Readers and colleagues often come to me with questions about problems they're having with their websites or blogs. In some cases, such as sudden search engine ranking issues or site indexing problems, one of the first things I tend to ask them is to check Google Webmaster Tools.
That's when I sometimes get the mind-blowing responses of "What's that?" or "I don't use that." Not good.
So here is this week's quick tip:
If you run a website -- a professional freelance writing site, an author website, or a blog -- set it up in Google Webmaster Tools. It's free. It's easy. And it can provide a wealth of information to help you fix or improve your website.
Here's a look at what the Webmaster Tools interface looks like (using one of my nearly-unused domains as an example, so you won't actually see stats here):
And here are some of the most important things your Webmaster Tools account can tell you about your website or blog:
- Whether or not you have duplicate title tags or meta descriptions on your site;
- The most common organic search queries that lead Google users to your site;
- Information about which sites link to your site and what anchor text they use most often;
- Info on any manual action the web spam team has taken against your site;
- How many pages from your site are being indexed by Google.
Google Webmaster Tools also let you:
- Review crawl errors Google comes across (like 404 Page Not Found errors);
- Remove URLs on your site from Google's index;
- Direct Google to a sitemap for your content;
- Tie your Webmaster Tools account to your Google Analytics account (so you can see GWT data in Analytics);
- Ask Google to recrawl a specific URL (such as if you updated an old article or otherwise made significant changes to a page).
This doesn't even come close to everything Google Webmaster Tools can do. It's an essential tool that can give you fresh insight into your site's health so you can optimize and improve things where necessary.
Do you already use Google Webmaster Tools? If so, what features have been the most helpful to you? And if not, what are you waiting for? You can set it up today by visiting https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/.
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