Unless you’ve been living like its 2005, you should be aware that the first role of doing SEO is to make sure your website complies with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If it is not in line with these guidelines then you can expect to see some issues with its indexation and visibility in the Google search results.
Part of checking your website and keeping it compliant is to use Google’s Webmaster Tools. I am a big fan of Google Webmaster Tools and use it every day. There is so much you can learn about your website. The information comes direct from Google. If you have not yet set up Google Webmaster Tools for your website then do so soon using the guides below.
I’ve put together a big list of resources to help beginner and SEOs experts alike to help make sure their website is compliant and to get more from the free Webmaster Tools service.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
Your first stop as an SEO is to make sure you read and understand Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It is important you fully read and absorb the information within these guidelines.
A good tip is to return to this page regularly to check if it has been updated. You can see this by checking the date at the bottom right of the page:
Webspam Issues & Quality Guidelines
One of the biggest reasons webmasters re-visit Google’s Webmaster Guidelines is because they might have been hit by an Algorithm change or even a manual rankings filter, in some cases this could be a complete removal of your site from the search results.
If your site has been affected by Google’s ongoing updates then the likely cause is some form of webspam which is strictly against the Quality Guidelines. There are many forms of Webspam that could cause your site to not perform as best it could in the search results.
There is a great article on Google’s How Search Works website that describes how Google have and are combating the different types of Webspam.
There are many different causes for a site not complying with the Webmaster Guidelines. Google has highlighted some of the Webspam content issues in this video.
The process of ‘fixing’ a website to be compliant with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines is worthy of a blog post in itself however I have included some external blog post links for additional reading.
- How to recover from a Google Rankings Penalty (Koozai)
- The Definitive Guide to Recovery from the Unnatural Link Penalty (Search Engine Journal)
- How-To Recover From Google Penalties & Filters (Evolve Creative Group)
Introduction to Google Webmaster Tools
Now that you’ve read about Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, identified if there are any problems with your website and how you could recover from an issue, you should take the time to learn all about Google Webmaster Tools and how it can benefit your website.
This video from Google introduces webmasters to the benefits of using of Google Webmaster Tools.
Setting up Google Webmaster Tools
Setting up Google Webmaster Tools is a short process which requires some verification. The following resources show you all you need to know to get up and running with Google Webmaster Tools.
First visit the Official Webmaster Tools website. Here you can create a Google account and sign into Google Webmaster Tools.
The following Google video provides information on adding and verifying your website:
It’s not always easy for a non-technical webmaster to verify their websites. Google has provided the following help files describing each process in a little more detail:
- Adding a site to Google Webmaster Tools
- Google help file on verifying your site via the Google Analytics code method
- Google help file on verifying your site via the HTML Meta tag method
- Google help file on verifying your site via the HTML file upload method
- Google help file on verifying your site by Domain name provider
- Guide to Identifying your Domain host if you choose to verify your website via DNS
Guides to Google Webmaster Tools
So you’ve completed the setup of adding Webmaster Tools to your website. That was the hard part. Here are some great resources to introduce you to some essential features to start analysing your website.
The first thing you will see after clicking through to your profile is the Dashboard for your website. This contains a few default reports: new messages, crawl errors, search query performance, sitemap performance.
- A full updated guide to Google Webmaster Tools (SEOmoz)
- The SEO Guide To Getting Started With Google Webmaster Tools (Search Engine Land)
- The SEO Professional’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools (Search Engine Journal)
- Full video guide to using Google Webmaster Tools for improving your websites SEO (Google):
Google Webmaster Tools Resources
The main sections of Google Webmaster Tools are split out into Message Center, Configuration, Health, Traffic, Optimisation and Labs. The links below explain each section and their use.
- Settings: Setting a preferred domain in site settings (Google):
- Settings: Setting your site to GeoTarget a specific area (Google)
- Settings: Video on using your domain to GeoTarget your site using Google Webmaster Tools (Google)
- Sitelinks: Introduction to Sitelinks and demoting Sitelinks (Google)
- URL Parameters: Introduction to URL Parameters in Google Webmaster Tools (Google)
- URL Parameters: Improved handling of URLS with Parameter (Google WMC Blog)
- URL Parameters: Video on Configuring URL Parameters in Webmaster Tools (Google YouTube)
- Change of Address: Guide to changing your websites location (Google)
- Change of Address: Process for changing your websites location in Google Webmaster Tools (Google)
- Change of Address: Video explaining the use of the Change of Address feature and 301 redirects (Google)
- Change of Address: Video guide to setting up 301 redirects for a site address change (Google)
- Users: Guide to user permissions within Google Webmaster Tools (Google)
- Users: Guide to adding and removing users (Google)
- Users: Guide to adding and removing owners (Google)
- Associates: Adding associates to manage your YouTube presence (Google WMC Blog)
- Crawl Errors: Guides to each different type of crawl error to be found in this report (Google)
- Crawl Stats: Brief explanation of what this section means (Google)
- Blocked URLs: Introduction to the robots.txt file format and use (Robotstxt.org)
- Blocked URLs: Guide to blocking and removing pages using a Robots.txt file (Google)
- Blocked URLs: A Brief Guide to Robots.txt and Five Mistakes to Avoid (Koozai)
- Blocked URLs: Announcing the new Robots.txt analysis tool (Google WMC Blog)
- Fetch as Google: Introduction to Fetch as Google tool (Google)
- Fetch as Google: Matt Cutts explains the new features in Fetch as Googlebot in this Video (Google)
- Index Status: What the Indexed Status means (Google)
- Malware: Learn more about Malware and hacked sites (Google)
- Search Queries: Explanation of the Search Queries data (Google)
- Search Queries: In depth video guide from Maile Ohye on understanding and using Search Queries (Google)
- Links to your Site: How to view the newest found backlinks to your website (SEO Roundtable)
- Internal Links: Best practices for Internal Links (SEOmoz)
- Sitemaps: Multiple Google documents about Sitemaps, creating and submitting Sitemaps, different types of additional sitemaps (Google)
- Remove URLs: Requirements for using the URL removal tool (Google)
- HTML Improvements: Meta description best practices (SEOmoz)
- HTML Improvements: Title tag best practices (SEOmoz)
- Content Keywords: Notes on data within the Content Keywords section (Google)
- Structured Data: Video introduction to Rich Snippets (Google)
- Structured Data: Learn about Rich Snippets at Schema.org (Schema.org)
- Data Highlighter: Video introduction to Google’s Data Highlighter (Google)
That covers all of the standard features and tools currently with Google Webmaster Tools. Tools and features are moved or even removed with or without notice. Keep an eye on new tools being tested in the Labs section. There are also further helpful tools currently listed in the Other Resources page under the Optimization section.
The Google Webmaster Guidelines are constantly being tweaked and updated so always keep an eye on that page. The Official Webmaster Central Blog is where you will find announcements on new tools and handy guides on all webmaster topics. Google has a separate YouTube channel for Webmasters where all webmaster related videos are posted.
If you’ve got a webmaster related question, you best bet is to post it in the Official Webmaster Help Forum. Google employees regularly check out these forums and may post answers directly.
If you’ve found a great Google Webmasters resource or simply have a comment then share it in the comments section below.
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