Learning from the Master: How to Use Google Webmaster Tools
“You want to be found on the web. We want to help.”
Much of SEO feels like a game of outsmarting Google and other search engines. Just as your rankings go up, one false move can get you de-indexed and send you back to square one. However, the main page for Google’s Webmaster Tools is much more inviting. “We want to help.”
Instead of seeing Google as a beast to be conquered, site owners should start utilizing the tools Google offers to help their sites get noticed online. Here are a few SEO strategies you can implement using the data from Google Webmaster Tools:
Ensure that your site is indexed.
Worried that a certain page of your website isn’t even on Google’s radar? Some pages have not been linked enough or contain mostly content (like pictures or video) that Google crawlers have trouble detecting.
With Webmaster Tools, you can submit a sitemap including additional information about your site so the search engine can index all of your pages. If there is a case where you have a page that shouldn’t be indexed, you can remove URLs under the Optimization section. Google Webmaster Tools is also where you can submit a reconsideration request, after making the necessary changes, if your site has been de-indexed.
Determine what keywords you should target.
We all know how important keyword selection is. Recognizing searching trends with your website can determine which terms you need to focus on. With “Search Queries” under the Traffic tab, you can see exactly what phrases people had entered into Google before finding your website. The chart will show both impressions (meaning a user saw your site in the search results) and clicks (meaning the user actually went to your site).
If you find that an unexpected search term appears near the top of the list, you may want to adapt your website so those users can find answers easily. If there is a keyword you find applicable and it does not appear on the list, you can concentrate more on building up that phrase.
See your site as Google sees it.
Just as you can see keywords that Google users have entered while searching, you can also see what keywords Google believes are most significant on your site. Just go to “Content Keywords” under Optimization. Again, if there are important keywords that aren’t showing up near the top of the list, you should add those keywords into your content more frequently. The most significant keywords should fit the goal of your website. You don’t want Google to include your site in a search for something irrelevant as it won’t benefit you or your readers.
Google Webmaster Tools can also troubleshoot problems your site might be having. “HTML Improvements” is especially helpful because it will detect potential issues within your content.
If you really want to see exactly how Google views your page, you can select “Fetch as Google” and either a regular or mobile web crawler will pull up the site. If there is anything vital missing because the crawler cannot detect it effectively, you can submit a sitemap with more information to the search engine. This will also point out more serious problems, like if your website has been hacked.
Be more social.
First off, these tools will show you links to your site. If other websites are linking to your own site, whether in comments or articles, Google will recognize your site as more trustworthy and authoritative. Building up those links is a good way to get your site out of the 12th page gutter.
Last year, Google incorporated social statistics into its Webmaster Tools, a big incentive to add a Google+ button. They have since removed that information, but you can still access these statistics—number of Facebook likes, bookmarks on Delicious, Google+ shares, etc.—in Google Analytics. You can also view where your traffic is coming from by country and type.
You need to appease Google to achieve online success these days, but rather than fighting the search engine giant, work with the company. The insight you can gain from Google Webmaster Tools will put you a step ahead—and, hopefully, pages ahead when people search.
About the guest author: Diana Galloway puts her degrees in marketing and political science to use by writing articles about marketing practices, politics, and the coolest new technology around. She is currently working as a marketing expert, specializing in SEO services in Calgary, Toronto, and throughout Canada.
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