Using webmaster tools is an essential component of daily SEO practises as it contains key information about the visibility of your website in Google. Webmaster tools will display any errors that Google finds when crawling your site so that you can address these errors and fix them to improve SEO on the site.
To set it up, login in to Google webmaster tools with a Google account and verify that sites that you want to manage. You can add up to 1000 websites to manage from one account and Google webmaster tools is offered completely free of charge.
Logging in will take you to your dashboard where you can access a range of information about your website such as:
- Site Configuration – preferred domains, crawl rates, redirecting 301’s and user permissions can all be edited here
- Health checks – reporting on crawl errors, blocked URLS and any malware that might be present on your site
- Traffic – here you’ll find some of the more interesting information with regards to who is visiting your site. You can view the search queries people are using to find your site and links which are coming to the site. Google webmaster tools will break down which websites are linking to your site and which pages they are linking to. This includes highlighting any broken links which you can then address and fix.
- Optimisation – Analyses your site map showing the amount of pages indexed and submitted to Google. There is also a valuable section here which explores HTML improvements, highlighting any duplicate title tags.
- It allows you to add sitemaps and demote site links which appear in Google but are not relevant
Having webmaster tools set up was particularly important during the recent Google Penguin update where emails were sent to Webmaster tools accounts to let people know that their sites were using unnatural linkbuilding. The mail stated that the sites must remove these unnatural links and then resubmit the site after this is complete.
As with their other platforms, Google are constantly making updates to webmaster tools, which can be both positive and negative. The most recent update being that you can now see up to 90 days of search queries for your site, however some smaller features have been removed. One of these is creating a robots txt file which you will not longer be able to do in GWT.
Keeping track of such updates and regular use of Google Webmaster tools will be beneficial for the all round health of your website.
Finally don’t forget some of the useful tools accessible directly from webmaster tools such as the ‘rich snippets testing tool’ which shows how your URLS appear in search results.