Friday, September 19, 2014

Why every website owner needs google webmaster tools


If you are a website owner, there are a multitude of reasons why you need to get an account at google webmaster tools. Although it is always better to control everything in-house but some times having your say in how the largest search engine treats your website from their end makes things a lot easier. This article only tries to point out a simplistic life hack that a webmaster can do instead of other tedious corrections.

"Www" used to be added to a website to tell the offline readers that it was an online address of the world wide web during the transition to 21st century. Now every one knows juggaar.com is a website and I do not necessarily need to give them a link based on www.juggaar.com. This being said, "www" is technically a subdomain of juggaar.com and when you buy a new website, www subdomain is either having an A record to the same host, a cname to the root domain or both.

For the host, the uniqueness there is the content page; same goes for the developers' perspective. But that's not the case for a search engine. For a search engine, a URL is the unique identifier between two pages not a database unique reference number; infact URL is everything as far as a search spider is concerned (unless you've 'told' it so in one of many available ways). A cname or an A record pointing www to the same host will create a completely new URL... and even if you do not ever use www to link to your website, some one else most probably will and then google will index that too and treat it as site wide duplicate content. Google has now indexed two copies of your website and which ever it indexed first is the original one for it. It may either display both copies of your website separately (hence dividing your SEO rank into two and not consolidating for a better result) or worse, give you a penalty for duplicate site wide content. This is an extremely common SEO mistake that affects websites.

Why doesn't google just create an exception for www? Because www is technically a separate subdomain and it is possible to put a completely different page / website on it; however, google does give an option for it if you are registered with google webmaster tools (using a google account). In the site settings option, once you have added and verified both your www website and the root domain name to the webmaster tools, you can chose the preferred URL as explained by google and get google to treat the two kinds of content as the same content. This will consolidate your website ranking all to a single URL as well as avoid google from getting confused over duplicate content.

Google displays this note at the end of the linked explanation above:

"Note: Once you've set your preferred domain, you may want to use a 301 redirect to redirect traffic from your non-preferred domain, so that other search engines and visitors know which version you prefer."

A 301 redirect is the actual way of telling the bots of any search engine without getting a privilege like google webmaster tools that the sub domain is not harboring duplicate content. So, if you choose not to use google webmaster tools or would you also care for your website SEO on other search engines like Bing, you should rather create a 301 redirect from www to your root domain instead of a cname or an A record.

Most web developers are going to argue with you why this is extra effort and the content is actually the same but here's how the Yoast article on duplication explains it:

"Has that developer gone mad? No, he’s just speaking a different language. You see the whole website is probably powered by a database system. In that database, there’s only one article, the website’s software just allows for that same article in the database to be retrieved through several URLs. That’s because in the eyes of the developer, the unique identifier for that article is the ID that article has in the database, not the URL. For the search engine though, the URL is the unique identifier to a piece of content. If you explain that to a developer, he’ll start getting the problem, and then, if he’s anything like most developers I know and have worked with, he will come up with reasons why that’s both stupid of the search engine and why he can’t do anything about it. He’s wrong."

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