If you run your own website, you’re probably always looking for ways to improve your SEO and guide traffic to your own site. At the same time, you might be asking yourself how to manage or improve the way people search for and find your site on Google.
Enter Google Search Console (GSC), a tool from Google used to understand all corners of their website from a search result perspective. From traffic and web page performance to impressions, clicks, and search positions, this tool can dramatically change how people find you or your site online.
Read on for a beginners guide on how to set up and use GSC!
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google to help you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search result.
To start, regardless of whether or not you use GSC, your site will show up in Google searches. What GSC offers is a better understanding of the current status of your site on search result pages, with functions and data points including the abilities to:
Setting up GSC is completely FREE. There are no paid upgrades or subscription fees for eternity. If you’re reading this and haven’t signed up yet, it really is a no-brainer!
If you just registered for GSC, great! The next step is to add and verify your ownership of your site(s). Adding a site to Search Console is a very simple process.
Next, you have to verify your site. Thankfully, you’ve got a variety of options to do so:
You can verify ownership of your site by uploading a special HTML file to it. This file is tied to a specific user, say, an administrator. On the Search Console dashboard, select "Manage site," then "Verify this site." The option for an HTML file upload is listed under the "Recommended Method," or "Alternate Method" tabs.
When you select this method, you will be asked to download an HTML verification file that will then be uploaded to your site. If you’ve followed our steps correctly so far, you’ll see a page showing that your site has been verified.
Note: Do not make any changes to the content of your HTML file or the file name, or GSC may not be able to verify the site. If you verify the site using this method, do not delete the HTML verification file from your site.
You can verify your ownership of a site by adding a <meta> tag to the HTML of a specific page. Google will verify that the meta tag exists in the correct location. If you have some experience working with HTML code, this method will be a breeze for you.
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 in relation to 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 you’ve added the verification code provided by GSC, save and publish the updated code. The last step is to double check the code by opening your site's homepage and viewing it’s source code. The verification code should be clearly visible in the <Head> section.
Once you're sure the code is added to your site's homepage, go back to GSC 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.
Note: If you verify the site using this method, do not remove the HTML tag from your site. If the HTML tag is removed from your site’s source code, Google will be unable to verify it.
To use this verification method, you’ll first need to sign in to your domain name provider (Example: electriqmarketing.com) and add a new TXT record. Google will then verify that your personal record is present and associated with your domain.
When you select the domain name provider method of verification, it not only proves your ownership of the main domain, but also of all the subdomains and subdirectories associated with it. If you have a large website with many pages, we recommend following this method.
Note: DNS changes may take some time to verify. If Google does not find your record immediately, wait a day or two and retry the verification process.
If you have used Google Analytics (GA) to track your site's traffic, you can verify your site using your existing GA tracking code associated with your site.
Note: Do no modify the provided code and keep it exactly the same. Once your site has been verified, do not remove the GA code from your site.
If you already use Google Tag Manager (GTM) for your site, this might be the simplest and most straightforward way to verify your site.
To use 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 make sure the GTM code is placed immediately after your site's <Body> tag.
Note: Once your site has been verified, do not remove the GTM code from your site.
After the site you submitted has been verified by Search Console, you must add this resource to your account. Or Search Console will not start analyzing the site for you.
Simply follow Google’s instructions and you are ready to complete your setup steps of your Search Console account.
Sitemaps are files that give search engines and web crawlers important information about how your site is organized and the type of content available there. Sitemaps can include metadata, with details about your site such as information about images and video content, and how often your site is updated.
By submitting your sitemap to Search Console, you can things easier. However, submitting a sitemap isn't mandatory, and your site won't be penalized if you don't submit a sitemap.
If there are certain things on your site you'd like to keep out of search engines, you can accomplish this by using a robots.txt file. A robots.txt file placed in the root of your site tells search engine robots (i.e., web crawlers) what you do and do not want indexed by using commands known as the robots Exclusion Standard.
If you want to check your robots.txt file to see exactly what it is and isn't allowing, log into Search Console and select the site whose robots.txt file you want to check.
If you make any changes to your robots.txt file using Google's robots.txt tester, the changes will not be automatically reflected in the robots.txt file hosted on your site. Luckily, it's pretty easy to update it yourself.
After you've signed up for Search Console, you'll receive email if any unusual events occur with your website. Unusual events include indications that your website has been hacked or problems that Google had when crawling or indexing your site. We will also email you if we detect that your site violates any of Google’s search quality guidelines.
Every month or so, take a look at your Search Console status, which is the simplest way to get a quick health check on your site:
Check Search Console whenever you make important site changes to monitor your site’s behavior in Google Search.
To get the most out of the information provided by Search Console and Google Analytics, you can link two accounts together.
That's all it takes to start getting the most out of Search Console and Analytics!