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Google Webmaster Tools: New and improved Navigation

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 by Emily Mace

Google Webmaster Tools logoGoogle has launched some changes to the navigation of Webmaster Tools (GWMT). It makes the names of the main menus more logical and some of the key reports easier to find.

The old menu structure has always been a bit of a bugbear for me, as I’ve often felt that the core reports aren’t laid out logically or easy to find.

The new menus are as below:

  • Site Messages
  • Search Appearance
    • Structured Data
    • Data Highlighter
    • HTML Improvement
    • Sitelinks
  • Search Traffic
    • Search Queries
    • Links to your site
    • Internal Links
  • Google Index
    • Index Status
    • Content Keywords
    • Remove URLs
  • Crawl
    • Crawl Errors
    • Crawl Stats
    • Fetch as Google
    • Blocked URLs
    • Sitemaps
    • URL Parameters
  • Malware
  • Additional Tools
  • Labs

This new menu structure provides a flow of reports based on how webmasters will manage their data and should help people to understand when and how the reports will help their site.

Within each menu, the normal set of reports has been reordered to match these new headings.

Site Messages

This heading is where you will see messages from Google about your site, such as Malware reports or unnatural link warnings.  Google last year increased the messages it sends so you will also receive messages about such things as increases in broken links, soft 404s, server errors and drops in traffic to pages on the site.

Search Appearance

This new menu relates to how your website is displayed in the search engine results. It includes things like ‘Structured Data’, the new data highlighter, ‘HTML Improvements’ and sitelinks. This new section groups all of the elements which will impact how your site is seen by people searching for you. Therefore, it can be useful if you’re trying to make sure that there are no issues with how your meta descriptions are displayed or how your structured data (such as product reviews or addresses) are showing up.

Site Traffic

This set of reports allows you to see the search queries, internal links and links to your site which Google can see.  This allows you to see what is driving search impressions and traffic to your site in terms of both keywords and pages, as well as what links are pointing to your site.  Google doesn’t show all the links pointing to your site in this section, however, so if you need to review your backlinks it’s important to make sure that you review data from other sites as well.

Google Index

This allows you to see the status of the number of indexed pages on the site which – following work on the site – will illustrate whether the number of indexed pages has gone up or down.

You can also see the content keywords Google finds most regularly in the content.

‘Remove URLs’ allows you to request removal for pages on your site which you have blocked in your robots.txt file, but which Google is still indexing.

Crawl

This menu provides information about the way pages on your site are being seen by Google, such as any errors, the crawl stats and access to information about both your robots.txt and sitemap.xml files.

‘Crawl Errors’ is particularly useful for spotting broken links or soft 404s on your site, both from within the site and also from your external links.

‘Fetch as Googlebot’ allows you to request a view of how Google’s crawler sees the code on your site, which is useful for making sure your content is visible and that your HTML is not too long.

‘Blocked URLs’ allows you to make sure your robots.txt file is working correctly. You can also test changes to your robots.txt file to make sure these will work as planned before they’re sent live.

‘Sitemaps’ allows you to view the status of any XML sitemaps you have uploaded to GWMT, including news and image sitemaps as well as your main sitemap file. This will help you ensure that Google is able to read these correctly and there are no issues in the sitemap which are stopping the pages listed from being indexed.  Google provides a summary of the pages in your sitemap and the number of these pages is included in the index.

Malware

This menu hasn’t changed and allows you to see the status of any malware reports on your site.

Additional Tools

This includes links to some of the useful tools you might need to help your site perform better in the SERPs, including the structured data testing tool, Google Places and Google Merchant Centre.

Labs

This menu is again unchanged and includes links to the Author Stats for the site you are viewing and your personal Google+ account. The report doesn’t allow you to see all the author stats for all authors on your site, however, only your own.

‘Custom Search’ allows you to set up and use the Google site search functionality for your site and then to see how this would work with a preview of the search in place.

‘Instant Previews’ allows you to see the image summary of your site which will appear in the SERPs when people see it.  This image version of your site can influence if people click through or not, so the preview allows you to see if there are any display issues in the preview or not. This enables you to address them and get more clicks.

‘Site Performance’ is still listed in the menu but this feature has been removed. Instead, Google now links from this page to some of the site speed tools which are available including the Analytics site speed information.

In this menu you can also view and change how Google handles ‘URL Parameters’ which is particularly useful if you have a database driven URL which contains query strings such as sort orders.

These new menus are great for the management of your site in GWMT as they lay things out more logically for users helping people to work on the development of their sites in a more streamlined manner.

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About the author

Emily Mace

Emily Mace

Emily joined Vertical Leap in 2008 and is now the Senior SEO Campaign Delivery Manager. Emily previously worked in training, IT Support, Website development as well as SEO and worked for local Government departments and Tourism South East. Emily gained Google Analytics Individual Qualification in 2011, and regularly blogs on the technical aspects of SEO, sharing her expertise with our readers. Follow on Google+