What is Google Search Console?
More Website Tools
We can never have enough tools to make our lives easier. Google has done it again with another great website/webmaster tool. Google Search console consolidates your webmaster tools in a single panel. We have compiled these articles to show you some of the fantastic features of this powerful toolset.
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console to be included in Google Search results, but Search Console helps you understand and improve how Google sees your site.
- Confirm that Google can find and crawl your site.
- Fix indexing problems and request re-indexing of new or updated content.
- View Google Search traffic data for your site: how often your site appears in Google Search, which searches queries show your site, how often searchers click through for those queries, and more.
- Receive alerts when Google encounters indexing, spam, or other issues on your site.
- Show you which sites link to your website.
- Troubleshoot issues for AMP, mobile usability, and other search features.
Anyone with a website! From generalist to specialist, from newbie to advanced, Search Console can help you.
- Business owners: Even if you aren’t using Search Console yourself, you should be aware of it, become familiar with the basics of optimizing your site for search engines and know what features are available in Google Search.
- SEO specialists or marketers: As someone focused on online marketing, Search Console will help you monitor your website traffic, optimize your ranking, and make informed decisions about the appearance of your site’s search results. You can use the information in Search Console to influence technical decisions for the website and do sophisticated marketing analysis in conjunction with other Google tools like Analytics, Google Trends, and Google Ads.
- Site administrators: As a site admin, you care about the healthy operation of your site. Search Console lets you easily monitor and, in some cases, resolve server errors, site load issues, and security issues like hacking and malware. You can also use it to ensure any site maintenance or adjustments you make happen smoothly concerning search performance.
- Web developers: If you create the actual markup and/or code for your site, Search Console helps you monitor and resolve common issues with markup, such as errors in structured data.
A Beginner’s Guide to Google Search Console
If the name “Google Webmaster Tools” rings a bell for you, then you might already have an idea of what Google Search Console is. Since Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) has become a valuable resource for so many different types of people besides web admins—marketing professionals, SEOs, designers, business owners, and app developers, to name a few—Google decided to change its name in May of 2015 to be more inclusive of its diverse group of users.
Let’s head back to square one if you aren’t familiar with GWT or Google Search Console. Google Search Console is a free service that lets you learn a great deal of information about your website and the people who visit it. You can use it to find out things like how many people are visiting your site and how they are finding it, whether more people are visiting your site on a mobile device or desktop computer, and which pages are the most popular. It can also help you find and fix website errors, submit a sitemap, and create and check a robots.txt file.
Ready to start taking advantage of all that Google Search Console has to offer? Let’s do this.
If you’re new to Google Search Console, you’ll need to add and verify your site(s) before you can do anything else. Adding and verifying your site in Search Console proves to Google that you’re either a site’s owner, webmaster, or another authorized user. After all, Search Console provides you with all sorts of incredibly detailed information and insights about a site’s performance. Google doesn’t want to hand that kind of information over to anybody who asks for it.
Adding a site to Search Console is a straightforward process. First, log in to your Search Console account. Once you’re logged in, you’ll see a box next to a red button that says “Add Property.”
Enter the URL of the site you’re trying to add in the box and click “Add Property.” Congratulations, your site is now added to your Search Console account!
Next, you will be asked to verify your site. There are a few different ways you can go about this. Which method will work best for you depends on whether or not you have experience working with HTML if you have access to upload files to the site, the size of your site, and whether or not you have other Google programs connected to your site? If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry—we’ll help you figure it out.
This verification method is best for users and site owners who have experience working with HTML code.
From the Search Console dashboard, select “Manage Property,” then “Verify this property.” If the “HTML Tag” option does not appear under “Recommended method,” then you should click on the “Alternate methods” tab and select “HTML tag.” This will provide you with the HTML code you’ll need for verification.
Copy the code and use your HTML editor to open the code for your site’s homepage. Paste the code provided within in the <Head> section of the HTML code. If your site already has a meta tag or other code in the <Head> section, it doesn’t matter where the verification code is placed about the other code; it simply needs to be in the <Head> section. If your site doesn’t have a <Head> section, you can create one for the sake of verifying the site.
Once the verification code has been added, save and publish the updated code, and open your site’s homepage. From there, view the site’s source code. The verification code should be visible in the <Head> section.
