How to use Google Webmaster Tools

Get the most from Google search console!

Over time I have seen so many people not using Google Webmaster tools. There are several reasons bloggers and website owners do not use the Google Search Console. The most common reason for not using this tool is due to not knowing what it is, or how it works. I strongly feel that there isn’t enough information on Webmaster tools. After reading this post you will have a full understanding of what Webmaster Tools are, as well as how to use them efficiently.

Getting Started

  • Before you can set up Google Webmaster you will need to have a Google account. A Gmail account or Google Plus account will be ok.
  • Once you have your Google account you will need to visit the Google Webmaster site.
  • Next click sign in on the upper right hand corner of the screen. This will bring you to the dashboard.
  • If you haven’t used Google search console before this screen should be blank.
  • Now we will need to add a property (Website). Click the red button that says Add Property.
  • Here you will enter the full URL address of your website including the http://. Be sure to use www. if you have it set as your prefix.
  • After you have added a property you will need to verify ownership. The easiest way is to use domain name provider. Select use domain name provider. Find your Registrar/domain provider (not to be confused with hosting). Each provider has a different way of verifying so you will need to follow the onscreen prompts. GoDaddy uses a 3 step verification process.
  • You have successfully set up a Google Webmaster Tools account. You should see a new Dashboard now.

The Dashboard

  • This is the main screen you will see after you get sign in.
  • The first thing you will notice is the header New and Important. Here you will see various messages relating to your website. The First message is how to improve the search presence of your site. We will get to this in a minute.
  • Under the message panel you will see the current status of your website. The sections are Crawl Stats, Search Analytics, and Sitemaps.
  • This is your quick view to see important information about your site.
  • Let’s get in the next topic.

Search Appearance

  • Structured Data
    • Structured data helps Google understand the content on your site, which can be used to display rich snippets in search results.
    • This screen will display all of your html and schema markup. It will also show you any errors you may have in the mark up.
    • Structured data can be anything from the author of a post to a recipe ingredient or product.
  • Rich Cards
    • The best way to provide data to Google Search about events, products, or opportunities on your website is using rich cards. Rich card data can be displayed to users in a variety of formats on different devices, and can help drive traffic to your website.
    • If you have a food blog or a reviews blog you should definitely get rich cards in Google.
    • You can use the Structured Data Testing tool to check your markup and schema as well.
    • Once you have your rich cards set up you will be able to see how many you have.
    • You will also be able to see how many have errors, any that are enhanceable, as well as, any fully enhanced.
  • Data Highlighter
    • This is a very handle tool that comes with the Google webmaster tools.
    • With this tool you can add your markup simply by highlighting them. Things such as events, authors, dates, reviews, etc.
    • You will first highlight one page. Then Google will select similar pages to highlight. Once you have highlighted all the markup Google will be able to understand your pages more, and help set up your Rich Cards and Structured Data.
  • HTML Improvements
    • In this section you will see any duplicate, missing, or problematic title tags or meta descriptions.
    • These issues won’t prevent your site from appearing in Google search results, but paying attention to them can provide Google with more information and even help drive traffic to your site.
    • For example, title and meta description text can appear in search results, and useful, descriptive text is more likely to be clicked on by users.
    • If you have blog post with multiple pages, you may see duplicate titles and descriptions. This will not hurt you.

Search Traffic

  • Search Analytics
    • Here you can analyze your performance on Google Search.
    • Filter and compare your results to better understand your user’s search patterns.
    • Ways to filter results are :
      • Search Queries (keywords used)
      • Pages (which page was linked from google search)
      • Countries (See where your audience is coming from)
      • Devices (are they using desktop, mobile, or tablet)
      • Search Type (filter by web, image or video search)
      • Search Apperance (any rich cards that were shown)
  • Links to Your Site
    • This is a great resource to see who is linking to you.
    • It shows you who links the most to you, which pages are linked the most, as well as the anchor text of the links.
  • Internal Links
    • This option will show you all pages linked internally in your site. This means from one page to another.
    • Most common internal links are menu items and inline linking.
    • If you are using a related post feature you will also get internal linking from them,
    • You can filter for a single page by clicking on it, or by using the find bar at the top.
    • Internal links is a great feature to see if you have a good flow of links from page to page.
  • Manual Actions
    • You do NOT want to see anything here.
    • This is where Google will display any actions they have take against your site.
    • Manual actions can be caused by spam linking (Internal and external).
    • There are two types of actions displayed here Site wide matches and Partial matches.
      • The Site-wide matches section lists actions that affect an entire site.
      • The Partial matches section lists actions that affect individual URLs or sections of a site. It’s not uncommon for individual pages on a popular site to have manual actions, particularly if that site is a platform for other users or businesses to create and share content. If the issues appear to be isolated, only individual pages, sections, or incoming links will be affected, not the entire site.
    • Each section will include reasons for the action and the parts of the site affected by the action.
  • International Targeting
    • Most users will not need this feature, however, if you are targeting an audience from a country different than your own this is a great feature.
    • To target other countries you will need the hreflang tag.
    • This will also only work if your site is capable of translating language.
  • Mobile Usability
    • Another great feature in the search console is the mobile usability.
    • This section will give you errors on the mobile version of your site.
    • Mobile usability is important for several reasons.
      • Google is now ranking sites with a mobile friendly website first.
      • 80% of internet users own a smartphone.
      • Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.

