6 Ways To Improve Your Website With Google Webmaster Tools

by 45 09/04/2012

If you aren’t using Google Webmaster Tools, then you’re missing out on a valuable and (more importantly) free tool that offers a lot of features that can help you improve your site for search engines as well as visitors. Here are just a few areas you can improve using Google Webmaster Tools.

Not Set Up on Google Webmaster Tools Yet?

If you’re ready to use Google Webmaster Tools with your website but haven’t set it up yet, it’s easy! Just follow these steps.

  • Log in to or create your Google Account.
  • Go to Webmaster Tools and click the red Add a Site button.
  • Enter your website’s URL and click Continue.
  • Verify your website using one of four methods including uploading a small file to your webserver, adding a HTML tag to your website’s homepage, sign in with your domain name provider, or have Webmaster Tools check your Google Analytics code.

Your website should now be set up with Google Webmaster Tools so that you can do the following. Note that, after sitemap submission, you will probably need to wait a week or so for Google to collect data about your website.

1 -Make Sure Google Knows About Your Site

If you have just created a website and want to boost its chances of getting indexed quickly, start by submitting a sitemap for your website. A sitemap is an XML file that tells search engines what pages you have on your website and how often they are likely to be updated.

If you use WordPress, you can install a free plugin like Google XML Sitemaps and have the plugin automatically create one for you. Otherwise, you can use generators like XML-Sitemaps.com to create the file for you and then upload it to your server.

Once your sitemap is created, you should have a link that looks like http://yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. Go to your website’s profile in Webmaster Tools and under the Optimization menu, click Sitemaps. Then click on the red Add / Test Sitemap button and enter the file name of your sitemap in the box.

google-webmaster-tools-add-a-sitemap

After a few days, you should start receiving stats about the number of URLs submitted through the sitemap and the number of URLs that are indexed on Google.

google-webmaster-tools-sitemap-report

Keeping an eye on your sitemap can alert you to problems. For example, if you see a sudden drop in the number of URLs that are indexed, this could mean that pages on your site are having problems or that you are potentially being penalized by Google. Typically there will be an alert / warning that will explain discrepancies beneath the graph.

2 – Improve User Experience by Fixing 404 Errors

One thing that can hurt user experience on your website is when visitors attempt to visit a page on your website (or linked out from your website) and receive a 404 page not found error.

crazyegg-404-page

When it happens, Google Webmaster Tools makes a note of it. To see your 404 not found and other errors, look under the Health menu and click on Crawl errors. Here, you will see a graph and report of top errors on your website. Click on Not found to see your 404 errors.

google-webmaster-tools-crawl-errors

There are tons of reasons 404 errors happen including:

  • Forgetting to create or redirect pages after a website redesign.
  • External websites changing domains without redirection.
  • Mis-typed URLs in content.
  • Your website or external websites being down at the time a visitor clicks on the link.

You can’t prevent every 404 error, especially ones on other sites. But you can go check them out and fix some of them to prevent your visitors from stumbling upon missing pages and broken links.

3 – Enhance Your On-Site Optimization for Search

Not sure if your website is appropriately optimized for search engines? Look under the Optimization menu and click on HTML Improvements. Here, you will receive a report of various on-site optimization issues Webmaster Tools has noticed on your website.

google-webmaster-tools-html-improvements-report

You can click on each linked item to learn what the issue is, how to resolve it, and pages on your website that the issue has been recorded upon. The big ones to start with are the title tag issues since title tags are one of the strongest elements on your pages to help with rankings of your website in search. Then move on to meta descriptions and other errors.

4 – Create and Improve Content Based on Search Queries

While Google Analytics tools can tell you what keywords have brought visitors to your website, Webmaster Tools can tell you what keywords lead to impressions of your website in search, where you are positioned in search for those keywords, and how often those impressions lead to clicks. Look under the Traffic menu and click on Search Queries to find this information.

google-webmaster-tools-search-queries

To see the content associated with a particular keyword, click on the keyword itself. You will then see the page or pages on your website that appear in search for the keyword and how each page does in terms of impressions, clicks, and CTR. This can help you in two ways.

