Google Webmaster Tools to check you blog posts visibility!

Google Webmaster Tools is one of the very first services that every blogger and webmaster should sign up for, as soon as the blog is launched! However, most people do not give enough importance to the webmaster tools once the sitemap is submitted and robot.txt verified.

Let me explain here a couple of important pages in the Google Webmaster Tools that provide insights into the popularity and visibility of your content (blog posts, pages, other services etc). Then we will quickly cover a few tips to improve the situation. Please note that I will not be talking too much about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or where to find hot keywords etc.

1. Your pages in Google in terms of ranks

One of the first places where you need to look into is the ‘Statistics => Crawl Stats’ page of your Google Webmaster Tools account. There you will see a table as shown below:
Your pages in Google

This table shows the strength of your content in the eyes of Google search engine. If you have longer bars in the ‘High to Medium’ area, it essentially means that your content is highly visible in Google search. If you have ‘Medium to Low’ then you have some visibility and if your pages are mostly in the ‘Not yet assigned’ category, then your posts and pages are not at all visible in any search. Please note that younger sites (2-3 months old) will usually have ‘Not yet assigned’ status initially. Those who have most of their pages in ‘High’ will get as high as 70% or even 80% of their traffic from search engines!

2. Backlink and internal link strength of top posts, pages

A site’s homepage PR (Page Rank) is no way linked to the overall popularity of the site and its content. I know, people are a bit crazy about getting a high PR for the homepage mainly to attract advertisers. But to attract good quality (and in good volume) search traffic, you need to have good PR on many of your individual posts. If you move over to ‘Links => Pages with external links’ option, you will see the popularity of your indexed pages and posts. If you have a good percentage of your overall number of posts listed there, your blog is pretty well indexed. In addition, if individual pages have good number of back links, then they are bound to have good PRs and search rankings as well.

If you move over to ‘ Links => Pages with internal links ’ you would want to see a good percentage of internally lined posts there as well. For whatever reasons, Google considers a site or blog as well-accessible when the various services (posts, pages, tools, images) within the site are well-connected.

3. Sitemap Summary

If you open the page ‘Sitemap => Sitemap details’ you will see your sitemap summary section as given below:
Sitemap Summary

A couple of things to look for in this section are:

  • Sitemap last downloaded date should not be too old – If so, it shows that you are not updating your blog frequently or your sitemap generation mechanism (plugin may be) has some issues
  • Total URLs in the sitemap: For a blog the sum of all published posts, pages and categories should match this number unless you have manually modified the sitemap or XML sitemap generation settings. (Usually archive, tag pages etc should not be generated for sitemaps)

4. URL not found errors in Overview page

If you have changed the permalinks of your posts, chances are high that you have a number of entries listed here in ‘URL not found’ category. You will have to take some corrective actions (listed below) if the problem is still reported after a few more days.

Corrective actions for the above problems

  • To address the low page rank distribution of the individual pages, you need to first make sure that your posts and pages have the right meta tags (keywords and description) and title. The All-in-one-SEO plugin does this job for you for each and every post and page that is created via WordPress. All that you need to worry about is to pick a good post title, a number of good tags per post and the post beginning with a couple of good sentences
  • If some of your good posts have very low external links pointing to them, make a list of such posts, an use them as your URL to comment on other blogs. You could also add them, in turns, as your forum signatures. In no time, you will see that your posts are getting more backlinks
  • Do not forget to internal link posts via newer posts as well as popular articles list etc
  • Make sure that your Google XML sitemap plugin is properly configured. If some of your links are missing be sure to manually add them to the sitemap configuration
  • If sitemap settings look good, but if ‘URL not found’ errors are still reported, you may have to manually edit those posts/pages once again and ‘publish’ (not ‘save’) again. This will generate the right permalinks and modified timestamps that will tell the crawlers to index them again
  • Maintain your post frequency so that the search engine bots are trained to learn and arrive a reasonable crawl frequency.
  • Less visible older posts may be opened up for editing, as mentioned in one of my recent posts, to improve visibility via better tagging etc

The points mentioned above are what I am monitoring on a regular basis and I hope this information is useful to you as well. Please provide your comments and feedback on this post.

Comments

  1. moserw :

    Very useful information Ajith. Very useful indeed especially if you are very pally with Google. Even otherwise tons of information about your blog.

  2. Nagraj :

    Its really an useful post Ajith……..with so many things about getting the posts into search engine…….now i have also signed up to google webmaster tools……..and trying to correct the things ……..good to see u maintain a decent pace of posts……….good luck

  3. Simon :

    Just a question – if Google is crawling and indexing your site regularly, is there any need for a sitemap?

