Hello and welcome to my Google Webmaster Tools 7 1/2 part tutorial. Here I will walk you through each and every area of Google Webmaster Tools and how you can utilize them to better understand what is “technically” going on with your website. Google released Webmaster Tools in 2006 in order to help webmasters “create more search engine-friendly sites.”
As of May 20th 2015, Google have changed the name of Webmaster Tools to Search Console.” ***
Adding A New Website
Entering a URL
The website, https://www.google.com/webmasters/, allows you to submit your website to Google’s index, then see a technical overview. To do this, you must first add a site to Webmaster Tools. When you click the red button in the upper-right hand side of the screen, you will be prompted to enter a domain name. Once you enter a domain name you will then need to verify that you own, or manage, that domain.
Verifying Your Website
Depending on where your domain is registered and hosted you may be asked to verify ownership of a domain by changing the DNS. Below is an example of something you may see (taken directly from Google Webmaster Tools):
Log in to your account for test.com at www.example.com by clicking the Manage Account icon.
In the left navigation bar, open the nsWebAddress (Domains) menu by clicking the + icon.
Click Manage Domain Names.
On the Domain Details page for the domain you’re using, select the Designated DNS radio button (to the right of Change domain to point to) and click the Apply Changes button. If you’ve previously modified your advanced DNS settings, click Edit (to the right of Domain currently points to).
Under the Advanced DNS Manager heading, click Manage Advanced DNS Records.
Under the Text (TXT Records) heading, click Add/Edit.
In the Host field, enter @.
Leave the TTL field set to the default value.
In the Text field, copy and paste the following unique security token: a security code will be provided here
Review your changes and click Save Changes.
When you’ve done saving the TXT record, click the Verify button below on this page.
If you are not comfortable verifying your website this way, there are several other alternate methods for you to verify your site.
- Upload an HTML file. Google will provide you with a file to download that you can then upload to your website via your CMS or FTP. This file will be appended to your domain name like this: http://www.example.com/googlexxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.html. For those who do not wish to upload a file to your website or are not comfortable doing so, you may choose to add a meta tag to your home page.
- Add an HTML tag. Google will provide you with the appropriate meta tag to add to the home page of your website. This will be placed in the <head> section of your website, along with the other meta data. It will look something like this: <meta name=”google-site-verification” content=”xxx-XXXxxxXxxXXXXxxxXxxxxXXXxxxxXXxx-xxXxXXxx” />. If you do not wish to touch the coding of your website, you can verify your website by using Google Analytics if your website already as this installed.
- Google Tag Manager This option will allow you to verify your website if you are using Google’s Tag Manager. To do this you must be using the container snippet. Make sure you have permission to “manage” the tag prior to using this method.
After you complete the verification process you will brought to the Site Dashboard.
The site dashboard in Google Webmaster Tools is a 10,000 foot view of what’s going on with you website. Here you’ll be able to the current status of your website. This shows you crawl errors, search queries and sitemaps.
The Crawl Errors section in Webmaster Tools will show you if there are any issues with you website such as 404 errors, 500 errors and so on. Here you will be shown a complete list of errors found as well as a link back to that specific URL. Below is a screenshot of what I saw when I logged into my site dashboard:
The green check marks underneath each category indicates that there are no issues with my DNS, Server or Robots.txt. When I click on Crawl Errors under Current Status I am presented with the following screen:
This chart allows me to see a 90 day history of any errors that occurred on my site. You can see that on 12/10/2013 I corrected some issues but more quickly arose. This is a common occurrence with most websites and should not be cause for alarm. Most errors can be easily dealt with and I will go more in-depth on this topic in a later entry. Underneath the chart is a list of all the errors and their server response codes.
As you can see on this list I have several 404 errors. This means that there are pages that are not found by Google. This could mean a couple of different things. One reason is that there was an older version of the page that I deleted and never redirected, another reason is that a page was moved and not properly redirected. From here we are able to select one or multiple URLs and mark them as fixed. You are also given the option to download a complete version of this as a spreadsheet or Google Doc that lists their server response codes and dates detected. Regardless of the issue, once we click on one from the list under URL we see a pop-up screen that shows us a bit more detail about this specific issue.
You can see that Webmaster Tools tells us the date that this issue was first detected as well as the last time that Google crawled this particular URL. Underneath the dates are a brief description about what a 404 error is. If we click around we can see if this URL is in our XML Sitemap and what other pages on our website link to this erroneous URL. Here we can click on the link provided to see what the pages currently looks like. If we know for a fact that this page is no longer an issue we can mark it as fixed. But since we’re SEO’s and want to know more about why the issue occurred, we would click the fetch as Google button. The fetch as Google button allows us to see the page as Google see’s it with the server response code and all of the source code. We will discuss that in a later post as well.
We covered a lot of grounds today on how to set up your website with Google Webmaster Tools. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll be discussing Search Appearance and all of the areas that are part of that section.