To ensure your website is ranking well (and continues to do so), it is important to stay on top of the ever-changing rules and regulations of SEO. There are many tools out there to help keep your SEO campaigns up to scratch, from backlink analysis to website speed testing, so it can be difficult to decide which are the best to use.
Google has two of the most effective tools used in the industry, which are vital to ensure your site is performing at its best.
Google Webmaster Tools
Webmaster Tools is essentially Google’s own tool for webmasters, allowing you to carry out fundamental health checks and keep on top of technical elements of your site which can affect SEO. Once you connect your site with Webmaster Tools, you have access to a variety of different features which will allow you to monitor the health of your site according to Google’s guidelines, and best of all this is the only place you could see warning messages from Google if your site is not complying.
When you sign into Webmaster Tools, you will be presented with a Dashboard which shows you some incredibly useful data, including an overview of any broken links on your site and links pointing back to your site from other sites across the web.
Here is just a small selection of the many analysis features at your disposal within Webmaster Tools:
An XML sitemap is a file which details all the pages on your site so that Google can find and index them. Google Webmaster Tools will not create a XML Sitemap for you, but you can upload one created from an external source and GWT will show you if there are any errors.
Although Google Analytics (more on that later) will give you more in-depth data of the terms that people are using to reach your site, GWT gives you a basic overview which can be incredibly insightful. If you see keywords here which you feel are irrelevant, it’s time to make some changes to the content on your site.
This tool does what it says on the tin, suggesting on-page elements that need optimizing, or have not been optimized properly. It will also point out any elements on your site that Google has been unable to index.
Just remember with Google Webmaster Tools that the data only updates when Google crawls your site, so it is not live data. For more up-to-date results, supplement GWT with Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is a mecca to SEOs looking for information and insights on site traffic statistics. By adding a simple bit of code to your website, GA will provide you with detailed reports analyzing how people are reaching your site, how long they are spending on it and what they are doing on it too.
With this information, you can determine how engaging your site is and you can set KPI goals to gauge if any SEO changes you make are working effectively. New features are being added to GA all the time, but here are just a couple of my favorites:
Traffic Sources Overview
Use this feature to measure how many pages visitors are looking at per visit, how long they are viewing those pages for and to measure the effectiveness of your conversions. You can fiddle with the graphs displayed to show you results for a day, week or month. You will clearly see any spikes and any major downturns to help you assess improvements.
This is a fun one, because it allows you to monitor visitor activity as it is happening. Each page view is reported seconds after it happens, and the data will show you how many people are viewing from which country, how they got to the site and what page they are viewing.
Ben Norman is a leading UK SEO Expert with an extensive knowledge of search engine marketing. He regularly writes straightforward search related posts for his SEO blog.
Published: January 20, 2014