Google WebMaster Tools

Google WebMaster ToolsToday’s post is brought to you by the big letter “G”!
Want to know more about how Google sees your site(s)? Sure you do. Who wouldn’t? This stuff is as exciting as watching girls in bikinis during spring break. Well, maybe not, but you’ll stay out of trouble and no one will call you Client #9 or some such scandal in the newspapers!
Google WebMaster Tools – What is it?
Google webmaster tools gives you access to some of the information Google gathers about your site. It also allows you to set some preferences and specifics about your sites. You need two things to access it: a Google account, and, the ability to upload a file or alter a file on the site so that Google can verify that it’s your site.
How to Get a Google Account:
If you don’t have a Google account, then sign up for one. If you go to Google and are not logged in, in the top right corner, you’ll see a small “Sign In” link. Click that and under the login area, you’ll see a link to “Create an account now”. Follow that link to create an account. Don’t worry, it’s free!
Google has recently combined, or converged, their different accounts such as AdWords and WebMaster Tools into one account, so you don’t have to log in over and over like you used to.
Once you have an account and sign in, the top right corner of Google will now have a “My Account” link. Click on that link and from the page that loads, click on “Webmaster Tools”.
Adding Your Site(s):
If this is your first time using WebMaster Tools, you won’t see much. You’ll need to type your site’s URL into the little text box to add a site and then click the “Add Site” button.
Verifying Your Site(s):
After adding the site, you’ll need to verify that it’s your site. There are two ways to do this, one is to upload a file with a cryptic name, it can be an empty file, only the name is important. The name will be given to you, just copy and paste it into a new file name. Or, you can add a meta tag to your home page. Once you upload the file to your web site (or modify the home page with the meta tag), you click the “Verify” button and Google will check to see if the file or meta tag is there. If it finds it, then you’re verified and can access the information about your site.
Ok, Now What?
The information I use most frequently is the overview for a site. The overview will show you the last time Googlebot has successfully accessed your home page, if pages from your site are included in Googles index, and any errors or warnings. It also shows pages that it may have previously had in the index that it can’t find, or links that it can’t follow, and pages restricted by a robots.txt file: Click here to learn more about Robot.txt files.
You can also access statistics about your site such as top search queries and top clicked queries, however, I find these to be somewhat behind and lacking. But, it’s still interesting to look over.
Under statistics you can also look at Index Stats and see things like external links to your site and indexed pages in your site.
The links section gives more details on internal and external links to your site that Google sees.
Do I need a Sitemap?
You can also submit sitemaps using Google WebMaster Tools. A sitemap is a file that list pages on your site that you want Google to know about. Some blogging platforms will automatically generate a site map and you can point to it here and Google will use it to make sure it’s picking up all the files. If your site is not a blog, or if your blogging platform does not automatically generate a site map, you can create one manually. Follow the “more information” links in the site map section to find out more information about creating a site map. If your site has a good linking structure, it’s probably not all that important to create a site map because Google will be able to successfully crawl your site.
Under Tools you can analyze your robots.txt file – which if you have one, it’s a good idea to check it here and make sure it’s doing what you want it to do. Click here to learn more about Robot.txt files.
Setting a Preferred Domain:
Also under Tools you can “Set a Preferred Domain”. For example if and point to the same page, which it does, I want Google to always display search results with the www prefix. This feature let’s me tell Google to display them all as one or the other. I’m not sure just how important this feature is, but I’ve read that it helps with SEO – but I’ve not verified that myself.
There are more features to WebMaster Tools that what I’ve covered here, but I’ve hit the highlights and given you enough information to get it setup and start using it.
Until Next Time,