The 2012 Guide to Google Webmaster Tools – Analytics Integration, +1 Metrics, and More

Back in 2010, we wrote a thorough beginner’s guide to Google Webmaster Tools. Since then, there have been significant changes to Google Webmaster Tools. We have updated this guide to include new ways to set up your website with Webmaster Tools, the new data included in Webmaster Tools about your website, important data you might have forgotten about, and how to connect it to Google Analytics to learn more about search queries driving traffic to your site.

Setting Up Your Website with Webmaster Tools

If you haven’t already, the first thing you will need to do is set up your website with Webmaster Tools. To do this, visit the Google Webmaster Tools website, sign in with your Google Account – preferably the one you are already using for Google Analytics. Click the red Add a Site button to begin.

Next, you will have to verify this site as yours. Previously, this involved having to embed code into your website header or upload an HTML file to your web server. Now, if you already have Google Analytics, you can verify your site by connecting Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics. To do so, click on the Alternative Methods tab when verifying ownership. Then select the Use your Google Analytics account option.

Once your site is verified, you will want to submit a sitemap if you have one available. This is a simple XML file that will tell Google Webmaster Tools what pages you have on your website.

If you have one already, you can usually find it by typing in http://yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml to see it in your browser. To create a sitemap if you don’t already have one, you can use online tools like XML Sitemaps. If you are running a website on your own domain using WordPress, you can install the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. Once you have activated the plugin, look under your Settings in the WordPress dashboard and click on XML-Sitemap. Click on the Click here link to build your sitemap for the first time.

Right click on the sitemap link and copy the link address.

Then paste the portion of the URL after the http://yourdomain.com/ of your website into the box to submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.

It may take a few days for Webmaster Tools to start pulling information about your website if you are setting up your website on Webmaster Tools for the first time. Be sure to wait a bit, then continue on to see what you can learn from Webmaster Tools.

Valuable Information within Webmaster Tools

Once you have data in Webmaster Tools, you will be able to view the following about your website. These are only the highlights of new types of data within Google Webmaster Tools and the most important data you should always remember to check on occasionally.

Dashboard

When you visit your website in Webmaster Tools, you will first come to your dashboard. This is an overview of the important data within Webmaster Tools. You can visit specific areas such as your Search Queries, Crawl Errors, Incoming Links, Top Keywords, and Sitemaps from this screen by clicking on the applicable More links. You can also navigate to these areas using the menu in the left sidebar.

Site Configuration

In the Site Configuration section of Google Webmaster Tools, you can view the following important information.

Sitemaps

Here, you will see information pertaining to your sitemap. If you notice the last date your sitemap was downloaded is not recent, you might want to submit your sitemap to refresh the number of URLs submitted.

Sitelinks

Sitelinks are the extra internal links from your site shown below it in search results. If you Google KISSmetrics, for example, you will see their listing plus an additional six top links from this site.

Unfortunately, you can’t specify which pages you want to show up in sitelinks. If you notice one that you absolutely do not want under the sitelinks, you can demote it in this section of your Google Webmaster Tools.

Your Site on the Web

This section includes important data about search queries, keywords, and incoming links that are driving traffic to your website.

Search Queries

The Search Queries section of Google Webmaster Tools shows you the top keyword searches in which your website appears and shows the impressions vs. clicks, average position, and change in position. Why is this now more important than ever? So far, it doesn’t look like it is affected by the not provided keyword trend which leads to missing Google Analytics data. You can click on each search query to see which pages on your website rank for that keyword or phrase.

Links to Your Site

Curious about your backlinks? Google Webmaster Tools shows you the domains that link to you the most as well as the pages on your website with the most links. This is probably the most comprehensive listing of your backlinks that you will find, for free at least.

Keywords

This section shows you the keywords Google believes to be the main subject matter of your site. If these do not fit with what you want your site to be known for, you might want to look at the number of times you are using these words on your website. You can click on each keyword to see why Google believes it is important.

+1 Metrics

If you don’t already have the +1 button installed on your website, you better make it a point to install it. Google Webmaster Tools now tracks metrics related to the +1 button activity on your website and its impact in your search performance in the following sections.

Search Impact

This section shows you the impact of click through rates with +1 annotations in search vs. without.

Activity

This section shows you the rate of +1′s you receive on your site vs. on other sites. Be sure to change the selection at the top to show All +1′s to get the best data.