Once you’re sure the code is added to your site’s homepage, go back to Search Console and click “Verify.” Google will then check your site’s code for the verification code. If the code is found, you will see a screen letting you know the site has been verified. If not, you will be provided with information about the errors it encountered.
When your site has been verified by Search Console, do not remove the verification code from your site. If the code is removed, it will cause your site to become unverified.
To use this method, you must be able to upload files to a site’s root directory.
From the Search Console dashboard, select “Manage site,” then “Verify this site.” If “HTML file upload” is not listed under “Recommended method,” it should be listed under the “Alternate method” tab.
When you select this method, you will be asked to download an HTML file. Download it, then upload it to the specified location. Do not make any changes to the file’s content or the filename; the file must be kept the same. If it is changed, Search Console will not be able to verify the site.
After the HTML file has been uploaded, go back to Search Console and click “Verify.” If everything has been uploaded correctly, you will see a page letting you know the site has been verified.
Once you have verified your site using this method, do not delete the HTML file from your site. This will cause your site to become unverified.
The domain name provider is the company you purchased a domain from or where your website is hosted. When you verify using your domain name provider, it proves you’re the owner of the main domain and own all of the subdomains and subdirectories associated with it. This is an excellent option if you have a large website.
From the Search Console dashboard, select “Manage site,” then “Verify this site.” If you don’t see the “Domain name provider” option listed under “Recommended method,” look under the “Alternate method” tab.
When you select “Domain name provider,” you will be asked to choose your domain name provider from a list of commonly used providers, such as GoDaddy.com. If your provider is not on this list, choose “Other,” and you will be given instructions on creating a DNS TXT record for your provider. If a DNS TXT record doesn’t work for your provider, you will have the option of creating a CNAME record instead.
If you already use Google Analytics (GA) to monitor your site’s traffic, this could be the easiest option for you. But first, you’ll need to be able to check the site’s HTML code to make sure the GA tracking code is placed within the <Head> section of your homepage’s code, not in the <Body> section. If the GA code is not already in the <Head> section, you’ll need to move it there for this method to work.
From the Search Console dashboard, select “Manage site,” then “Verify this site.” If you don’t see the “Google Analytics tracking code” option under the “Recommended method,” look under the “Alternate method” tab. When you select “Google Analytics tracking method,” you’ll be provided with a series of instructions to follow.
Once your site has been verified, please do not remove the GA code from your site, or it will cause your site to become unverified.
If you already use Google Tag Manager (GTM) for your site, this might be the easiest way to verify your site. If you’re going to try this method, you need to have “View, Edit and Manage” permissions enabled for your account in GTM. Before trying this method, look at your site’s HTML code to ensure the GTM code is placed immediately after your site’s <Body> tag.
From the Search Console dashboard, select “Manage site,” then “Verify this site.” If you don’t see the “Google Tag Manager” option listed under “Recommended method,” it should appear under “Alternate method.”
Select “Google Tag Manager” and click “Verify.” If the Google Tag Manager code is found, you should see a screen letting you know your site has been verified.
Once your site is verified, do not remove the GTM code from your site, or your site will become unverified.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console might seem like they offer the same information, but there are some key differences between these two Google products. GA is more about who is visiting your site—how many visitors you’re getting, how they’re getting to your site, how much time they’re spending on your site, and where your visitors are coming from (geographically speaking). Google Search Console, in contrast, is geared more toward more internal information—who is linking to you, if there is malware or other problems on your site, and which keyword queries your site is appearing for in search results. Analytics and Search Console also do not treat some information in the same ways, so even if you think you’re looking at the same report, you might not be getting the same information in both places.
To get the most out of the information provided by Search Console and GA, you can link accounts for each one together. Having these two tools linked will integrate the data from both sources to provide you with additional reports that you will only be able to access once you’ve done that. So, let’s get started:
Has your site been added and verified in Search Console? If not, you’ll need to do that before you can continue.
From the Search Console dashboard, click on the site you’re trying to connect to. In the upper righthand corner, you’ll see a gear icon. Click on it, then choose “Google Analytics Property.”
GSC Users, Owners, and Permissions
There are two GSC role types. I know you might be itching to get to the good stuff (cough the data), but it’s important to do this right.