Google Index

  • Index Status
    • Here you will see the total count of how many pages are indexed in Google. (Pages that are in their database to be displayed in search)
    • Clicking on the advanced tab will show you a list of pages blocked by robots (noindex tag), as well as pages that have been removed.
  • Blocked Resources
    • Googlebot needs access to many resources on your page in order to render and index the page optimally. For example, JavaScript, CSS, and image files should be available to Googlebot so that it can see pages like an average user.
    • The report landing page shows a list of hosts that provide resources on your site that are blocked by robots.txt rules. Some resources will be hosted on on your own site, and some will be hosted on other sites.
    • Select any host in the table to see a list of blocked resources from that host, with a count of pages on your site affected by each blocked resource.
    • Click on any blocked resource in the table for a list of your pages that load the resource.
    • Visit any page in the table hosting a blocked resource for instructions on how to unblock that resource, or else follow the instructions below under How to unblock your resources.
  • Remove URL’s
    • Here you can temporarily remove URLs that you own from search results.
    • To remove content permanently, you must remove or update the source page
    • To hide a URL from search click the temporary hide button. Insert the URL to be hidden.
    • Another important feature to be used is the remove from cache only. You will want to use this anytime you change the content of your page. Normally it will take 2 to 3 days after fetching with Google for the change to take affect in search. Using this feature will speed that time up.
    • To properly use the delete from cache feature, you will want to delete the cache on your site, then delete the cache through Google and lastly fetch your site as Google.

Crawl

  • Crawl Errors
    • Site Errors
      • You will find any connectivity issue that Googlebot had when viewing your site here.
      • DNS tab shows any instances when Googlebot couldn’t communicate with the DNS server.
      • Server connectivity shows any instances when Googlebot’s request timed out or the site is blocking Google.
      • Robot.txt fetch shows any instances when the crawl was postponed because robots.txt was inaccessible.
    • URL Errors
      • In this section you will see any 404 and 410 errors as well as 505 server errors.
      • 404’s will not harm your rankings any, however, a lot of 404’s will have a poor user experience.
      • I recommend getting the Yoast Premium plugin for automatic redirection of URL changes.
  • Crawl Stats
    • The crawl stats shows your Googlebots activity in the last 90 days.
    • The screen is split into 3 sections.
      • Pages crawled per day
      • Kilobytes downloaded per day
      • Time spent downloading a page in milliseconds. (1000 milliseconds equals 1 second)
    • Out of all three of these reports the most important one is the later.
    • Your average time downloading a page should be under 2000 milliseconds. If it isn’t you need to speed up your site load time. We offer page speed optimizations services to help with this.
  • Fetch as Google
    • This is where the magic happens. Anytime you edit a post, meta tags, or anything else on your site you should be using this feature.
    • When you fetch as Google, you force Google to crawl your site as it is currently.
    • After Google crawls your site you can choose to have it indexed.
    • Once you click Index it literally takes a second for Google to add it to index. (This allows it to show up in search.)
    • The fetch tool also works great after you publish a new post.
    • There are 2 ways to index using Google fetch, Fetch just this page, or fetch page and linked URL’s.
    • If you only changed one page then only fetch that page as there are limits on how many you can do each month.
  • Robots.txt Tester
    • Web Robots (also known as Web Wanderers, Crawlers, or Spiders), are programs that traverse the Web automatically. Search engines such as Google use them to index the web content, spammers use them to scan for email addresses, and they have many other uses.
    • Web site owners use the /robots.txt file to give instructions about their site to web robots; this is called The Robots Exclusion Protocol.
    • This is the place to test any robots.txt codes as well as check to see what pages are blocked from Google.
  • Sitemaps
    • Sitemaps are like a road map for your website.
    • A sitemap shows how all of your pages are linked together, and allows search engines to better understand the flow of your site.
    • The sitemap dashboard shows how many URL’s and images have been submitted as well as how many have been indexed.
    • Each plugin has it’s own style of URL they use for a sitemap. If you are usingYoast then it is URL.com/sitemap_index.xml

Security Issues

  • This section will show you any malware or other security issues Google has found in your site.
  • Not all malware will show here.
  • If you are seeing malware while navigating to your site it’s likely that your site is referencing code or content from another domain that has malware.

Other Resources

  • Structured Data Testing Tool: Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to check that Google can correctly parse your structured data markup and display it in search results.
  • Structured Data Markup Helper: Not sure how to start with adding structured data markup to your HTML? Try this point-and-click tool.
  • Email Markup Tester: Validate the structured data contents of an HTML email using Email Markup Tester.
  • Google My Business: Make sure your business looks great on Google Search, Maps and Google+ for free.
  • Google Merchant Center: The place to upload your product data to Google and make it available to Google Product Search and other Google services.
  • PageSpeed Insights: Use PageSpeed Insights to find out how to make your web pages fast on all devices.
  • Custom Search: Harness the power of Google to create a customized search experience for your own website.
  • Google Domains: Find a domain name and build a website with Google Domains.
  • Webmaster Academy: Learn to create a great website with valuable content and have it findable in Google Search.

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