Join Brad Batesole for an in-depth discussion in this video Setting up Google Webmaster Tools, part of Marketing Tips Weekly.
- Hi and welcome to another episode of weekly marketing tips. I'm Brad Batesole and this week I'd like to talk about why you should be using Google Webmaster Tools and how to get set up. Now, I highly recommend that every website take advantage of using Google Webmaster Tools. Regardless of your size, this is a fantastic service that helps you review how your site is doing within Google search results. It gives you the insights into how Google sees your websites, both the good and the bad, so you can make improvements.
Google Webmaster Tools allows you to see crawlers, remove content that you don't want to see in search results, and to identify if there is any spam or malware issues your site is having. You can also take a look at how your site is doing in search and what sites are linking to you. Armed with this data, you'll have the ability to improve the experience for both your users and work to improve your SEO. Now, it's pretty easy to set up and you'll start by going to Google.com/webmasters and I'm here on that page now and from there you'll choose the Sign In to Webmaster Tools button here on the left hand side of the screen.
Now, you'll need to sign in with your Google account and I'm going to use the same Google account that I used to sign in for Google Analytics and if you don't have one, you can choose the Create an Account option here at the bottom of the screen. Let me enter in those credentials and choose Sign In. Now, since this is the first time we're using the tool we'll need to go ahead and add in the URL for the site that we want to be tracking and you'll see the option here at the bottom of the screen next to the Add a Site button. I'm going to enter in www.explorecalifornia.org and then choose Out of Sight.
Now, in order to use all of the features of Webmaster tools, we need to verify that we own this website and you can do this one of several ways. First is the Google recommended method which is to download this HTML file and you'll see that here as the first option in this list, #1 Download this HTML Verification File and if I click that link it will download the file to my computer. You'll then need to upload that file to the root directory of your website and then you'll need to confirm that it works by visiting the link that they've listed for you and once you've done all of those steps you can choose Verify down here below.
Now, there's some other ways you can do it and to look at those, choose the Alternate Method option from the tab at the top. Here we can add an HTML tag, we can sign into our domain name provider, we can use our Google Analytics account, or use our Google Tag Manager account. Select the option that makes the most sense for you, follow the instructions and then choose Verify. Now, I'm going to switch over to an account that I've already got running for a while so you can see what Webmaster Tools looks like after it's had a chance to collect some data.
So, once you've added and verified your site and given Google some time to collect data, your dashboard will look similar to this. When you first login, you'll see this quick overview. Here on the left, I can see the current status of my crawl errors and these green check marks indicate that there are no problems with my DNS, with my server connectivity and with my robots.txt file. Below that, we can see any URL errors and we'll look at those in just a minute. Here in the center we have the search queries and this is how many searches were conducted on Google and the blue line represents the impressions.
So, if someone looked for your website, say they typed in explore California, and your listing showed up in the Google results it counts as an impression and then only if they select it will it count as a click and that's why the impressions number is much higher than the clicks number and we can see our impressions over time by hovering over the lines. Here on the right hand side we can see our site maps and if we've submitted any. On the left hand side is how we can navigate all of the Webmaster Tools options and this is really where the power of Webmaster Tools becomes apparent.
The first thing we can do is view any site messages. I'll select that in the left hand navigation and we can see what it's letting us know and here we can see that we set a geographic target back in September and we can see that we've linked it to a Google Analytics property just shy of a year ago. From here, let's choose Search Appearance and then I'll choose Structured Data from the drop-down. If you're using structured data within the code of your website, Google will let you know how much structured data it's found and how many errors are apparent. Now, you can learn more about structured data in some of the SEO courses here on lynda.com and structured data is basically small snippets of tags that tell Google what the information on your page is.
So you might put a snippet of structured data around, say, the logo on your site and you can tell Google that it's the graphical logo of your brand. Here we can see the errors and obviously, if we wanted to we could scroll down and look at the data type and the errors on the right hand side and if I select that, Google is going to help us identify what the error is. Here on the right hand side it lets me know that the page Work has 11 errors and the errors are Missing Author and Missing Updated and what that says to me is I've included some schema or some structured data tag on that page and I've missed an element of that tag and if you're not familiar with that you can send this data to your webmaster or your programmer and they can take a look for you or you can explore more of it by reading up on schema.org.
Next up, we have the Data Highlighter and if I select that from the left hand menu we'll get some options to use a tool to highlight our data. So, earlier we looked at structured data problems but let's say you wanted to add structured data to your site. Google's got a great tool here called the Data Highlighter and if I choose Start Highlighting here in the right hand corner, I can enter the URL of our site and then start highlighting the various information and what Google will do is create some HTML tags that we can then insert into the page and it will help us tag it so that Google then understands what that data is.
Now, I'm not going to go through the data highligher but I recommend you explore that in the future on your own. From here, let's choose HTML Improvements and this is great because here we can quickly see any problems that are impacting our site's user experience and performance. Here under the Meta Descriptions headline we can see if we have any duplicate meta descriptions and if we had any duplicates, that would be a problem for SEO and we would want to resolve those. We can also see if we have any long meta descriptions that is anything that's over a certain character amount.
We can also see short meta descriptions and here this is saying that 14 pages have a short meta description. So if I select this link, I can get a list of all of those pages and if I wanted to I could drill into that actual page and review the meta description and resolve the problem. Now, if you had a large list, say hundreds and hundreds of pages, you might want to download this table using the option just above the Pages with Short Meta Descriptions headline and if you select Download this Table you can choose a format and then select OK to go ahead and download that file and then you could open it up in Excel or any other software program and review the data that way.
