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.
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)
- 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.:
- 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!).
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!