Google Webmaster Tools for Beginners in 3 Easy Steps
You’re redesigning your website to make it more appealing to potential customers, so now you need to make sure those potential customers find your site in the first place. Luckily, Google gives you the tools to improve your search rankings: Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).
Monitoring GWT can help you naturally increase your site’s search ranking, and it’s pretty easy to do. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Setting Up a Google Webmaster Tools Account
Sign up for GWT here. Just enter your URL and click Add Property.
2. Verify Your Website
GWT will give you an HTML file that you upload to your website to confirm that you’re the site owner. If you don’t know how to add an HTML file to your website, you can watch a tutorial here, or we can do it for you as part of your website redesign.
3. Access Google Webmaster Tools Dashboard
Once your website is confirmed, you can log in to Google Webmaster Tools and get started. Your main dashboard has three sections:
a. Crawl errors
If you have any GWT crawl errors, you can find out what they mean and how to fix them on Google’s Search Console Help.
b. Search analytics
Click through to see what searches lead users to your site, which pages are most popular, what countries people are coming from, what devices visitors are using, and what kind of search people perform (Web or video).
Google’s crawlers sometimes miss a few of your website pages. To ensure that every page gets properly indexed, submit a sitemap. XML Sitemaps will automatically create one for you when you enter your URL. Download the sitemap file and add it to your site’s domain root folder. You can watch a tutorial on uploading a sitemap.
Back in the Google Search Console dashboard, click Sitemaps and then click Add/Test Sitemaps. Add sitemap.xml at the end of your URL and click Submit Sitemap.
Google will start indexing the pages within a few hours; check back after about a day to make sure every page was indexed without errors. If some pages are still not indexed, see reasons a page is not indexed by Google here.
Other Google Webmaster Tools for Beginners
There are a few other tools that you should look at to make sure that Google views your site favorably:
Check the Structured Data link to make sure you don’t have any data errors. If you do, be sure to fix them. HTML Improvements will recommend changes to your meta descriptions, title tags, and non-indexable content. Sitelinks are the links that show up under the main result from a Google search for your company. If your website is fairly new or has low traffic, you may not have any. If you do, you can ask Google to demote sitelinks that you don’t want to feature.
Links to Your Site will show you info about inbound links. If you don’t have many inbound links, consider using social media and guest publishing to drive more. Internal Links shows you how your pages link to each other. If you want to increase the importance of a certain page, add more internal links to it.
Content Keywords will show the most commonly used words on your site. If your target keywords don’t show up high on the list, make some adjustments to your text.
Crawl Errors are caused when Google can’t find a page (usually a 404 error). I’ve had a lot of clients panic about 404’s on their website and I remind them that they are a natural occurrence on the web and not to worry. They won’t hurt your search results, but if a page isn’t being indexed that should be, make sure to fix the error. You can test fixed links on the next section, Fetch As Google.
After you’ve made initial changes, continue to your Google Webmaster account regularly to make sure your site is still as Google-friendly as possible.