March 22, 2008
SEO Help From Google Webmaster Tools (Part 1 of 2)
Google Webmaster Tools is a suite of tools designed to assist the web marketer and website owner in ensuring their website is optimized for Google to access and crawl it properly. The tools are surprisingly beneficial and if you haven’t checked them out before, or it’s been a while since you last looked, you’ll probably be more than a little surprised.
Part 1 looks at the Overview, Diagnostics, and Statistics sections, while in part 2 next week, we look at Links, Sitemaps, and Tools and discuss how to use various aspects of Google Webmaster Tools to improve your marketing and site maintenance.
The quickest way to learn? Get in and get your hands dirty – you can’t damage anything by doing so.
The Overview tab displays a summarized report detailing when your site was last crawled, whether pages from your site have been indexed, and whether there were any errors when Googlobot attempted to crawl your site. It’s good information, and can give you an indication of how attractive your site is to Googlebot but it doesn’t contain the real meat of the Webmaster Tools.
The Diagnostics tab gives a list of crawl types that Google may or may not have attempted on your site. Clicking on each of these will subsequently display a list of errors and problems that were encountered in the process. This can include links to your other pages that Google wasn’t able to follow so do check the errors and repair any broken links, pages that return errors, and so on.
>Fixing Broken Links
Fixing problems doesn’t just improve the experience for Googlebot it may mean more of your pages get indexed and ranked for your important keywords. One broken link can lead to a handful of other broken links although if you’ve submitted a Google sitemap then this should be less of a problem.
For a true insight of how Google is viewing the elements on your pages, pay particular interest to the Content Analysis section. The non-indexable content issues lists elements or pages that can’t be indexed largely due to the fact that Googlebot is predominantly a text crawler. Look at the pages highlighted and make sure that there is ample alternative text for the crawlers and for the sake accessibility – some users disable Flash in their browsers and they will fail to see these elements as well.
Every page should contain a reasonable amount of text for the crawlers and those that can’t view Flash, images, or other non-indexable items.
The Statistics section is an Internet marketer’s heaven. You can view crawl data, index stats, link stats, feed stats, and your top Google search queries. We’re going to ignore the PageRank display that is offered in the Crawl Stats, because PageRank should not be your main consideration or a cause for concern – concentrate on your SERP ranking, your traffic, your conversions, and your profits. Don’t concentrate on a little green bar or other representation of a figure that bears no significant relevance to the performance of your online business (so much for ignoring it, huh?).
>Top Search Queries
The Top Search Queries displays the search terms that were used on Google and resulted in a visitor coming to your site. This is genuinely good stuff. No matter how much keyword research you do, no matter how well you optimize your pages, and no matter how many links you generate using keywords as anchor text, you will never optimize for some of the phrases that people use to find your site. This section lets you view those phrases and see just how well the long tail is performing for you. It should also prompt you into writing or adding more content to your site when you realize how effective the long tail of search can be.
Subscriber stats specifically shows you the number of visitors that have subscribed to your RSS feed using any of the Google owned feed readers. These figures can be used to show a rise or drop in the general popularity of a blog, but remember that Google readers aren’t the only readers that surfers use.
>What Googlebot Sees
What Googlebot Sees – this section gets special mention at the end of Part 2 because when it comes to improving your link profile, this offers some of the most invaluable information available about any existing links you have. Rather than just see the pages that link to you, using the Googlebot stats lets you see the anchor text that those links use – vital in SEO.
Part 2 of the guide to Google Webmaster Tools will be online next week (subscribe so you don’t miss out). In the meantime let me know if any of you regularly use them and, if so, how?
WebWiseWords is a web content writer that specializes in SEO copy writing that also appeals to your visitors.