- Owner: An owner has total control over their properties in GSC. They can add and remove other users, change the settings, see all data, and access every tool. A verified owner has completed the property verification process, while a delegated owner has been added by a verified one. (Delegated owners can add other delegated owners.)
- User: A user can see all data and take some actions but can’t add new users. Full users can see most data and take some actions, while restricted users can only view most data.
Think carefully about who should have which permissions. Giving everyone full ownership could be disastrous — you don’t want someone to change an important setting accidentally. Try to give your team members just as much authority as they need and no further.
For example, at HubSpot, our technical SEO manager Victor Pan is a verified owner. I’m an SEO content strategist, which means I use GSC heavily but don’t need to change any settings, so I’m a delegated owner. The members of our blogging team, who use GSC to analyze blog and post-performance, are full users.
Here are detailed instructions on adding and removing owners and users in Search Console.
There’s a third role: an associate. You can associate a Google Analytics property with a Search Console account — which will let you see GSC data in GA reports. You can also access GA reports in two sections of Search Console: links to your site and Sitelinks.
A GA property can only be associated with one GSC site and vice versa. If you’re an owner of the GA property, follow these instructions to associate it with the GSC site.
A sitemap isn’t necessary to show up in Google search results. As long as your site is organized correctly (meaning pages are logically linked to each other), Google says its web crawlers will normally find most of your pages.
But there are four situations a sitemap will improve your site’s crawl ability:
- It’s huge. The more pages you have, the easier it is for Googlebot to miss any changes or additions.
- It has lots of “isolated” pages. Any page that has few inbound links from other pages is harder for a web crawler to discover.
- It’s new. Newer sites have few backlinks (links from other sites), making them less discoverable.
- It uses rich media content and/or shows up in Google News. In these cases, your sitemap makes it easier for Google to format and display your site in search.
Once you’ve built your sitemap, submit it using the GSC sitemaps tool.
After Google has processed and indexed your sitemap, it will appear in the Sitemaps report. You’ll be able to see when Google last read your sitemap and how many URLs it’s indexed.
There are a few terms you should understand before using GSC.
This is a search term that generated impressions of your site page on a Google SERP. You can only find query data in Search Console, not Google Analytics.
Each time a link URL appears in a search result, it generates an impression. The user doesn’t have to scroll down to see your search result for the impression to count.
When the user selects a link that takes them outside of Google Search, that counts as one click. If the user clicks a link, hits the back button, then clicks the same link again — still one click. If then, they click a different link — that’s two clicks.
When a user clicks a link within Google Search that runs a new query, that’s not counted as a click.
Also, this doesn’t include paid Google results.
This is the mean ranking of your page(s) for a query or query. Suppose our guide to SEO tools is ranking #2 for “SEO software” and #4 for “keyword tools.” The average position for this URL would be 3 (assuming we were ranking for literally nothing else).
CTR, or click-through rate, is equal to Clicks divided by Impressions, multiplied by 100. If our post shows up in 20 searches and generates 10 clicks, our CTR would be 50%.
GSC offers several different ways to view and parse your data. These filters are convenient, but they can also be confusing when familiarizing yourself with the tool.
There are three search types: web, image, and video. I typically use “web” since that’s where most of the HubSpot Blog traffic comes from, but if you get a lot of visits from image and/or video searches, make sure you adjust this filter accordingly.
URL Inspection Tool
The URL Inspection tool might be one of my favorites because you get to see how Google views your website. This tool allows you to test how Google renders your site.
If you published a new blog post or redesigned a webpage, you can use this URL inspection tool to submit the URL to signal Google to crawl that page.
It’s similar to the Fetch as Google tool in the old GSC.
Pro tip: If you need to report an indexing issue, you can now “Report an Indexing Issue” by clicking the button under the URL Inspection Tool article that will take you to this form.
Now you know why Google Search Console is an essential tool for SEO professionals.
But what’s next?
Based on the changes Google Search Console has been making, we can expect to see more:
- More insights from Core Web Vitals.
- New content reporting for publishers.
- Combining Google Analytics data with Google Search Console data.
Get familiar, if you haven’t already, or get help, like from hughesagency.ca, to properly set your website(s) set up.
Article compiled by hughesagency.ca
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