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Our blog posts are the result of issues and opportunities we see in our daily work. They are designed to increase understanding and provide a source of vision for your web presence.
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Search Phrases (Queries) in Google Webmasters Tools, Not Google Analytics

Not so long ago, you could look at your Google Analytics account and easily see the search phrases being used to find your site. Don't confuse these with keywords, which everyone says are dead...even Google (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html). Metadata keywords in and of themselves are not really of much value, but using them in your content...well, that is the real "Google juice". Google calls these search phrases "queries", but about two years ago, the most critical ones vanished from Analytics, showing "unavailable". If you were using AdWords, you could see them, so it looked like a heavy-handed approach to marketing Google AdWords. It was really more like a repositioning to Google Webmasters Tools.

If you are not familiar with Google Webmasters Tools, don't be alarmed. It is an SEO geek tool--used primarily by web design/development companies like 3by400, the most serious site owners, or the good SEO consultants. Originally, it was a fairly crude view into the way that Google indexes our sites, or even manage it to a limited degree, and it took a stiff upper lip to wrangle through the terminology to accomplish anything of value. But once Penguin, the cutsie name for the Google algorithm, was released in 2012, Google Webmasters Tools became critical for disavowing backlinks that Google considered inappropriate enough to damage the overall reputation of your site, thus reducing your position in search results.

Over time, Google Webmasters Tools has morphed into a wealth of information that rivals Google Analytics (Analytics) for really understanding the "viewability" of your site. One of the most appealing sets of data for our clients is the Search Traffic, Search Queries report, which displays the query, impressions, clicks, and average position at which your site appears. It is always interesting to see the queries for which Google places your site as the #1 position, and is frequently a surprise. 

You can see what Google believes is important to your site by viewing Google Index, Content Keywords. In this view, you can see the words being indexed on your site and their related significance. But again, don't confuse these with "keywords", as these are words that Google finds repetitively within your site content.

One of the more useful features in the Search Traffic options is Mobile Usability. In this view, Google Webmasters Tools shows errors detected in your responsive design. This is important information, because Google announced in June 2013 that they would start penalizing sites that did not "honor" the mobile viewer.

If all of these reports and lists are just too much to deal with, or, like me, you find that you could spend several hours in every nook and cranny, you can at least get your Search Queries to be once again revealed in Google Analytics by linking your Analytics and Webmasters Tools accounts. To do this, you need to have an Analytics account and a Google Webmasters Tools account already set up, and preferably under the same Google mail account. in your Google Analytics account, on the left-hand menu, go to Acquisition, Search Engine Optimization, Queries. If your accounts are not already linked, click to link them, then select the appropriate site in Google Webmasters Tools. The process is a little squirrely if you have lots of sites in your accounts, but pretty straightforward if you only have one or two.

Once you have linked your accounts, the Queries option in Analytics will will display the same Search Queries report from Google Webmasters Tools within your Analytics account.

Now, if Google could only give you the list of results your site SHOULD have appeared in, online promotions would be much simpler! If you really want first-hand knowledge of making your site Google-friendly, thus highly findable, take a look at Google's Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

An aside here to 3by400 clients--we have already set up Google Analytics and Google Webmasters Tools accounts for you and submitted your site map!

If you don't already have a Webmasters Tools account, get one for free at https://www.google.com/webmasters. It's really easy to validate, especially if you know your Google Analytics code. Otherwise, you will have to drop a file onto your web site, or use your credentials for major DNS providers. Once you have activated your account, the very first thing you want to do is load a site map. Here is a tool that will allow you to generate one if needed: https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/.

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