How to use Google Webmaster Tools

I’m a huge fan of Google Webmaster Tools, and I’ve written a tool for it which seems quite popular, (and might get an update soon). I’ve been noticing that people find my site by searching for the search term “how to use Google Webmaster Tools”, so I thought I’d post a guide of how I use it on a weekly basis to check on the health of my sites.

Web crawl errors

Web Crawl errorsOn opening Google Webmaster Tools I select a site. If you do that, the first thing you see is the diagnostic tab, with in it an overview of the latest web crawl errors Google encountered. This is the first thing I check out, as it provides very important data on the current status of the site. If you have a lot of URL’s that are either not found, unreachable, or timing out, you should look in to those and fix them. URL’s that aren’t found might be caused by people linking to you making an error in typing the URL. You could either ask those people to change that URL, if you know who is linking to you like this, or 301 redirect the page that Google didn’t find to the correct page. Be sure to check out all errors, and make sure you click all URL’s to see what happens.

The crawl rate

The second thing I look at is the crawl rate, linked in the menu on the left under tools. In this page, you want to see this box:

Crawl rate

You want to be sure that Google does not want to crawl your site faster, if it does, you can put it to faster. If that’s the case though, chances are that your visitors aren’t experiencing a fast site either. So you want to speed up your server, or get your hosting provider to speed it up.

Above this box is an overview of the Googlebot activity over the last 90 days. Check out the graphs that are hidden underneath the links, and make sure that the number of pages crawled per day and the number of kilobytes downloaded per day isn’t going down drastically, but also don’t obsess over slight downward movements. You also want to make sure the time Googlebot spends downloading your pages is “stable”.

Statistics

The next tab is the statistics tab. When you open this, the first thing you’ll see is a table showing “The PageRank of your pages in Google”, and a table showing the page with the highest pagerank for the last three months. I don’t think this data is very interesting, especially because PageRank is only shown as High, Medium, Low or “Not yet assigned”. If these things change heavily though, and you weren’t expecting them to change, you might want to take a look at your IBL’s.

Something else in this tab is a lot more interesting, though you might have gathered this data using other tools. Under “Page analysis”, there are two tables showing the common words for both your site’s content, and the common words in external links to your site. If you consider that the anchor text used for links towards your site is a very important factor in your rankings, you understand that this is an important table to have a look at. Any keywords that you’re targeting that aren’t in there? Perhaps you should think about your link building strategy again…

The Links tab

The tab with, in my opinion, the best information in Google Webmaster Tools for an SEO is the links tab. This shows an overview of all the pages on your site which Google has found links to, and the amount of links it has found to these pages. Clicking on the number next to the page URL shows the specific page Google has found the link towards that page on. If you use the extension I created, Google Webmaster Tools External Links++, you will also get the anchor text for the link and the PageRank for the page linking towards you.

I use this data regularly to check on which links Google has indexed, and how many links I have gathered with my new tools, link-bait actions etc.

Conclusion

If you use Google Webmaster Tools like this regularly, you’ll be aware of any (indexing) problems with your site in time, and have a thorough understanding of how your site is doing. Make sure you add this to your weekly routine!

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28 Responses

  1. Richard HearneBy Richard Hearne on 13 April, 2007

    Hi Joost

    I tried your sitemaps script previously but couldn’t get it working. I just tried again and a couple of issues:

    My sitemaps console includes a page
    https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/links?siteUrl=

    which doesn’t seem covered by your script. I added it in but then JS threw an error:
    matches has no properties [line 21]

    Now if you could stick this into a FF plugin… great idea though.

    Rgds
    Richard

  2. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 13 April, 2007

    Richard: I’m hoping to do just that :) I’ll let you know when it’s done :)

  3. Richard HearneBy Richard Hearne on 13 April, 2007

    Joost

    My bad. I was waiting to see data populated on the opening link screen. But of course a little more thought and I realise that could never be possible – it displays aggregate data.

    Nice tool. Looking forward to the plugin. I really must investigate how difficult it is to create FF plugins.

    Best rgds
    RIchard

  4. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 13 April, 2007

    Nice to hear you got it working :) I think I should be writing a better “howto” for the tool :)

  5. deInternetMarketeerBy deInternetMarketeer on 31 July, 2007

    Nope, didn’t find anything intresting :)
    Most i can find back in my logs or cpanel
    Others like checking backlinks is only necessary when you don’t know the site like you have to.
    And for that one option i can use another tool if i want.

    Perhaps when you work in a bigger organisation it could be helpfull(changing staff etc). But for a regular webmaster there’s nothing in it that’s important and can’t be found on another way.

  6. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 31 July, 2007

    You have another tool which shows you which backlinks Google knows about? Do tell, I think the whole online marketing community would be grateful… And yes I’m being cynical :)

  7. deInternetMarketeerBy deInternetMarketeer on 31 July, 2007

    http://www.webuildpages.com/neat-o/

    This for example.
    There are others also and even better(somewhere deep in my bookmarks…).

    I wouldn’t know why i only have to check the backlinks Google has.
    Your rankings decide whether or not you need backlinks. Not GWT

    Perhaps that’s the reason why they want to populate this tool. So webmasters would only consider using google for checking their sites.

    I really don’t see why a regular webmaster needs it. For businesses who need to report their backlinks improvement, ok. But that’s not an SEO point but a company organisation point.(yes this is discussable)

    So GWT has one important thing and that is the backlinks report.
    If you know the site you don’t need it.
    If you don’t know the site you also don’t need it. Just do the work that has to be done and you know already which work this is if you analysed the site.(ok it could help analyse the site)

    It could be helpfull but it sure isn’t necessary to use this tool to optimise a website.

