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Why Google Webmaster Tools Should Be Your New Best Friend

By Patrick McCaffreyNov 19, 2013

Swiss Army KNifeOften considered the red-haired stepchild of the Google-sphere of products, Webmaster Tools is staking a claim on one of the most valuable resources you manage—your time. This is not a bad thing as Webmaster has long had a bevy of under-rated uses. While Analytics can tell you of traffic patterns throughout your site, Webmaster Tools focuses on how Google sees your site from a search perspective, and recent algorithmic changes have made it all the more important.

Getting Your ‘Not Provided’ Terms

The recent Google search changes have had industry experts scrambling for alternative sources of organic data. Google knew this was going to be the reaction so, as an ointment to this data itch, Webmaster Tools is now where you can find this information.

Google Webmaster Tools, while nowhere near as detailed as Google Analytics, provides the top viewed pages and the top search queries that drove traffic to your site. In association with the term, you will see the impressions and clicks it derived. If you click the term, it will tell what pages these terms are associated with. It allows a fantastic opportunity to view your more traditional SEO practices from the recipient’s perspective—a valuable insight to see how your pages align with ranking terms.

The kicker of all of this is that it will only hold the information for 90 days and after that, in very Snapchat-like fashion, it will disappear. Plan a monthly export of these terms in order to better understand the organic terms over time—the more you know.

Cleanliness is next to Inbound Godliness

If you are like my 9 year old, cleaning involves pushing all toys beneath the bed so they cannot be seen. Because everything looks clean it must be, right? Well, no. While the average visitor may not see the technical debris of your constant and consistent push for content creation, the all-seeing eyes of Google can. You need to clean your site, and Webmaster Tools helps tell you where to focus your efforts. Here are the top four I would suggest looking at:

  • Crawl Errors The crawl error report within Webmaster Tools identifies serious health issues with your site by listing DNS errors, server errors, robots.text errors, soft 404’s, and ‘Not Found’ pages. This monthly to do-list allows you to get involved in focused ‘cleaning.’ Silly errors, such as expired pages, detract from the content provision of your site and offers up a very poor user experience.
  • Blocked URLs Through using the blocked url tool, you can indicate areas that are out of bounds for Google to index.
  • Remove URL Google is forever indexing, which is great until you realize that old expired content from your site is still present online. Wouldn’t it be great to tell Google to remove this from Google Search? Well that’s what this feature helps with.
  • HTML Improvements Here, duplicate/missing meta descriptions and page titles and meta descriptions/page titles that are either to short or to long are highlighted. While these would be considered rudimentary mistakes, it is nice to know that Google has your back on this.

Google Perception is SERP Reality

You may have the best content on your specific topic any appropriate searcher would love to stumble across, but if Google doesn’t see this then, more than likely, neither will that searcher. Google Webmaster Tools to the rescue!

  • Data Highlighter – By highlighting the data on a specific page, you can tell Google how you want it represented in a SERP. Currently, nine data types are supported Articles, Book Reviews, Events, Local Businesses, Movies, Products, Restaurants, Software Applications and TV Episodes. This is a great tool for creating, in essence, textual CTAs to the fore of your site’s SERP’s.
  • Structured Data – Improve your site’s SERPs with Google’s Structured Data Helper. Being a wonderfully easy tool to utilize, it will generate the structured data for any page you have indicated and then tell you what HTML code you insert on that page and where. The end results are a much more robust listing of that page in Google Search—a must for all of your sites landing pages.

What to Do Next

You should plan for at least a monthly delve into Webmaster Tools. Dedicate your time to cleaning your site, which should require less and less time the more you do it, and highlighting the new site additions. It’s worth the time and the effort. Your site will appreciate all the Google love you give it.

photo credit: CapCase


Patrick McCaffreyPatrick McCaffrey is a marketing technologist with Kuno Creative. Outside of work, he's typically reading, drawing or cleaning up his son's most recent mess. If you want to talk digital marketing, marketing strategy or simply what is it like to be an Irishman in Cleveland, connect with him on LinkedIn and/or Twitter.


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