Sitemaps are a great way of telling Google what pages you want to be indexed.
Google will index your site regardless of using a sitemap, however, this tool makes it easier for Google to index those pages you want it to. You can exclude pages if you really want to, but you can use a generator to create the XML formatted file.
Here are some generators
- DMXZone provide a Dreamweaver Sitemap Extension that will build a sitemap for you in the correct format
- Google provide a long list of Sitemap Generators here
- Google talks about Sitemaps here
2. Content Analysis
One of the things Google hates is duplicate content, even worse is duplicate Titles and Descriptions (These are the important Meta Tags)
Webmaster Tools will allow you to see if there are any pages with duplicated titles or duplicated descriptions. This is a very important tool to get the most out of these tags
3. Web Crawl Diagnostic
Once Google has crawled (indexed) your website, you hope all of your pages are visible in the index. This tool can help you find out if Google had problems finding and pages.
Obviously, if Google can find a page, it wont be in the search engine listings.
This can be bad links, moved content or other easily picked up issues.
4. External Links
This shows all of the links into your website from other pages on the internet.
The best thing is the link on the right hand side that allows you to see all of the inbound links.
(Note: this does not show all of the times your website is mentioned, only the working links people can click on to find you)
In basic search engine terms, the more inbound links the better for you
5. Geographic Targeting
This one is bit more advanced and will affect a smaller number of people. One of the key changes in Google’s delivery of search results is the pre filtering that is done when you search.
Google will filter your results, even if you don’t ask it to.
As an example, if you do a search for a topic and DO NOT select the “web pages from this country” button your results are still biased towards the country Google believes you are in.
Alternatively, if you select the “web pages from this country” button, you will get results that Google think are directed to that country.
How does it do this?
It shows results for either websites with a country specific suffix ie .nz for New Zealand, or websites that are hosted in that country.
However, if you have a .com website hosted not in New Zealand, you will not be found in the search results for that country specific search.
The solution is to use Google’s Geographic Target, where you can specifiy the county you want to target (Only one, though)
There are plenty of other Tools, including Keywords, Search Phrases etc.
So Webmaster tools is a must have for all Web Designers, but also for those business owners who are keen to see how their sites are performing in Google.