How to monitor your site’s performance in Google Webmaster Tools

Knowing how your site is performing on Google is one of the most important things you can know.

How many times are you showing up in search, what errors are happening on your pages, what keywords people are searching for, etc. are very important to your website’s success!

Add your site

The first thing you’ll need to do is add your site to Google Webmaster Tools.

  1. Head to Google Webmaster tools
  2. Login with your existing Google ID (or create a new login)
  3. Click the Add Property option and select if you want to use the full domain option or just a subdomain (the “Domain” option is the most common)
  4. Type your domain into where it says “example.com” and click Continue.
  5. Next you’ll be asked to prove you own the domain you’re adding by adding a DNS record to your domain. Google’s instructions on page should be sufficient to accomplish this, but reach out to your domain name provider if you need specific help.

Submit your sitemap

Google does a great job knowing what pages exist on your site.  But it can take some time to find all of those pages and it can take weeks for Google to find new pages or changes to existing pages. Using a Sitemap is a direct interface where you can let Google know there are new pages on your site.

What’s a sitemap? It’s an XML document (XML is a programming language) with a list of all of your content, when it was last updated, who wrote it, and its URL.  It’s essentially a key to everything on your site.

Most CMSs have a sitemap by default, but if not, you can grab a plugin (like Yoast for WordPress) to generate a sitemap that you can submit.

Once you have your sitemap’s URL:

  1. If you have multiple domains in your Webmaster account, make sure the correct property is selected from the dropdown in the top left corner.
  2. Click Sitemaps on the left.
  3. Enter the URL for your sitemap in the Enter sitemap URL field
  4. Click Submit

It’ll take Google a few days to view the sitemap for the first time, but once they do, they’ll check it every few days, automatically.  When you publish or update any content, your CMS will update your sitemap.  Google then sees your sitemap update and updates its search results accordingly.

Monitoring Performance

Monitoring performance in Webmaster Tools gives you insight into a number of things, including:

  • what keywords your site shows up in when searched for.
  • how many people click on your site in search results
  • how many impressions your site got
  • your click through rate
  • your average position in search results
  • which pages get traffic from keywords
  • which countries your visitors are from (which you should already know from Google Analytics)
  • mobile versus desktop versus table breakdown

Having information from all of these sources is a surefire way to know what’s going on with your site, in order to optimize your performance, target your SEO better, or work with an SEO professional to get you the keywords you’re seeking.

Checking for mobile errors

Under the “Mobile Usability” menu, you’ll find very important information about any errors Google’s found with your site on mobile devices.

We’ve talked before about how Google is “mobile first” and wants your site to be perfect on mobile (since more-than-half of web traffic is on mobile devices now), so knowing if your site’s mobile optimized is one of the most important things you can do.

Google will email you when there’s an error on mobile usability, but will also show you a list of errors here, while also letting you mark them as fixed. Marking an item as fixed will trigger Google to rescan your site to see if you’ve actually fixed the error or not.

Your goal here should be to have 0 errors and 100% valid pages listed on this page.

Links

If you ever wanted to know all of the other domains and sites that link to your site, the “Links” section is where you’ll want to head.

Here you’ll see:

  • the pages linked to the most
  • the sites linking to yours the most
  • the text people use most to link to your site

This information is great to know, as building inbound links from other sites helps your site rank higher in Google.

Keep an eye on this listing and make sure you’re friendly with the folks linking to your site.

Cover photo by Negative Space

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