Fixing a Site: Google Webmaster Tools

Ken Cybulska, a member of Staten Island Netpreneurs, sent around a link to an excellent Google webinar about the Google toolkits, “Google tools to turbocharge your website.”

Fast Smart Web Design was thrown up in a hurry a couple of years ago and then left to fester while we pursued actual work. (The shoemaker’s children have no shoes….) But it’s time to clean up the site, see what works, and kill off the rest.

The Google tools webinar provides a step-by-step approach to optimization, and we thought, “Hey, let’s see if this works, and if it does, we can follow the same process with our clients.”

So here’s the first step: Use Google’s webmaster tools to find out what Google sees when it indexes your site.

What do visitors see when they search for you?

Helpful hint: Use titles that tell visitors what they’re going to get when they click on your link.

To find out quickly what titles and descriptions show up in Google, type “site:yoururl” and press Enter in the search area on the Google page. All your site’s indexed page titles and descriptions should appear.

Note: If no titles appear, that’s a problem. Did you (or your webmaster) add a robots.txt file to your setup while you were creating the site and then forget to remove it once the site went live? It’s worth checking with the “Crawler Access” section of Google Webmaster Tools, under Site Configuration.

Our home-page title is “Welcome to Fast Smart Web Design: We Make Easily Maintained Sites,” which is the right message (although we may change our minds as we go through the process; stay tuned). The other page titles seem to be okay as well.

webmaster tools: page titles in search
Page titles according to Webmaster Tools (note: click the picture to see it fullsize)

By the way, the “site:yoururl” search works on Bing and Yahoo as well as Google.

Using the tools

You may have heard of Google Analytics–they’re are the sexy Google tools with the hits, the nifty geographic maps, the list of keywords, and so on. However, we didn’t know about the Webmaster Tools until we ran the video mentioned earlier.

Webmaster Tools seems to be an older sibling of Analytics–a bit more spare, more about what’s going on in the background when  Google indexes your site. It’s a good starting point for finding problems, like duplicate titles and broken links, that may trip up the Google indexing programs.

Duplicates are confusing

Duplicate titles and descriptions are a problem, not because Google gets confused but because people might not be able to tell which page is which at a quick glance.

Fast Smart Web Design seems to have both, according to the Webmaster Tools. Hmm.

Duplicate title tags

Five duplicate title tags in the lesson plan section (click the picture to expand it).

Well, the five duplicates are on the lesson-plan pages. The lesson plans are problematic anyway–they seem to be popular but they don’t have anything to do with the rest of the site. Something to think about as we revise the site.

Are there broken links?

Yes, indeed! Oh my.

Broken links

Ten broken links (click the picture to expand it).

Broken links is something we search for on our clients’ sites before we publish them, but not on our own, obviously. Have to fix these!

Helpful hint: To see links to your pages, you can type links:yoururl in the Google search area and get a list of links to your site.

Next Post: Analytics

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