When logging into Google’s Webmaster Tools for the first time the framework can seem a bit overwhelming. Where do you start? What is Google Webmaster Tools used for? Do you need this for your site?
First, I would like to start off with a brief explanation of what Google Webmaster Tools is, and what it is used for. Webmaster Tools is a free service provided by Google that allows you to check, and optimize, the indexing status of your website on Google’s Search Engine.
What You Can Do in Google Webmaster Tools
- Submit and check a sitemap.
- Generate and Check a robots.txt file.
- Set a preferred domain (for example: www.domain.com instead of domain.com).
- Notify Google of major changes to your website, or if the site is brand new, then you can notify Google that it exists, and to crawl your site.
- Submit Website to be Crawled/re-crawled by Google
Steps for Setting up Google Webmaster Tools for Optimal SEO Performance
- Select ‘Add a site’.
- Add ‘yourdomainname.com’, verify ownership.
- Go back to Webmaster Tools Homepage. Select ‘Add a site’ again.
- Add ‘www.yourdomainname.com’, verify ownership.
- Once inside the main screen for www.yourdomainname.com – using the main navigation on the left, select Configuration > Settings.
- Select ‘Display URLs as www.yourdomainname.com’ and save.
- Now, using the main navigation on the left go to Health > Fetch as Google. Leave the box blank so as to fetch your homepage and select ‘Fetch’. This will tell you if Google has any trouble accessing your website. Once the Fetch Status changes to ‘Success’ (assuming you have set up everything on your site properly) there will be a ‘Submit to index’ button that appears next to it. Select the ‘Submit to index’ button and check the radio button for ‘URL and all linked pages’. This will notify Google to re-crawl your website.
- Now it is time to submit your sitemap (assuming you have already created a sitemap.xml file and uploaded it to your website). In Google Webmaster Tools go to Traffic > Sitemaps. Select ‘Add/Test Sitemap’ and enter the file location of your sitemap.xml file and press ‘Submit Sitemap’.
- Finally, if you need to, you can go to Optimization > Remove URLs and create removal requests to remove pages you would not like to be seen by Google.
Why are doing these steps in Webmaster Tools important for Search Engine Optimization?
First, we verify ownership of both www. and non-www versions of your domain. Google will actually index these as 2 separate pages (so you will have a duplicate of every page – 2 of every page www and non-www). It is important to verify ownership of both versions, and then tell Google which one you would prefer for them to use. This will ensure Google is indexing only 1 version of your website.
We also run a Fetch as Google report to make sure the website is error free, and that Google’s bots will have access to crawl the pages of your site. Then, we submit all the pages to Google so as to say ‘Hey Google, come look at all the pages on my site. These are all final and you should index these.’ In response, Google’s bots will crawl your site and your XML sitemap. Then, Google essentially acknowledges, ‘Great, thank you for letting me know things have changed, I have re-indexed your site as it now appears online.’
Google Webmaster Tools is just one of many unique tools that can be utilized for best SEO performance on your website. You can, of course, get way more in depth with what you can do and the features in Google Webmaster Tools. But for basic SEO set-up purposes, this should be all you need to start off. If you are interested in working with PaperStreet on your SEO Campaign contact us for a free evaluation and consultation.