  4. @Rajiv, thanks for the compliments – it’s regulars active readers like you that keep us going…

    @Nagraj, yes Nagraj, helping the Google search engine (with sitemaps etc) and motivating it to crawl more often with regular updates will always help. And needless to say, it will please the readers as well :)

    @Simon, Google is crawling my site on a regular basis and as soon as I post something new, it is available with Google search in a few hours time. I see that you have a Google XML sitemap as well. Perhaps if you don’t see your latest posts on Google search your post frequency could be the problem.

    But I also see that you don’t have the ‘ROBOTS’ meta tag in your single posts as well as homepage. You need to fix this (e.g. for single posts, pages, homepage etc use index,follow, for archives use noindex

  5. Ajith – Thanks for this guide. It really helps explain how to use the Webmaster Tools in the best way.

    Kim Woodbridge’s last blog post…Using Controversy to Attract More Blog Comments – Does it Work?

  6. @Kim, you are welcome. Though the web master tools has got a number of options and statistics available, I thought these were the most relevant ones…

  7. Thanks – these were excellent tips. I haven’t used this tool yet but I see several ways to improve my blog just form reading this article.

  8. @Tom, Google Analytics and Webmaster tools are kinda must-have tools to improve your blog all the time…

  9. David :

    Hi Ajith,

    You have made a very well outlined and detailed post on this topic. Could you answer a couple of beginner questions on this please?

    I have heard of the importance of Google Sitemaps before, but have never verified my site in order to use it. I have a Blogger hosted blog, and would like to try the Google Webmaster tools, but am not sure about the best way to verify it.

    There are two options listed: Adding a meta tag (which I believe is done by pasting in the appropriate section of my blog template), or uploading an HTML file (no idea how to do this). Which is best for my blog, any thoughts on this?

    Also, I notice that some of my post links do not show up in Google searches and custom searches of my own page. Is this likely to be an “URL not found” type problem as mentioned in your post?

    Thanks!

  10. @David, for blogger hosted blogs you need to verify the webmaster a/c is via the meta tag. I took a look at your header, you are yet to add it.

    Your blogspot blog is having a very good page rank, a great number of backlinks and Google has indexed it very well. Since you are updating the blog regularly, the content should be available for search a day or so after submission. Check your Google Analytics account (I saw that you have tracking code installed) and see the percentage of search engine traffic that you are getting. If you are already getting say more than 30 pc or so, you may not need to submit a sitemap for your blogspot blog. Blogger blogs are kind of self optimized.

    There is still a way of submitting a sitemap (not a custom designed one) to a blogger blog. A lot of people submit their default atom.xml as sitemap. However, you may not need to do it if already you have some search engine traffic.

    ‘URL not found’ issues do not happen on blogger blogs usually, unless very recently you have deleted a post or so. Try to pick some keyword based titles for your posts so that it is ranked better in searches. Blogger again optimizes your post URLs based on your post titles, a lot of people publish their posts and then change titles to SEO optimize their blogspot posts.

    Hope you got my points.

    Good luck!

  11. David :

    Great info, Ajith. Thanks again.

    I get quite a bit of search traffic generally, and Google usually picks up my new posts very quickly in their search. It’s just for some reason, every now and then I find a post or two that does not show up in my Google Custom Search or in the regular Google web search.

    These posts still exist on my blog, and I can even find the title of these posts if I do a phrase search on Google, but it won’t return the actual link for the individual post in a search result.

    Maybe if I edit the post and republish it., it will show up. Worth a try maybe.

  12. @David, thanks for the follow up and great to have you here as an active reader…

  13. Ajith,

    I don’t know how I missed this post. Based the recommendation, I’ve just installed “Google Sitemap Generator Plugin by Arne Brachhold.” and submitted to sitemap.xml to Google webmaster tool.

    I setup google webmaster account long time ago, but never used it as you’ve mentioned in here. Thanks for the tips.

  14. @Ramesh, You are welcome. Good that you submitted the sitemap now :) In fact,a properly maintained sitemap makes a lot of things easier for the search engine bots to index your updates on time.

  15. I love the query tool from webmaster tool as well. It really gives good insight on rankings. However, I can”t seem to have access data from more than 5 weeks before current date??? Am I the only one?
    Potentially the previous version of the tool was better for ranking trends over time.

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  1. […] ranking, individual posts and pages need to have good PR and a lot of backlinks as well. While, Goole Webmaster Tools can provide backlinks and overall visibility statistics, it doesn’t provide page ranks of individual […]

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