Google Webmaster Tools provides some fantastic technical information and control for the webmaster or IT department. Here are my top four technical benefits of using Webmaster Tools:
1. Malware Detection – As the owner of a Wordpress blog, I cannot stress enough the benefit of the malware detection capabilities in Google Webmaster Tools. Last spring, many Wordpress-based blogs, and websites were attacked with malware because of a vulnerability with a major hosting provider, and my corporate blog didn’t escape unscathed. One morning I went to access my website using the Chrome browser and received the message that my site had malware. What was I going to do? How was I going to figure out how to fix it?
That’s where Google Webmaster Tools’ Malware tool comes in. First, if you have your site registered with Google Webmaster Tools (and verified), Google will notify you when it finds malware on the site. Second, it shows you what code it views as malware and offers suggestions on how to eliminate the problem.
If Google Webmaster Tools does, in fact, find malware on your site, all visitors in Chrome will begin to see a warning message, so it’s important to nip the malware in the bud quickly. Once you have resolved the malware problem, you can return to Google Webmaster Tools and have Google re-scan the site to ensure that it no longer detects the malware problem. Once the issue is resolved, visitors to your site using Chrome will no longer see the warning message.
2. Site Performance – For various reasons, last year Google announced that site load time would be a factor in the organic ranking algorithm. But how are site owners supposed to know how fast Google loads a website?
One of Google Labs’ latest additions to the Google Webmaster Tools suite is the Site Performance tool, which shows the site owner how fast the website loads and how it compares to other website load times. It also shows a historical graph on load times.
Recently, I found this graph helpful when discussing SEO with a client after a recent website redesign. The new website uses Drupal, and we found that the site was loading much slower than before, according to the Site Performance tool. This reminded the webmaster group to tweak some settings to improve performance, hopefully preventing any impact on search rankings.
3. Set Crawl Rate and Detect Crawl Errors – Some sites, although likely not many, may find that Google-bot visits the website too often, taking up too much in website resources. In this case, you may want to define the crawl rate for Google. Under Site Configurations>Settings in Google Webmaster Tools, site owners can tell Google how fast to crawl the site. Google does not recommend that you use this option, but in some cases, such as server traffic problems, it may be necessary.
Google Webmaster Tools also reports on crawl errors that Googlebot detects when crawling your website. This is essential data to review because it can mean there’s a problem with pages that should be visible and are not. Google provides information on crawl errors for regular web pages and for mobile versions as well.
4. Moving Historical Data from One Domain to Another – Finally, Google provides a handy way to preserve historical data from Google Webmaster Tools even if your profile needs to change because your domain is changing. If you have a new domain that your website is migrating to, simply establish that domain with Google Webmaster Tools and verify it, as you would any website. Then use the Change of Address feature in Google Webmaster Tools to alert Google to move the historical data from the old profile to the new.
Between the SEO and technical benefits of Google Webmaster Tools, you should definitely be taking advantage of the powerful information and features available. If you haven’t started yet, just register with Google Webmaster Tools and verify your site to get started. You’ll be glad you did.