Helpful tips from Google Webmaster Tools – explained

I recently had to re-setup Google Webmaster Tools for a website and was pleasantly surprised when I received an advisory email from Google on how to make the most of this new setup:

Google Webmaster Tools Help

It contained these 5 handy tips:

  1. Add all versions of your website
  2. Select your preferred version
  3. Select your target country
  4. Share with co-workers
  5. Submit a sitemap file

Let me break it down as to what these are and why they’re important:

Add all versions of your website (both www and non-www)

This is something I’ve been recommending clients for a long time now and I’m glad Google is backing me up on this one! www.domain.com and domain.com are not the same – sorta. They’re considered 2 separate websites by Google and can be a potential duplicate content issue. Usually when you know which version you want to run with, you setup a redirect from one to the other and this takes care of any instances where users might enter in the ‘incorrect’ version. I’ve seen websites rank well despite not having a preferred version setup but it’s not best practice to leave this unattended.


Select your preferred version

So this relates to the first point – figure out which one you want to use and lock it in. Now I’ve had some cases where people weren’t sure which one they wanted so we’d usually recommend the www version. Sometimes I’d search for just their domain in Google to get an idea of which version Google has ‘chosen’ and that would help steer us in the right direction if an owner wasn’t fussed either way. Generally www is the way to go.


Select your target country

Google will sometimes figure this out for you but if you have a .com that’s targeting Arabic (for example), you may actually have a specific country you wish to target like Saudi Arabia or the UAE so you need to specify that.


Share with co-workers

This is only if there are others who may need access like co-workers, your dev/design agency, etc. Sometimes people struggle with sharing access so usually if I’ve got admin access to their Google Analytics and if GA is setup correctly, I add it to GWT on my end and it works fine.


Submite a sitemap file

yes! Can’t stress this enough. XML sitemaps help crawlers get a better idea of site structure and with so many free XML sitemap generators around, there’s no excuse not to create one and submit it via Google Webmaster Tools.

Some side notes:

  • if you haven’t already done so, I’d recommend adding in another line to your robots.txt file that looks a little like this: ¬† ¬†Sitemap: http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml
  • Connect Google webmaster Tools with Google Analytics so you can get access to some GWT data in GA.

Hope this is helpful to you!