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1As with everyone with a website that represents my business, I am constantly searching for the edge when it comes to search engine optimisation.

One of the things that Google considers very important is page speed. To check this they even have a tool – page speed insights. This tool allows you to check your page load speed and will give you instructions on how to fix the things that are causing your site to be not as fast as it needs to be.

If you are running your site on WordPress, it’s relatively easy to improve your speed. You install plugins that allow you to make the changes you need to improve your speed.

Only problem with WordPress plugins is that they are a bit like a house of cards. The more you add the more likely you are to have a problem with them. It’s a delicate balancing act you find yourself in.

I have just recently had a problem with a plugin that caused a catastrophic Google ranking problem for me. One day I was rising right up the rankings and the next day I was off the map. What had happened?

This is where Google Webmaster Tools comes into the story. With Webmaster Tools I was able to see that I had a sudden rise in 403 errors. This is what Webmaster Tools are designed for. They are a suite of tools that Google has provided to allow you to check your site health from their point of view.

For those of you who are non technical, web page errors have various numbers, and the client errors, such as a page not found, are in the 400 range.

A 403 error basically means that for whatever reason, Google is unable to crawl your site. But why? What had happened to cause this? It was ok a couple of days ago.

A quick Google search and dusting off some old computer troubleshooting skills and the culprit was found. The cache plugin I was using to improve my page speed was causing the errors. A quick uninstall, reinstall and reconfiguration solved the problem. I still don’t know why something that was working fine one day was not the next, but sometimes these things just happen.

Back on Google Webmaster Tools I started to check the ability to fetch the pages. Yes it could. Yay! back on track.

And that is why Webmaster Tools is something I consider essential to the monitoring and maintenance of your site and something you should check daily. It will tell you so much about your ranking in searches and things that may affecting your rankings. For example, if Google can’t search your page, that will kind of affect your rankings (just a little bit).  So if your Google ranking is important to you then you need to use Webmaster Tools.

Of course if you aren’t computer literate enough to check these things, there’s always the option of hiring a web professional (nudge, nudge, wink wink).

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Shaun

A computer specialist who has had a long and varied career in IT, starting with the days of Novell, progressing through Microsoft on the way to Cisco and network security.Now running Revolution Web Design, to provide customers with great Web Design, SEO and digital strategy advice.