Along with their web analytics, the first account I ask my SEO clients for access to is Google Webmaster Tools. It’s an invaluable source of insight into your organic search performance for the following six reasons:
• Keyword data you can’t get anywhere else: Web analytics programs have seen between 20 and 50 percent of their keyword referrals in Google replaced with “not provided” thanks to many major browsers and mobile operating systems defaulting to Google’s secure search. Google Webmaster Tools is the only place you can get the top 2,000 organic Google-referred keywords, circumventing the “not provided” issue.
• Link data you can’t get anywhere else: Google also shows more complete link profile data to verified site owners, including internal links and links from external sites.
• SEO tools you can’t get anywhere else: From testing your robots.txt file to previewing rich snippets, removing URLs and fetching as Googlebot, Google provides a nice array of tools for webmasters & SEO professionals.
• Messages from Google: Google’s Webspam team now alerts 98 percent of the sites that it penalizes manually, via the site owner’s Webmaster Tools account. If you don’t have a verified webmaster tools account, you may be missing important communications from Google.
• It doesn’t give Google anything it doesn’t already have: Registering for Google Webmaster Tools does not give Google access to your analytics or any other site data that Google doesn’t already have. On the contrary, it enables Google to show you what information it has about your site so you can make better SEO decisions.
• It’s free.
While the reports and tools Google provides in its webmaster tools portfolio are specific to Google, some of the data can be extrapolated to Bing and other search engines. In addition, Bing has its own suite of tools for site owners, called Bing Webmaster Tools. While not as full featured as Google’s offering, the toolbox does offer insight into Bing and Yahoo search data and link profiles. Both Google and Bing also offer extensive webmaster guidelines and help files for everything from basic SEO to detailed information on how to use their tools.
Jill Kocher is a seasoned SEO professional and all-around technogeek. By day, she manages Resource Interactive’s SEO practice here in Chicago and serves as contributing editor at Practical eCommerce. By night, Jill landscapes her home in the far northern suburbs of Chicagoland while enjoying a glass of wine and thinking about SEO some more. Family discussion centers primarily around SEO, analytics, social media, mobile apps, android, iOS, how-was-your-day and cats.