The Blogger’s Guide To Google’s Webmaster Tools (Part 1)

Webmaster Tools Guide For Bloggers

As blogging has become a more serous endeavour for some of us, it has now become more important to keep an eye on the technical side of our little corners of the web. A great tool for this is Google’s own Webmaster Tools (GWT).

GWT allows you to do all sorts of cool stuff to manage your site, so I thought I would show you guys some of these features. But first, let’s take a look at how to get it set up!

Adding your site to GWT

The easiest way to add your site to GWT is to first ensure you have Google Analytics set up, as it’s the simplest way to ‘verify’ your site. You can pop on over to my GA post *here* to find out how to get GA sorted.

Next, head to Google Webmaster Tools and sign up. It’s completely free (hurrah!), and then you will need to go through the verification process to add your site.

GWT Dashboard

Once your site is added, you will be able to see your dashboard. The data may not populate straight away (the same as with GA), so you may need to wait a few hours for everything to be drawn in, but once it is you’ll be able to see the following in your Dashboard:

  • Site Errors – these will be things such as whether Google is able to pick up your Robots.txt file (more on this later), as well as any URL errors which will typically be broken links.
  • Search Analytics – this shows you analytics specific to which keywords users are searching for when your blog shows in the results, and how many people clicked through. We’ll look at this in more detail soon!
  • Sitemaps – If you have submitted a sitemap to Google, you’ll get an overview of how many URLs have been indexed (i.e. how many URLs on your site Google has crawled and index in its search engine)
Google Webmaster Tools Dashboard
If you can’t seen any, or some of this data, it’s likely because you’ll need to do a little bit of set up through GWT so that it can report on this information. But before we go into that, let’s look at the left sidebar menu.

GWT Menu

Google Webmaster Tools Menu Guide
This guide will give you an overview of each of these options, and what they mean for your site. First of all though, let’s talk about the Messages option.
Sometimes you might get an alert from Google about particular issues with your site. Hopefully, this won’t happen too often or at all! It will generally warn you if you have a manual penalty (which shouldn’t be the case fingers crossed), but can also let you know if there are mobile usability issues with your site.
It’s worth checking your messages as soon as you log in to GWT just to check, and if a message appears that you are unsure of, just Google it!

Search Appearance

This section of the menu covers quite a few nifty features of GWT:
  • Structured data – This is generally to do with Schema markup and other structured data. This can be added to your website pages in order to help Google better understand your site. This report will show you any markup errors. Once again if you see any of these errors, your best bet is to pop the name of the error into Google and there are plenty of articles with fixes.
  • Data highlighter – I’ll admit that I’ve never used this tool as structured data is not hugely important for blogs (it’s more useful if you feature event listings, star ratings etc), but if you have any need to add particular markup to your search listings, then this tool helps you to highlight that data and add the required coding.
  • HTML Improvements – This is much more relevant for bloggers to keep an eye on, as it shows you if you have any duplicate meta or title tags. Google frowns on duplicate content, so you will want to ensure that your site is set up properly to avoid duplicate meta in particular. GWT will show you a list of all of the URLs that have duplicate meta or title tags, so you can look into the individual cases.

Certain CMS’s such as Blogger are not smart enough to prevent duplication themselves, so you’ll need to add some coding to your HTML to fix these sorts of issues manually. You’ll get sick of hearing me say this, but by Googling the issue, you will find the answer! This post would turn into a dissertation if I also included all of the possible solutions!

  • Sitelinks – These are the links that can appear underneath your listing on Google (see below). You cannot choose which links appear on your sitelinks, but you can choose URLs to exclude if you wish. I have to admit, I’m yet to find a lifestyle blog that has sitelinks listed on Google, but here’s Topshop’s.:
Sitelinks on GWT

Search Traffic

This is another section that has a few relevant bits for bloggers. In fact, the Search Traffic will likely be the most relevant to you.
  • Search Analytics – this is the super awesome bit where you can see popular queries where your posts are listed on Google. You can see Clicks (how many people clicked through to your post per query), Impressions (how often your post appeared for that query), CTR (click through rate) and Position (average position in the rankings…take this with a pinch of salt!).
Using this report, take a look at those queries that have a high number of impressions, but a low number of clicks. Look to optimise these pages better, and perhaps update the meta description to make it more descriptive to entice the user to click through!
  • Links to your site – This one is pretty self explanatory, giving you a list of the sites that have links to any posts on your site. You can click on the URLs to these sites to see which specific posts on your blog have been linked.
If your site has a lot of links from another, it’s likely you are listed in a Blog Roll. This is good to take a look at to see which other bloggers are listing you! You may have also been featured in another bloggers post so keep an eye out for those for the chance to thank them/share the post. 

  • Internal links – Again, entirely self explanatory. This is the number of links across your own site. These are good to help Google crawl your site so if you don’t have any/have very few internal links then sort it out!
GWT Internal Links Report
  • Manual actions – If you have a manual penalty from Google, you’ll find more details of it here. Basically, don’t spam the web with crappy content and you should be a-OK!
  • International targeting – I’ve never used this in my life, as it’s only relevant for sites that target international countries…obviously!
  • Mobile usability – This is another useful report, as it will show you any pages that have mobile usability issues. A huge portion of my traffic is from mobile users, so I keep an eye on this one to see if any issues arise. Luckily, I have a mobile-friendly responsive template so I currently have no pages with issues. Yay!
If you have had a designer create your blog template and they have advertised the template as mobile friendly, keep an eye on this report and let them know of any issues as they come up.
 

Comments

  1. Amy Amynmore

    Thank you so much for this post – Although I have GA I didn't know about GWT, although some of the features I would have thought should be on GA? I will sign up straight away. Thanks Cat!

    Amy: Amy & More

  2. Cat Fyson

    You're welcome poppet – part 2 will be up on Thursday so that will be useful too 🙂 Search queries are reported on in GA but I find the Search Analytics in GWT to be much more useful!

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