Building a good website doesn’t end the role of a web designer or webmaster. Just monitoring uptime isn’t enough either. In order to ensure the health of your website, every webmaster will need to make sure the site is going well on multiple fronts. This article about webmaster essentials, lists a few tools that every webmaster should have in his/her arsenal.
Most Important Tool for Webmasters – Webmaster Tools
When search engines crawl and index your website, they gather a lot of data about your site. A lot of this is useful information that they share through their webmaster tools.
Both Google and Bing, the two prominent search engines have webmaster tools that are an absolute essential for any webmaster. You can sign up to these tools at Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools respectively. Once you sign up for an account and login, you need to verify the site you manage. For this article, we will discuss using Google Webmaster Tools.
Once you sign up and login for the first time, you will be shown a welcome screen from where you can add your site to verify. Next, type in the domain name of your site and click on “Add Site”.
When you do this, Google Webmaster Tools suggests that you insert a meta tag in the Head section of your website’s home page.
There are alternate methods for verification as well, like uploading an HTML file, verification through Google Analytics (if you use it for tracking visitors on your site) or through your domain name provider. Bing Webmaster Tools supports the meta tag and file upload methods for verifying your website.
Once you have verified your website, you will have access to a wealth of extremely useful information.
Messages: Google communicates with webmaster through this panel. If there is any activity Google notices, like DMCA removal notice, a sharp rise in broken links, or incoming links or pages on the site, etc., verified webmasters will see a message from Google here.
Configuration section: You can control the various settings for your site and how Google should access it, including the preferred form of the domain name (with or without www.), sitelinks, users and associates, etc.
Health section: Webmasters can keep track of errors Google encountered while crawling the site, crawl statistics, indexing status, malware warnings and more.
Traffic section: In this section, webmasters can see how frequently their site came up in search results and how many of the searchers actually clicked on a link. You can also see who links to what pages in your site, how internal lining structure is, how many +1’s your site got, etc.
Optimization section: From here, you can submit and resubmit XML sitemaps to Google, monitor sitemap errors, look at recommended HTML improvements like duplicate or missing Titles and Meta Descriptions, monitor what keywords Google sees in the content of your website and more.
Labs section: This contains features that are under test and can change from time to time. Among the things you can monitor here is site performance and page load time metrics.
Tracking Tool for Webmasters – Analytics
The second most important tool for webmasters is Analytics. Google Analytics is a free analytics tool and optimal for most websites. You can track visitors to your site in many different ways through Analytics:
- Where are your visitors coming from?
- What browsers, screen resolutions, etc., do they use?
- How many pages do they visit?
- How long do they stay on your site?
- How many result in a “conversion”?
- How many users come to your site from paid advertising campaigns, referral sites, SEO and by directly typing the URL of your site in the browser?
- What keywords drive visitors to your site? Which of these keywords convert better or worse?
- Which are your most visited pages?
- Which pages bring most visitors to your site?
- From which page do visitors most leave your site
Answers to these are many more questions can be found in Analytics. Regularly monitoring your analytics tool will help you make changes that will result in attracting the right kind of visitors who spend more time on the site and engage more with it.
Maintenance Tools for Webmasters – Browser Plugins
When we work on websites, we use a number of browser plugins that help us not just while building a website, but even to ensure the health of a website after it is built. Some of the webmaster browser plugins we use include:
- Web Developer Toolbar: Available for Firefox and Chrome, the Web Developer Toolbar lets you analyze various aspects of a live web page, independently or together, helping you make changes and enhancements to your site
- YSlow and Page Speed: YSlow is a page load time analysis tool from Yahoo!, and Page Speed is a similar tool from Google. Both analyze any live page and recommend solutions for improving page load time.
- Quirk SearchStatus: A simple Firefox add-on for SEOs and Webmasters, it shows you the Google Page Rank and Alexa Rank of any page in the status bar of the browser, and also lets you check a number of SEO metrics like number of incoming links, number of indexed pages, keyword density, meta tags, nofollow links and more.
- SEO Quake: A more comprehensive SEO add-on for Firefox SEO Quake helps webmasters with SEO, social media and internet promotion metrics for a site.
Useful Free Tools for Webmasters
There are a number of tools we use and recommend for ensuring the good health of any website we design and maintain. These include:
- Microsoft IIS SEO Toolkit: This is a free downloadable tool that does a comprehensive crawl of a website and reports on any errors or warnings that search engines would encounter while crawling the site.
- Xenu Link Sleuth: This is an extremely useful tool to check for broken links and redirects on a site
- GSiteCrawler: A useful free downloadable XML sitemap generator that crawls your site and generates XML sitemaps of your site that you can upload and submit to search engines.
Paid Tools Webmasters and SEOs Should Consider
Not all tools are free and not all paid tools are great. There are a number of tools out there. Below is a list of some of the tools we use and recommend:
- SEO Tools from SEO Moz: This suit of tools lets you manage SEO campaigns, analyze Twitter followers, research and analyze links to your and competitor sites, do on-page SEO analysis, track rankings for a pre-defined set of keywords, and more.
- Majestic SEO: Majestic SEO one of the largest index of publicly available links between websites. Its frequently updated data can be extremely useful for link building analysis, competitor analysis and more.
- SEM Rush: You can get access to a large amount of data about keywords that your website is performing on. They have data for more than 95 million keywords and 45 million domains.
- AHrefs: A useful tool to track incoming links to your site and your competitor sites. You can get day-by-day analysis of links added, links lost, linking sites, linking text and much more.
As we said, there are many more tools out there and each web developer or SEO may have his or her own preferred set of tools to work with. What is evident though is that ensuring your website’s good health and a strong web presence calls for a lot of constant analysis and enhancement. You can either get all or some of these tools and deploy precious in-house resources for managing and promoting your website online or consider our online marketing services.
CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area