Want to set up Google Search Console for your website?
Or looking for ways on how to use Google Search Console for better SEO?
This detailed and indepth guide explains all your questions around GSC, right from setting it up to using it effectively.
Let’s get started.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console (or GSC) is a free platform where you get detailed insights into the performance of your website. It tells you how Google views your site and how you can optimize it to improve its organic visibility.
It was formerly known as Google Webmaster Tool until 2015.
Here’s how the tool looks like:
It’s surprising to see how marketers often overlook it. When in reality, Google Search Console is extremely useful for your online business.
Whether you own a website or are an SEO specialist, it’s a must-have tool in your pocket.
I’ll tell you why.
Why use Google Search Console?
It may sound like I’m exaggerating, but Google Search Console is as good as some of the paid tools in the market.
This free tool gives you a great deal of information about your website.
It tells you how many people are visiting your website, which search queries show up your site on Google, how responsive your website is on a mobile device, which sites link to your website, and much more.
It can also help with fixing indexing problems and submitting a sitemap.
Here’s how Google explains it:
How to setup Google Search Console?
Let’s get straight to the point.
#1: Integrate your website with Search Console
The first step is to add your site to the GSC and verifying it.
For that, log in to your Search Console.
Then, copy and paste the homepage URL of your site into the ‘Domain’ field (e.g. https://yourwebsite.com)
Next, you will be asked to verify your account.
There are different ways to verify your site. The most popular and easiest ones are verification via:
- HTML file: you need to upload a unique HTML to the site’s root directory.
- Domain Name Provider: you need to add a special TXT record to your domain settings
Once you have verified, move to the next step.
#2: Link Google Analytics to Search Console
Login to your Google Analytics account and navigate to the ‘Admin’ button at the bottom of the left menu.
Select the site you want to link and then click on the ‘Property Settings’ link button.
A new screen will appear on the right side. Scroll down and click on the ‘Adjust Search Console’ tab under the Search Console section.
Click on the ‘Add’ link.
Scroll down to check the box if it has the correct website, and then hit the ‘Save’ button.
There you have it.
Your Google Analytics and Search Console will be linked together.
Tip: This is an optional step that you can skip as well. However, linking the two platforms makes it easy to cross reference data and run better analysis.
#3: Submit sitemap via GSC
Availability of a sitemap makes it easy for Google to crawl and index your web pages.
Once you have created a sitemap on your website, use GSC to submit it for Google to take its cognizance.
Go to the Search Console dashboard and open the Sitemaps report.
Enter the relative URL to the sitemap in the Sitemaps report and click Submit.
#4: Wait for some time to see your data
Now that you have uploaded your site to Search Console, you might immediately want to see the data.
But it may take some time before diagnostic and other information gets displayed.
If you see a ‘No data yet’ message on the dashboard, check back later. As soon as Google starts crawling your pages, it will update all data automatically.
But in case you still don’t see any data, it could be for the following reasons.
#5: Understanding your website performance
Let’s learn how to read GSC data.
What is a performance report?
The performance report is the page that will give you complete details about how your site is performing in Google Search results.
It includes details on:
- Average position in search results
- Click-through rate
- How often your site comes up in search results
- Information about special features, & more
But the main question is:
Do we need it?
Of course, we do.
Using this information, you can improve your strategy and enhance your site’s performance.
For example, it tells you which keyword is being used to make queries on smartphones. You can use this to improve your mobile targeting.
Similarly, when you know which page has the highest and lowest click-through rate, you can then try to optimize those pages more.
Metrics that fall under performance report
There are a few terms that you need to understand.
5.1 > Clicks
If you want your potential customer to buy your product or visit your website, you need them to click on your website link.
Clicks let you know which page is being clicked and which isn’t.
This information can be used to deliver more value to your users by improving the page and getting more clicks. But clicks get generated only when you rank on the first page of Google.
