Webmaster Tools and Resources
If you own a website, then you’re a webmaster, (or mistress in my case ). And if you’re a webmaster then you’ll want to take advantage of the various webmaster tools and resources available to you. For now, let’s just take a look at what Google offers. Yeah, I know there are other search engines and we’ll get to them later. For now, seeing as how the majority of the world thinks the only search engine is Google, we’ll concentrate on her.
You should know that the Google Webmaster tools service is separate from the Google Analytics service. (We’ll talk about Google Analytics later ). They do different jobs though they’re both designed to help you make your website a better place for visitors, which in turn, will help it rank better in Google.
In order to use the service you have to verify that you’re the site owner. In the past, this has been a real pain, but now there’s an official Google Webmaster plugin that does it for you. Much easier than fooling around with codes in my opinion. But if you’re like Cenay, you’d no doubt get a kick from it.
Once you’ve verified that you own the site, you can then sign in and find out all sorts of information about your site, how often Google crawls, what urls are indexed, what queries it shows up for, to name but a few.
Of course, like anything else to do with your website, if you don’t use the information to improve it, then it’s pretty useless.
Take a look at the image below. I just verified IM Ladies and this is what the dashboard looks like.
The first thing we’ll look at will be the search queries the site shows up for. How many times it shows for those queries and, more importantly, how many times folks actually bother to click on the site when it shows up.
While it’s no good having a site that doesn’t show up in the search engines, it’s also of no use to have a site that shows up but nobody bothers to visit. When all those gurus are guaranteeing they can get you to page one of Google, ask them if they can also guarantee that the folks seeing your site there will actually click the link and visit.
This is the ‘work’ part that only you as the Webmaster can do. If you’re showing up for the wrong queries you need to find out why.
Let’s say you’ve got a site on golf and it’s showing up for the query ‘healthy living’. One of two things is going to happen.
1. People will click through to your site, realise it’s not what they were looking for and bounce right back to the search page. You might have got the page view but it did you no good at all. You didn’t get a customer.
2. People will read the description and realise it’s not what they were looking for so not bother clicking through to your site. In this case, you don’t even get the page view so you still end up without a customer.
What you want is to get the click through and have it stick. You want the folks seeing your site to see it show up when it’s supposed to, ie. when they are searching for what you are offering.
When this happens, Google sees it as positive reinforcement that your site is relevant to that query and will show it more often.
If you’re showing up for the wrong things, check your site’s content, meta tags, descriptions, links, anchor text, etc. Find out where the mismatch is occurring and put it right. The answers are right there in your Webmaster dashboard. You don’t have to look too hard to find them.
I may not be a Geek, but I LOVE Google Analytics.
It’s like stalking, only legal. You get to see how many visitors your site is getting, where they’re coming from, how long they’re staying, which pages they’re visiting and in what order… the list just goes on and on.
Checking the information in your GA is a must and you want to be checking it on a regular basis. It’s no good, just popping in every once in a while. If there’s a problem you want to find out early and you also want to know what is going well so you can do more of it.
Personally, I love the ‘click patterns‘ which is a Beta feature at the moment. It allows you to see an overlay on your site so you can see exactly what links are being clicked and which ones perhaps need to be brought more to your visitors attention.
Are your visitors clicking text or image links more? Do they click links closer to the top of the page or the bottom? Is one category getting more than it’s fair share of clicks? I love this stuff.
Now, of course, Google offers a whole lot more than just webmaster tools and analytics. But Google isn’t the only game in town. Bing also offers their own webmaster tools to help you see and improve your site’s performance with their search engine. And Yahoo offers more than just site explorer.
Seriously, you could play all day with these tools. What other business could you build where the more you play the more you stand to earn? Sweet.