I expect most of you reading this check up on your site regularly, so as far as you’re aware, it’s probably functioning properly. Well, it may seem so on the surface, but as far as the search engines are concerned, it may not!
This is where search engine optimisation (SEO) becomes more technical and is way beyond ‘meta tags’ and keywords. How your website functions is a very important part of SEO and also has a great influence on rankings.
Now, you may have a web developer who looks after your site for you, and if so, they should be checking your site is functioning properly for you. But although a developer may have built your site for you, they may not maintain it unless you ask them to carry out certain tasks. This is where at least understanding how your site functions becomes an important part of the maintenance of your site. You don’t need to be a techie to know what to look for, or even understand what it all means, but you, at least, need to be aware that what goes on behind the scenes of your site can make a huge difference to its performance. And if you’re not paying someone to maintain your site for you, this is even more important.
Setting it up
If you’ve not set this up for your site, it’s relatively straightforward. Log on to Google Webmaster tools with a Google account login and input your website’s domain. You’ll then need to verify your site, and at this point, you may need help from your web developer. Once the site is verified, you can then access the information Google finds about your website. Setting up Bing webmaster tools is done is a similar way.
What to look for
When you login to your webmaster tools account, you’ll arrive at your dashboard. Click on the link of your website and then you’ll be presented with a range of data to view, which includes crawl errors, search queries and sitemap. You may have a sitemap submitted, so make sure it’s working OK. If not, we’ll cover it in another post!
Other data tells you if there are any errors encountered by Google while crawling your site, search queries tell you which key phrases your site is being found for in a Google search, site speed tells you how quickly your site takes to load and index status how many urls have been indexed. There is tons of other information, but this is what I’m going to explain below.
If there are a number of crawl errors on your site, then these are worth investigating. If you don’t know why there are errors, then ask your webmaster / web developer. It could be that you’ve been updating pages, removing old pages etc. You can see in the example below, there are a number of 404 errors. Mostly the errors are image pages. Make sure your site has a 404 error page so that if any visitors arrive on an erroneous link, they are retained on your website.
This tells you how many pages (urls) of your website have been indexed by Google. This is important as you need to know how well your site is being indexed by the search engines. If the number is low and you know many more pages should be indexed, then this will need investigation by your webmaster.
Duplicate Meta Tags
Webmaster Tools will tell you which of your title tags and meta tags are duplicated. It’s best to have unique tags for each page of your site, so if you discover duplications, it’s a good idea to fix them. The tool will tell you which pages have the duplications, so this should be an easy fix.
You can get tons of information about the search terms your site is ranking for in Google. It’s worth looking through this list to find out if your on page optimisation is working, and also which pages are ranking for those terms, which you can find out if you click on the search term link. It’s often the case that you’ll find some unusual queries in the list, particularly if your site is an information based website with a blog. For product led websites, the search queries should be much more related to the products you sell.
Finally, site speed. A slow loading website can affect rankings (as well as put people off from bothering to visit your site), so make sure your site loads as fast as possible. The tool will tell you how long your site takes to load and also give you recommendations as to what steps to take to speed it up, which you can pass onto your web developer.
Taking note of just some of the basic data in webmaster tools can really help you to improve the performance of your website, and your rankings.