Optimizing my site for Google's search engine, which according to research firm ComScore holds 67 percent of the U.S search market as of January 2013. With roughly 13 billion monthly searches taking place on Google, it’s important that as a publisher I know how Google views your website and that I utilize the tools they provide to achieve the best performance. With that, I present the following five things every publisher should know about Google’s Webmaster Tools, a free data and diagnostic tool.
1. Know your health. One of the main navigation points focuses on several aspects of your website’s health, including crawl errors and a Google scan for malware. If either of these are out of whack, you'll want to address the issue immediately. If you have pages you preferred Google didn't index, you can check here to see if they're being properly blocked.
2. Know your indexed pages. Still under the Health section you'll find Index Status. This shows you how many of your website’s pages Google has crawled and indexed. If you're adding content the number of your indexed pages should be going up. If not, you may have a problem. What could be a bigger problem is if the number of pages unexpectedly begin to go down.
3. Know your search queries. This is perhaps my favorite tool in this toolbox. Within the Traffic section you'll find a link to your most queried keywords that are driving traffic to your site. This section also shows you the number of clicks the keywords are getting, the click through rate and the average position on the search results page. Make sure that the content of your site is reflected in these keywords, otherwise you might not be optimizing your site correctly.
4. Know your HTML. I like to pick all the low hanging fruit I can and this next tool is where you might find a lot of it. Under the Optimization section is a tool called HTML Improvements. This section focuses on the meta data of your web pages from meta descriptions to title tags. If Google sees an issue with any of your pages it will let you know—even going so far as to offering the exact URL that you can fix.
5. Know the links to your site. So much of SEO is based on your site’s reputation. One indicator of that is the quality of links from other websites to your site. Back under the Traffic section you'll find Links to Your Site. This section shows who is linking to your site the most, the content on your site that’s most linked to and the anchor text that’s linking to your site. (At the time of this writing, there seems to be a widely reported bug within Webmaster Tools that is preventing this data from showing up properly). Seeing what pages are driving traffic from third-party websites could provide insight into your own internal optimization moving forward.