Welcome to part 2 of my 7 1/2 part series on Google Webmaster Tools. In my last post I covered the Site Dashboard in Google Webmaster Tools as well as how to obtain a list of all errors on your site via the crawl errors tab. In this post I will move down to the next list section in the navigation, Search Appearance.
Technically the next link down is Site Messages but since I’ll be covering that more in-depth in a later post we’re talking about Search Appearance today.
The third link down in the left-hand navigation of Google Webmaster Tools is also the first drop-down. Here you’ll find links for Structured Data, Data Highlighter, HTML Improvements and Sitelinks.
You can access the further items by clicking the text search appearance.
Clicking on the “i” to the right of Search Appearance will provide you with the following pop-up:
This image shows how rich snippets, or structured data, change how a website is displayed in the SERPs (search engine result pages). You can seen that on website is displaying a review, one website is displaying authorship and another is showing sitelinks. Clicking on each of the topics on the left will bring up ways to achieve each of those fields. This brings us to our next topic, Structured Data.
Without getting too technical or wordy, the best way to describe Structured Data is that it helps search engines show relationships between objects. What does that mean? It means that by using as much detail as possible to describe the products or services or whatever is listed on your website, search engines will be able to better serve up your information to related queries.
In the graph below you’ll see that Google can detect how much structured data I currently have on my website. Not that much, I know.
There are currently two data types that are marked up on my website; hatom and breadcrumbs. Clicking on either one of them will bring you to a new chart that lists each page containing the markup. The first one, hatom, is a microformat. Microformats are typically used in publishing for content such as news articles and blogs. This makes sense since my website uses WordPress as a CMS.
Clicking on hatom brings us to the page shown above. Here we see a list of URLs that are marked up with microformats. This chart gives us insight into any errors that may be occurring (I currently have 3) such as: the date it was detected, the title of the page as well as what the errors are.
Above the graph we see four options: All Data followed by three different Error Types. Clicking on each of those will provide you with a different chart and set of pages, depending on how many, if any, errors are on your site.
If we head back to the main Structured Data page, we see the second item listed under Data Type is Breadcrumb. Breadcrumbs are a miniature navigation used in publishing and retail sites that show a user where they are in a website. Breadcrumbs are particularly useful for websites that have a lot of categories and require more than three clicks to drill down to a product. You will see a linear layout of the path you took to get to the page you’re on. The screenshot below shows a list of several pages that have breadcrumbs on them what their titles are.
This page lists the URLs that are marked up on your website. Here you will be able to see how many items per page are marked up, if there are any errors with the mark up, the date the markup was last detected and the title of the breadcrumb. If there are any errors with the breadcrumb markup you would be able to click on a tab above (that currently says 0 Errors) and be provided with a list of URLs and explanation of the errors.
The next item under Structured Data is the Data Highlighter.
The Data Highlighter is a great feature that was introduced to Webmaster Tools in December 2012. This useful tool allows you to highlight specific data on your website so you don’t have to change any code. Initially created just for events, you are now able to highlight different content such as: articles, book reviews, events, local businesses, movies, products, restaurants, software applications and TV episodes.
Selecting different information to highlight will yield different options on the following screen. For example, choosing article will provide you with options related to publishing whereas choosing product will provide you with price and other descriptions.
The screenshots below show the options you have when using the Data Highlighter:
Once you decide on which option you want to you, the next screen is relatively easy to use; you just highlight a section on whatever page you choose, then select the options on the right.
Here is a screenshot of an article on my website. I entered the URL, selected Articles from the drop-down then choose Tag just this page for this example. If I were to choose Tag this page and others like it, I would have been provided with a URL set. This would allow me to completely tag one page and automatically tag other pages that are similar. I would still need to review and approve them but at least the work would be done.
Notice that once I highlight the title of a blog entry, I’m presented with a new menu. Here I would select Title as what I have highlighted is the title of this particular article. The other options are Author, where I would highlight my name, Data Published, Image, Category and Average rating.
After all chosen content is properly tagged the next step is to review everything then click publish.
Highlighting content this way is a great way to have it presented in a more attractive fashion in the SERPs and potentially in Google’s Knowledge Graph.
This is one of my favorite sections in Webmaster Tools because it shows you a bird-s-eye view of the meta data used on your website. If there are any discrepancies with your meta data, one of the options will be highlighted to provide you deeper insight as to where the issue is.
This is the main screen that appears when you click on HTML Improvements. You’ll notice that Short meta descriptions is highlighted. Clicking that link will bring us to the next screen that shows details on the pages containing errors; in this case it’s short meta descriptions.
Fortunately, there are only two pages that require attention (and one of those pages no longer exists).
In any of these sections contained more URLs with problems, we would be able do download a CSV file or Google Doc version of this list. That is extremely useful when working with and tracking hundreds of URLs that need to be updated.
Other issues that are reported in this section are title tags and non-indexable content. Errors with title tags could be that they’re too long, too short or duplicate (which I’ve found to be most common). Non-indexable content are files that are not being indexed for whatever reason such as images and video.
This section of Webmaster Tools is reserved for demoting, or removing sitelinks from a search result. Sitelinks generally only show up when a user conducts a branded search for a name or website. Unfortunately there is no way to control which URLs appear as sitelinks however, you are able remove the ones you do not which to advertise. Please exercise caution when using this tool as you do not want to remove these deep links that may be responsible for driving a lot of traffic.
In the space provided next to Demote this sitelink URL you can enter the URL that you no longer wish to appear in Google’s search results. Just to reiterate, you are not able to control which URLs appear in the SERPs, only remove the one’s you don’t want to appear.
We covered a lot in this section today! There are a lot of advanced featured in the Search Appearance section of Webmaster Tools so make sure you are comfortable with the changes you wish to make before you make them.
In my next post I will be covering the following section, Search Traffic.
Not much has changed here since Google rebranded Webmaster Tools as Search Console ***