Google Webmaster Tools: Where Free is Priceless

I don’t necessarily buy that Google can do no evil, but they’ve sure done something good in launching Google Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools is a great way to get lots of information about the traffic on your site. And like a lot of what Google provides, Webmaster Tools is free.

To get started, all you need to do is insert a single file in your root directory. Afterwards, you can check back at any time to get an instant read on what the Google crawler thinks about your site–and, by association, your readers in general.

There are a good number of reports available, but here are a few of my favorites. Interested in learning more about how people discover your site? One way, of course, is through links on other sites. With Webmaster Tools, you can instantly see all of the web pages linking to your site in one fell swoop. If you’ve got lots of links and want to do some analysis, click a button and download the report into Excel.

We’re big believers in the power of great content, and this tool makes it easy to see what people are searching on to find you. The top searches report shows the search terms that most readers are using to click through to your site. Often, when reviewing this list, you may find word combinations that surprise you. It may make sense to beef up your content in those areas that readers find most compelling.

The diagnostics provided by Webmaster Tools are equally useful. If there are any broken links on your site, or problems with the site map, the tool will tell you where to look so you can fix them. If there are links on other sites pointing to pages on your site that no longer exist, another report will show you how to find them. It even gives you directions on how to set up a simple “301 Redirect” so that Google will know how to link to the new pages.

One last thing. Way back in my days at NewsEdge Corporation, I learned the power of “push” email related to daily news. Readers loved being able to read today’s news headlines in their email, and then click through to the web for more information. Even today, people still live in email. If this sounds like you, then take a few minutes to set up a customized, daily email report on Webmaster Tools. In my case, every day at around noon, I can look forward to a PDF summary of everything going on at this site. It’s a great read and reminds me that it’s just about time for lunch.