Google’s Webmaster Tools is an incredibly tool for webmasters. If you are doing any SEO on your site, and you should be, Webmaster tools should be one of your most important tools.
Google Analytics is the first port of call for most webmasters, and analytics is a powerful and useful tool in its own right. But there is a lot of information you can get in Webmaster Tools that you can’t in analytics, and vice versa.
I check the stats on my sites in Webmaster account daily. After I run through some of the features of Webmaster Tools I think you will start using it if you’re not already, or use it a lot more than you already do.
What Are the Main Differences between Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics?
Analytics focuses more on the visitors to your site. Tracking just about evey stat to do with visitors, like duration, page visits, bounce rate, collecting personal information and presenting all the stats in an easy to use format.
Webmaster Tools on the other hand focuses on the structure and health of your site, along with the keywords and presence in the search results. It can be looked at as the foundations in some respects.
Foundations are usually the first place people go to check on the overall strength of a building, right? And, that’s where Webmaster Tools comes in. So why is it so under utilized in comparison to Analytics?
In my opinion it because the Analytics side is a lot more interesting and easy to analyse. You can see the good and the bad of your sites performance, and it’s a good indication of how well your site is performing. That’s more fun than the tech bits in the background.
Also Webmaster Tools is just a lesser known tool. There is no phone app at the time of writing this, which is a real shame as I love checking my analytics on the phone app.
How to Get Started with Google Webmaster Tools
To get started and check your site on Webmaster Tools you need a Google account. I’m sure you already have one, or know how to get one so I won’t go over that.
You log in, then click the “ADD A SITE” button. Add the URL of your site, go through one of the verify options so Google can verify you’re the site owner and you’re ready to dive in.
What Should I Be Looking for in Google Webmaster Tools?
I will not go over each and every option. A lot of the options are not going to be used, plus it would just take too long to rewrite the instruction manual. I will go over the important parts though, you will be more than savvy with the essentials after finishing this article.
After clicking your site from the dashboard, you should see the following options on the sidebar menu to the left:
- Search Appearance
- Search Traffic
- Google Index
- Security Issues
- Other Resources
I will give you an overview of the areas you will be using on a regular basis.
Useful Features of Google Webmaster Tools
You should only need to click here if you see a number next to the word ‘messages’ that will look like ‘(x)’. If so there is a chance it’s a problem with your site that Google has detected. Don’t freak out right away, sometimes it’s just a routine message that doesn’t need any action.
This area is for various tools that affect how your site appears in the search results. It’s important to check you are being indexed and listed in the search results. Otherwise you’re not going to see organic traffic from Google.
If your site has a brand feel and you get those links under the homepage in the search results you can change which links appear here. It’s a bit of a mystery how to get your sitelinks to appear in the first place, but this is where they are managed.
This is the bread and butter behind the stats. In here you can see all the details of your search traffic, the impressions, clicks, and keywords people are using to find your site. Very interesting!
Links to your Site
This is another important area that will come of great interest if you have not used it before. Links are the major contributing factor to the strength of a site, along with one of the main reasons a site gets penalized.
Google does not list every link, but the vast majority of them. You can see which sites are linking to you, what anchor text they are using, and how many times.
Having a mobile friendly site recently became an SEO factor, and rightly so. You should have a optimized theme on your site to take care of that. You can find out how mobile friendly your site is here.
Google has ‘spiders’ that crawl your site picking up all the content for indexing. If you have any errors showing up here you need to take action, otherwise you will have pages or posts not being indexed correctly.
Your site should be sending a sitemap automatically via a plugin or some other function, otherwise Google doesn’t have a map of your site. You can add sitemaps individually to check the indexing status and track any changes if you wish.
These are some of the areas I use most often, and I’m sure you will too. You will notice these are pretty useful tools that you do not get in Analytics.
The best course of action I can suggest is to get stuck in yourself and have a good look around. It can be quite addictive looking through all the keywords browsers use to find your site. You can do a lot of SEO work off this data and optimize your pages for keywords, or build out your most popular pages.