Audience

This section, if you have enough +1′s, will show you demographics about people who +1 your site including age, gender, and location. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough +1′s to show Audience data, so I snagged the above screenshot from Distilled’s recap of Analytics & Webmaster Tools changes.

Diagnostics

While there is a lot of valuable information in this section, the area I find myself using the most is the Crawl Errors.

It’s never good to have broken links on your website. When you click on the Not found link, you will see all of the pages on your website that result in a 404 page not found error and how many external pages are linking to them. If you have a lot of them, focus on redirecting the ones with the most incoming links.

Labs

Webmaster Tools Labs are sections where they are testing data. According to their own disclaimer, they may change, break, or disappear at any time. Some interesting data currently shown includes Author Stats for pages on your website where you are verified as the author by your Google+ profile. Also, there is a Site Performance section that tells you how long it takes your site to load and shows you some potential problem pages.

Integration with Google Analytics

Remember the Search Queries section mentioned above? You can view this within Google Analytics by going into your website profile and looking under Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries. If you haven’t set up data sharing between Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, you might see this message.

Simply click on the Set up Webmaster Tools data sharing to configure this option. You will be taken to your website’s Google Analytics settings. Click on the Edit link under Webmaster Tools Settings.

On the following screen, select the website within your Webmaster Tools to link to your Google Analytics account.

When you click save, you will then be taken back to Google Analytics where you can click Apply to finish. You will now be able to see the following under Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries.

You can also see your top landing pages within search plus the geographical summary of people who see your website within search under the Search Engine Optimization section of your Google Analytics.

Do you use Webmaster Tools? What areas do you find most useful? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and happy data analyzing!

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.

  1. Thanks Kristi! Still waiting get my Author Stats verified by Google+, so good to see where that will land with Website Optimzer.

    Getting much better with measurement is one of my big goals for the first quarter of 2012. Greatly appreciate your posts and also all the other content here at the KISSmetrics blog!

  2. I have been messing around with this lately myself and appreciate the information. The integration is nice, I appreciate the extra information available in Analytics. It is a great start as the two tools work together well, but I think this is still a work in progress! I liked the layout of Webmaster tools and it’s difficult to find everything I need in Analytics.

    • They do have a few things to work on – I’d like to see more of the drill down Webmaster Tools’ details in Analytics. But I don’t mind going to Webmaster Tools directly.

  3. Great post! I wasn’t so much into Google Webmaster Tools. Now im into, thanks! :D

  4. This is a huge help Kristi, and really appreciate all of the updates. Things change so fast and it’s hard to keep up otherwise. Good to know which tool is best for sorting through the data.

  5. Great guide. I particularly liked the section on +1. For a while I have looked at the search impact of my +1 activity but never looked at the Activity or Audience. Thanks

  6. Grete Guide..
    I really like this guide. Easy to understand all about Google webmaster tool.

    Thanks

  7. Search Queries page in GWT is my favorite page… i got a new site and daily i will check the GWT search queries page at 1:30 (the time the data will get updated)… i will list out the keywords which getting good impressions and i will write article for those keywords… it is best way to drive more traffic to the blog…

  8. This is a great guide, thanks for the resource. Hopefully Google continues to add more features to this tool, it’s becoming more useful all the time.

  9. I’ve just added few more sites on my account and I am uploading their sitemaps, too. :)

  10. Hi Krisiti

    My webmaster tools offers up no data – I have to go into analytics – Is that the norm?
    If not all I can see is my site in the lab and thats it – no data etc.

    Many thanks!

  11. First of all great guide to Google webmasters. However from the research, the reporting on impressions and CTR should be taken with a pinch of salt. For example we have seen clients with unique brand names that rank no.1 for that term, only get a CTR of 5%!

  12. Indeed, now a day SEO knowledge is mandatory for bloggers and web designers. Thanks so much for the guide. Very useful in figuring out some parts of the tools I’m using daily.

  13. Thanks for the guide. I was looking for a quick overview of what is in WMT and this was perfect.

    This is something I have not bothered with, even though I have Analytics and an associated Adwords account on all my sites.

    Time to get them all added!

  14. Thanks for the post it is very helpful although I was hopeing to find out how to reduce my bounce rate.

  15. Now I did as instructed and when I do not remember configuration function Add a Meta Tag? So now I have to do to get back code: Example :
    I add: google-site-verification: google17d02df9d4436ef034.html the root directory of websites and verification

  16. Hi Kiss,

    Thanks for this information it’s very helpful to me as a Web developer. You have any video tutorial of this Kiss?..

    Cheers,

    Alvin

  17. Thanks for this information…

  18. Dear Sir, Greetings. I am Paromita Das a Fashion Designer. I am trying to help some Handloom Weavers through my designs and trying to Improve their standard of living through my blog. The idea is to get them more and more work by my designs and give them enough work to sustain their profession and keep up a good living. I am also trying to promote them through my desogns and this blog post. Seeking your help and support to enable them reach to maximum possible people. Your help and support is much needed.

  19. This is a huge help Kristi, and really appreciate all of the updates. Things change so fast and it’s hard to keep up otherwise. Good to know which tool is best for sorting through the data.

  20. That was a very good article. Loved how u explained one by one

  21. Was looking for integration guide for webmaster tool with analytics, came across your detailed guide…this is an excellent post for what i was looking for …..thank your for your effort to put together this simple integration guide.

  22. I added my site to the Webmaster tools but didnt get the option to choose alternative method for the meta tag. But every time i am trying to change settings on my webmaster tools it give me an error saying i need to verify my account? Yet i still cant get this right, someone please help me.

  23. Hi, Kris! I appreciate your way and patience you take in order to explain step by step all about these tools; Thank`s!

  24. Thank’s for this (The 2012 Guide to Google Webmaster Tools – Analytics Integration, +1 Metrics, and More) great tutorial. I was having a hard time with those.

  25. There’s the possibility to bettter learn and to take online GWMT certification, even if not provided by Google. There are cheap ways to do that (see expertrating.com on brainmeasure.com) which will cost you about 10$.

  26. Awesome, awesome article!!

    I do use GWT, but had no idea how I can really benefit from it.

  27. Wow, the search query CTR looks exactly like what I have, the flat red line specifically. I feel much better now

  28. Thanks for the Google Webmaster Tools Guide. I signed up for GWT a few weeks ago and had a hard time wrapping my head around all of their numbers and stats.

    My CTR too were starting to freak me out. Now that I know my low CTRs are normal, I can chill out a bit. Thanks for the guide.

  29. such a nice post for beginners thanks to Kiss metrics

  30. hi kristi, your post is awesome and it gives every information that a webmaster should know.

  31. Kristi, thanks for the post. It’s a terrific resource to forward onto clients. GWT is such a great starting point for the small business.

  32. I have a site for website design, with design, web and website obviously being the words I wish to target the most… but when I look at my keywords in GWT, those 3 do not show up at all. Is this due to them being such commonly used words that Google does not include them…. or have I used them too much and Google is removing them as keywords as punishment?

  33. Hello Kristi ,

    Your post are great. Is it possible to add F.B page to webmaster tool ? how much time does F.B page take to rank in S.E and east way to track them ?

    Thanks,
    Richi

  34. These tools make all aspects of the site to get better control and optimization for the beginners

  35. Nice post, actually what I was searching for, i think verifying your site using google analytics is the best method

  36. This post helped me get the most out of my existing Webmaster Tools account but it is curious to me that Analytics and Webmaster Tools give me different data on the keyword search term. Seems that WT includes the search term a lot more.

  37. Good job…Nice guide for newbies..

  38. Best tips and guide ever… Thank you a lot!

  39. Thank You Kristi ! for your perfect seo article. i would love to use Google Analysitcs tools to analyse my blog visitor’s behaviour. you raise some nice ideas and i appreciate your ideas.

  40. Hey there outstanding website! Does running a blog similar to this take a
    large amount of work? I’ve no expertise in computer programming but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, if you have any recommendations or techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject nevertheless I just wanted to ask. Appreciate it!

  41. I appreciate your way and patience you take in order to explain step by step all about these tools; Thank`s!

  42. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any techniques to help stop content from being stolen? I’d really appreciate it.

  43. Hi , can you please explain how i can add XML code to site while adding site in WEBMASTER tool. Still i getting this option :-

    Recommended: Google Analytics
    Use your Google Analytics account.
    You must be using the asynchronous tracking code.
    Your tracking code must be in the section of your page.
    You must be the admin on the Analytics account.’ .

    Please help me to resolve this query, Thanks in advance :)

    _ Pritam

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