  8. deInternetMarketeerBy deInternetMarketeer on 31 July, 2007

    Besides, i use a plugin for firefox which shows me the backlinks for Google, yahoo, dmoz, wikipedia, ..
    It’s even possible to show the backlinks from msn and yahoo for the single page you visit.

    That’s, for me, more usefull.
    Now ok, my system both have advantages the other may not have but at the end of the story we almost know the same about the site.

  9. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 31 July, 2007

    it’s not necessary, but no one tool is. You need a tool set though, and GWT tells you all kinds of things you can’t get anywhere else. It tells you which 404′s google encountered, it tells you which of the links you got are found by Google, and yes I do think that’s important to know, it can tell you what pages are blocked by robots.txt and SO MUCH MORE.

    Of course there are tools that can do most of this, but that’d mean having to use more than 1 tool for something that you COULD get from 1 tool. That means doing more work than need be, which means overcharging your customer. Trust me, I know quite a few good SEO’s, and there is NO ONE in that group who thinks he or she should not use Google Webmaster Tools.

  10. deInternetMarketeerBy deInternetMarketeer on 31 July, 2007

    :-)
    I know what’s in my robots.txt
    If i need to know the 404 errors i check my cpanel errors and if necessary the logs.(easy, ctrl+f and type 404)

    So besides my cpanel i only need 1 tool if necessary at all.

    1 year ago everyone said xml sitemaps were necessary …(especially in the beginning, now was that a waste of time and overcharging customers :-) )

    It’s a tool, it could be handy.
    But it’s not THE tool you NEED to use.

    And if you look at it like i do, you don’t need it.

    Example : Beginning webmaster get’s advice use GWT.
    Ok duplicate content, the guy has www and non www links.
    What does he do? He sees that option in GWT and fixes it there thinking that the whole problem is fixed.

    And what about the other SE’s?
    You and i know you need to use .htaccess or a script for that. The beginning(and not only the beginning) webmaster doesn’t and by using GWT he thinks he’s doing good while he doesn’t because he forgets the other SE’s.

    GWT is a tool but it’s hyped to THE tool which it isn’t.
    It’s just a tool.

    See what i mean? I don’t say it’s a bad tool but it sure isn’t the tool that is going to do everything for you.

    Just a tool …

  11. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 31 July, 2007

    Hmm we’re not going to agree on this :) I do think it’s one of the best resources out there for a webmaster / SEO.

  12. RalieyBy Raliey on 24 January, 2008

    Hi,

    I wants to know any tool that show Google indexed date of all my web page related to my site. pls help me .

  13. DavidBy David on 20 July, 2008

    Just another frustrating post that says little and assumes you know how to do all the things it can’t be bothered to explain.

  14. Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 21 July, 2008

    @David: feel free to email me if you have specific issues!

  15. mini gameBy mini game on 21 September, 2008

    Beginning webmaster get’s advice use GWT.
    Ok duplicate content, the guy has www and non www links.
    What does he do? He sees that option in GWT and fixes it there thinking that the whole problem is fixed.
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  16. sem servicesBy sem services on 22 September, 2008

    it’s really good article for webmasters who don’t know about webmaster tool.
    Thanks for nice article.

  17. IainBy Iain on 19 October, 2008

    I think the article’s fine, and you stated specifically that it was intended for the perhaps ‘beginner’ market apparant in your statistics.

    One question perhaps you could clear up though – any thoughts on why the number of links shown in GWT not generally the same the number of links returned in a linkdomain: http://www.yourdomain.com search? And while I understand Yahoo has a different engine, given that it has the same objective, why does Yahoo’s site explorer generally return such drastically different results from either of these methods? Neither seems entirely comprehensive – would you agree?

  18. IainBy Iain on 19 October, 2008

    ah, i think your comment processing didn’t like my linkdomain: http://www... syntax – subtract the http:// in the above, sorry about that

  19. RenedyBy Renedy on 24 October, 2008

    I am really helpful from the Statistics Tab. It explores lots of new things to me.

  20. Richard KenedyBy Richard Kenedy on 24 October, 2008

    I agree with Renedy. The Statistics Tab is a nice one.

  21. patchBy patch on 11 April, 2009

    Hi, do you know if it’s possible to use this tool with a “Google Sites” website? There are two options when trying to get the tool: (verify I’m the website owner):
    upload an HTML file with a name we (Google) specify, or you can add a meta tag to your site’s index file. I am presuming that I can’t upload a HTML file using Google sites as all editing is done online, not via FTP or similar, and I have no idea if I can add a meta tag to the index file.
    Any ideas?
    Patch

  22. Perv VidBy Perv Vid on 31 August, 2009

    For some reason google took away my ‘crawl speed’ option. It was out of no where.

    I am still using the same hosting and therefor it did not get any slower so i am not sure whats going on anymore.

  23. Perv VidBy Perv Vid on 31 August, 2009

    For some reason google took away my ‘crawl speed’ option. It was out of no where.

    I am still using the same hosting and therefor it did not get any slower so i am not sure whats going on anymore.

  24. Perv VidBy Perv Vid on 31 August, 2009

    For some reason google took away my ‘crawl speed’ option. It was out of no where.

    I am still using the same hosting and therefor it did not get any slower so i am not sure whats going on anymore.

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  25. Kirstin BaliBy Kirstin Bali on 11 November, 2009

    I like this Google Tools. Because we can see how much visitor come to our website from a spesific keywords. And we also can see our position in Google Search Results

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