3 Google Webmaster Tools Features Everyone Should Know

If you have a Google Analytics account, you should be using Google Webmaster Tools. If you’re not aware of Google Webmaster Tools, it’s a free service offered by Google that allows you to check the indexing status of your site and optimize its visibility. Put differently, it’s a tool that allows you alert Google that your site exists and gives you some insight on how to improve its standing from an SEO perspective.

If you don't have Webmaster Tools set up, you can learn how to do so by clicking here.

If you’re not a developer or an SEO expert, don’t worry; the features I’ll be looking at do not require any extensive knowledge of code or SEO. While there are some more ‘advanced’ reports in Webmaster tools, they will not be the focal points of this article.

1. Search Appearance Overview. Clicking on the information icon next to the Search Appearance menu item opens the overview, which provides an excellent visual on each page element and how it shows up in a search engine results page. The important thing to remember here is for the vast majority of websites, organic traffic (especially from Google), is the number one driver of visits. This means that the search engine results page is the very first impression of your site by potential visitors, so make sure they see what you want them to see.

2. HTML Improvements. Located under the ‘Search Appearance’ section, the HTML improvements report shows you where there might be issues with your meta descriptions and title tags. Addressing these issues will not only help with user experience, but it will also improve how Google views your site pages. When creating meta descriptions and title tags for your site, its important that they satisfy these 3 basic rules:

a. They aren’t too long. Going over the recommended character count (150 for meta descriptions and 70 for title tags) will cause Google to truncate them on the search engine results page. This is a poor user experience.

b. They aren’t duplicated. If multiple pages have the same title tags or meta descriptions, they will be demoted in search results.

c. They are representative of the content on that page. This is really the most important one. If these page elements accurately convey the subject matter on each page, it will increase the likelihood that Google (or any other search engine) displays the most relevant search results. And because bounce rateis factored into SEO, it’s especially important that these elements are reflective of what the visitor is expecting to see. The HTML improvements section will tell you all this information about these two key page elements so you can address any potential issues.

3. Search Queries. Located under the ‘Search Traffic’ section, this report shows you each query, impression, clicks, click through rate (CTR), and the average position your site will appear on a search engine results page for that particular query in a given date range. This allows you to see which terms are creating the most visibility for your site.

To really get the most out of this report, click the ‘Download this table’ button and put it into an excel spreadsheet. Use Excel’s filtering capability to filter out all the branded terms (terms that are particular to your brand – i.e. company name, proprietary products, etc.), so you’re left with only the non-branded terms that people are typing in to find your site. Now you can see which keywords are leading people to your site without having prior knowledge of your brand. These keywords are your best bet for generating new business and increasing brand awareness. If you click on those queries in the Webmaster Tools report, you can see their landing pages.  Optimizing those pages will improve their average position, and more importantly, your site’s visibility.

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