Here are the 7 most important Google Webmaster Tool functions that you need to be on top of for 2013. Also, included details on how to use each function and why.
Sitemaps – this is one of the most important features of Google Webmaster tools. If you don’t know how to use this feature then you must learn as soon as possible. It is very easy to implement. Depending on the type of website you have, (joomla, wordpress, drupal, or straight html/css/php) there are different options when creating a sitemap. Google accepts sitemaps in .xml format. For many platforms you can easily install a plugin that automatically generates the sitemap for you. For WordPress visit http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/. For joomla visit http://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/structure-a-navigation/site-map. For drupal visit http://drupal.org/project/xmlsitemap. If you have a straight html site visit http://sitemapxml.net/.
After you have created a sitemap.xml page on your site, simply put in the URL of your sitemap in webmaster tools. Google will now see every page on your website which is very beneficial to SEO. This will force Google to see all of your content and will have a greater chance to index all of your pages. If you own a website and have not implemented this feature, do so right now!
Crawl Errors – from talking to other webmasters this seems to be a feature overlooked. Google lets you know that they have an issue with crawling your site’s content. Majority of errors that are listed here are 404 errors. That means a page that used to be on your site, Google can’t find anymore. For example say we have a page located at http://www.purposeadvertising.com/SEO. We happened to have deleted that page because we don’t like it anymore and remade it at http://www.purposeadvertising.com/search-engine-optimization. Google will then list that under the crawl errors page. Now here is the secret of the pros… simply create a redirect from the page that doesn’t exist anymore to the new page you created. Information of creating redirect can be found here http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=93633. Once you setup the redirect, mark it as fixed in webmaster tools.
Search Queries – Google lets you know exactly what people type into Google that your site shows up for. Use this as a good starting point when performing search engine optimization techniques. Use the query list as starter keywords to build up.
Links to Your Site – this is probably my favorite feature of webmaster tools. To other SEO companies, how great is this!? Google shows you every other site that links to you on the web. Use this tool to your advantage by visiting the sites that link to your website. If the website that is linking to you is not relevant to your website, then use Google’s disavow tool to tell them you don’t approve this site linking to you. Google states that there is no such thing as “negative seo” but there is. If a competitor builds a bunch of bad links to your website, you will be hurting in the rankings. It’s up to you to look at the links to your site and determine if they are legit. The non legit ones, tell Google about.
HTML Improvements – the most common HTML improvement you need to make is duplicate title & descriptions on each of your pages. Simple edit your site to have unique meta titles & descriptions. Of course keep it as relevant as possible but unique. I can’t stress enough on having uniqueness on your website.
Structured Data – this is a newer function offered by Google. Using http://schema.org/ implement any new type of coding that is appropriate for your website. For us, we use the coding around our business information and all of the services we offer. Google says that this doesn’t help with search engine optimization but how can it not. This helps Google see what your webpage is about. Please Google in any way possible for better rankings.
Site Performance (Now in Google Analytics)– saved the best for last. Google’s algorithm factors in just how fast your website is when ranking you in the results. Have you ever clicked to visit a site and about 8 seconds later it still doesn’t load? So what do you do? You close it and will visit a different site. Having a fast site pleases the users so that’s why Google decided that it was really important. One can do many different things to make a website faster. The quickest and easiest way to increase site performance is getting your site on a content delivery network (CDN). An inexpensive CDN can be found here http://www.maxcdn.com. A CDN will put your website files on multiple servers located throughout the United States and the World so whoever connects to your site from their physical location, will get the files from your website from the server located closed to them. This is increase the performance of your site because now it’s not on a centralized location. If you have poor website performance, such as on shared hosting from Godaddy, get a CDN host right now!
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Comment question of the day: What’s your favorite Google webmaster tools feature?
Please leave your interesting and creative responses below.