Google Webmaster Tools is a great resource for websites. There’s a reason you commonly hear that one of the first things you should do is add your website to GWT and Google Analytics.
Most webmasters are familiar with Google Webmaster Tools and what it brings to the table but there are some hidden advanced features that you may not have initially noticed. Some of these tools are very powerful and benefitial to your SEO efforts.
1. Html improvements
Google will tell you if there’s a problem with your on-page SEO. It’s called “HTML Improvements” and it’s an area of Google Webmaster Tools that’s commonly overlooked.
To get to it, click on “Search Appearance” and you’ll find it listed under this category.
- Missing title tags or missing meta descriptions is a problem. This is how search engines display your website and it’s a big aspect to SEO. Fortunately, GWT has your back and lets you know if any of your pages have titles or descriptions missing.
- Duplicate title tags or duplicate meta descriptions need to be fixed immediately. Duplicate content can negatively impact your site’s ability to rank in search engines. If your content is being duplicated across multiple pages, GWT will notify you and even provide direct links to the pages in question.
- Titles that are too long get truncated and replaced. If you have titles that are exceeding the 70 character limit, now’s the time to fix it.
- Titles that are too short are not giving readers an accurate representation of what they will find on the page. You’re also not using the full SEO potential in the title.
- Titles that are non-informative are not providing enough information in Google’s eyes, and they’ll request that you fix this.
- You will also receive alerts for content that’s considered non-indexable such as media.
2. Crawl Rate
By navigating to the “Site Settings” within Webmaster Tools, you can change the crawl rate for your website.
GWT is the only location where you can do this and it’s only possible once you have verified ownership of your website.
Most webmasters leave this setting to “let Google optimize for my site” but if you want to limit how often Google can crawl your website’s pages, you have that option.
If Google frequent crawling is causing complications, this can be a very useful feature.
3. Preferred domain
Does the www version of your domain redirect to the non-www version, or vice versa?
If so, then you’ve already got a 301 redirect in place, which essentially sets the preferred domain already. However, you can take things a step further within the “Site Settings” of Webmaster Tools and actually specify a preferred domain to Google.
4. Structured data highlighter
You can improve your search engine rankings by using the structured data highlighter.
This tools helps Google further understand your website’s data. You can “tag” data fields that exist on your pages and let Google know what type of data it is. For instance, dates, locations, reviews and other data can be tagged and structured using the data highlighter.
Once Google understands your data better, it can actually be displayed in the search results with your listing. This will improve your look in search results and increase click-throughs.
If you have multiple pages that have the same structured data, there’s even a tool to automatically tag similar pages.
5. Site links
Sitelinks can appear underneath your website’s search engine listing on Google.
When a user searches for your website use a brand related keyword on Google, the sitelinks will be displayed beneath your listing, providing further advertising.
You can add or remote sitelinks so that Google knows which pages of your website you value most and would like displayed.
This doesn’t mean they have to adhere to what you have specified here, but it will make those links much more likely to appear.
6. Search Queries
If you click on “Search Traffic” and then select “Search Queries” you’ll find a lot of the phrases that are providing organic traffic to your website. These are phrases your website is ranking for on Google.
They also display the number of impressions, clicks and calculated CTR for those phrases.
Since Google Analytics no longer provides keyword data, this is the next best place to find keywords that are worth focusing on.
This is great for finding long-tail phrases that your website ranks for that you never knew existed. Once you see that you’re already getting traffic, you can begin to optimize your site even further for those phrases.
7. Internal links
Internal linking is very important to SEO. Google knows which content on your website is most valuable by the number of internal links that it has.
GWT lets you know which pages of your site have the most internal links and you can use this to increase the internal link counts for pages that need more publicity.
8. Links to Your Site
While AHrefs or MajesticSEO may have more accurate backlink stats, you can use the “Links to Your Site” section of Webmaster Tools to evaluate several factors:
- Find out how many total links your website has
- Find out what websites link to you the most
- Find out what pages on your website are linked to the most
- Find out what anchor text is used when linking to you
9. Manual Actions
Find out if manual webspam action has been taken against your site.
If you engage in risky link building practices, Google will be upfront about whether or not they have manually penalized your website.
You should see this:
10. Crawl Errors
Google crawls your website regularly so that your content can be indexed and updated in the search results.
If any errors are encountered throughout the crawling process, such as soft 404 errors or actual 404 (file not found) errors, they will be displayed here.
Crawl errors can happen when old files are linked to that no longer exist on your website. You could have internal or external links pointing to these files. If the links are external, you can contact the website owners where the links are coming from and ask for their removal.
11. Index Status
This figure shouldn’t change too often and if it does, there may be a problem.
The number of pages you have indexed in Google should remain consistent, but climb as you add additional pages and content to your website.
Google Webmaster Tools, the Keyword Planner and Google Analytics are incredibly insightful resources that are important to SEO. Make sure you thoroughly check these areas of GWT, you’ll be surprised how beneficial they can be to your search engine optimization efforts.