Getting Started with Google Search Console

Most website owners have heard of Google Webmaster Tools, which was renamed Google Search Console (GSC) in May 2015 but many still don’t use it. With most of the organic traffic coming from this search giant, Google Search Console has become ever more important in providing a wealth of search performance data about websites and mobile applications to webmasters, site owners, internet marketers and search engine optimization professionals. Let’s take a deeper look into what Google Search Console can do for you and how do you get started on it.

Importance Of Google Search Console

According to Google, there are best practices you can follow to improve how your site is indexed and ranked in search results. For anyone interested in monitoring and maintaining high rankings in the SERPs, Google Search Console is what you should be reviewing regularly. Along with Google Analytics, adding Google Search Console is one of the first things to do when starting a new site in order to optimize your website for search engines so that you can get an insight into how web visitors found you and other useful details about user behavior on your site.

GSC provides information about your sites performance for specific search phrases and queries. You can find out which of your posts get the most visitors from search or monitor the sites linking to you. It is also possible to detect any page not found errors, other HTML, or security issues that Google has discovered on your site. These are key indicators of the overall indexability of your site.

How to Start Using Google Search Console

Setting up GSC is fairly simple, once you have a Google account. Go to the Google Search Console page and sign in.

Step 1: Add a Property

Google Search Console needs you to add something to track, which it calls a property, and it can be a website or an Android app. For today example, we are going to proceed as though we are working with websites.

Once you have logged in, you will see an Add Property button on the homepage. Type in the name of the property and click the Add button.

Step 2: Verify Your Site

To prove ownership of your site, you get a number of verification options. Choose one. When the verification process is complete, you will see a big green check mark. Google recommends that you use more than one verification method for more resilient ownership.

Step 3: Link Google Analytics

You need to link your Google Search Console to your Google Analytics account so that they can seamlessly share information to provide you with even more meaningful data and reports to analyze your site performance. To do this, go into the site you want to link in the search console dashboard and from the drop-down menu click on the Settings icon to select Google Analytics property. Opt for the appropriate Google Analytics profile on the next screen, and click save.

Step 4: Generate a Sitemap

To ensure that Google is crawling your site properly and indexing all the relevant pages, you need to add a sitemap in any format supported by Google. Whatever method you choose, the end result will be a sitemap where you can point at the file (eg yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml) in Google Search Console.

Step 5: Submit Your Site to Google

You may already have submitted your site to Google when you set it up so that search bots can crawl your site but Google Search Console offers you another way to do this. To register a sitemap in Google Search Console, go to the Crawl menu on the left hand side of the main dashboard and Fetch as Google, then select the Fetch button. When complete, click on the Submit to Index button. Once done, you will get a report that the URL and linked pages have been submitted to Googles index.

The first time you add your website to the Google Search Console account, you will receive a notification from Google with a checklist of actions to Improve the search presence of yourdomain.com and links to other help resources within Google.

Exploring Google Search Console

The dashboard of the Search Console gives you a quick overview of any significant or critical messages that Google has sent you. You can get to know the current status of your site regarding Crawl Errors, Search Queries, and Sitemaps. You will also be notified via email.

The Search Console can be segregated into 6 main sections:

1. Messages – You will get mostly automated messages about your site to alert you to things such as an increase in the number of page not found  occurrences or a drop in rankings. You may also find information regarding manual penalties or other actions too.

2. Search Appearance– You get access to details on how your site and pages appear in the search results, including information about Structured Data (your schema.org data), Data Highlighter, Sitelinks, HTML Improvements (specifically titles and tags of your pages) and errors regarding Accelerated Mobile Pages, which allows you to easily fix any outstanding issues.

3. Search Traffic– Search Analytics allows you to sort and filter information about how well your site is performing in the search results based on queries, pages, countries, devices, search type and dates. You can view clicks, impressions, click-through rate and average position details for each query. You can also find information on backlinks and anchor texts, internal links and mobile-usability issues within the Search Traffic tab.

4. Google index– It provides information on how many of your pages are indexed and what keywords you are using the most. You can also remove URLs from Googles index in here, if you don’t want them to display any longer.

5. Crawl  This section gives you details on Errors (such as 404 page not found) found on your site. You can fix or redirect missing pages to improve the user experience on your site. You will also find Crawl stats on how frequently Googlebot crawls your content

6. Security Issues– If Google detects any suspicious activity within your site, such as malware infection or hacking, you will get a report in this section. It works as a potential warning system and is not a foolproof security system.

Final Thoughts

This brief introduction to the Google Search Console will hopefully have given you an idea about how you can access many powerful tools built into this console to monitor your sites performance in search results and improve content accessibility, detect malware and spam issues too. Google Search Console may lack the flash of Google Analytics, with no nifty charts or real-time data but a little quality time with GSC can vastly improve how your site performs in Googles index.

For a novice, this can be a bit overwhelming. Let us help. At DirectiveGroup we can help you set up and manage your Google Search Console so that you get the most out of it.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at DirectiveGroup, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact them today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524