Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is a free online service that enables you to manage the behind-the-scenes performance of your website, keeping it healthy and visible.
It’s also how Google communicates with you about any issues, like being infected with malware, or penalties relating to your website.
You can use the many diagnostic tools to find anything from broken links, click-through rates, to why your pages can’t be found through search.
The Dashboard is the first thing you see when you log into your GWT account. It provides an overview of your website’s search information and indexing status, as well as being an inbox for any important messages from Google relating to your website.
From here there are a range of categories offering you further information about your website.
In the Configuration section you can alter a variety of settings from which geographical target your website is intended for, to your preferred domain or who can access your Dashboard.
All this helps Google understand your website. This section also assists you if you’re thinking about, or in the middle of, changing your domain name.
The Health section allows you to monitor and set the crawl rate, as well as providing considerable data on indexed webpages for a specified domain.
In this section you can see any pages that contain errors like 404 response codes and take action, monitor what pages are successfully indexed and highlight any URL’s with content you don’t want Google to access or index.
The Traffic section (when GWT is linked to Google Analytics) locates the keywords and search terms users type in to find your website. This section also identifies which domains link to your website, the number of backlinks your site has and which pages on your website are linked to the most.
In the Optimisation section you can submit and check your website’s sitemap to help Google recognise, crawl and index webpages effectively. This section also identifies data to improve HTML, including duplicate, long or short page titles and meta descriptions.
If you’re not using Google Webmaster Tools it’s definitely something worth considering. Not only is it free but it’s also a valuable guide that will tell you how to improve traffic, while highlighting any issues your website may have.