Google Webmaster Tools is one of the most valuable and useful services on the internet and for any webmaster. The good news is that it’s completely free to access and use. The challenge is, many inexperienced users are not familiar with the service, and are intimidated by the available options and tools. Fortunately, the basics of Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) are more user-friendly than one might think. And throughout this “Beginner’s Guide,” I will present to you to the highlights of the service.
What Is Webmaster Tools
Before I start detailing the most useful features that are available, you will want to have a grasp and understanding of what GWT is used for, and also why it’s important. GWT is a selection of free tools and features that are designed to help webmasters and entrepreneurs better understand the ins and outs of their website. Many of these tools were created to help webmasters understand how and why their website ranks with Google, but there are many other tools that are available.
Signing up for Webmaster Tools is so easy—all you’ll need is an active Google account. Hopefully, you already have a Google Analytics login. You will be able use this account for Webmaster Tools, as well.
Verifying Your Website
Once your login has been setup, you can add your website or your first website, if you are running multiple domains. To verify a website, you will need to enter the URL of your chosen domain. Next, there are a few different methods that you can verify your ownership for that domain. The easiest way is to upload the custom HTML file that has been generated for you by Google. Once your domain has been verified, you will have the ability to start pulling information and making positive change.
Viewing the Dashboard
Your Dashboard will be able to provide a great view of where things stand with your selected domain. Here are the default selections for your introductory dashboard:
- New Notifications: These will appear if there are any developments that are new or worthy of
your attention on your website.
- Crawl errors: They can occur from time to time and interfere with the visibility of your website and its presence on SERPs.
- A Graph of Inbound Search Queries: This includes the amount of impressions and clicks those queries have generated.
- Your Current Sitemaps: This is a list which you will personally manage on a regular basis.
The Site Messages section, which can be found on the left-hand index of GWT, essentially is an inbox that Google will utilize to communicate with you. Usually, you won’t receive these messages very often. But, you will need to check back periodically to see if there have been any significant developments that need your attention. For example, Google might send you a message if it discovers that your website has been the victim of a hack attempt.
The Search Appearance section is your first step to understanding and customizing how your website will appear from the external search perspective. If you’re currently using structured data on your website (and you should be), you’ll have the ability to test and see how Google sees this structured data, and then how that translates to live search results. If you aren’t pleased with how your website or website links appear, you’ll be able to manage those qualities by adjusting the structured data on your website. To be able to do this, you’ll need a little HTML knowledge.
The Data Highlighter is a tool available for anyone to use to help Google understand the most important information on your website. By using this tool, you can explore, tag, and categorize specific pieces of information as they appear on your website and tailor how that data appears in searches. For example, you are able to highlight a series of future events to have them clearly show up under search queries that are specific.
While Google usually pushes back against search engine optimizers, the HTML Improvements section is designed almost completely to help webmasters rank better for search requests. Here, you are going to be able to view any recommendations that Google has about the HTML of your website. For example, it may list any duplicate or missing title tags, and any Meta descriptions that may be too long or too short. This is an exceedingly valuable tool for search engine optimizers who are attempting to maximize the visibility of their website.
The Site Links section is devised to help you customize the sub-links that show up under your homepage link for certain queries. Google will generally select these sub-links for you, but if you happen to have a different preference, you have the ability to adjust them up here.
The Search Traffic section of GWT is one of the most effective for SEO:
- Under Search Queries, you will have the ability to view a list of specific user search queries that led to your website. You’ll discover information such as impressions, clicks, CTR, and average position for each query over a specified period of time.
- Under Links to Your Site, you are going to be able to observe all of your backlinks and conclude whether there are any problems or improvements that can be made in your backlink building plan.
- Under Internal Links, you can investigate your onsite navigation and discover areas for potential improvement.
- Under Manual Actions, you can go over any potential penalties that Google might have given you. Luckily, these types of penalties are quite rare, but definitely watch out for them, just in case. Many of them can be appealed.
- Under International Targeting, you are able to explore how your website is seen in international searches.
- Under Mobile Usability, you can review and evaluate any potential errors your website contains when shown on a mobile device.
The Google Index section will help you identify how your website appears in Google’s enormous search index:
- Under Index Status, you’ll be able to view the total number of URLs under your domain that are being indexed. If you observe any major spikes or drops, it could be a sign of a potential problem.
- Under Content Keywords, you’ll be able to view a listing of what Google interprets are the most significant keywords used throughout your website.
- Under Remove URLs, you can specifically request that some of your URLs at to be concealed from Google search bots. This can be extremely useful if you have duplicate pages or other content that is irrelevant and that you don’t want indexed.
The Crawl section is the ideal place to see how your website is being crawled by Google and proactively identify if there are any problems:
- Under Crawl Errors, you will see notifications for any pages of your website that are causing problems for Google’s crawlers.
- Under Crawl Stats, you will be able to see specific information about how these bots are crawling your website.
- Under Fetch as Google and robots.txt Tester, you are able to view your own pages exactly the way Google views them. This can be useful for troubleshooting specific crawl issues.
- Under Sitemaps, you can view and control the sitemaps that you have submitted for your website.
- Under URL Parameters, you can revise or correct any problems with your URLs that may have caused indexing issues. You usually will not have to use this unless you have actually encountered a problem.
Security Issues is an additional section where Google will update you if it detects that something is wrong. If, for any reason, the security of your website has been compromised, you will hear about it here first.
Google has a great variety of other resources available in GWT. This includes a Structured Data Testing Tool that will help you to test your structured data, a Google Places integration which is very valuable for local businesses, and PageSpeed Insights, which can assist in making all of your pages load faster on all devices and browsers. Most of these are advanced features and they may not be helpful for all users. However, you definitely should feel free to explore them once you have mastered the basics.
It’s going to take some time before you’re thoroughly acquainted with GWT. Google has gone to great lengths to create such a useful, valuable, and massive tool that is available for webmasters all around the world. It is only smart for all of us to take advantage of it. As you become more experienced, you will learn more tips and tricks on how best to make GWT work for you. But for now, it will be best to focus on becoming familiar with the basic layout.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post on The Beginner’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools. I hope it has provided information that the reader can use and please feel free to pass it on to anyone that may appreciate the content. If you have any tips to share or questions on making the most of this excellent, free resource that I haven’t answered here, drop me a Comment below. Take care.