Webmaster Tools Part 1: What Can It Really Do for You?

By Heidi Smith | May 8, 2015
More Articles by Heidi

desk with notes about SEO writtenA lot of our clients have Google Webmaster Tools set up, but are looking for our expertise on what to actually do with it and how to use it to help their business. So what can it do for you? What’s the point?

In Part 1 of this multi-part series exploring Webmaster Tools, I’ll discuss 5 main features Google Webmaster Tools provides that can help your business and website succeed with SEO.

Get It Crawled

One of the main features, and the one that people are most familiar with, is the ability to submit XML Sitemaps in Google Webmaster Tools (GWMT). You can submit more than one sitemap, as well as additional sitemap types, such as video.

webmaster tools view of xml sitemap submitted pages

Submitted XML Sitemap = Insightful Index Data

Not only will the GWMT interface tell you when the sitemap was processed, it’ll tell you about any issues the search engine bot discovered, how many URLs were submitted, and how many were indexed.

What’s the point? 

While your site should get indexed regardless of whether or not you submit a sitemap to WMT, using this feature helps search engines better crawl, categorize and understand your site. You can also submit a sitemap to potentially get your site indexed / re-indexed faster in the event it has changed (i.e. pages have been added, content has been changed, etc.)

Analyze (and Apply) the Analytics

Search Analytics is still in the early phases (beta to be exact, and not rolled out to everyone), but the new reporting feature lets you access data around search queries, pages, devices, countries and search type for your website.

How can it help me?

This is likely to be the most used section of WMT, like its predecessor the “Search Queries” report. Use this new reporting system to gain valuable insight into your traffic and performance on the Google Search Network. From there, see where you can make improvements based on your findings and where you could further optimize and expand on areas where you are already successful.

Structured Data

The WMT Structured Data section shows what structured data markup is applied to your pages, what type of markup it is and errors in the markup that may prevent rich snippets from being displayed. Use the Data Highlighter to easily tell Google about patterns of structured data on your site.

Jurassic Park IMDB rich snippet example on search engine result page

Check out this rockin’ rich snippet from IMDb

Your point, madam?

Implementing structured data markup correctly allows Google to better understand and index your content, potentially allowing your content to be shown in new and improved ways on search engine result pages and in the Knowledge Graph via rich snippets (like above).

Make It Mobile

The Mobile Usability section under Search Traffic is new, shiny, and quite the beaut. Make sure you are checking it out, as it helps pinpoint and provide detailed information on how to fix mobile usability issues that are affecting your site, including touch elements that are too close, small font sizes, flash usage, and more.

Why should I care?

Just Google mobile algorithm and take it all in. With more and more users moving to mobile, it is more important than ever to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. With this feature, it is a whole lot easier to improve your site’s usability and in turn, let Google know you’re making an effort when it comes to mobile.

Security Insight

Hopefully you will never have to use this feature, but GWMT does offer a “Security Issues” section. If you ever have a problem with malware or spam on your site, go here to find more information about the issue, access detailed code that can help you determine the problem quicker, and get tips from Google on how to clean up your site.

The point, you ask?

I think this one is pretty obvious, but removing spam and malware from your site isn’t always easy and is never a problem you want to have, so any insight into cleaning it up is a positive.

Google Webmaster Tools has a lot to offer to your SEO endeavors, and not just what is outlined here. What’s your favorite Google Webmaster Tools function? How do you use it to make your website better? Reach out to me on Twitter or Google+ and share your experiences.

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