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The Google Suite of Webmaster Tools

When I first started promoting websites almost nine years ago (2001), there was a lot more guesswork that had to be done by webmasters to figure out what Google expected for a website to rank favorably in search results.  Google has evolved over the years, continually increasing interaction with its webmaster audience and giving progressively clearer instructions on how to rank well for targeted search terms.  Google has also become more open in seeking feedback from the webmaster community and its search audience in general.   In addition increasing the dialog between Google and its users, Google has created a suite of products that are very useful for accomplishing tasks that cover the full spectrum of website promotion, including getting your site indexed by Google, tracking traffic to your site from all sources, promoting products, and optimizing your content to achieve higher traffic and higher conversions.

Setting up a Google Account
To access the Google tools, you’ll need to set up a Google Account.  There are a few different ways to set up an account with Google, including signing up directly to access any of Google’s webmaster tools described below.  To set up a general Google account, all you need is an email address.  Although you could manage your access to the various Google tools using different accounts, it makes sense to keep everything together under one account.

If you don’t have any form of an existing account (such as Gmail, Picasa, iGoogle) with Google, you can go to their Accounts page http://www.google.com/accounts and set one up.  You simply enter your email address and a password to get started.  After you’ve submitted your account information to Google, they will send you a verification email with a link that you need to follow to verify that you own the email address you used to set up the account.

Google Analytics
Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics) allows webmasters to monitor traffic patterns on their websites.  Setting up your website with Analytics is normally very simple.  You sign up for an Analytics account, insert a tracking code into your website header, and watch the stats start rolling in.

Google Webmasters
Google Webmasters (http://www.google.com/webmasters) serves a few purposes.  It is a community for webmasters to learn what Google expects from their websites in order for them to receive high search rankings.  It’s also a way for webmasters and Google to communicate regarding their relationship.  Webmasters can submit sitemaps to Google to help with indexing their sites.  They can also configure settings to give Google recommendations on how to index their sites.  Google provides through their Webmasters tool helpful information regarding links it recognizes pointing to a webmasters website.  The Webmasters tool also provides information about keyword searches for which the webmaster’s site ranks highly and clickthrough stats related to those high ranking keyword terms.

Google Sitemaps
Google Sitemaps provides a way for webmasters to help Google index their sites correctly.  You may have noticed when doing searches on Google that there are some results that show up on the results page, but when you click on the link to visit the site, the page doesn’t have the same information as was presented in the search results.  Sometimes the page is gone altogether.  Why does this happen?  Because Google has the ominous task of trying to index billions of web pages, keeping their contents as fresh as possible.  Obviously they’re not perfect.  They need help from website owners.

Sitemaps is Google’s way of asking for help indexing your site, which in turn helps your site.  In the control panel for Sitemaps, Google suggests that submitting a map of your website will “…tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover.”  Sitemaps has been integrated with the Webmasters setup, so you can submit your site’s map by logging in to your Webmasters account.

Google Base
Google Base is a handy tool for websites that sell products.  Webmasters can create product feeds representing what they have available in their online store, and submit those feeds to Google Base.  Google displays the products to people who use its product search module, and oftentimes products listed in Google Base are included with regular web searches.  Using Google Base is just one more way store owners can get their products in front of potential customers.

Google Website Optimizer
Google Website Optimizer is an analytical tool that webmasters can use to determine the best way of presenting content to their visitors.  Using Website Optimizer, a webmaster can run experiments to see which version of a page is more successful at accomplishing a goal such as generating a lead , a sale, or some other action.

Conclusion
Google’s tools have made it increasingly easier for website owners and webmasters to understand what is required of their websites in order to achieve success along the most dominant search engine.  Understanding and using these tools will certainly benefit your SEO and overall website promotion goals.

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