TopRank Marketing Editor

Google Webmaster Tools Review

TopRank Marketing Editor     Google, Online Marketing, SEO, SEO Tools

SEO Tool ReviewGoogle Webmaster Tools Logo

Google Webmaster Tools is a great resource for any site owner. It’s designed to inform webmasters about how Google bot is interacting with their website. It gives detailed information on broken links, popular keywords and how often Google is stopping by. It’s Googles way of giving site owners the information that they need to be successful.

The Setup

Getting started with Google Webmaster Tools is not to difficult. The first thing you’ll need is a Google account. Since all Google services use the same login, you may already be setup. If you have Gmail, Adwords, Analytics, iGoogle or one of the many other services, then you are ready to go. If not, sign up for a free Google Account.

Google Webmaster Tools ButtonThen signup for the Webmaster Tools service. Head over to Google Webmaster Central and click on the “Improve traffic with Google Webmaster Tools” area. You’ll then be required to login or signup for the service. If you already have an account, then you’ll be let right in.

Next you’ll want to add your sites to the Dashboard. Site owners can add in as many sites as they want. Each site will then have to be verified before Google gives you insight for it.

Google Webmaster Tools Dashboard

To verify, you either upload a text file to the root of the website or add a meta tag to the index page. My preference is for the meta tag as it has fewer requirements. If you upload the text file, you’ll also need to ensure that your 404 error page is setup properly.

Verifying the site takes only a few seconds but access to the web server is necessary. Verification ensures that you are the site administrator/owner and can get the insight. If you don’t own the site, and you can’t verify it, then Google won’t give you the detailed information.

The Google Insight

Once verified, Google will automatically show you all kinds of information.

Overview

The Overview page shows you when your homepage was last crawled and how many errors Google sees, pages it can’t find, restricted files and unreachable URLs. This information is critical for any site. If you see that Google can’t get to most of your site, then there is no way they will rank it. If there is a bunch of broken links, then 301 redirects should be setup to help correct the issues.

Google Webmaster Tools Errors

Diagnostics

From the Overview screen, you can click into any of the web crawl errors for more information and you’ll be taken to the Diagnostics area. Google will then tell you every page it can’t find, every error it’s seeing and allow you to export those for reporting or sending off to the development team for fixing.

It’s good to note a few things here.

  1. Some pages are restricted for a reason and fixing may not be necessary. Google is just telling you that it knows about them and the decision is up to you. If an area is suppose to be private, then don’t let Google in.
  2. Some broken links could be coming from an outside source. If site A links to a service page on site B, but site A put in a bad URL, that’s an issue on the site A’s page. However, knowing that issue, a 301 redirect can be setup on site B’s end to correct the problem. This is probably easier than trying to contact site A and having them update their site.
  3. Sometimes, Google is crawling your site when maybe your host goes down for a minute or other items interfere with a good crawl. This could cause Google to report that a valid link is actually broken. Just take note of that and see if Google continues to say it’s a problem. It may just be an isolated crawling error that will fix itself.

The other cool thing about the Diagnostics is that you can choose from web crawl issue and mobile crawl issues. Google Webmaster Tools are not focused on just regular web.

Statistics

The next area is Statistics. This is where Google tells you how they see your site, how others see your site, top search queries, index and subscriber stats.

Top Search Queries are words and phrases that were put into Google that returned your site. It could be phrases you are optimizing for but are more than likely items you never think of. This is great information into how people are searching.

Google Webmaster Tools Search Phrases

When looking at the page you’ll see “Top search queries” and “Top search queries clicks.” The first is phrases that your site often shows up for in Google. The second is items your site often shows up for and people click on. The information is similar but what you show up for and what people actually click on can be quite different.

Google also shows you the average top position where you’re site is showing up in the search results for each phrase.

All of the search query information is averaged over seven days and is only a snapshot in time.

The What Googlebot sees area is a great way to understand what Google really thinks of your content. It’ll show you phrases in external links to your site, internal links and it’ll analyze your content. If you want to be found for sports awards, but Google sees that your site, and links, are more targeted towards high school activities, the you can see that you’ve got some work to do. What you see on the What Googlebot sees area should be in line with what you want to be found for. If it’s not, it’ll be harder to rank.

Google Webmaster Tools External Links Text

This information can also be sorted by the type of search. For example; web, image mobile and blog. It can also be sorted by country for those that want to get more information about country specific searches.

