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As I am sure everyone on the web who wants their site to perform will have found that there is a lot of traffic on the Internet and a lot of websites fighting for the number one slot. Google Webmaster Tools will help you keep at the top of the list.

To achieve this Holy Grail, you will need to focus on SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. I have no doubt that everyone has dabbled in SEO in some way or another by working on your content and keywords or by using one of the many SEO plugins that are available to boost your online SEO.

The key point here however is your keywords as it is these that Google and other search engines use to find out what your website is all about. Moreover it is these that Google uses to link up potential visitors to your website.

So far so good. But what if your keywords are not working? Or alternately what if your keywords are working but not for the right reason?

I am sure by now you are starting to realize that just setting up keywords is only half the battle. You should also be looking at numerous other things as well i.ie.

  • Which keywords are working and which are not
  • Which pages are getting good traffic and which are not
  • The click through rate of your visitors
  • Errors that search engines may be seeing

This is where Google Webmaster Tools come in very handy indeed. These tools are like a health check for your website. Wikipedia state that you will be able to:

  • Submit and check a sitemap
  • Check and set the crawl rate, and view statistics about how Googlebot accesses a particular site
  • Generate and check a robots.txt file. It also helps to discover pages that are blocked in robots.txt by chance.
  • List internal and external pages that link to the site
  • Get a list of broken links for the site
  • See what keyword searches on Google led to the site being listed in the SERPs, and the click through rates of such listings
  • View statistics about how Google indexes the site, and if it found any errors while doing it
  • Set a preferred domain (e.g. prefer example.com over www.example.com or vice versa), which determines how the site URL is displayed in SERPs
  • Highlight to Google Search elements of structured data which are used to enrich search hit entries (released in December 2012 as Google Highlighter
  • Receive notifications from Google for manual penalties

For a quick overview of Webmaster Tools, check out this short video from Google:

How to Get Started

Setup is pretty self explanatory but basically you will need to verify you own the site by adding some code to your website. Once this is done, you are in and ready to get started.

Once set up, you have a range of tools and reports available but for the sake of this article, I will focus on the ones directly relevant to SEO. The main areas of intrest are:

  • What is being indexed by Google
  • Which sitemaps work best
  • Where your inbound links are coming from
  • Where your outbound links are going
  • What is driving traffic to your website

I do not intend to get into detail here about how to use Google Webmaster Tools as there are many places out there that cover this in fine detail.

In summary

Google Analytics is probably more popular package but Google Webmaster Tools provides a more comprehensive approach to data analysis and interpretation. Instead of showing just the breakdown of how your website traffic found you, Google Webmaster Tools also lets you understand the impressions and rankings of your website in search results.

Give it a go and I am sure you will like what it has to offer.