From here, let's choose Site Links. Now, sight links appear under your search result and if you've ever done a Google Search you might have encountered these and to show you an example I am going to open up google.com and I'll do a search for lynda.com. Now, if I scroll down below the Lynda ad you'll see the lynda.com website listed here with the online video tutorials and training headline has several links below it. All Courses, Login, Photography. These are your site links. So, if your site links were showing things that you didn't want to display you could go into Webmaster Tools and demote the site link by using the Demote This Site Link URL option.
There, you would enter the URL and then choose Demote and it would remove it from your site link listings. I'm going to go ahead and close that tab and we'll continue on. Next, we can click on Search Traffic option and choose Search Queries and what we see here is pretty cool. Over time, we see the impressions over the clicks. Remember we saw a smaller version of this chart on our dashboard, but what's great is we can also see the individual queries that were used to show our website. In the upper right hand corner I can change the date range.
So, if I wanted to go back a month I can enter that and we can look at a larger view of time and this is a great place to diagnose problems with your website. If you notice traffic spiking, or even a drop in traffic, you can view your search queries to see if Google is still displaying your website and you can also see if there is a strong disparity between impressions and clicks which might have something to do with the SEO data. Say, your description or title tag. Maybe people aren't understanding your site after a change and they're not clicking on it. Now it's important to know that Google is typically about two days behind so you'll have to wait a couple of days for this data to display.
So if you notice a problem today on your analytics dashboard it'll show up in your Webmaster Tools about two days later. Below this, you can also get a sense of your click through rate on various queries along with your average position. So, in this case, the second option has a very high click through rate but it's also a query that is the brand name and therefore it's obviously going to have a much higher click through rate because that's what someone's looking for. But you can also see what other popular queries are driving traffic to your site and that'll help you understand if you want to invest in that content.
You can also look at some other options under Search Traffic including links to your site which will show you all of the websites that are linking to you and that's a great place to look for who's linking the most and what types of content are being linked the most and that'll help you get a sense of what it is that people are interested in and maybe some other partners that you can reach out to to explore collaboration in the future. Now, I'll let you continue exploring the other options on your own and now I'm going to take a look at the Google Index and choose the Index Status from that drop-down. So, here on the Index Status page we can see how many pages of our site are indexed and that really means how many can actually show up in Google search.
In this case, 32 pages have been indexed and we see a large improvement here on April 20th of 2014. It went from 10 to 34 seven days later and this indicates to me that either we added more content to our site, we got an inbound link which allowed Google to find more of our content, or we made some other change to help Google navigate and index the site. You can see that performance over time and it's a great place to keep tabs on how Google is viewing your site. From there we can choose Content Keywords on the left hand side and that will let us know in priority order what Google thinks our website is about and this is a great place to look to see if you think that Google has the right context.
If you notice some words that didn't make sense you might want to review the content of your site. Take a look at the Heading 1 tags, the title tags, any of your content to understand where Google is getting that idea. Next, let's click on the Crawl option and choose Crawl Errors. This is a really important section of the site. The better your site's performing, the better your SEO is going to be overall. Google prefers sites with no errors and here is where we can see them. So, the first half is server errors and these would be actual problems with your server.
Say, your website isn't loading and you can see how many errors you've had over time. So if you were having a problem with your web posts or you questioned whether you were having a problem, you could see those errors here. The Not Found tab is going to show you what URLs Google has a link to but isn't finding that content and that's called a 404 error. So, Google at some point indexed this content and if I click on it it's going to show me the page. So, this URL Google is going to say, "Hey, I have this URL but I can't find it." So something's wrong here and if you choose the Linked From option Google is going to say, "I found the link on your site on these pages." and that'll help you navigate to those pages, find the broken link and fix it.
Once you've fixed it, you can choose Mark as Fixed and that's just going to remove it from the list and help you get a cleaner sense of your data. Here under the Crawl section you can also view your crawl stats and this will give you a good sense of how many pages Google is crawling a day, how many kilobytes it's downloading and you can see the overall time spent downloading a page. If this had a big spike, you probably have a problem with your website. Next we have the Fetch as Google option and this tool lets you enter in a URL and then you can fetch it as Google and what that'll do is show you if the page works and what Google has to say about it.
But, moving along, I am going to click on the Robots.txt Tester and this will let you know what Google sees in your robots.txt file and if you're unfamiliar with this I would recommend checking out SEO Fundamentals here on lynda.com. Next, we can click into Site Maps and if you had a XML site map this is where you'd want to upload it and that'll help Google understand where to find the site map and if you have any problems with it. In this case, I see a yellow exclamation point and I might want to click into that to test if that site map is working.
Here I can see there is no content, which indicates to me that I've given Google a site map but I didn't put any content in it and therefore we would want to go in and figure out why that problem is happening. You can also test the site map in the upper right hand corner or resubmit it if you've made any changes. Now I encourage you to check in on your Webmaster Tools a few times a week. Explore the data and consider ways to improve your SEO strategy based on the information you find. Thanks for checking in this week. As always, I'd love to hear from you so if you have a question you'd like to see answered send it to me via firstname.lastname@example.org and you might just see it in a future episode.
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