If you’re not using Google’s Webmaster Central, you should start. Google Webmaster Central is a great bundle of free Google tools to help you understand how Google indexes your site. It’s essential to ranking well in Google’s natural rankings. And as a bonus of sorts, by fixing problems revealed by Webmaster Central, you often can improve your positioning on secondary engines, too.
For starters, you need a Google account. Go to: https://www.google.com/accounts/newaccount.
Next, go to (and bookmark) the Google Webmaster Central homepage: www.google.com/webmasters.
The Help Center, blog and forums are worth monitoring. These resources provide valuable advice from Google and outsiders for successful search engine optimization. Someone on your Web team should skim the new information weekly. For now, let’s focus on Webmaster Central’s Tools.
Setting it Up
Fire up a browser and go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/siteoverview. Log in, add your site, then verify you control it. You prove ownership by adding a meta tag or uploading a file — either method takes about a minute.
You can add multiple sites to your dashboard; for example, your http site, your https site (if public), your blog. My firm’s “brochureware” information site is www.rimmkaufman.com, so that’ll be my example.
• The Webmaster Central Tools homepage is the first stop. It gives stats on the most recent crawl.
This page informs me that Google last crawled my site four days ago. Higher profile sites are visited more frequently. On that visit, Googlebot encountered more than 100 “404,” or “Page Not Found,” errors. Drilling in, it appears most of these 404s are WordPress blog “tag” result pages in which the tag includes an ampersand. Not a big deal, but I put it on the “to fix” list.
• Robots.txt tab is next. This lets you see which areas of your site you’ve asked spiders to avoid. Compliance with robots.txt is voluntary; spam scrapers and other bad guys can (and do) ignore it. But Googlebot is well-mannered and obeys your robots.txt. A syntax error or logic error in your robots.txt can destroy rankings, so it makes sense to glance at it every few months. On my site, I see we’re giving Google freedom to roam, but we’ve opted to exclude ourselves from the Internet archives (www.archive.org) via the following two lines: