Google Webmaster Tools – A beginners Guide

Google Webmaster Tools allows webmasters to check a website’s indexing status and optimize the visibility of their websites, check for security issues and how the site appears in search.  This blog is intended to outline the basics of what the tools are and how to use them.

The first thing you will need to do is set up Google Webmaster Tools on your website – you will need to sign up and add your website.  There are a number of ways to verify that you own the website and you will need to do one of those to get access to the site information.

Once logged in you will be able to see the GWT dashboard which will indicate any new or important issues which need to be looked at.  The main navigation is in four main sections: Search Appearance, Search Traffic, Google Index and Crawl.  There are various options under each of these categories. 

Search Appearance

In the following sections, you will find the information which relates to how your site appears in search. 

Structured Data – This is mark-up on your site which tells Google how to categorise the content and enables rich snippets to appear in search results (such as review scores) – this section will show you where you have structured data markup on your site and any errors. 

Data Highlighter – Highlighting data enables you to improve your look in search and lets users see your key information right in search results.

HTML Improvements - In this section you will find suggestions for improving site performance

Accelerated Mobile Pages – This area will show you if you have any pages set up as Accelerated mobile pages and any issues with them.

Mastering these sections will enable you to ensure that you make the most of how you appear in google search results.

Search Traffic

Search Analytics - This section lets you analyse your performance in search, including data on impressions, clicks, search terms and position.

Links to your site  - This section enables you to see who links to your site, your most linked content and the link text.  This information can be useful to see what content on your site is most shareable and keep a track of referral traffic.

Internal Links – Here you will be able to see the internal links within your site and which of your site pages have most links to them.

Manual Actions - This section gives you information about manual webspam actions listed against your website.  A manual webspam action affecting your site means that someone at Google has reviewed your site and manually flagged spam content.  You will be able to see if the issue is site wide or partial, i.e., just affecting specific pages.   If there are any actions listed, this will be affecting search visibility of the affected page or pages.  You will be able to get information here about how to deal with the issues.

International Targeting – If you have any pages on your site which are targeted at specific locations or languages, this information will be shown here.

Mobile Usability – Identify and fix any issues which are affecting mobile usability on your site.

Google Index

The sections in the google index pages show you how many indexed pages your site has.  You can use the Remove URL section to request to temporarily hide a URL from your site from appearing in search.  Blocked Resources show pages on your site where Googlebots have been blocked from indexing.  Blocked resources may result in incorrect indexing by Google.


This shows the crawl data from your website.  It can show you if there are any crawl errors, the stats for the amount of pages crawled per day. Use Fetch as Google from this section to test how Google crawls a URL on your site.  This will highlight any blocked resources for that URL and whether the googlebots are able to access the page for indexing.  Use Sitemaps to submit a sitemap for your website, useful if you have recently made multiple changes or added new pages to your site.

Security Issues

Any identified security issues with your site will be shown here.  If your site has been hacked or is the subject of malware, you will be able to see the affected pages here and learn the steps needed to take care of the problem.

Google Webmaster Tools are a great resource to explore to gain valuable insights into the health of your website and it is well worth taking the time to have a look around and identify any issues affecting your website which could be dealt with. Although it may appear daunting at first, having an understanding of the basics will enable you to maximize your site’s effectiveness in terms of Google search and display.