Google Webmaster Tools Narrow

The Crawl Stats area is all about PageRank. If you want to see what pages have the highest PageRank, this is area will be of interest to you. However, it doesn’t actually tell you the PageRank of any pages.

Index Stats just has quick links to pre-formatted Google searches in case you can’t remember them.

Subscriber Stats is an interesting area that’s lacking true stats. What it does is look at the feeds on your website and tells you how many people in Google Reader, Orkut or iGoogle are subscribed to those feeds. It’s cool because you can easily see if people are subscribed to category or comment feeds. What’s lacking is that it’s not tied into FeedBurner so it doesn’t report those stats. So if you use FeedBurner, your subscribers in Google Webmaster Tools will look really low. It also doesn’t count anything but Google properties numbers. So it’s not a true measurement of all subscriber stats.

Links

Then there’s the Links area. Here you can find out who else is linking to you, which pages have the highest number of links and your internal linking structure. Click on any of the numbers and Google will list out the sites linking to that page. All information is downloadable and very handy. However, Google does say it’s a larger sampling of links than the link command in Google search shows, but it’s not necessarily 100% of all your links.

Google Webmaster Tools Links

Not only is the external link data valuable, bus so is the internal link data. This is how Google sees you linking to your own site. If there are very few links to any one page, it can be an indication that the internal inking structure should be updated.

Sitemaps

The next area is Sitemaps. This is where you can upload an XML sitemap to Google to ensure they know of and crawl all the pages on your site. Stats include when it was submitted, last downloaded and number of URL submitted.

Google Webmaster Tools Sitemap

Tools

Last but not least is the Tools area. Here you can analyze your robots.txt file and run some tests to ensure the robots file isn’t blocking any good content.

There is also a Remove URL from Google area in case Google got a hold of a page they shouldn’t have.

You can even tell Google to crawl you site slower or faster with the Set the crawl rate area. For the most part, I’ve only been able to set Google to crawl slower, not faster.

There is also an Enhanced image search option. This is an interesting one. It allows users to label your images with the Google Image Labeler and improve image results. This could become quite interesting with Universal Search coming on strong. However, it’s more of a game than a technique you can use to optimize your own images.

Google Webaster Tools are a great set of resources to see how Google is interacting with your site. You can see issues, your site’s linking structure and how people are finding your site. It’s much more than other search engines are doing and something that is highly valuable for any site owner.

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Comments

  1. Nice summary, is this a paid review? 🙂

  2. Thomas McMahon says:

    Paid? Nope. 🙂 I did a presentation on Google Webmaster Tools the other day and this is the summary.

  3. Ha, I don’t think Google is in the business of paying anyone to review their applications. 🙂

  4. Google webmaster tools are nice !!

  5. haha yeah google doesnt pay people for this 🙂 i really would have be nice to see a good review.

  6. Oddly enough I find Google webmasters tools very frustrating, often telling me about dead pages that clearly are not and links which are supposedly dead. It creates a lot of abortive work for me trying to find these spurious errors that I gave up looking because I never found one of the 24 it reported.

    Also it reports site map errors that are not there.

  7. Google tools are great… however i am not sure where to log in to use them… since google has integrated all its services but earluer their were multiple accounts… so its kind of confusing…

  8. google tools are indispensible… they add real value to any online business!

  9. Yah, Google will not pay anyone to that kind of stuff for them.

    Great post… 🙂

  10. caribwebdev says:

    nice review, I did a tutorial a few weeks ago and Google analytics

  11. Great Post Thomas.

    I do confess to becoming a Google WM Tools slave, but thats because it is just so informative and ideal for small businesses (my main clientele).

    My only dilemma now is what part of Google do we heed for linking analysis: the link tab in Google Webmasters or link:www.yourwebsite.com under Google search engine? Both give very different results.

  12. great post , I believe that it is a powerful tool when you know how to use it. great value for online business. Have a nice day.

  13. Thomas McMahon says:

    Thanks for the feedback all. First off, I’ve edited a bunch of names to adhere to our blog comment policy. See #3.

    John – Yes, I’ve seen this before too. Some filtering is required unfortunately as connection issues may pop-up from time to time.

    conferindia – I totally agree with this. However, once I found the right link, now it’s second nature. Just look for the icon I posted above in the beginning of the post.

    Deb – Definitely us Google Webmaster Tools for the link information. It’s more complete than using the link: command. Also check out Yahoo Site Explorer.

