Either you are a professional web developer, an SEO expert or a passionate blogger, you always need to know if your website or blog needs any fixes so that it can perform better in search results.
This is where Google Search Console comes into play (previously known as Google Webmaster tools).
Web presence is all about staying ahead of the competition so that your blog could be discovered more and to get better click-through rates (CTRs). For example, a search result on the mighty first position in SERPs (search engine results pages) gets 60% more clicks than the one just on the second position. That’s a huge difference.
1st position result in Google search
Google Search Console Introduction
So what’s so special about Google Search Console? It will help you in getting that first position by not only detecting problems which could harm your SEO but also revealing a lot of other useful information so that you can optimize your website performance accordingly.
We have put together this ultimate guide on how to setup Google Search Console properly so that you can get the most out of this versatile tool. Although we will cover most of the areas but the major features we will discuss will be:
- Add and verify property.
- Introduction to Search console dashboard.
- Fixing problems related to Google search appearance.
- Website Traffic and related info.
- Your blog or website index report.
- Sitemap submission and crawl report.
- Security problem if any.
If you are already using and have a Google Analytics account, preferably use the same account to login to Google Search Console otherwise use your Google account to login.
Add Property (website)
The first thing you need to do is to add your site to Google Search Console. click Add Property button at the top. Google uses a term “Property” for websites.
Add your website name and click Add.
This method is similar to submit url to Google search engine which has been discontinued now.
Did you know you can also monitor Android App with Google Search Console. Just choose Android App option instead of website.Woopoo's Tip
Our next step is to verify the website or blog to officially take the ownership. Why do you need to verify your website with Google Search Console?
It is because the data revealed to you will be quite confidential and only the person who has the ownership of that website should know that information. Other people who try to add your website and spying on you will get stuck on this verification stage. Make sense!
Website Verification in Google Search Console
Google Search Console offers you different options to verify your website. See Recommended method and Alternate methods below.
We will use HTML file upload method but first let’s see all the options one by one.
Selecting this method will generate an html code for you which you have to add in you <head> section of your website.
If you are using WordPress, see if the theme you are using offers to add header code otherwise you can use a plugin like Insert Headers and Footers.
Domain name provider
You will see a list of web hosting providers out of which you can select yours to verify your website. You will see most of the well-known hosting providers like Bluehost and GoDaddy in the list.
What it says use your Google Analytics account to verify your website. Google Analytics code should already be in <head> section to make it work.
HTML file upload
You will be provided with a downloadable file which you have to upload to your server.
Google Tag Manager
It is another service from Google mostly for marketing professionals which you can also use for website verification.
The two most common methods are HTML tag and HTML file upload and we are going to use the latter one.
The steps are self explanatory but a little step-by-step explanation won’t hurt.
- Download the html verification file first. Don’t close this tab.
- Open a new tab and login to your web hosting CPanel > File Manager. Go to public_html or root directory and upload the html file. You can also use an ftp account for the same purpose. see our article on how to use ftp account with WordPress for more details.
- Now visit the URL of that html file. It should be like http://www.yourwebsite.com/html-code-file.html replacing html-code-file with the one you downloaded.
- Back to Google Search Console, click I’m not a robot captcha and then Verify button.
- Congratulations, you have successfully verified your owndership of your site. Click Continue.
Click your website link to access its dashboard.
Google Search Console Dashboard
Once verified, you will land on Google Search Console home or simply dashboard. We will go through it in detail. Dashboard is the place from where you can access all of your website information.
Let’s dive into the menu options now.
Search Appearance is everything related to how your website will appear in google search results. Being a goal to improve your search visibility, this should be the most important information to take immediate action on.
Structured Data is a way to tell Google what is your article about. In return Google will enhance your search results visibility by adding more features like a small image, article ratings etc. Look for any Structured Data errors and fix them immediately.
Back in the days, we setup our Search Console account for learningcms.com and we instantly got a lot of Structured data errors. While drilling down this issue, we came to know that a lot of our articles were missing entry-titles which means <h1> tags. We immediately addressed this problem we found only because of using this great tool. The errors got fixed in Structured Data too.
To check if your article holds the right structured data, try Google Structured Data Testing Tool.
It is a way to tell Google about the important parts of your article manually by highlighting name, description and other stuff. Just highlight one or two articles and Google intelligent system will learn and do the rest of the job.
To start with Data Highlighter, click Start Highlighting button and enter a url of any one of your articles. Google will guide you with the rest. See the video below for more information.
As the name suggests, you will be shown with any fixes you can do to improve your search engine visibility. For example in the image below, some of the articles may have short meta descriptions we need to fix.
Click the item and the list of articles will be shown which need fix. Give these articles a good informative description to boost your search results.
This is the section you will mostly find yourself. Search Traffic holds all information how your website is performing in Google search results. What keywords are bringing people to your website, sites that are linking to your site, mobile usability and related very useful information. Based on this information you can set your keyword research and SEO strategy.
This section will give you a very good estimate about total number of clicks your website is getting, keywords data (Queries), pages which are getting most clicks and other very useful information. This will give you an idea what your visitors are looking for so you can make your strategy accordingly.
On top of this section, you can even sort or compare your reports by Clicks, Impressions, CTR and Position.
Links to Your Site
Self explanatory. It will show all the other website links which are linking to your site also known as backlinks.
