Getting Started with Google Search Console
Of every platform that search engine optimization professional needs in their toolbox, there’s one that’s more valuable than all the rest. Providing insights into performance on the world’s biggest search engine, it’s essential for maximizing any site’s rankings in search engine results pages – and best of all, it’s free. Of course, we’re talking about Google Search Console.
In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at this ubiquitous platform and walk you through the process of setting it up and using it for SEO.
What is GSC?
Known as Google Webmaster Tools until 2015, Google Search Console, or GSC, is a free platform designed to provide webmasters with the tools and reports they need to monitor and improve their site’s rankings in organic search.
Once you know how to use it, it lets you quickly and effectively gather information on things like incoming links, site speed reports, indexing issues and your sitemap.
Helpful on both a macro and micro level, it’s essential for SEO and can be a webmaster’s best friend. But if you’ve never used it before, it can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry – it’s much easier than it seems.
How to Set Up Google Search Console
The first thing you need to do is log into your Google account. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to create one. This is the only requirement to use GSC.
Once this is accomplished, open Search Console and add and verify ownership of your site. If you’re using both HTTP and HTTPS, you’ll need to add both as separate sites. You should also list every separate domain (e.g., YourSite.com, blog.YourSite.com and www.YourSite.com).
Google conveniently provides several ways to verify ownership, including:
- Uploading an HTML file to a specific location on your website
- Copying the unique Google Analytics code you use on your site
- Copying a snippet of code from Google Tag Manager
- Adding a DNS TXT or CNAME record
This process will probably require the most hard-coding skills of anything you’ll do in GSC, but don’t worry. Google provides easy-to-follow instructions to guide you through the process.
First Things First, Submit Your Site
Now that you’re all set up with GSC, you need to make sure your website is being indexed and shown in search results. The easiest way to do that is to submit your sitemap to search console.
This is a fairly simple process:
- Locate your sitemap page on your site
- Open GSC and navigate to Index>Sitemaps in the left navigation pane.
- Delete any old or outdated sitemaps that may exists
- Click on “Add a new sitemap” and click submit. (Note: you only have to submit the end of the URL. Provided your sitemap file is saved on the domain that matches the Search Console property.)
- Google will verify the sitemap can be found and read. However, it may take some time before it is crawled.
Using GSC to Boost Organic Traffic
Now that you’re all set up in Search Console, it’s time to get to the fun stuff: using the data it gives you to increase your organic traffic. Here are some of the tabs you’ll use most frequently:
The Overview tab gives you an eagle eye view of your website’s activity. From this you can take a closer look at specific areas like:
- Coverage – i.e., how many pages are indexed
- Experience – page loading speed, mobile usability, etc.
URL Inspection Tool
Use this tab to make sure your web addresses aren’t inadvertently sending Google crawlers in the wrong direction and negatively impacting the way your site is crawled and indexed.
One of the biggest benefits of GSC is learning how visitors are ending up on your site. Go to Performance>Search results for information about your clicks, impressions, clickthrough rate and average search position for different keywords.
You can mine this data for a lot of useful information, including identifying keywords you’re underperforming for, correlating different pages to different stages of the sales funnel and finding new keywords.
From this section you can check your coverage, sitemaps and removals.
This will show you how your website it processed by Google, including any page errors that could be hurting your search rankings. It will show you valid web pages, pages with warnings and pages that have not been indexed.
Use this tab to submit a new sitemap after updating your website or discover errors Google bots encountered when crawling your site.
This tab will let you know which pages on your site are impacted by temporary removals, outdated content and SafeSearch filtering.
You’ll use this tab to check your site’s usability scores and fix issues that are negatively impacting visitors.
Important parts of this are:
- Page experience
- Core web vitals
- Mobile usability
Security and Manual Actions
If you’ve broken any of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, either intentionally or inadvertently , you could be subject to a penalty. This tab is where you’ll find out if you have a penalty, as well as information about what’s causing it.
This will show you what sites are linking to your site and what anchor text they’re using. This can be useful for determining what type of content is generating backlinks and identifying spammy links to disavow.
Google Search Console is an extremely useful tool for search engine optimization – and best of all, it’s absolutely free to use. Of course, it does require a bit of SEO knowledge and understanding to use.
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