analytics. To access it, go to ‘search traffic’ on the left-hand side of the menu.
This feature contains a number of handy functions such as:
- A graph that illustrates how you have performed in Google search. This is a useful tool that enables you to notice significant changes in your Google traffic, whether it is positive or negative.
- Every keyword search that caused your website to show up in Google search. Apart from the exact keyword term, you will also see the clicks (the number of people that viewed your website), impressions(the number of times that a webpage on your site appeared in the results, the click through rate(CTR) and the average position of the keyword in question.
If you are a more experienced SEO practitioner, this information is very useful when developing an effective long-term SEO campaign. If you are a beginner, you can utilize this data to learn the strengths and weakness of your website in terms of Google search traffic.
It is important to note that you can only access three months of ‘Search Queries’ data .This means you must download the data every month if you wish to keep it for over three months.
5.Monitor Inbound Links:
It is important to know how many links point to your website (internal pages or homepage) because of a number of reasons,namely:
- you are able identify the websites that link to you.
- you can know which terms they use in order to link to you.
- you can identify the webpages on your site that have more links.
- in the event that there is an unexpected problem with inbound links, you can click the ‘download latest links’ option to identify the links that might have caused the problem.
- you may use the data to detect if there are any bad links that require to be removed.
The data that is provided for inbound links is not historical. This means it is not possible to go back and view your link status. Therefore, it is advisable to store this data (at the minimum, the number of links)in an excel sheet for comparison purposes.
6.Establish if your Site has been Penalized:
You can establish whether or not site has been hit with a manual penalty.
Google may levy two kinds of penalties on websites. The first one is the manual penalty where the company’s quality team assessed your website and chose to levy a penalty. For such cases, you are required to file a request for a reconsideration to get the penalty removed. An employee from Google will relook at the website and make a decision on whether the penalty will be removed or not.
The second kind of penalty is known as the algorithmic penalty. Here we are thinking in terms of Google updates like Penguin or Panda. The penalty is caused by your website violating one or several rules defined by the ranking algorithm. So as to recover from this penalty, you should identify the likely causes, take corrective measures and see if you have recovered (even if it is partially) by the time the next Google update comes around.
The ‘manual actions’ option notifies you if Google has levied a manual penalty on your website. It is important to note that manual actions come with an expiry date. This means the penalty might be removed even if you do not file a reconsideration request. But it will most likely return if you do not implement the necessary corrective measures.
7.Verify if the Google Crawler is able to Access your Website Properly:
In case Google is unable to access or read your site in the correct manner, this also reduces your chances of attaining good rankings. The ‘crawl’ section has two extremely helpful features that will assist you to make sure that there are no problems when it comes to crawling:
-Use the ‘Crawl Errors’ report to detect if your website has any broken links or if there are non-existent links that point to your website pages. To rectify these errors, fix the broken links or implement 301 redirections.
These functionalities are available for the mobile and desktop versions of your website.
8.Present and Review the Status of Your Sitemap:
An xml sitemap consists of a list of urls that you would like search engines like Google to consider when crawling through your site. Even if you do not provide a sitemap, the search engines will still find the pages and website. However a sitemap simplifies the task, among other things.
Use the ‘sitemaps’ feature to review your sitemap status and detect potential problems. You may test and present new sitemaps and then observe how many of your webpages are incorporated in the Google index.
9.Protect Your Website:
Your website can be infected with malware or hacked if it is not adequately secured. The effect of this is that whereas you might move through the website without seeing any difference, your users will be inundated with popups promoting all manner of things or they might get redirected to gambling, casino or Viagra-related sites.
This is a nasty experience for any webmaster and Google can notify you if they identify odd activities on your website. This is the reason why it is important for you to activate the email notifications feature.
The Bottom Line:
The Google webmaster tool is an excellent tool with a lot of valuable information regarding your website. Even though you may not be a professional SEO practitioner, you can still utilize the webmaster tools to discover what Google knows about your website, detect possible problems and raise your Google presence.