Google Webmaster Tools is one of the best tools at your disposal for making sure people are able to find your site, but a surprising amount of people run websites and never open it. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team calls not using the free Google webmaster resources one of the five most common mistakes a site owner can make, so it makes sense to share some information about the tool.

For those that don’t know, Google Webmaster Tools is free software that helps you manage the more technical aspects of your website. It is especially loved by SEO professionals because it offers various diagnostic reports on numerous areas of your page from the best possible source. You can find out why you aren’t ranking or review your link profile, but Webmaster Tools also provides a direct hotline between Google and website owners. If you have been hit with a penalty, you are notified in Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools is often confused with Google Analytics, which is a sort of companion software to Webmaster Tools. However, Analytics is aimed at marketers and provides data more relevant for that area. Both provide extensive resources and options for optimization, but for SEO you will be much more interested in Webmaster Tools.

You will have to be logged into your Google account which you use for Gmail or Google+, which you should undoubtedly have if you are running a website. Once you’ve logged into Google, you can go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools and begin the process of setting up your account. Bruce Clay offers an extensive tutorial with four different options for verifying you are a site owner and setting up your account.

Once you’ve verified, you are set to explore the options and resources available. It may take some playing around to get the hang of, but you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish within the software. There are also numerous guides available to help you understand what can be done with Webmaster Tools.

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