Any webmaster should be aware of the tools available to them. This is especially true for Google’s Webmaster Central, a collection of tools that allow you to better understand your website and give you more information about it.
One of the first things you will notice when you go to Google Webmaster Central is that you can check if your site is being indexed by Google. The site status wizard allows you to see when your site was last crawled and if it’s in Google’s index.
You might be told that you have potential problems and that you should submit a sitemap. It is recommended that you do so, even though you can now declare the path of your sitemap through your robots.txt file.
Once you are approved, Google will give you more information about your site, such as any HTTP errors it may have, 404 pages discovered, URLs that cannot be followed, URLs restricted by robots.txt, URLs that timed out and unreachable URLs.
You can also see the crawl rate of your site to determine how Google is accessing these pages:
And you can set up a preferred domain (e.g. www.10e20.com or 10e20.com).
Other useful features include the Enhanced Image Search and you need to specifically opt-in to have your images searched to improve search quality. More information on this is at the Webmaster Help Center.
A relatively new tool is the URL removal in Webmaster Central; you can remove content from the Google index easily with this functionality. If you wanted to remove any URLs, you can specify whether you want to remove individual URLs, a specific directory, or even your entire site.
Note that Google wants user feedback, so on the upper left hand corner, you can rate the effectiveness of the tool.
In the Statistics portion of the Webmaster Central, you can get an idea of your PageRank of individual pages and Google will also provide you with data of pages with the highest PageRank.
You are also able see which search terms are generating results from your site and the average top position. You can also see which of these queries was actually clicked. I assure you that you’ll find some interesting surprises here. :)
One of the newer and cool things about Google Webmaster Central is that you can see a page analysis of external links to your site and the anchor text used. You can download CSV files of this data as well.
You can also see what pages have been linked to the most:
And finally, you can submit your sitemap and track its progress:
These are really the basics of the Google Webmaster Central. There’s a bit more if you dig deeper. All in all, this is a pretty comprehensive tool that is constantly being worked on. It gives webmasters a good deal of information about sites so that webmasters can get an understanding of the search engine’s understanding of your website. I encourage all webmasters to use it.