3 More SEO Tricks in Google Webmaster Tools
Previously, I’ve written about 3 other ways you can use Google WebmasterTools for SEO – diagnosing 404 errors, examining your inbound links, and seeing how your keywords perform in the SERPs. I’ve also written about ways you can use Bing Webmaster Tools for SEO.
Today, I present you with 3 more ways to use Google Webmaster Tools for your SEO endeavors — xml sitemaps, sniffing out duplicate content, and checking structured data. What can I say? I’m a thrifty dude, and I love a good free SEO tool.
In my other piece on Google Webmaster Tools, I made the case that GWT is an absolutely essential piece of the SEO toolkit, and that its capabilities for monitoring and diagnosing 404 errors are arguably the biggest reason to start using GWT. One could also make a compelling argument that the XML Sitemap feature is the big reason every SEO and webmaster needs to be using Google Webmaster Tools. An XML Sitemap(s) is something every website should have; it is an opportunity to tell Google and the other search engines what pages on your site you want to be crawled and index. The search engines don’t guarantee it will abide by the Sitemap, but anecdotal evidence has proven time and time again that XML Sitemaps help provide insurance that your pages are found and found faster (especially if the Sitemap(s) dynamically updates your new pages). Sitemaps can get tricky — especially when you have a large site or when you use special Sitemaps for images, video, news, mobile, or source code. To ensure you’re doing your Sitemaps right and getting the most of them, submit them with GWTs Sitemap feature, which can be found either through the dashboard or in the left navigation, under “Optimization.”
It is recommended that you always validate your Sitemaps to make sure they were done right and fully readable by the engines. And what better way to validate than through the eyes of Google? Simply click the big red “Add/Test” button and test away.
Once you’ve submitted a valid sitemap to Google, you should not ignore it, however. Check in regularly to see if there are any errors or warnings. Often, a sitemap error will reveal a larger problem with your site. In addition, pay attention to the number of URLs (or images, videos, etc..) indexed versus the number of URLs or items submitted. It is not uncommon for there to be a discrepancy here, but one of your SEO goals is to get the search engines to index everything you want indexed. The tricky part is seeing which pages are not indexed (in fact, this topic could warrant its own article), but this may be possible with tools such as Google site search, Analytics landing page reports, and scrapers like Outwit. If the pages not indexed are important to you, there are a few things you can do to improve indexation. For example, you could add or adjust tags in Sitemap: the <priority> tag tells the search engine how important a URL is, and the <changefreq> tag indicates how frequently the page is updated (for example with links to new pages). Also, unindexed pages may be a red flag that those pages lack inbound links or lack content perceived by engines to be unique.
Sniffing out Duplicate Content
Speaking of content which is not unique, Google Webmaster Tools can help you find duplicate content. As you likely know, it is generally a bad practice to have pages that do not contain content unique to that page. The first step in dealing with duplicate content problems is identifying them, and GWT offers one way of doing so that is too simple to ignore. Simply check for duplicate Title tags and Meta descriptions.
To do this, go to the html improvements section, found under “optimization”. Here, GWT will let you know if your Title tags or Meta Descriptions are too long, really short, or are duplicated. This is all helpful for discovering opportunities to improve the effectiveness of your Titles and Metas, but it is the duplication reporting that I often turn to for a quick look at duplicate content red flags. Find out which pages share which Title tags and, if there’s a lot of duplicate Titles, download the data so you can play around with it in excel. You’ll be on your way to identifying duplicated sections of your site in no time.
Checking on Structured Data Markup
Structured Data markup is, like, totally the big thing on the web right now. All the cool kids are doing it and you should be too. Google makes many varieties of rich snippets from microdata, microformats, and RDFa that get displayed in the search results pages like recipes, reviews, and much more. By implementing the right data markup, you can hope to trigger the data on your site to display as these rich snippets, and dramatically improve click-through-rates for a notable bump in search traffic. Well, less than two weeks ago, Google announced it would add a structured data dashboard to Webmaster Tools (also found in the “Optimization” drop-down). This exciting new tool enables you to see everything Google knows about your structured data markup. Frankly, this tool makes me very happy inside.
By viewing stats on structured data for your site as a whole and by type of data, you can verify that Google is picking up new structured data. If the numbers and data don’t seem to match what you hope to expect, find a page that should be triggering a rich snippet but isn’t and test it on GWT’s handy-dandy Rich Snippets Testing Tool.
In addition to detecting and diagnosing structured data shortcomings, I really recommend just surfing the structured data tool. Get in there and have some fun and explore. I think it’s a great way to help understand how users see your data through the Google filter, and this can really help you come up with ideas for improving the interactive experience for your brand.
There’s a lot of awesome in Google Webmaster Tools just waiting there to make webmasters’ and SEOs’ lives easier, and (even in 2 blog posts) I feel like I’ve only been able to cover a small portion of the GWT SEO tricks. What are some of your favorite SEO tricks on Google Webmaster Tools?