  • You can visit each page to see if the title and meta description can be improved to encourage more clicks from search.
  • You can create more content around that keyword in order to get more impressions and, hopefully, higher CTR with fresher content.

5 – Find Bad Links to Your Website

Since April 2012, Google has been updating its algorithm to seek out websites with an unnatural linking profile. Websites determined by Google to have unnatural links (red flags include over-optimized anchor text, paid links, spammy links, etc.) will either be sent a warning via Webmaster Tools or will be told that they have been penalized because of them.

The sad part is that any business that has ever paid for bad links through a service or built bad links themselves could be subject to this penalty no matter how long ago the links were created. If you do happen to receive the warning or penalty, Webmaster Tools is a good place to find your bad links. Just look under the Traffic menu and click on Links to Your Site. Then click the more link under Who links the most.

google-webmaster-tools-links-to-your-site

Here, you will be able to see domains linking to your website, how many links they have to your website, and how many pages they are linked to.

For example, seeing 1,000s of links to one linked page on your website can indicate a site that has linked to you sitewide in their blogroll or footer. Too many sitewide or footer links is just another red flag for unnatural links. If you visit the site and see that it is not relevant to yours, you will want to ask the webmaster to remove the link.

While it’s a tough job, it’s what Google wants to see- you requesting that all of your bad links be taken down – before they will lift the penalty on your website if one is applied. You can learn more about Penguin, ways to recover from a penalty, and safe ways to build links here – 79 Link Building Resources for 2012.

6 – Demote Pages from Appearing as Sitelinks

Do a Google search for your brand or website name without the http:// or .com. Assuming your website comes up in the number one spot, you might see several links underneath your website. These are your sitelinks.

sitelinks-in-search-results

While you can’t control what links are shown, you can sometimes control what links are not shown in Webmaster Tools. To do so, look under the Configuration menu and click on Sitelinks. There you will find a place to demote links that you do not want to appear under your Sitelinks in search. Demoting a page like your privacy policy may lead to another more important page to be promoted instead.

There you have it: some great ways to improve your website through Google Webmaster Tools. Do you use them? What other information have you gained that helped you improve your website?

About 

Kristi Hines is a freelance blogger, ghostwriter, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani covers blog marketing and blogging tips for personal, professional, and business bloggers.

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45 COMMENTS

Doug Gough

These are really helpful instructions. I’ll be implementing them once my new site is finished. To what degree, in your opinion, will following these instructions replace the need to hire an SEO specialist?

September 4, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Hi Doug, Great question and I’m sure Kristi will have an opinion on this matter as well. My opinion is that, if you don’t have SEO experience of your own, I would at least get some hands-on SEO training. Webmaster Tools is just a tool and only one of many tools that can be used for SEO. These tools are only useful if you know how to use them.

    September 4, 2012 Reply

    Kristi Hines

    Hi Doug! It really depends on how much you know about SEO and how much you’re willing to continue to learn. Most of the stuff this article points out is pretty simple stuff to handle on your own
    , but if you’re looking to launch a full link building campaign and don’t feel comfortable with it, then you might want to look into hiring someone. For the most part, clients will hire someone based on their expertise or the simple fact that they don’t have the time to committ to such a project.

    September 4, 2012 Reply

Johnny Koh

Hi Kristi, thanks for sharing this article. It bascially sumarises what Google Webmaster Tool could do.

In terms of links pointing back, my company’s website is being pointed by thousands of pages as we usually want to put our name at the footer of the website we developed (yes, my company do digital projects). I’m not sure how will it affect my company’s website but we do need it as a form of advertisements.

So far, the search ranking isn’t affected. Yet. Guess nobody really know how Google defines as bad links. Keeping my fingers crossed.

September 4, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    @Johnny — There is a great deal of confusion out there concerning what has been called “over optimization” and I have heard that sitewide links (like footer links) have been negatively affecting rankings. Particularly if they are from low quality sources and contain suspicious elements like exact match anchor text. Check out this post from SEO Moz -http://www.seomoz.org/blog/penguins-pandas-and-panic-at-the-zoo

    September 5, 2012 Reply

Elizabeth Todd

Thank you Kristi. Google Tools had slipped under my radar until now. Your article and the very clear instructions that you’ve given will be a great help to get the installation done pronto.