  14. This is a great summary Thomas. You’ve answered a lot of questions that I’ve had in the past.

  15. I thank you for your explanation of the Google Tools. It always helps to see a professional explanation. With Google they leave alot to the amagination. YOU DID A GREAT JOB

  16. Thomas McMahon says:

    Glad you enjoyed it Drew and Scott. 🙂

  17. Chris Boulanger says:

    This is a great post. I try to turn my clients onto Webmaster(I do organic optimization for small businesses), but haven’t had the best results (they stop checking it after a couple of months). I’ve been looking for a user-friendly reference that I can send to them. As Scott said, Google does leave a lot to the imagination. This will help a lot!

    Are you going to do something like this for Site Explorer?

  18. I’m glad I found your post. I’ve started using Google Webmaster Tools but as a small business owner it is easy to get distracted with other issues. I’ll put this higher on my to-do list since I know it will be a good use of my time! Nice review and great reminder – thanks.

  19. Thank you to those that have emailed in concern with our site not being “Diggable”. We still don’t see any reasonable justification either.

    Please feel free to write Digg support ([email protected]) about not being able to submit news from toprankblog.com.

    Maybe if enough people email them, an acutal human being will take a look and see this site is no where near anything spammy.

    Lee

  20. i love google so much….plan to destory MICROSOFT

  21. Thomas McMahon says:

    Chris – A Yahoo Site Explorer review is on my list.

    All- Google released more features since this review and I encourage everyone to check out the official blog post.

  22. Nice Article. I’ve been messing with the webmaster tool a while and I’m sure a few website has link to my site a while back ago, but one 1 was found by google and shown in the webmaster tool… 🙁

  23. I keep telling myself I need to get into the Google webmaster tools and analytics. I know that these can be invaluable tools for my web sites. For some reason i can’t remember when I sit down to get into it. Guess I need some to do lists. Definitely going to make a point to get into Google.

  24. Ive been using google webmaster a while now i think its great but i dont understand the links because some i have on my blog dont show up and they are of a good page rank apart from that i wouldn’t do without it.

  25. Thanks for piecing the summary together, Thomas, and well done on the massive amount of external links to your blog! Something to aspire to.

  26. Oh, and when I say your blog, I don’t mean any disrespect to Lee and the other authors. 😉

    Of course I read your individual blog too.

  27. Well, we are already using many services of Google and by reading this article i have explored this service also. Definately, it can help a lot if we can use it properly. To this, we should first fully understand its functionality and usage.

    @ Thomas McMahon, I am expecting more valuable stuff from you.

    @arvinth, Microsoft is not a boiled chicken.Yes, we are expecting tough competition but word destroy sounds meaningless for while.

  28. There’s an error in Google Webmaster Tools, it isn’t accurate in the “pages that link to yours” option…

    In this article explains it: Error in Google Webmaster Tools

    Also there is a online tool to count and view the pages that links to any site: GooLinks

  29. I was wondering how some sites are able to list link tabs on search engine list, not sure if I am putting the question right , but if you google for – top blog site , you would see , how topsites.blogflux.com is listed with all text tabs. Does Webmaster tool take care of stuff like that? At 123Triad We help a lot of clients list in Major Search engines and I was wondering if we could so something like this for our clients.

  30. I knew most of what you had in there but I didn’t see the new item which smacks of Craigslist. They have a Google Base list which is an listing for your business. I just created a listing for my business which apparently stays there for 30 days. Now if Google puts this type of AD up in front of many faces it could be very interesting.
    I mean I got my self up on page 1 for several key word phrases that I think are important and this could be just one more. Now if I could figure out how to buy my way into Google’s yellow pay for section at the top of pages then I would be humming right along.. Oh! I’m not any kind of SEO guy. I’m a wedding photographer in Salem Massachusetts (Vistaphotography) so if you have any suggestions let me know..
    🙂

  31. nivrearth says:

    Hi,i use it for my site,but option “sitelinks” is showing 0 as well internal links and external links…maybe some of glitch?

  32. examplify.blogspot.com says:

    Hey T, nice post. I agree that Google Image labeling is more like a game than anything. I played once and never again! Cheers.

  33. Anthony says:

    I still have a major problem with google indxing my page… i am still new at search engine optimisation but i had done the required for this to occur..www.stechnologies.co.za

  34. Levi Blackman says:

    Great review. I have been meaning to dive into all of this for awhile and your article has been a great place to get started. Thanks!

  35. Is there somebody who knows how often this system is refreshed?

  36. Is there somebody who knows how often this system is refreshed?

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