Google Webmaster Tools: An Invaluable Line of Communication

Google Webmaster ToolsGoogle Webmaster Tools (GWT) is an invaluable line of communication provided by Google to ensure Webmasters do all they can to help it to ‘see’ your website. Other search engines such as Bing provide a similar service, but while Google remains the number one search engine, its tools are likely to be the most useful. An easy to understand guide to GWT can be found here courtesy of Search Engine Watch.
Welcome to Google Webmaster Tools

Top Reasons for Using GWT

Here are our top reasons for using GWT in the order you’re likely to come across them.

1. Message forwarding service

GWT message forwarding service ensures that you are always aware if there is a problem on your website. If your site goes down or is infected by malware GWT will send a message to the chosen email address. It also sends alerts for other health issues such as crawl errors and sends up-to-date information on changes to GWT, their Webmasters Guidelines and other current advice.

2. Save the preferred version of your domain name

Google will treat different versions of the same domain name as two separate pages. By using GWT to select a preferred, or canonical domain name Google will treat them as the same address and use your preferred version in search results.

3. Submit your xml sitemap

Point Google directly to your xml sitemap by submitting it on GWT. This will guide the Googlebots to the most important the areas of your website.

4. Suggest a crawl rate.

There may be areas of your website that do not need crawling very often, perhaps because they are rarely updated and areas you might want crawled every day, or even more frequently. If this is the case you can use GWT to mark pages as high or low priority. The Googlebots won’t necessarily heed this advice, but it’s worth doing anyway.

5. Health check

GWT produces reports on the health of your site including crawl errors. It will even suggest what might be preventing the Googlebots from crawling the page, highlighting potential issues with your website.

6. Check your rich snippets mark-up

If you use schema / data mark-up to create rich snippets you can test these in GWT rich snippets structured data testing tool. This tool will indicate whether Google is reading your mark-up correctly. You can also demote specific pages from appearing as sitelinks in search engine results pages (SERPs) to ensure the most relevant pages are displayed.

7. Remove pages from Google search results

If you need to urgently remove a page from Google search results you can let Google know via GWT. Webmaster guidelines suggest this should only be used in an emergency, for example if confidential information has been published online.

8. See who’s linking to your site

GWT can provide a snapshot of both the internal and external links to pages on your site. For each detected link the page it comes from and goes to is displayed. Although Google doesn’t provide the most comprehensive list it provides a valuable insight into the links it is indexing for your site. For a more comprehensive analysis of sites linking to you, it’s useful to get data from a range of sources. Such as the data provided by Majestic SEO and on the Moz Open Site Explorer Tool.

9. Disavow links

In order to try and combat link spam (links acquired by means that infringe Google’s quality guidelines) Google have introduced a disavow links tool to be used if you have been notified via GWT of “unnatural” linking to your website. When you get this message you are advised to try to remove as many ‘suspicious’ links to your website as you can by contacting the websites directly. When you have exhausted this root the Disavow Links Tool can help tidy up the remaining spammy links. For more info click here.

10. Monitor performance

The search queries page displays the number of times your page has appeared in SERPs over the last 90 days and records the keywords used. This feature gives the number of impressions and clicks your site has had and even works out the click-through rate for you.

11. Test your robots.txt files

The create robot.txt file tool in Webmaster Tools is being removed. But, GWT can still test whether your robot.txt file is blocking the wrong pages, or allowing Googlebots into pages you don’t want to be read.

12. Share with other users

Webmasters can allow other users to view the Google Webmaster Tools for their site, allowing different levels of access depending on their role. This is ideal if you are working with a third party SEO expert or digital marketing agency.

Besides the tools provided by GWT there is also a comprehensive help area related to using GWT and access to the ‘Webmaster Guidelines’ that lay out the rules that will keep your site on the right side of Google.