Although you may have your own opinions about why Google provides these tools, you do have to admit that they offer some top notch tools for webmasters. In addition to Google Analytics, another offering from Google that has grown significantly in its ability to provide value to webmasters is the Google Webmaster Tools set.
To show you some of what Google Webmaster Tools can do for your website, let’s look at five fairly common questions that a website owner may have, and how Google Webmaster Tools can be used to find out the answer to these questions.
Has your website been compromised by a hacker?
Although no one wants to think about their website being hacked, the fact is that it happens all too often. This is especially true for bloggers or website owners who are using open source platforms like WordPress (which I personally love, but will admit is suspectible to hacking, especially when not updated right away).
In addition to using Google Alerts to monitor if your website has been hacked, you can also use the “What Googlebot Sees” feature to find out if hackers have been adding spam to your website. See this example from Google Groups about a webmaster discovering adult keywords hidden in his website.
Is your CMS breaking links?
While a CMS (content management system) can make handling all of the content on your website a whole lot easier, it can also cause certain problems. For example, if you change your WordPress permalink structure but forget to make all of the necessary updates, you may start creating broken links within your website.
Fortunately, with the help of the “Web Crawl” feature in Webmaster Tools, you can normally spot these types of problems. Check out a webmaster who used this feature to discover over 60,000 HTTP errors.
Are visitors being redirected?
While there are situations where it is acceptable to redirect users based on their IP, it’s important to avoid engaging in any type of cloaking. If you have any concerns about whether or not Google thinks your redirection is cloaking, you can monitor the verification of your site in Webmaster Tools. If you notice that your website becomes unverified, you need to modify your current redirection method.
Are there any issues with your server?
As we have discussed in the past, reliable hosting can play a major role in the success of your website. If your website happens to go down and Google decides to visit, the Bot will be unable to crawl your content. While you may not normally be aware of this issue, Webmaster Tools can provide a log of any “Network Unreachable” errors to let you know that this event is happening.
How is Googlebot viewing your website?
According to Google, the goal of their web crawler is to function like a normal human visitor. However, this does not always work out properly. Common problems that Googlebot can encounter include errors such as the 404 (file not found). An unoptimized robots.txt file can also cause issues for Google’s crawler.
To find out how Googlebot is handling your website, you can use Webmaster Tools to learn about any 302, 404 or 500 errors involving Googlebot.
(photo from lzzr)