SEOs all know that Google Webmaster Tools are essential to a successful SEO campaign. In fact, many SEOs now find Webmaster Tools as influential as Google Analytics. Webmaster Tools can help you to increase your understanding of metrics and figure out how to improve your SEO practices. Especially if you monitor the tools regularly (which you should), you can begin to identify which SEO techniques are beneficial and which are harmful.
For beginners, however, getting started with the program can be challenging and confusing. Let’s discuss the elements of Webmaster Tools that are most critical for beginners to utilize. But don’t worry – I’ll throw in some tips for more advanced SEOs as well!
Getting set up with Webmaster Tools is fairly simple. Once you have verified your site, the first step you want to take is to modify your settings. The three main settings that you should utilize are your geographic target, preferred domain, and crawl rate.
- Geographic target: this setting assists Google in identifying what your services target. Businesses looking to get ranked in local search should pay close attention to this tool.
- Preferred domain: this tab controls how Google indexes your site, depending on the URL and your verification.
- Crawl rate: if you don’t want Googlebot to operate at its maximum crawl rate because of bandwidth concerns, this setting allows you to limit its crawl rate.
Advanced tip: Google recently announced some updates to Webmaster Tools, including the ability to view more in-depth information about who is verified for your site.
Dealing With Links
There are several useful tools for controlling both internal and external links, as well as unnatural links that may hurt your rankings.
- Links to your site: this page allows you to study an overview of all links to your site, including details about who is linking to you, which pages are most frequently linked, and your internal link structure.
- Sitelinks: you can use this tool to help with reputation management, since more extensive sitelinks will help to push bad links down in the rankings.
- Unnatural link notifications: also known as spam warnings, these notifications will immediately alert you to any problem that Google might identify within your site. Yet another reason to monitor Webmaster Tools regularly.
Advanced tip: focus on organic link building in order to avoid Google’s spam warnings. Relationship marketing is a great long-term link strategy.
While there is a specific optimization tab, there are also other tools that assist in your optimization efforts.
- Optimization: this tool mainly brings problems to your attention that can be successfully fixed.
- Fetch as Google: Ever wanted to see how your site appears to a typical searcher? Here’s your chance!
- Search keywords: use this tab as a part of your keyword research strategy to find out which keywords are directing visitors towards your site.
Advanced tip: use these tools to inform your content optimization, but continue to focus on producing clear, relevant content.
Other Important Tools
- Pay close attention to the malware tool, as it will aid you in spotting code inserted into comments that Google will see as spam.
- Beginners should avoid messing with URL parameters, because a tiny mistake could remove large sections of your site from the rankings.
- Make sure that none of your pages are blocked in the blocked URL tab.
Advanced tip: a new feature that has SEOs buzzing is the Author Stats tool, which explains your site’s connections with various authors.
Want some more beginner tips about Google Webmaster Tools? John E. Lincoln recently produced a comprehensive explanation of the program.