Google Webmaster Tools
Visitors are the most important asset of your online shop. Therefore, it is important to investigate the different sources of the traffic to your site. Most web stores receive traffic from the following channels:
- Search Engines (in particular Google)
- Affiliates (Google Shopping, Best Buy)
- Direct Traffic and (to a lesser extent)
- Incoming links
- Adwords / Advertisements
In order to investigate visitor flow from search engines, a distinction is first made between visitors entering via ads in search engines (usually Google Adwords) and those who enter “organic” (free) through the normal search results. Google Search Console is a very useful tool (definitely together with Analytics) to investigate this flow. Bing has a similar tool, but given the limited relevance of Bing as a visitor source, we won’t cover Bing. Analytics and Search Console are both relevant; where Search Console gives insight into your performance outside your domain (in Google), Analytics gives insight in traffic on your domain (visitors, bounce, retention).
What is Google Search Console?
Search Console (Earlier called Webmaster Tools) is a very handy and free tool from Google that gives an impression of how Google sees and ranks your website. The tool is easy to activate by placing a verification tag in the <head> section of your site’s source code. With Search Console, you can find out which keywords and subject Google thinks your website is all about. This is particularly useful information when you want to be visible on specific search terms (and that’s always the case). Additionally, it’s possible to review your store’s indexing (crawling) by Google, and it’s possible to submit changes to the search appliance (for example, if certain pages are not important or certain URLs are no longer correct).
What are the features of Webmaster Tools?
There are many useful features and we recommend that you take them through once you have installed the tool. For now, we will show you some of the most interesting features:
1. Search traffic – Search analysis
Under the “Search Traffic” menu item you will find the Search Analysis feature. Here you can see which pages of your web store are ranking high Google and on which search terms. Per keyword will show the total impressions of your page, the number of clicks from Google to your page, the conversion (the “CTR”, or the number of clicks divided by the total impressions) and the average position in Google. As you can see, the data can be refine by date, device (mobile / tablet / desktop) etc. For every website that is actively managing the optimization of keyword rankings, this tool is of great value!
2. Search traffic – Links to your site
Under the same menu item you will also find an overview of all websites that link to yours. A useful feature to keep track of whether your link building activities have results. Inbound links count for Google in the determination of popularity of your site. The idea behind this is that third parties link to your shop only when you have some authority or value on the subject. For your dog food shop, when you get incoming links on the phrase “How to choose the right dog food”, then Google assumes that you seem to share useful information about it on your website rank you on related search terms. Side note: Buying links can be heavily punished by Google, so do not do that at all. When you get caught, your shop might be removed from the search engine and getting re-listed is not easy.
3. Google Index – Indexing Status
Here you can see exactly how many pages Google has indexed from your website. If this does not approach the number of pages in your webs store, then you have an indication that Google is having a problem with indexing and it is important to search for the cause. (Tip: When searching the search engine with the command “site: yourwebshop.nl”, you’ll also get back the number of indexed pages and you’ll see how Google shows your pages).
4. Crawl – Crawl Errors
Under this item, you will find errors in your website that Google encountered while crawling. This list should have zero errors, if not, fix them! For example, you can solve ‘dead’ links and 404’s (page not found).
5. Crawling – Sitemaps
You can, of course, let Google crawl your site and determine what’s important and what’s less important. But you can also give Google a “guide” from your website. In this guide (called the Sitemap), include the pages of your website and add a value to it (for example, 1.0 for the main homepage and 0.8 for a somewhat minor category page). This sitemap will be crawled by Google’s crawler, which allows Google to index your shop even better.
Why is Google Search Console important when I buy / sell a web store?
72.48% of the world population use Google as their main search engine, which makes Webmaster Tools an important source of information about the performance and searchability of the website you sell or buy. For vendors, Search Console provides a list of “bottlenecks” for your store, and by improving them, you upgrade the performance of your website and thereby value.
For buyers, Search Console analysis is valuable in order to analyze the current performance and to what extent this performance is stable and organically built (check the sources of incoming links for example) and second, where the improvement points (chances) lie. As a buyer, you can always ask the seller for access to his/her Webmaster Tools account. You only need to provide the seller with a Gmail address. With this address, the seller can give access to your account and you’ll have access to the data. (Mostly you’ll sign a confidentiality statement first).