You’re either here because you have been Googling something along the lines of ‘what does webmaster tools do’ or you’ve been snooping around the SEMtuts blog looking for webmaster-tool related guides. That’s a good start because you are about to learn how webmaster tools can help your SEO efforts moving forward, it’s a great piece of kit that you definitely need to get your hands on, it’s completely free.
This post will outline how you can use webmaster tools to improve Google’s understanding of your site. If you’re looking to get started and you feel as if you’re prepared to set up webmaster tools, I suggest you check out my post dedicated to how to set up webmaster tools on your site. That will cover all of the steps to getting it setup correctly.
What Is Google Webmaster Tools And How Does It Help
Webmaster tools, otherwise known as Google Search Console in the world of SEO is a tool that was created by Google to provide webmasters with a comprehensive overview of how their site is performing in organic search. It’s a tool that was designed for webmasters, it’s free and always will be. It only takes a couple of minutes to setup.
Below are some of the features that webmaster tools offer:
1) What users are typing into the search results to find your site
It’s relatively simple, within Google Search Console you’re able to identify the keywords that users are typing into the search results to find your site. This is incredibly useful information and can be taken advantage of to improve your search engine presence even further for certain areas of your site. If you know a certain page is generating quite a lot of traffic from a specific keyword, in this instance, let’s use ‘what does does google webmaster tools do’ as a search query – then you can visit the page that’s ranking for that specific term, and improve it’s on-page optimisation even further. Once done, you’re able to check to see if the changes have resulted in any increase in traffic/and or rankings.
2) Monitor your site’s search engine positioning
I have to admit, this feature isn’t as accurate as the other ranking tools currently on the market (I recommend this one to get started) but it does give you an *idea* of where you currently stand in the SERP’s (search engine results pages). Plus, again, it’s free.
3) The ability to check what sites link to yours (backlinks)
If you’re serious about increasing your search engine ranking, this is a must have feature to obtain visibility of what websites are linking to your domain. If you’re unaware, having sites link to your site is currently the number #1 algorithm, in other words, it carries the most weight.
Luckily for us, Google have included this functionality within webmaster tools.
You’re able to check to see what sites link to you; what page they are linking to; how many times they link to your site across their entire domain and more. It’s a very useful piece of kit that can be used in conjunction with other backlink tools, I have provided some of these for you below to give you an idea:
These tools are highly effective to identify negative SEO attacks on your domain too. In other words, sites that you don’t necessarily want linking to you.
Reminder: Having one singular link checking tool in your toolset won’t be able to provide ALL of the backlink data associated with your domain, as the chances are, these tools haven’t crawled the entire web yet. Each individual tool will gather different results, it’s always nice to obtain backlink data from multiple perspectives.
4) Get notified if Google finds any technical faults / and or anything suspicious
Everyone likes to be reassured that their site is in good nick, especially when Google is considered as there can be so much at stake. If your site disappears from the face of Google, your organic revenue will probably rock bottom too. So yes, it’s important to be notified if anything goes wrong.
Google will proactively update you in regards to any errors it finds on your site, or in worst instances, any penalties that it decides to apply to your domain. Whether that’s because it finds 404 errors, robots.txt problems, crawling issues, or even if your site has been targeted by a malicious hacker. If anything goes wrong, expect to be emailed and notified.
5) Block off any malicious links or activity from negatively affecting your search performance
Webmaster tools have a ton of useful features, but the Disavow tool is by far the most reassuring tool that can be used in its toolset, especially when a penalty is concerned. If you find yourself being underneath the Google ban hammer, Google has created a tool that allows you, the webmaster, to block off any malicious links that may be crippling your search performance.
Every website has a link profile and considering links are the most important aspect that contributes towards the success of any given website in their search engine, they don’t want webmasters trying to manipulate it. Therefore, Google hands out penalties to sites that may or may not be attempting to deliberately build links to their site.
If your site is raising some suspicion, Google will red flag your pride and joy and it will be manually reviewed by a Google employee, otherwise known as a human. This human probably has a degree and has read most of what’s on the web concerning all things related to backlinks and how to manipulate the Google algorithms. Therefore, they will know if you’ve been attempting to implement shady tactics to your site / and or if other sites have been blasting malicious links to yours.
For this reason, Google decided to create the Disavow tool that allows webmasters to block off any bad, spammy, irrelevant links that are pointing to their site(s). This will not only help Google build up a portfolio of spammy sites but to also protect webmasters from unnecessary penalties.
6) Identify broken pages and links on your website
The chances are you’re one of the following: busy business man, you run your own business, you’re at college/university or your working full-time. We can both agree that you probably don’t have the time to manually go through your site and check it’s functionality and whether or not links/pages on your site are broken. We have better things to do.
However, in order to ensure that our site(s) are working correctly from not only a user experience perspective but from a technical perspective too, you’ll need to make sure your site is in tack and that everything works. This includes each individual link. If a visitor finds your site via the search results, clicks a link and then is displayed with a big juicy, fat 404 error – the chances are they will click ‘Back’ on their browser and visit a competitor instead. The same happens in a real-world scenario, if you visit a shop and notice that something doesn’t work or the product isn’t on the shelf, you go to another shop instead. It’s the same principle. Having these errors will not only cripple your SEO efforts but your websites fundamental navigation principles too.
Therefore, Google has incorporated a feature within webmaster tools that will notify the webmaster whenever it spots a broken link / and or page. These errors are generated when Googlebot crawls your site, so it’s important to get these fixed as soon as possible.
7) The most awesome tool for beginners: Fetch as Google
Most of these features sound like fun and games, but they’re rendered useless if Google isn’t visiting your site. We all know how difficult it can be sometimes to get Google to visit your site; sometimes on a good day, it can take a matter of hours, sometimes weeks. It really depends on how authoritative your site is and how often you publish new content, lots of factors come into play.
On the other hand, if you’re un-patient like me, we’re able to perform activities to increase the likelihood of Google indexing our site. This involves using tools such as One Hour Indexing or obtaining links on authoritative websites, it’s not that easy, though. Therefore, we’re able to use Fetch As Google, it’s a tool that allows the webmaster to submit their site or newly-created pages to Google, and they will enlist it into their consideration queue, which sometimes speeds the process up of indexation.
8) Lastly, test how Google crawls or renders a URL on your site
This part should’ve been contained in the previous section, but it’s too special too not have its own bullet point. Additionally, as part of the Fetch as Google request, we’re able to see whether Googlebot can access a page on our site. It will render exactly how Googlebot has viewed the page and all of its code, resources, links, content and other interesting aspects that it’s read in that process. Therefore you’ll able to simulate a crawl and render of your site from Google’s perspective.
As an example, the content in your iFrame may render correctly to your users, however from a search engine perspective it’s known to cause problems, therefore the content may not be picked up as it should by the search engines.
It’s a brilliant tool to recognise what aspects of your site are being taken into consideration by search engine crawlers.
That’s enough gobbledygook, for now, I think it’s time for you to dive into the action yourself. If you’re unsure how to get going with webmaster tools, you can learn how to set up webmaster tools here.