Any click that takes users outside of Google Search gets counted as one click. And if a user clicks a link and hits the back button, and then clicks the same link again, it will not be counted as two. It is one click again. Also, clicking a link within search results that runs a new query is not counted as a click. Let me explain. Suppose you search for ‘dog breeds,’ the result might include a gallery of images of different breeds. When you click on any one of those images, it performs a new query for the chosen breed instead of taking you to a new website. You stay inside the search result only. Thus, this click doesn’t get counted.
Any click that takes users outside of Google Search gets counted as one click.
And if a user clicks a link and hits the back button, and then clicks the same link again, it will not be counted as two. It is one click again.
Also, clicking a link within search results that runs a new query is not counted as a click. Let me explain.
Suppose you search for ‘dog breeds,’ the result might include a gallery of images of different breeds. When you click on any one of those images, it performs a new query for the chosen breed instead of taking you to a new website. You stay inside the search result only.
Thus, this click doesn’t get counted.
5.2 > Impressions
Impressions tell you if your website or web pages are appearing on the search result or not.
As soon as you publish a page or content, it may not necessarily rank on the top. And so, you won’t get enough clicks. Thus, getting impressions becomes essential then.
If you are not getting any impressions, it could be an early sign that there’s something wrong with your website/webpage. And, it needs immediate improvement.
How impressions get counted?
Whenever a link URL appears in a search result, it creates an impression irrespective of the rank. Your link can be on page 1 or page 100 of the search result, it still generates an impression.
Even if the user doesn’t scroll down to view the result, the impression gets counted.
5.3 > Average CTR
A CTR tells you how relevant searchers are finding your page.
An average CTR, or click-through rate, is the percentage of impressions that resulted in clicks.
Suppose, your post shows up in 50 searches and generates a total of 25 clicks. Your CTR would be 50%.
5.4 > Average Position
It tells you the average position of the site in the search result.
Let’s say you have an article on ‘Why content marketing is important for your inbound strategy.’
You are ranking in position #2 for ‘inbound strategy’ and position #4 for ‘content marketing.’ The average position would be three here.
But there’s more to it. Position may differ by country as well, so that also affects the overall average position.
It is important because it measures how well your pages are performing. If you have the highest average position, it means you are outranking other search results.
Bonus Tip: When you scroll down the performance report, you will see a section of ‘Query.’ It shows a list of keywords. You can use those keywords to do your keyword research.
#6: Studying Index Coverage report
What is an Index Coverage report?
The index coverage report shows which pages of your websites are in Google Index. It tells you which URLs on your website Google has visited, or tried to visit.
What it conveys?
This report shows the result, which is categorized by status.
Each page has four status values:
Error: The page is not indexed. First, find out the specific error and then try to fix it. It should get your immediate attention.
Warning: The page is indexed, but it still has some sort of issue that you should look into.
Valid: The page is indexed, and there is no error.
Excluded: It includes those pages that aren’t indexed, and the chances are that you have explicitly excluded it by a noindex directive. Or, it simply might be duplicate of a page that they have already indexed on your site.
Besides telling which pages are indexed (and which aren’t), it lets you know about the kind of errors that are preventing them from getting indexed.
You might hear this a lot: Link Building is dead.
But it isn’t. It is one of the most effective SEO strategies around.
You can measure the effectiveness of your link building campaign using Google Search Console Link report.
To access this report, hit ‘Links’ in the GSC sidebar.
When you click on it, it will display a report that shows you the number of internal links and external links, top linking sites, and top linking text.
In this section, you can view the pages that contain external links.
It shows you which pages have the most incoming link and linking sites.
This stat is important because it is a good indicator of your online presence and authority. Google gives importance to sites with good quality external links.
In this section, you can find the pages that internally link to a specific page.
Internal linking is crucial because it connects your web pages to one another. It helps users discover your content quickly.
Top linking sites shows you which websites have the most links to your site.
This metric is essential because it tells you whether or not authoritative websites are linking you.
7.4 > Top Linking text
This list mentions the most frequently used text to link to your website.
Note that this data is case-sensitive.
