We all know that Google is the god of search engines and the gatekeeper of web traffic, and that with a sweep of its righteous Penguin algorithm it can wipe out years of SEO work on any site.
But did you know that Google is also a merciful search god that loves little web sites and wants them to succeed? What’s more, Google also provides the tools to educate and help webmasters to worship the search engine more efficiently and dogmatically.
The Google catechism is located at Webmaster Tools. There, you’ll find three areas to learn the good word of Google: Webmaster Education for videos and articles about search; Help Center forum for troubleshooting; and Webmaster Tools, which features things you can do things to get to Google Heaven. If you do nothing else, go to Webmaster Tools and do exactly what is preached there.
On your way to Google Heaven
If you don’t already have an account with YouTube, Gmail, Adsense or any other service that Google owns, you need to start one now. It’s free of course and you don’t need a gmail address to sign up. A Google account is your entre to the search engine’s outer sanctum.
Verify Your Site
Once logged in to Webmaster Tools, click to Add a Site and enter your site’s URL and all the information requested.
You will be asked to Verify your site. This step is to prove to Google that you have all the permissions to prove you are the webmaster of your site. To prove this, you need to place a piece of code that Tools gives you on the site. When you click Verify, Google goes to your site, sees the code and says, “Thou art the owner of thine own site.”
The Recommended method is to upload an HTML verification file to the site, but I find this never works for me. Alternate methods offers three more ways to verify, and I used the HTML tag method. Copy and paste the given code into your header as instructed and it usually works.
Once verified, Google will cast a more favorable eye upon your site.
! If you are using a placeholder plugin to stop visitors from seeing your site-in-progress, you must disable it for Google to verify your site.
! Be sure to check Webmaster Tools messages which will tell you about crawls errors the search bots found on your site.
Add Google Analytics
This is the big Kahuna of web search, the method by which we discover who is viewing our sites and when. Google Analytics is a treasure trove of data that you can use to set your Publish scheduler by, and you don’t want to be without it.
After logging in to your google account , open a new site account and get your specific Tracking Code, which looks like this:
Goggles says that this code should be pasted into every page you want to track, but with WordPress, you can go to Editor and simply place it in your theme’s Header, somewhere before the tag, </head>.
There are plugins that will do this for you using the Tracking ID, which looks like this:
But being kinda old school, I like to go into Editor and place the tracking code myself, in the irrational sense of just knowing it’s there.
Then you wait.
After a day, check your account to see if any views have been registered, and if so, you know your tracking is working.
! You can check the Google stats against Jetpack stats and the stats provided on the Cpanel of your web host. If the numbers are wildly out of synch, you may have a problem.
Create A Sitemap
Sitemaps are important little files that direct a search bot to the parts of your site you want it to crawl and away from areas you don’t want it wasting its time on. This latter reason is as important as the first, since nothing angers the Google deity as much as being allowed to stumble around, bumping into broken links and useless data, when it could be finding cools stuff faster.
Here is what a sitemap looks like. On the left is what a search bot sees; on the right is what we read.
There are plugins that will generate a sitemap for you automatically and ping Google and Bing to let them know an update has been published.
I used XML Sitemap even before I started using WordPress SEO by Yoast and found that it was incorporated into that plugin. Yoast also pings Yahoo and Ask.
These three steps are essential to climbing the stairs to Google Heaven. Before your site is finished and launched is a good time to Verify, Track and Sitemap your site, because the sooner you do it the sooner the search gods know you are serious about getting found.
And all will be well.