OK, back to the big “G”. I dove back into Google Webmaster Tools yesterday and was reminded that I need to write a blog post. This is yet another great free application that the brilliant minds at Google have developed to allow web designers and developers to manage their sites relationship with the market leader in online search. It also has some pretty slick tools to help you understand your keywords and traffic sources.

First and foremost, every website out there should submit their sitemap to Google. You can do this through the webmaster tools and it will then tell you if there are any problems with your sitemap and how many of the URL’s in your sitemap have been indexed by Google. This is basically a proactive way of getting indexed on Google which beats waiting around for the crawlers to find every page on your site (especially if there are pages that the crawlers can’t find and you need to correct).

The second thing that I recommend is checking out the diagnostics. After your site has been crawled and indexed (which will happen pretty quick now that you’ve submitted your sitemap) Google will tell you if there have been any crawl errors and will give you some nifty crawl statistics. The stats are nice to look at and tell you your pagerank but you can’t do much with more than look at it – I know we all wish we could control Google. But the crawl errors and HTML suggestions are useful. I have never had a crawl error myself but if you do it’s probably something you want to address as you want Google’s crawlers to see and touch as much of your public front-end as possible. Joomla comes setup with a robot.txt file that restricts the Google bot from searching the back-end of sites so don’t worry about that. The HTML suggestions point out some minor changes that you could make to improve your meta descriptions and title tags.

After your site has been up for a few weeks and you’ve had some traffic, you’ll want to take a look at the Top Search Queries and Links to Your Site – very powerful pieces of information. The Top Search Queries tells you what people are typing into Google to find your website. Your company name may be at the top of the list, but you’ll probably be surprised by the phrases that show up in the third or forth spot. I currently have a client who ranks in the top 3 for a relevant phrase that the rest of their industry is not even considering (can’t tell you what it is, our secret). We are now going to work hard to try and leverage that positioning knowing that their customers are finding them this way. Links to Your Site is a neat little tool that shows many of the other websites that are linking to you. I have found this to be only partially useful as not all the links are shown. If you want to see all the links use the link operator in Google – type in link:www.yourdomain.com – and you’ll see all the sites that link to you. This is also great for checking out who is linking to your competitors sites and seeing if you can match or beat them in terms of number of links (Google likes sites with lots of links).

OK, that’s enough Google praising for now…I’ll review Adwords in a later post for some more keyword intelligence.