Google Webmaster tools is Google’s collection of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools that help you manage your site in Google Search results. Now categorized and housed under Google Search Console, they provide you with the data your organization needs to rank higher in search.
We aren’t kidding about the data — there’s so much in there that it can be overwhelming. Remember the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule: For many events, you get 80% results from 20% effort. So what information should small teams prioritize to see the most benefit? Here are the best Google Webmaster tools within Search Console to help you get the greatest return on your time investment.
Google Webmaster Tools for Content Creators
1. Google Search Console
Search Console is your one-stop shop for SEO data in Google. It tells you how your site appears in the world of Google Search, and gives you tools to improve its ranking.
Search Console tells you what people are searching for when they find your site, how your content ranks for those queries, and how many people are actually click through. You can also monitor your site for any technical SEO issues and crawl your site to ensure Google can find every page. Within Search Console, we recommend nonprofits and small teams focus on the following 5 tools.
2. Search Analytics
Under Google Search Console, you can find Search Analytics to track what queries are bringing users to your site, and what pages appear from those searches. It is very important to track this information to ensure that you are…
- Ranking for keywords that are branded
- Ranking for keywords that are not branded but are relevant to your cause to reach new audiences
- Are not ranking for irrelevant keywords that would cause a bad user experience for the searcher
You can also use this information to find new ideas for content so you can rank higher in search.
3. Links to Your Site
One of the biggest questions we get during content marketing trainings is how organizations can track when other sites link back to them. Easily enough, these are also known as backlinks.
How can we easily determine if our partners are linking to us? Are they linking to us properly? Use the “Links to Your Site” section of Search Console in Google Webmaster Tools to see what domains are linking to you, what content they are linking, and what anchor text they’re using.
Anchor text is the copy that is hyperlinked, and it is a hint to the Google robots as to what the site that is linked is all about. Hyperlinking “click here” doesn’t add any SEO value to your site, because it is so vague. However, linking the text “Whole Whale” to our homepage makes it clear to Google that the landing page is relevant to the anchor text. So make sure your partners and backlinks are using the right anchor text so you can get that value.
Google Webmaster Tools for the Technical SEOs
4. Testing Tools
Beyond Search Console, most of Google Webmaster Tools aren’t especially useful for SEO. However, the Testing Tools are great for the more technically-savvy SEOs to dive deeper.
Check out the Structure Data Testing Tool and Structured Data Markup Helper to test out structured data. Structured data refers to adding some type of markup on a webpage, in order to provide additional detail around the page’s content so the search appears with rich snippets, rich cards, carousels, knowledge boxes, etc.
Test this out with your top 10 landing pages: Do you see an improvement in ranking and traffic? If yes, try adding it to those articles that are ranking in the #2-5 position of Google and see if data markup gives them an extra boost.
5. Security Issues
If there are any security issues with your site’s content, Google will tell you. Under Security Issues in Search Console, you can get a security checkup. If you ever think your site is hacked or there is a cybersecurity issue, you can use this page to get a (vital) second opinion.
6. HTML Improvements
Since this is all about the 80/20 rule: What are the easiest fixes to improve SEO? Fixing meta descriptions and title tags is a tedious, but easy and effective task. (A great one to assign to interns if you have them.)
This section of Search Console in Google Webmaster Tools will tell you where there are areas for improvement and what specific pages need to be improved. For tips on writing meta descriptions, check out our guide.
7. Crawl Errors
Can Google find all the pages on your site? Are the most up-to-date pages appearing in search? Use the Crawl Errors section of Search Console to ensure there are no server errors or 404 errors (Page Not Found).
These issues are bad for user experience, because searchers can’t get to the pages on your site they are looking for. And when something is bad for UX, it’s bad for SEO. Google wants searchers to get fast, relevant, and accurate results, so a “Page Not Found” issue is a big one. Refer to the Crawl Errors section regularly and set up 301 redirects for any 404 pages to send to a relevant new page or the updated URL.
Whether you’re a rookie, a curious content creator, or a technical SEO wizard, Google Webmaster Tools has something for you. Did we miss your favorite one? Share it with us and tweet @WholeWhale.