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by Ali Moghadam on 12th June 2014
Google Webmaster Tools is an all too often overlooked resource in the Digital Marketing realm. Overshadowed by the ridiculously powerful Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools (or GWT) has something of an ugly sister status – penalties, warnings and site messages from Google – all of these are administered via this platform after all. But aside from the obvious, what can GWT offer a business?
When I say aside from the obvious, I mean the stuff like uploading sitemaps, checking for Meta and title tag issues and that sort of thing. Oh and the manual penalties bit – mustn’t forget that! Those are standard items to address for good SEO and user experience. I’m talking about opportunities and detective work!
The much lamented loss of keyword data in Google Analytics drove the Internet a trifle mental. Google says privacy was the key driver, but when it helps to stop (so called) spam at the same time…well, you can see how it was useful to their cause. First the Google giveth. Then the Google taketh away.
Then the Google giveth once more! Sort of. The search query report in GWT is more than just interesting reading – this is a treasure trove of data. Opportunities can be found and capitalised on. It’s one of the best parts of the platform and one that all websites should be using to pin point their targeting:
What’s great here is that you get the actual term used to find your site, the Click through Rate (CTR) and average ranking positions. Why is this triple dose of information so good? I’m glad you asked! The above screenshot is from my site’s Webmaster Tools account. Look at all those lost impressions…costly to a small website right? Not to me – because I got more clicks and a way better CTR.
Using GWT, you can weed out all the terms that get seen a lot but don’t win the click. Cut off the dead weights and your site’s central themes become stronger, with less noise polluting the focus.
This is important to a little site like mine because it has a very specific target, but that doesn’t mean big sites shouldn’t apply the same logic. Even a big business knows that assets should be nurtured and avenues with little return should get less attention.
What this really means to me is, that I had around 12 page one ranked terms, but only six of them present any real value. While the rankings are nice, they aren’t always productive. And that’s what we’re all after – the result!
Top Tip! Got a high ranked keyword with a very low CTR? Have a look at your competitors’ search results. Is there any reason theirs are winning clicks over yours? Does your Meta description sell it? Is your title tag the most generic thing under the sun? Time to reinvent!
If the search query report proves anything, it’s that the number one slot in Google isn’t always the best place to be – people like to shop around, compare and try the other flavours on offer. Good visibility is more than just being top of the pile; it’s about being the best in the pile, the one that stands out.
Here’s an interesting thought – Google’s looking at your content and judging your site by it. ALL THE TIME. Looking at the content keywords tab shows you what Google thinks your content is all about. Does it look… a little spammy? Or is this just totally not what you were after? If so, it’s probably high time for a content refresh.
Google has deemed these terms to be what your site is about, and has ranked them by its perceived significance. Is it great to have a string of prized keywords? Probably not. Is it good to see a theme develop out of the words you have in your list? Absolutely!
Refreshing your copy can work wonders on your site’s visibility – I’ve experienced it first-hand. But regular, themed content is a vital part of your online marketing efforts and without it, you may find yourself reaching a plateau or worse, a wall.
Blogging is a term that gets tossed around so much that it loses all meaning. It’s seen as a tactic or (slightly better) as a strategy and seldom for what it is. Blogging is writing stuff that you want people to read, no? Whether it’s about how much you love sausage and mash, a really cool photograph you took or even how you feel about Mondays, there is absolutely ZERO point in writing if it means nothing to you.
So why is it that so many business blogs are written as if it means nothing to the writer? Way too many in my experience. It makes me sad that an outlet can be squandered so readily, or be so overlooked and underappreciated. Your blog is your voice. If you’re not going to use it, don’t be surprised if nobody listens.
Back to the positives with a TOP TIP! Combine your search query report and content keyword list. Can you see an opportunity for new content? Maybe there’s a term you think you should have more visibility for. Why not write a compelling and meaningful post about the subject, or create a running series around it?
Links, links links. Pecked to death by ravenous penguins. But as Matt Cutts himself has openly stated, Google just doesn’t work without them (yet). Great! Let’s get out there and start arbitrarily building links all over the place!
That was a (rubbish) joke by the way. Whatever you do, please don’t do that! But do go and check links to your site detected by Google Webmaster Tools:
More often than not, these are potent links that have had enough impact to be recognised by a Google tool. Of course, they’re not always good and some can be hidden… that’s why it’s best to use a purpose built bit of backlink analysis software to get a true picture of your link profile.
But have loads of sites linked to a particular page or piece of content? Is something you’ve made proving popular in forums or fan sites? Maybe it’s time to write a follow up! That influx of natural, high quality links can be repeated if you try.
It’s about identifying your successes and capitalising on them. If something worked well last time and won a lot of links, use a similar approach next time round – I’m not saying find a formula and stick to it, I’m just saying go for the stuff that works. Make stuff for the people!
There’s loads more to Google Webmaster Tools, like the awesome Data Highlighter, the cryptic (but cool) Labs area and Structured Data testing – but those are for another time!
If you’re looking for more insights and want to know what to do with this information, speak to us today!