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How to use Google Webmaster Tools for SEO

Author's avatar By Chris Soames 14 Oct, 2010
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Google Webmaster Tools - A guide for marketers and site owners

What is Google Webmaster tools (GWT)

Google Webmaster Tools is a system built by Google that gives you feedback on your website from how Google sees it. It shows everything from phrases used to find your site through to pages it can"€™t distinguish or access through internal and external links.

Why is it important?

With Google accounting for over 90% of searches in the UK and many other European countries, any  insights that Google provides about the effectiveness of your website are worth reviewing. Google Webmaster Tools alerts you to how Google sees your website & alerts you to problems it finds..

Online businesses often overlook the basic aspects of natural search management, but with this simple interface you can quickly see if you are ticking all the boxes.

About this marketers guide

The name "€œGoogle Webmaster Tools"€ is unfortunate since it suggests it"€™s just a tool for techies. But we think it can also help site owners and marketers if they know what to look for. This is particularly the case with recent features showing the volume of searches and clicks you gain for different keyphrases.

SEO specialists will be aware of these features in Google Webmaster Tools and others beside - please let us know what you see as important!

In this guide we"€™ll show you how to get the most from it in these ten steps. For full details, examples and screengrabs download the PDF at the end of the 10 steps.

Step 1. Setup and verification.

A necessary evil for gaining access to the insights that Google Webmaster tools offer. We have put together a simple guide to help you through the process. Google offer a similar one too!

You can remove Sitelinks if you don't like an individual one at this stage - which is often handy!

Step 2. Review current keyphrase ranking

One of the more recent tools from the Google Webmaster team, in this area we look into the features of this section such as natural search click-through rate your average position for top keyterms and the key questions you should ask when utilizing this Google tool

Step 3. Site indexing effectiveness audit including:

Step 4. Sitemaps

Sitemaps are simple lists of web pages you want to make sure you tell search engines about? Right? Well, they can be so much more and how do you know it is doing what you think. This section covers quite a large part of the Google Webmaster Tools function. Submitting various sitemap types and ensuring what you want to be in search engines is!

Step 5. Robots.txt

It may be a little 'old school' but the robots.txt file and be your friend as much as it can be your enemy. Is your file working hard for you and your website by allowing search engines to focus on the content that is most relevant to it. In this section we cover the tools Google have gifted us to test & create robots.txt file as well as things to consider to improve your use of robots.txt for your business.

Step 6. Crawl errors

Technology often lets us down and websites are no different. As sites develop and grow you tend to find broken links, pages that display errors etc. Especially for bigger sites this can become difficult to manage. In this section we introduce Google's tool whch displays and informs you of errors they encountered on your website. While its better to be proactive than reactive this tool can help you stay on-top of what can be a tiresome task.

Step 7. Three Ws (canonical URLs)

Canonical URL's were an appreciated gift from Google. With various content management systems that are widely available are extremely good (for all the right reasons) at creating duplicate content on your behalf. In this section we cover tools that allow you to manage duplicate content on a website level as well as a page by page.

Step 8. Site performance

As the speed of the internet has evolved so have websites, more images, videos etc etc has meant slow loading pages and frustrating experiences for all of us at some point. In this section we look at how your site performs and how you can use Google Webmaster tools to identify issues and move forwards with solutions.

Step 9. Inbound Link Analysis

A crucial part of any natural search strategy. This section covers Google's insights into the links into your website including things like where the links come from & the anchor text of your links.

Step 10. HTML Suggestions

One of the lesser used sections of Google Webmaster tools this area allows you to manage basic on-page optimisation tactics as it gives you data surrounding missing / duplicate title & description tags. A key part to your on-page natural search efforts.

We hope you find this guide useful and please leave comments below giving feedback (good or bad) as well as ideas for things we have maybe missed.

You can download the guide here or view it in Scribd below.

SEO Back to Basics : Google Webmaster Tools

Author's avatar

By Chris Soames

Chris Soames is a Smart Insights blogger and consultant, he has worked in digital marketing for over 6 years with the last few years managing international web strategies for a leading travel brand. Now the Commercial Director at First 10, an Integrated marketing agency, he helps clients get clarity on their marketing strategy and create campaigns engineered to engage with their consumers to help drive sell-through. Most of all, Chris enjoys working with talented people who want to create great (& commercial) things not just tick boxes.

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