Google Webmaster Toolsby TimBrookesUpdated September 28, 2017
Google offers a range of useful tools called Google Webmaster Tools which allows you to monitor Google search results relating to your site, and better connect with your visitors. Submitting and verifying your site is a quick and simple process, and the powerful yet simplistic Google interface provides some really useful tools for anyone who manages a website. The service is free, and available to anyone though you will need virtual access to your own personal website to take advantage.
Adding Your Website
Google Webmaster Tools requires that you have a Google Account before you can use it. You can register for an account at Google.com by clicking "Register" in the top right corner. Once you have registered, visit google.com/webmasters and click "Sign in to Webmaster Tools". Log in with your recently created user-name and password and click "Add a site..." to begin. Enter the URL to your website and click "Continue" to open the site verification page. You must verify that the site belongs to you before you are able to manage it, either by adding a meta tag to your main HTML index, uploading a file to the server or by adding a "TXT" record to your website's domain name system (DNS). Once the site is verified you can make full use of the webmaster tools.
After adding your site, click on its URL within your Google Webmaster Tools home page and you will be taken your dashboard. Within the "Site configuration" expandable column on the left, there are five additional options. "Sitemaps" lets you to submit a site map to Google to allow the search engine to see all of your website's pages, even those it has missed. You can display what Google (and other search) engines are able to see in the "Crawler access" section. Using a file in the root folder of your website called robots.txt you can limit what search engines gain access to, and using the "Generates robots.txt" tab Google allows you to create custom actions and preferences ready for uploading to your server. "Sitelinks" are automatically generated links that appear in Google search results, and cannot be chosen unless your site supports them. Google has provided all information required with regards to change of web address in the "Change of address" section, and "Settings" allows you to tweak your locale, the way your URL is displayed in Google results and the crawl-rate of Google's search engine indexers.
Your Site on the Web
This section of the dashboard provides information on search queries, links and keywords that can help identify your site. The "Search queries" link displays a list of common search queries that have resulted in clicks to your site, where as "Links to your site" will list any web-pages that Google has detected are linking to your content. The "keywords" tab will help ascertain whether your search engine optimization needs work, as this is what Google detects as viable keywords for your site. If these results do not reflect the content matter of your site, then you should examine your homepage and add relevant meta information. Internal links will display pages linked within your website, and subscriber stats will attempt to detect how many users subscribe to feeds such as RSS and ATOM.
The "Diagnostics" section will help ensure your site is optimized for the web and easy to find. The "Malware" link will notify you as to whether Google believes your site to contain harmful or unwanted software that can damage computers. Any problems the search engine has encountered whilst crawling your site for information will be listed in the "Crawl errors" link, with access to mobile Internet data as well. "Crawl stats" allows you to see how often Google has been crawling your site, and will be at its peak when your website is creating new pages and content. The "HTML Suggestions" tool is a method of drawing your attention to pages within your website that are missing tags and titles that may be wrongly categorised or missed altogether by the search engine.
The Google Webmaster Tools additional developments, filed under “Labs”, include “Fetch as Googlebot” – a tool for allowing you to see exactly what Google sees when it queries your site. This can is useful when testing search engine optimization (SEO) on newly created pages, or simply in case you were wondering how effective your overall SEO efforts are. The “Sidewiki” page allows you to add a personal entry into Google’s Sidewiki project, declaring that you are the owner of the domain you are managing. Google will also attempt to gauge your website’s effectiveness in the “Site performance” section, which measures server speed and reactions.
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