Fortunately, the task of measuring and reviewing is made relatively easy by two nifty tools provided to us, free of charge, by Google. These two tools are called Google Webmasters and Google Analytics.
Using Google Webmasters
For the purposes of measuring your SEO success, we will use the Google Webmasters tool. To get started, visit www.google.com/webmasters and register and verify your account (this is all 100% free). Following this, it’s a good idea to upload an XML sitemap of your website to Google Webmasters. This sitemap tells Google where all the pages on your website are and, to a certain degree, aids their indexation.
You can get an XML sitemap, free of charge, by visiting www.XML-Sitemaps.com. Once you’ve got one, upload it via FTP and tell Google Webmasters where to find it. While you’re at it, it would be a good idea to get an HTML sitemap as well, and link to it from your homepage. This helps the other search engines (such as Yahoo and Bing) index your pages, since not all of them use the XML format.
Once that’s all done, give webmasters at least two weeks to gain some accurate data. Once two to four weeks have passed, login to your account and you’ll be presented with a dashboard, featuring a host of important information. Here’s what you need to take note of:
This area of the dashboard reveals some of your main keywords for which Google is displaying your website to searchers. Ideally, you want to ensure that the keywords that you originally chose for your website feature in this list. If not, you will need to do further link building using that keyword (see the last article).
Crawl errors (missing pages, etc.) are simply no good for SEO, so make sure that this area is cleared up as soon as possible. If there are any crawl errors on your site, find out where they are, and place redirects on those links. If that sounds like gibberish, just send the report to you designer/host and they can place the redirects.
Links to your site
This area is all about how many backlinks to your site Google is aware of. And who better to get this information from than Google itself. Although it seems fairly inconsistent, Google usually updates this figure at least once a month. Keep an eye on the figure itself, as well as the source of the backlinks and try to grow this figure every month.
If you look to the left hand side navigation bar of Google Webmasters, you will find a host of other options, including site configuration, diagnostics and crawl stats. Have a look around and get to know what each statistic means. There’s no better way to view your site than through the eyes of Google!
Here’s a handy tip – if your website is targeting a specific country (South Africa for example), then go to “Site Configuration”, then “Settings”, and select “South Africa” as your target country. This will generally give you a good SEO boost as Google favours locally targeted results and tends to give them precedence over the international results.
As you can see, Google Webmasters is a powerful tool for viewing your website from Google’s eyes, and as such, is a great tool to have in your arsenal. It is, however, only one side of the coin. In my next article, we’ll look at Google Analytics, which helps you to measure real results, in the form of visits (or hits) to your website. The more information you have about your visitors, the better you can serve, and monetise, them. Stay tuned!