It is not necessory to visit this section very often but give it a visit at least in a month to check if any harmful sites are linked to your site. They can affect your rankings so get rid of them by using Google Disavow links tool
Internal links will be shown in this section. Internal links are the ones which are inter-linked with your website’s other articles.
If you are indexed pages in Google are decreasing or your website traffic is getting lower day by day, this section is the one you need to check. Fingers crossed before clicking because it will list all the Google penalties hit your website.
If the message is No manual webspam actions found, take a deep breadth as you are saved but if you have shown a list of actions need to be taken then you are in trouble.
Yes! all webspam will be shown here. This will mostly occur when your content guidelines are not matching with Google webmasters guidelines
You have to fix all issues listed here to get your glory back. Once done with all the fixes, send reconsideration request to Google.
These penalties are different than Google algorithms penalties like Google Panda.Woopoo's Tip
Google Index will generate reports about your pages index status in Google. It will show you how many pages have been already indexed in the past.
This is another section you will find yourself mostly in your upcoming visits to Google Search Console. This section will tell you how and how often Google is visiting your site and which type of data Google is getting access to or if there is any blocked resources as well.
If Google is facing any problems crawling your website, it will dump all that information here. Make sure everything is clear here otherwise fix the errors.
You will see a report how your website is performing in terms of Google crawling. Look for a steady increase and you are good to go. However instant droppings or even instant spikes should ring your bells. The good thing, Google will notify you for possible reasons so don’t hate Google for this.
Crawling is a process to scan information on a web page to make it available in search results. Search engines use bots or spiders for this process.Woopoo's Tip
Fetch as Google
Fetch as Google is for testing purposes. Enter a URL of any of your website page and click Fetch.
Google will simulate the crawling process and fetch the URL via Googlebot. It will instantly show you the result in case of success or if any errors found. The results will be shown in the form of status update at the same time. You will be shown in one of the following statuses.
- Complete: Your page successfully has been crawled by Google. No index issues found.
- Partial: It means some of the article resources has been blocked and cannot be crawled.
- Redirected: It means crawl request has been redirected to another page.
- Not Found: The URL you have submitted doesn’t exist on your website. Check for any typos in the URL.
- Not Authorized: Google has been blocked from crawling the URL.
- Blocked: Again Google has been blocked but this time due to robots.txt. Check your article for noindex
Another frequent question we have found people asking whether to use Fetch, or Fetch and Render?
Fetch will only crawl the HTML of your page and respond you accordingly. It will not take care of any additional resources you are using on the fetched page like any images or videos. Consider Fetch as a fast way of fetching specified URLs.
Fetch and Render tool on the other hand is a complete operation of fetching an article including HTML and other resources like images and videos. Moreover it will render the article according to the platform you will select either Desktop or Mobile Smartphone.
robots.txt is an optional file you can place on your web server to direct Google bots. We have a complete detailed article on what is robots.txt and how to use it.
click Test to check your robots.txt status. If everything good, you will get an OK message.
Sitemaps is the section you should really care about. You can submit your website’s XML sitemap here. Based on the submitted sitemap, Google will show you the overall status of your website pages crawled and indexed respectively. Don’t worry if your indexed pages are less than your submitted articles as indexing takes time.
To make an XML sitemap for your website, see our tutorial create an xml sitemap for WordPress
Although optional, submitting a sitemap is absolutely recommended.Woopoo's Good Practice
To add a sitemap through Google Search Console, click Add/Test Sitemap button.
Enter the URL of sitemap and Submit it.
It’s always better to see a blank page here. If your website is running a malicious code or been hacked, you will see notices here to fix those issues.
Here is a great video from Google with a great help if your website got hacked.
Add user to Google Search Console
Most of the time you don’t need to add users to Google Search Console but if you are working in a team environment or you hired someone temporarily to work on your site, it’s a good idea to make a restricted account for him. You can also add as many users as you want to make a team.
To add a new user in Google Search Console, click the gear icon on the top right and select Users and Property Owners.
Click Add a New User on top right to make a new account and set its permissions either full control or restricted access.
Google Search Console vs Google Analytics
It looks like the two services offering the same set of features but there are major differences between Google Search Console and Analytics. You will never get reports in Google analytics which you will get in Google Search Console.
For example Google Analytics is completely unaware of how your website is performing in Google search results, neither it will give you any type of information if your website or blog has broken links or other related issues.
Similarly although Google Search Console do show you number of clicks you are getting but it is unable to differentiate between direct traffic, referral traffic and traffic by other means and as you may already know Google Analytics is quite good at it. Google Analytics features like Bounce Rate, user experience and other similar features are also missing in Google Search Console.
Google Search Console Good Practices
- It’s always a good practice to add both www and non-www websites because Google sees both domains as separate websites.
- Similarly add https versions of www and non-www if required.
- It’s also a good practice to set preferred domain. To do it, click the Gear icon on top and select Site Settings. From the window, select your preferred domain option.
- Connect Search Console to Google Analytics to get the most of these two applications.
When it comes to site monitoring, Google Search Console is really an indispensable tool at your disposal. No free tool currently matches its benefits and the valuable data it exposes to site administrators. You can take laser-focused actions by reading Google Search Console reports properly.
We just reached to the end of our Google Search Console review and tried our best to cover all important features in this guide. Using the steps above you can add multiple domains to Google Search Console and monitor them separately.
Do let us know if you still have any questions by using the comments section below.