google webmaster tools Want to learn more about your website - Is it set up for success? Is it being crawled by search engines ? Is it site too slow? How can I tell?

Free tools like Google Webmaster Tools provide you detailed reports about your pages' visibility in Google, and registration is simple - and did I mention free. You should actually register your site with Yahoo Site Explorer and Bing Webmaster Center as well. ( note : this post is specific to tips within your Google account and can be applied across the board.)

First add your site and verify that you are indeed the owner or at least have access to managing it. Once logged into Google Webmaster Tools you will have access to three primary areas for review - site configuration (managing your website), your site on the web (how Google sees you), and diagnostics (where Google is getting stuck).

1. Submit a Sitemap:

This is not the public sitemap that you use as an index for your content, but rather a dynamically built sitemap which updates on a regular basis to include your most current pages of your website as you create them. This may sound complex - not at all. You can build one yourself through any free ".xml sitemap generator tool" out there or just ask your webmaster to add one. How do you know if you have one? Most are set up to be found at www.domain.com/sitemap.xml . Having one and submitting it via webmaster tools allows you to politely nudge Google to crawl your latest content ( note : not all content that gets crawled gets indexed, because the harsh truth is that not all is index worthy).

2. Managing Geographic Targeting:

This is something that can easily be controlled via your site configuration > settings. Note that this is a little like playing with fire and you wouldn't want to disqualify your content from being displayed to Europe unless you are truly only selling to the United States. However, if you have multiple websites or subdomains which are targeting foreign countries then this will be a must for you to help control where your content appears .

3. Crawl Errors and Site Speed:

To diagnose potential issues, troubleshoot or determine if there is even an issue at all, refer to crawl errors and stats which show you that information. What do you do with this information? It will help you diagnose if something is wrong and ultimately work to improve site performance. If there are no errors, then no worries. If yes, then you will want to take action and most often they will actually give you suggestions on what to do next. The crawl stats will also show you how much time is spent loading a page. This is extremely useful for large sites that are looking to do advanced optimization or any site heavily using images, dynamic URLs etc. The faster your site is the more likely crawlers are to go through more of your content.

In summary, these tools are helpful because they show you a lot about your site that you would otherwise not be able to track, and it helps troubleshoot - as a bonus this is a great way to be a hero with IT or just take some control back over your own website .

Photo Credit: Kinologik

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Originally published May 13, 2010 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

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