September 4, 2012 Reply

Ginny Soskey

Hey Kristi, thanks for putting this resource together! I use Google Webmaster tools all the time for Shareaholic and I love the information it provides (especially around #4). I definitely will be sharing this with our followers. :)

September 5, 2012 Reply

snorfietsverzekering

I never used the webmaster tools. This is really good information about the options of the google webmaster tools. I will start now with creating an account! Thanks a lot!

September 24, 2012 Reply

Craig W.

I’m using the Google Webmaster Tools for quite some time now and the feature I’m using the most is the “Fetch as Google”. This helps my articles get indexed much faster than normal..

October 1, 2012 Reply

Sean

Google webmaster tools is a great keyword mining tool. I often use the queries to find potential variations of keywords to see what I’m missing. Nice post Kristi!

October 9, 2012 Reply

shane knight

the new utility of google webmaster for handling low pr links and domains is also very useful

November 10, 2012 Reply

Imbracaminte

Thank you so much for this, Kristi. I have been using Webmaster Tools for a while now but you share some nuggets that totally slipped passed me.

November 16, 2012 Reply

Sumeet

Great article, i ran into a strange probleamand would appreciate if someone can help. I used a tool A1sitemap to build my site map every weekand over the past 2 months i did not build a new sitemap and when i finally rebuild a sitemap after 2 months, i saw my PR go down from 2 to 1. Does anyone know if sitemap and PR are linked anyhow?

January 23, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Hi Sumeet,
    I doubt your sitemap had anything to do with the readjustment of your Page Rank. Rather than worry about your Page Rank number, take a look at your Analytics to see if your traffic has dropped (or gone up) and better yet, check to see if your conversions have gone up or down. Page Rank is, perhaps, the ultimate vanity metric.

    January 23, 2013 Reply

prabhat

hello kristi,
i bet you have done a great research on Google Webmster Tools. i am using webmaster tool and i believe it is one of the best tool to increase our traffic. it gives us details about the issues with sites and how to fix them. it tells us about the links the crawl errors and much more. this is a must use tool

February 2, 2013 Reply

Michael

One problem that i’m coming across is the misuse of the disavow tool. For most any change in ranking is the knock on effect of the Penguin update filtering the sites linked from and not the site itself. So no need to panic as those links are just devalued. But I do subscribe to trying to remove links direct when they are as you suggest and look unnatural.

February 4, 2013 Reply

faisal Kaleem

These are basic things on which we need to review and fix the things. Which are getting errors. I like your suggestions most about creating and Improve content Based on Search Queries. That’s really very working to get more visitors to our website.

Thx for sharing with us it is really very nice stuff.

February 5, 2013 Reply

alia

Thanks for the explanations. I’m gonna use some to test and improve my site. I’ve come across Google webmaster tools, but I’ve not really put more attention to them until now.

February 9, 2013 Reply

jon sharp

Still struggle to understand the duplicate content.

I have removed and added 301 redirects to pages that google flagged as duplicate content based on tags, I’ve also deleted all tags from the site. Not sure why they are still showing as dubplicate over a week since I made the changes. Some were pages and some were blog posts.

February 12, 2013 Reply

Steve

Good article for the basics in webmaster tools. It’s funny how you can use it for years and overlook one small thing important part of it.

February 16, 2013 Reply

Guy Siverson

The article is quite complete for someone to get started. Thank you for your information. Crazy egg is an amazing tool that shows where everyone clicks so you can improve your site in some way.

February 20, 2013 Reply

Peter

Hi, Just one question.
I need some help on my web store SEO. It’s vintage collectibles oriented and most items I sell are single ones. I’m using cannonical links for my product pages for better SERP position. When product is sold, there is a link indexed in Google that leads the click to 404 page. I’ve contacted the web store hosting support to try to find a way to 301 redirect those links to store categories pages to avoid 404 page. The answer was – “You don’t need to do that – these links will fall down the SERP in time. You can’t set redirect on every sold product page.” I doubt when someone clicks on my link and ends up on 404 page will ever return to my store.
Is their answer correct or I should change my store hosting company.
Regards,
Peter

February 22, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Hi Peter,
    I’m not sure what you mean when you say that “there is a link indexed in Google that leads the click to 404 page” — are you sure that the page is being indexed?

