Guide to Webmaster Tools for Beginners
When we’re talking about analyzing your website’s performance the first tool that comes to mind is Google Analytics. Google Webmaster Tools, however, isn’t that popular these days.
This is quite strange, to be honest, because Google Webmaster Tools is still the best tool for making sure that Google is happy with your site’s structure. Picture this, what other better place is there to go for checking your site’s compatibility with Google than the tool created by the giant itself?
What Google Webmaster Tools Has to Offer?
Basically, Google Webmaster Tools gives you a direct way of speaking to Google. More accurately, you can: set your site’s preferred domain (www, or non-www), see your sitelinks (Google’s custom links below your site’s listing), check crawl errors and crawl stats, see blocked URLs, display your website the way Google sees it, check for malware, and much more.
How to Get Started With Google Webmaster Tools
Signing up to Google Webmaster Tools is pretty easy. You just have to go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and set a new account or use your existing Google account.
Once you’re in, the next step is to add your site. Click the red button on the right (image below) and input your site’s URL.
At this point, Google Webmaster Tools has to verify that you’re indeed the owner or the webmaster of the site you’ve added.
There’s a couple of different methods of verification. The recommended method instructs you to download a custom HTML file, upload it to your site via FTP, and then visit one specific URL.
If you don’t want to, or don’t know how to do this, there are some alternatives. Two of them make the most sense:
- Use a custom HTML tag and place it in the head section of the header.php file of your current theme. You can do this through your WP admin panel when you log in as the administrator. Just go to Appearance > Editor, select “Header” from the list of template files, and then place the HTML tag right before the closing </head> tag. Confirm by clicking “Update File.”
- Link your Google Analytics account with Google Webmaster Tools. You must be the admin on the Analytics account in order to make it work. So if your Analytics is controlled by an external company (like a SEO company, for example) then this won’t work.
When you’re done with the verification process you can start using Google Webmaster Tools. At this point, there are still some additional settings you should take care of.
Taking Care of the Initial Settings
Go to Configuration > Settings (left menu in Google Webmaster Tools).
This is where you can set your target audience, preferred domain, and crawl rate.
Setting your target audience can be especially valuable to international affiliates doing business in other countries. If you don’t target any specific country, you can leave this blank.
Everyone should set the preferred domain. Inevitably, some people will place “www” as part of your address when linking to you, but some won’t. If you don’t tell Google what’s your preferred structure, you will weaken your overall ranking.
The last setting – crawl rate is best left unchanged.