Google Webmaster Tools is a free service from Google that provides insight into what’s happening with your site and how it's performing with Google search results. It's really easy to set up and, in this blog post, we will show you how.
How to setup Google Webmaster Tools?
The first step is to log in with your Google account and head over to Google Webmaster Tools. Click "Add A Property". Enter the URL to your community. Once you submit the URL, you'll need to verify you own the site.
To do this, you'll want to select the alternate tab. There are three options to verify your hosted community. The easiest option is if you already have Google Analytics or Google Analytics Tag Manager installed on your community.
Whatever option you choose, you will be given the requirements needed to verify site ownership. For example if you select to verify with Google Analytics, you will see the following:
If you meet the criteria, scroll down and click verify. Almost instantaneously, you will be verified and Google will start to share the data it has about your site. If your site is newer, it might take a bit longer before you see some data.
Should you not be able to verify your site with Google Analytics, the other option is via HTML Tag. If you select this as an option you will see the following:
The next step is to copy and paste the meta tag info and create a new Pocket with our Pockets Plugin. Create a Pocket for all pages, located after the head section.
Click enable, and save the Pocket. Next head back to Google to verify.
Please note: Verification will only work for communities that are public. Private sites are not crawled by Google and will not be able to be verified.
What can I do with Google Webmaster Tools?
So now that you are connected with Google Webmaster Tools, what can you do? Here's a brief overview:
Once you connect Google Webmaster Tools, Google can easily notify you about issues or with suggestions. Make sure to correctly set up the messaging forwarding so you don't miss these notifications.
This section determines how your site will look in Google Search results. The main concern for communities, in this section, is to ensure you have the proper sitelinks. While they are automatically generated by Google, you may have content you don't want highlighted. HTML Improvements are harder to control, as the meta titles and descriptions are controlled by what your members add in their content. Vanilla uses the best practices for SEO, so the recommendations are merely suggestions and do not cause you any harm.
This section relates to how your site is performing in Google's search results. Here are just some of things you can see:
- The Search Analytics Report shows how often your site appears in Google search results. You can filter and group data by categories such as search query, date, or device. You'll be able to determine trends over time and what search queries are most likely to show your site. This report has become popular to measure keyword performance due to changes Google made to protect user privacy on queries.
- The Links Report, lists some of the websites linking to your site. As Google notes, "not all links to your site may be listed".
- The Internal Links Report lists a sample of pages on your site that have incoming links from other internal pages.
- The Manual Actions Report, will note any manual actions taken on sites that use spammy techniques. This includes actions such as penalties, demoting them or even removing them from search results.
- The Mobile Usability Report is a quick way to check how Google views community. Out of the box, Vanilla meets those requirements.
This section focuses on your content in the Google index. This includes:
- The Index Status report provides data about the URLs that Google tried to index in the current property for the the past year.
- The Content report lists the most significant keywords and their variants Google found when crawling your site.
- The Remove URLs Report allows you to temporarily remove URLs that you own from search results.
This section provides data on Googlebot's activity on your site. The key reports include:
- Crawl reports provides information on Googlebot's crawl rate, time on site and more over the last 90 days.
- The Crawl Errors report the URLs that Google could not successfully crawl
- Google Fetch, can test how Google crawls your site, and also allows you to submit content to be indexed.
This is also the place to submit your sitemap, if you have enabled the sitemap plugin.
SEO data in Google Analytics
Finally, if you are using Google Analytics, you can get your Google Webmaster data included there too.
Head to the acquisition section, and under "Search Engine Optimization" click on Queries. Follow the prompts to connect your Google Analytics to the appropriate Google Webmaster property.