    This sounds like it might be a usability problem as well if your users are clicking on a link that leads to a 404 page. As far as Google is concerned, Webmaster Tools is the right place to be checking for 404 issues.

    February 22, 2013 Reply

      Peter

      Hi Russ,
      Thank you for your answer.
      I basically mean there is a product in my store which page is indexed by Google. When this product sells, clicking on the link to it leads to 404 page. I’m affraid this could drive visitors away.

      February 22, 2013 Reply

Lee

Hi used this post a couple of times as a referral now. I have gone through my duplicate content. Now going to have a look at my404 errors. So for great helpful information.

Thanks lee

February 25, 2013 Reply

Website On Google

This is really nice to so that i am now using webmaster to find errors in my website. Thanks for sharing.

April 4, 2013 Reply

chris morgan

Thanks so much for this helpful little article! I have been learning about SEO with the trial by error method (and sometimes victory) for the last year. I had no idea that our site was showing these sitelinks. Your mention of how to demote these is gold.

Thanks again Kristi,

Chris

June 20, 2013 Reply

Adrain Blackwell

This was very helful information. Thanks for the insight.

July 28, 2013 Reply

Rachel Brown

Great information. Thanks.

September 29, 2013 Reply

seo martian

These are great tips i wonder how much longer google will stick with these metrics before they make the next wholesale change, And to note hummingbird was just announced

September 30, 2013 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    True. This article was published in 2012, so it doesn’t take Google’s latest changes into consideration. Hummingbird is likely to make some big changes!

    September 30, 2013 Reply

Raj

Thanks for sharing great Artcile. You can also check your website security check issues by Websmater tool launched in oct 2013 by matt cutts. Webmaster tools security issues

November 7, 2013 Reply

Shirley Tay (Blackswan)

Hey, thanks for the helpful post! I’ve bought my custom domain in July, & redirected my .blogspot to .co. Do I need to configure my webmaster a/c? I’m not familiar with all these & it’s making me so confused. Your kind assistance is most helpful.

November 13, 2013 Reply

Rishikesh Somshetti

Hey, thanks for the helpful post. Of late I have been hearing that Google is giving less importance to link building. Please share your views.

November 24, 2013 Reply

Rachel Hunter (TraderRach)

Hi Kristi

Thank you for such a well explained and clearly laid out article. I particularly found points 3 and 6 useful.

It would be great to know how to create redirect pages to reduce the number of 404 errors.

Cheers Rachel

November 27, 2013 Reply

Rajesh Sawant

Very helpful information for upcoming website. Many webmaster tent to ignore google warning.

January 9, 2014 Reply

Fawwad

Hi,

I submitted my sitemap to google webmaster. index pages are decreasing day by day. why google decreasing indexed pages ?

Thanks

March 6, 2014 Reply

Ranjana

Thanks for sharing such great information on google web master tool. i already day min. 2 time login in web master and check and rectifiy crawl error, page index status etc.

April 21, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Way to go, Ranjana! Sounds like you’re doing well with it!

    April 21, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Ranjana, glad we could help. Please let us know if you need help with anything else :)

    April 21, 2014 Reply

Karnal Singh

Hi Cristi,
It was very useful post – i found the point about using the webmaster tools very useful.Actually i was not using it much but after reading i used webmaster tools and found it very useful…

April 22, 2014 Reply

Nate Balcom

It still surprises me how many people aren’t using Google webaster tools. It’s completely free and can help you see glaring issues you may have with your code. I also like to use Bing webmaster tools in conjunction with GWT. I’ve not only found istakes that were easy to fix, but I’ve also sped up my site and decreased my bounce rate. If you’re not using Google webmaster tools today you should be. Great article Kristi!

June 10, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Nate, great point. I think sooner or later people realize they should use it.

    June 10, 2014 Reply

      Nate Balcom

      If you haven’t tried Bing webmaster tools that’s a good one to try as well. They have a lot of performance issues they track which helps a lot with bounce rate.

      June 11, 2014 Reply


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