Google Webmaster Tools: Search Appearance
There are a lot of ways to check how your website’s doing these days. The most common one people use is probably Google Analytics. Google Analytics is definitely a great tool for monitoring your site. However, since the ‘not provided’ development, it’s become pretty hard to monitor your SEO efforts. And unfortunately, most tools that can monitor your SEO efforts come at a costly price. Today I’ll be highlighting one of the free tools; Google Webmaster Tools.
This is actually the first post in a series on Google Webmaster Tools. We’ll be going over every major menu item in Google Webmaster Tools, starting with Search Appearance.
What is Google Webmaster Tools?
Before going into Google Webmaster Tools, you might be wondering, what is it in the first place? Google themselves explain it the following way in their meta description of Google Webmaster Tools:
“Google Webmaster Tools provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google.”
This is definitely true, but it’s leaving out quite a lot of other things. Google Webmaster Tools looks at a lot more than ‘just’ your pages’ visibility on Google. It looks at everything that’s causing that visibility, such as backlinks, crawling (errors), robots.txt, sitemaps, etc. And on top of that, Google Webmaster Tools actually still shows you quite some search query data.
You can find your own Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) by logging into your Google account here. And if you haven’t set up your GWT yet, you can follow the steps here.
The Search Appearance menu item gives you a lot of insight on just that: what your website appears like in the search results. You can actually click the ‘i’ for more information on the search appearance:
You can select every part of a search result to get more information on that specific part and how to influence how it looks.
Under Structured Data you’ll find a number of all the pages that have some kind of structured data attached to them, such as schema.org or RDFa. Structured data means you give certain elements on a page a sort of label, such as ‘Product’. This will make it clear to the big search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) that there’s a product on this page. On top of that you can add things such as ratings or prices of your product that will also show up in the search results.
If any pages on your site don’t have the structured data set up right, Google Webmaster Tools will give you a red line named “Items with Errors”. GWT automatically sorts by the number of “Items with Errors”, so the most important faults will be on top. To view what specific pages have these errors, just click one of the lines in the table. This will take you to a list of all the specific pages that have errors with the Data Type you selected. You’ll probably be able to create a nice list of to-do’s for your site, just based on these URLs.
The Data Highlighter actually makes fixing the issues you’ve found in the Structured Data section a lot easier. For instance, choose one of the URLs that had a faulty Structured Data setup and tell GWT what kind of information you want to highlight:
This will bring you to a live view of that page and you’ll be able to select any element on the page. By selecting an element you’ll be given a choice of what you want to highlight that specific element for. For example, for an Article, you’ll be given these markups to add to the corresponding element on the page:
This makes adding Structured Data, for Google at least, really as easy as a few clicks.
This page is really straight forward. This basically checks all your website’s meta descriptions, title tags and content that wasn’t indexable. If Google Webmaster Tools finds meta descriptions that are too long, too short or duplicate, it will show a number of pages higher than 0, and the link will become clickable:
The same goes for missing, duplicate, too long, too short or non-informative title tags and for any content that GWT thought was non-indexable. Clicking the linked word will take you to a list of meta descriptions or page titles that are faulty. You’ll be able to find on which pages exactly this is happening. Some more to-do’s to add to that list! If you’re having issues writing decent meta descriptions, read Michiel’s post to learn how!
This is one of those features that gives you more power over the search results than you’d normally get from Google. It’s all about control over this part of the search results:
Google calls these links that I’ve highlighted ‘sitelinks’. And when you’re in the Sitelinks part of Google Webmaster Tools, you can actually blacklist certain URLs from showing up here. This is what GWT calls demoting. However, you can’t make a page never show up as a sitelink; you can only demote a page for a certain page on your site.
For example, you can demote your Contact page from showing up, whenever your homepage shows up in the search results. The Contact page will still be able to show up for every other page on your site that might show up in the search results. And that’s actually exactly what you want: if you never want a page to show up for any page on your site, you should just noindex it.
Optimize your search appearance!
So you see there’s a lot you can do about what your search results in Google look like and a lot to optimize to make it more clear for Google. Optimizing your search appearance might only have a minor impact on your ranking, but it will definitely increase the click-through rate from Google. And that’s worth a little effort!
Next post will be about the Search Traffic section of Google Webmaster Tools. It’ll be released tomorrow, so keep tuned!
What do you think? Do you have experience using Google Webmaster Tools like this? Or do you have some additional tips? Let us know in the comments!
This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!