It is important to track because it tells you which words are being used to discover your link. Plus, if those texts are attracting clicks or not.
#8: Is your website mobile optimized?
Google gives preferences to mobile-responsive websites. That’s why your UX and site content needs to be fully optimized for mobile.
That’s where the ‘mobile usability’ tab on the sidebar can be useful.
It will tell you whether Google considers your site mobile optimized or not.
Using this report, you can know if users are having any issues accessing your site on their mobile devices.
Look at the image below.
You will see there are three mobile usability errors.
‘Text too small to read,’ ‘Clickable elements too close together,’ & ‘Content wider than screen.’
When you click on them, it will show you pages with these issues. GSC will also tell you how you can fix them.
Thus, if you want to optimize your site for mobile use, you need to keep an eye on your mobile usability report.
#9: Other important activities
9.1 > Get to set your target country
When you set a geographical target in the Search Console, Google returns the most relevant sites for a user.
Setting your target country can help Google Search determine which countries are more important to you.
- How to set a target country
i. Click on the ‘International Targeting’ link under the Legacy tools and report section.
ii. Click the ‘Country’ tab.
iii. Check the Geographic target checkbox and choose your country target.
And if you don’t want your site to be associated with any country, select Unlisted in the drop-down list.
Note: International targeting is available only on the old version of Google Search Console.
9.2 > Have a look at security issues tab
You need to check whether your website has any security issues, mainly because it can hurt your SEO strategy.
On the sidebar, click on the ‘Security issue.’
It says, ‘No issues detected.’
9.3 > Understanding Google Crawlers
Crawl stats tab tells you about how your site is reacting to Google’s search engine crawler.
When you click on Crawl stats tab on the sidebar, it will look something like this:
There are three main sections:
- Pages crawled per day
It tells you how many pages Googlebot crawls every day. The results are shown for the last 90 days.
If the number of pages is high, and the pages crawled every day is low comparatively, then it might take months before Google processes the change.
That’s why it’s essential to read this stat so that you can work on improving your crawling rate.
- Kilobytes downloaded per day
When a search engine crawler visits your site, it downloads your pages during the indexation process.
This graph reflects how much Googlebot downloaded in kilobytes.
It can be useful in analyzing your site’s performance.
Say, your graph is consistently high, and you have high averages, it means Googlebot is crawling your site often.
- Time spent downloading a page (in milliseconds)
This section tells you how much time Googlebot takes to make HTTP requests to crawl your site.
It’s a good indication of how fast Google is indexing your site.
FAQs on Google Search Console
#1. Is Google search console paid?
No, it’s a completely free tool.
#2. What if I have multiple domains? Do I create multiple Google search console accounts?
Search Console lets you add multiple properties under a single account. You can add up to 1,000 properties in your Search Console account.
#3. Does Google search console help in the ranking?
Google search console is a collection of tools and reports that can help you monitor your performance reports. You can use this data to well strategize and optimize your site for improved search engine rankings.
#4. How do I remove a property in Google search console?
In the Settings page, select “Remove access”. And that’s it.
#5. How many websites/properties can we add in the Google search console?
You can add up to 1,000 properties in your Search Console account.
Search console extracts report from Google’s existing system. Thus, using the console does not cause any cookies to be created on users’ machines.
#7. From a ranking and indexing perspective, which is better subfolder or subdomain?
Google crawls, indexes, and ranks subfolders and subdomains precisely the same way. That means you have equal opportunity to get a subdomain ranked as you would get for a subfolder.
#8. Can I control crawl speed for my website?
Crawl speed means how many requests per second Googlebot makes to your website when it is crawling.
You can change it by reading through the steps here, but we suggest you don’t do that unless Google is really putting a lot of strain on your servers. Let Google decide an optimal crawl speed for your website.
Google search engine can be quite useful in collecting data about your website. Use this data to optimize your site’s performance and improve your search ranking.
And the best part is that it’s all for free!
So what are you waiting for? Get started already!