Throughout January we will be running our 31 Day Blog Challenge: 31 days to clean up, grow and improve your blog. What better time than the start of a new year to get things sorted and ready to go for a brand new year of blogging?
We'll be sharing 31 tips, ideas, and strategies for you to get things in order and make blogging easier. This is Day 19.
What is a Google Webmaster Account?
Yesterday we talked about a Google Analytics account and sometimes that gets confused with a google webmaster account. However, they're very different and, if you're not a web designer or developer, a webmaster account may be something you've never even heard of, let alone considered getting.
A Google Webmaster account gives you access to a whole suite of tools known as Google Webmaster Tools (woah!) that can help you monitor the health of your blog.
In order to get your account up and running, you will need to verify your site or sites. Google offers a few ways to do this - usually by uploading a small html file to your site via your web host, or inserting a small piece of code into your site's <head> section. This is to prove to google that you really do own your site and can access areas of it that others shouldn't be able to.
Once you've got your site or sites verified, when you log-in you'll see a screen that lists all your websites along with any alerts about the health of them, according to Google:
What you want to see when you few this is the first site's message, "no new messages or recent critical issues". That means all is good and you can carry on with your day! (you can click on the above image to see more detail).
You'll notice for the last web property there is a message that Googlebot can't access your site. That's something you don't want to see. That's when you need to dive into the details to find out what's happening. In this case, it was an issue with the hosting provider and it was resolved within 24 hours.
If you think your site might have been hacked or you've got readers telling you that you have malicious links, this is the place to come look - Google will usually leave you a message (you can set it up to email you as well when there is a critical alert). If left to your own devices, sometimes, it can takes days or even weeks to know if there is a critical issue with your site but Google will usually know long before that. You'll want to address any issues your Google webmaster account points out as quickly as possible in order to keep yourself in Google's good books for search engine results!
What you find in your webmaster account may confuse you and you may need to consult a web developer or your hosting company but, it acts as the first line of alert when there's a problem, and that can be critical in addressing any issues quickly!
Using Google Webmaster to Analyze Your Search Results
We mentioned in our post on Google analytics that search terms were difficult to analyze in Analytics now due to changes in Google's search privacy settings. But, what a lot of people don't know is, you can still access all that good search term information through your Google Webmaster account!
In the screen shown above, click on the name of the property you want to see in more detail. You'll be taken to a screen with a list of tools on the left:
You want to look at Search Traffic. Once you click on that a sub menu will appear with an option called Search Queries. That's where the gold is! Click on that and you will see a wealth of search term information... just like this!
You can see here what terms were used to search for you, how often you appeared in results, how often you were clicked on in those results and what your position is with Google for that search term! Checking this out can be both useful (for brainstorming future blog topics, finding out what brings people to your site, etc) and amusing (so very odd terms can pop up!)
Using Your Webmaster Account to Submit a Site Map to Google
Having a Webmaster account allows you to submit a site map to Google that can be indexed - this is great if you have a very new site or one that doesn't get a lot of traffic yet and that may not get visited by the googlebots regularly.
A site map is usually an .xml file that tells Google about all the pages in your site - basically, a map so it can create an idex! If you are on WordPress, there are a number of plug-ins that will make submitting a site map quite effortless. Blogger, surprisingly given that it's owned by Google, is a bit trickier but we managed to find a short tutorial that can help!
There is much, much more that a webmaster account can do but these are just a few of the key points that make having a Google Webmaster account so important! Time to sign up!