Whether you’re tasked with the full time search engine optimization of your site or have found yourself taking on more responsibility in this area and juggling with other office responsibilities, there are a plethora of tools available to you. From rankings, link architecture and on-page optimization audits, there is an embarrassment of riches online, all designed to help you increase your site’s search engine visibility.
While the promise of better keyword rankings may well have you reaching for your credit card each time an advertisement for a new SEO software package or application lands in your inbox, you can probably get a lot more out of Google Webmaster Tools for no additional cost. The search engine’s webmaster toolkit is full of features and unless you have no other tasks to complete in your typical working day, it’s quite possible that you haven’t been able to take the time needed to really get to know its most useful features. Even if you use the tools daily, you may still have overlooked some of its features.
1. Mail Forwarding — It should be one of the first things you do, but how many of us are guilty of overlooking the mail forwarding feature offered by Google or have put it off to complete ‘later’. If you are strict with yourself about logging in to Webmaster Tools every day or so then you may not need to sign up. For everyone else, message forwarding keeps you in the loop and alerts you to problems with your site as they happen. Being messaged by Google to say that there is a malware issue on your site or that pages can’t be crawled is never going to be one of the emails you look forward to, but this early warning system direct to your inbox means you can fix it –or start to fix it – instantly. This reduces the chances of your site’s rankings suffering because you didn’t have time to log into the site for a week or so and had no idea that malware was being detected.
2. Search Queries — If you have a particularly large online store, trying to optimize every single page of your site is a very big task and one that could take years to complete. Deciding to optimize each product page is a viable strategy if you have a big supporting team, but for smaller businesses, picking just a few products and maximizing their visibility is a more logical approach to take. Search queries doesn’t just tell you which terms are triggering your site in the organic listings, you can use it to identify which products are displaying the most impressions and clicks, showing you which products are already enjoying user demand. Focusing in on these areas can maximize this products’ appeal, giving it greater visibility and hopefully even better sales figures.
3. Identifying and dealing with duplicate content — Duplicate content is the bane of an SEO’s existence as it can crop up from multiple sources and fly under the radar for extended periods of time. Fortunately, Google’s webmaster tools has a solution. Navigate to the search queries section of the interface and you’ll see the most popular pages being displayed. From this, you can manually see whether or not there are any results that look similar, but differ by session ID markers or other duplicate content flags.
If your site does create session IDs, you can use the parameter handling tab to tell the search engine to ignore pages with URLs containing certain types of characters.
4. Crawl information — Webmaster tools will log errors found on the site, including broken links and pages not found. You can use this information to repair any errors that may be preventing you from capitalizing on PageRank and search traffic. This same area will also give you an insight in to the landing page load time – a crucial metric in AdWords quality score and a key factor in the job of providing a positive user experience.
There’s lots more under the umbrella of Google Webmaster Tools, so don’t be afraid to dig in and check out the variety of information and helpful tactics to make optimization of your website easier.