Webmaster Tools (WMT) is a handy, free tool by Google that gives you important information about how Google sees your hotel website. With Webmaster Tools, you can get messages directly from Google, see which keywords are sending traffic to your website, and diagnose any errors that Google has found.
Before we get into the bits and pieces of WMT, you must first verify your hotel website with Google.
How to Verify with Google Webmaster Tools
Step 1: Add your website to WMT
Sign in to your Google account. If you have many Google accounts, log into the one you use for Google Analytics and to manage your Google+ Local Page. Once done, head on over to the WMT website and click ‘Add a Site’ in the top, right-hand corner.
Step 2: Verify Ownership
Next, you need to verify you own the website you just added. Google immediately presents you with a recommended way to verify via FTP. This method is complicated for most people, so instead, click the ‘Alternate Methods’ tab.
Google gives you three other options:
- HTML tag – This method is my favorite. Google will give you a bit of code to install into your website’s dynamic header (just before the final ). Copy this code, and send it to your web developer. If you are a buuteeq client, simply paste this code into an email and send it to your customer success representative, who will install it into your website for you.
- Domain name provider – This method allows you to verify ownership of your domain name by signing-in to your domain name provider account.
- Google Analytics – If you already have Google Analytics installed on your website, select this option and click ‘verify’. You’re all done!
Choose the one you’re most comfortable with, and click the big red ‘verify’ button.
How to Use Google Webmaster Tools for Your Hotel
WMT is a powerful tool that allows you to instruct Google how it should view and index your website. Many of the options within this tool are advanced options that most users should not tinker with. You could accidentally instruct Google to disavow all backlinks pointing to your website, or to completely de-index your website. In this short guide, I will only highlight the relatively safe sections of WMT that can still give you valuable information.
When you first enter WMT, you see a nice dashboard overview of the status of your website. WMT will give you basic information about how often your website is seen in the search engine results (impressions) and how often those results are clicked. It will also show you the percentage of your URLS indexed after being submitted, and whether or not Google has detected any website health issues.
NOTE: It is normal to see a few minor warnings and even some errors here. Usually these errors do not negatively impact the ranking of your website. If you have too many errors, though (say, in the hundreds or thousands) then Google may take action against your website.
It is also normal for Google not to index every single page on your website submitted to the index. Once submitted (or crawled), Google will decide whether to include your articles in their results. Their decisions change from day to day—sometimes your pages will appear in the index, and then sometimes they will drop out.
Once you make sure that the content is quality, that Google can easily access and index your content, and there are no major over-optimization issues with the content, then there is little more you can do to encourage Google to index pages.
The ‘messages’ section is where you will find alerts from Google. When Google has a hard time indexing your website, or if they detect suspicious behavior on your website, they will send you a message here.
If you see no messages here, congrats! No news is good news. If you see messages here, don’t get stressed—most messages are simple notices of activity Google has discovered they think you should know about. You should really pay attention if Google reports they can’t access your website, or if they have discovered ‘unnatural linking’ or ‘manipulative backlinking’. These alerts could mean your website has been penalized by Google, or completely removed from the index.
This section shows you how often Google crawls your website. There is no action item here, but it’s nice to know Google is crawling your website every day (for most websites), ensuring they will see your newest content.
Fetch as Google
Here you can see pages on your website exactly as Google sees them. To use this tool, type in the URL of an article page on your website in the field and click ‘Fetch’. Google will process your page and then tell you whether they could successfully fetch it or not. If they fetched it, you can click on the ‘Success’ link to see exactly what Google sees (the raw HTML).
You can also use this tool to submit new pages you have created to Google’s index. To do this, fetch the article and once Google succeeds, click the ‘Submit to Index’ button.
Index status shows you how many pages on your website have been indexed by Google and are available in their search engine. It’s normal for this number to fluctuate over time, especially if you have a blog on your domain. If you see that the number of indexed pages has declined sharply, then you know that Google has penalized your website, or has been blocked from crawling it.
Discover which keywords are sending actual traffic to your website. You can see how many times your website has received an impression for specific keywords—that is, how often people see your website in Google for specific keywords.
It will also show you the average rank your articles enjoy in the SERP for these keywords. You can use this information to help you edit your website content to target quality keywords.
Links to your Site
This section shows you how other website link to your website.
Who links the most tells you the websites that sends the most links to yours.
Your most linked content shows you which articles and landing pages enjoy the highest number of links. This can help you gauge what type of content your guests like the best, so you can create more of it.
How your data is linked shows you the anchor text often used in backlinks sent to your website.
This section will show you if Google has discovered your XML sitemap or not. A sitemap helps Google discover and index content. While Google is good at discovering content on their own, they recommend websites have sitemaps so they can see what content is important to the website owner. If you are a buuteeq client, then an XML sitemap is automatically included. If Google hasn’t discovered it yet, then manually submit it by clicking the big red ‘add/test sitemap’ button.
Type the location of your sitemap. If you are a buuteeq client, the location will simply be ‘sitemap.xml’. Test the sitemap to make sure Google can find it, then once they do, click ‘submit sitemap’.
You only need to do this once. Google will refer to the sitemap in the future for indexing new content you produce.
This section shows you the keywords Google has found on your website. It shows you what Google thinks your website is about. If you don’t see many of your desired keywords in here, this might help explain if your website doesn’t rank well for them. To fix this, add more keyword optimized content to your website.
This section will show you how often your author photo has appeared in the SERPs. You’ll only see data here if you have completed authorship markup. See our guide on authorship markup for more details.
There are many other powerful things you can do with WMT, including disavowing backlinks from spammy websites, but these are more advanced features that should be undertaken by someone familiar with WMT.
I’d love to hear your biggest challenge with WMT. Sound off in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!
A Hotelier’s Guide to Google Webmaster Tools by Brandon