I was recently talking to my friend Cap at StopBuyingCrap.com and he shared a harrowing tale with me about what happens when you stop monitoring your Webmaster Tools account. Apparently his site had been hacked, Webmaster Tools warned him about it, but since he never logged into to check… he never knew. It didn’t help that his focus was on another project and so that message, along with a decrease in traffic and revenue, sat in his Webmaster Tools inbox for an entire month!
What is Webmaster Tools?
If you aren’t familiar with Google’s Webmaster Tools, get familiar with it. It’s one of the many ways you can check the health of your site based on what Google thinks. By adding your site, Google will be able to tell you if it’s experiencing any problems crawling the site, what pages it has difficulty with (duplicate META data, server errors like 404s and Not Founds, etc), and any recommendations they have to improve performance (such as upgrading to the latest version of WordPress).
It was in one of these messages that my friend Cap was told that his site was hacked – “potentially compromised.” It was a pain to clean up the hack but it was necessary. He only knew about it because of Webmaster Tools.
How to Set Up Webmaster Tools
It’s almost trivial. All you do is log into Webmaster Tools and click on Add a Site, it’s a red button. Then, you need to verify ownership of the domain. You can do this up uploading a file or an alternate method (adding an HTML tag, via Google Analytics, or Domain name registrar). If you don’t have your FTP credentials handy, the easiest way is probably via Google Analytics or updating your theme to include the META tag.
Once you verify, you get can start getting data for your site and clean up any minor issues you have. It’s hard to say whether something has an impact but I figure that if Google is bothering to tell you, you might as well fix it if you can.
Now that you have it set up, be sure to check it!