One of the best tools you can use to analyze your online business is Google Webmaster Tools, and thankfully it’s free. But seeing all those stats and knowing how to use them are two different things. Here are some of the things I look for when I’m using Webmaster tools.
This information is important. If your readers are getting 404 errors when they click on your internal links it shows up here. This stat also lets you know if the search engines are having problems crawling any of the content on your site. I check this report once a month.
Links to your site: This is my favorite metric to watch. Under “Traffic” click on “Links to Your Site” and you’ll see which sites are linking to you and which articles they’re linking to. In my mind this is some pretty valuable information, especially because incoming links are one of the most important metrics Google uses to determine your site’s ranking. However, I also use this information to strengthen my site in other ways:
First, I visit those sites. I like to go to those sites and see why they linked to me. After all, that link means they’re recommending my blog for some reason. This gives you a better understanding of what people are looking for when they visit your blog. It also gives you another opportunity to grow your professional network. Maybe that other blog would be interested in letting you guest blog or maybe he’d be willing to guest blog for you.
Then I look to see what posts they’re linking to on my blog. Again, it gives me a better idea of what people are looking for so I can create more of the same type of content.
I also look at these pages to see how I can use them to strengthen my internal linking structure. This report shows you the most popular content on your blog so you can add links to less popular content, and vice versa.
Under “Optimization” you can click on “HTML Improvements” and see Google recommendations for improvements you can make in your title tags. Title tags are picked up by the search engines when they crawl your site and they help tell the search engines what each post is about. In my case, missing title tags are rarely a problem, but I do run a lot of series-type posts and I inadvertently end up with a few duplicate title tags.
Quick tip: If you’re the type who likes to use those “cute and quirky” post titles, you’ll like this section of the Webmaster Tools. Google flags “Non-informative” title tags, too. That means the search engines don’t understand your title so they have to idea where they should include that post on the index.
Also under “optimization” you can click on “Content Keywords” to see which keywords Google’s picking up from your blog. In some cases, this can be pretty surprising. For example, Google picks up proper names. If you’ve ever used Justin Bieber’s name on your blog – even if you’re blogging about pet care – then Google looks at that as one of your keywords and that particular post falls under the Justin Bieber index.
Knowing what keywords people are using when they land on your site is important for two reason:s You can see which keywords you still need to focus on, for one thing. But you can also see just how much non-relevant traffic you’re attracting when you inadvertently use Justin Bieber as bait.
This is another key metric that I pay attention to. I’ve published content on a number of different websites, but generally you can only access traffic stats for your own site. I don’t know about you but I’m always curious to know how many people read my guest blog posts on other sites.
If you have a Google Plus or Google Author account then you can use this report to see the how many off-site pages Google has linked to your author profile, and how many impressions and clicks those pages are generating.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!