So what is it?
Google Webmaster Tools (or GWT) was initially built to allow webmasters to check indexing status and improve the visibility of the websites in the search engine results pages (SERP). To put it simply it allows you, as a website owner, to help Google find and index your website. In an industry which is becoming more competitive and complex each day, free help is always welcome. GWT has now become an integral part of the ideal SEO toolbox as it gives insights that cannot be found in any other software.
Why should I use Webmaster Tools?
Here are 5 reasons why you should use this free tool when carrying out SEO work for your website.
- Submit and check your sitemap – GWT enables users to upload an entire list of their site URLs ready for Google to index. The sitemap has to be in XML format (read more on XML sitemap). This not only is a great way to tell Google where all your valuable content is, it also usually speeds up the indexing process, meaning that new pages for an existing site can be indexed in a matter of days.
- Select your geographic target – if your site is aimed at an audience in a specific country, then GWT allows you to target users in that specific market. By doing so you’re telling Google that you would like it to give more consideration to your site in its index for the chosen country. This can save a lot of headaches for local website owners with a .com domain which is non-country specific.
- Identify broken links and errors – broken links and pages not found (404 errors) are some of the most frustrating things for web users and search engines alike. Fixing these issues will improve user experience and will also make life easier for search engines crawling your website. GWT provides full lists of crawling errors and stats that will enable you to identify and fix issues quickly.
- Find out who links to your website – If you’ve always wanted to understand which websites link to yours and which pages are the most linked ones, then this is the place to start. GWT shows you links to your website by domain and page as well as the anchor text used. With Google keeping a very close eye on link quality and relevance these days, knowing who links to you and identifying potentially damaging links is critical. A great way to start your link building research.
- Identify search queries – while Google Analytics provides a lot of information on a very wide range of data, it is becoming more and more secretive about what users typed in before reaching your website, especially if they were logged in to their Google account at the time (the now notorious (not provided) issue). GWT does however provide you with a full list of keyword searches along with click through rates, impressions and average position. It does not link to any conversion data on your site, but really gives you a clear indication of what keywords you should be considering for your SEO. A great feature for anybody doing keyword research too.
There are a lot of other features in GWT that this post is not covering, but the points above should really make you go and create your GWT account for your website if you don’t already have one. And the best part (apart from it being free) is that setting it up should not take you more than 5 minutes. And if you’re not sure how to set it up or would like help understanding the data, contact our SEO experts for help.
About the author
Etienne is the Head of SEO here at Mahon Digital and he’s been involved in the digital & search marketing industry for nearly 11 years now, working for small family owned businesses as well as international FTSE 500 companies. He’s passionate about all things digital, but more specifically about digital & search strategy and marketing analysis.