In this blog series, we’ll be going over Google’s Search Console. The Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a completely free and indispensable tool offered by Google to all business owners and webmasters. While you don’t have to be signed up for Search Console to be crawled and indexed by Google, it provides fantastic insights into optimizing your site and its content for the search engine.
A one stop data repository
Search Console is where you can monitor your site’s performance, identify issues, submit content for crawling, view what searches brought visitors to your website, monitor your backlinks as well as much more. However, the most important feature of Search Console is the ability to monitor your site’s health and is where Google will communicate with you should anything go wrong with your website (i.e. crawling errors, manual penalties, malware detected on your website, etc.)
If you don’t have a Search Console account for your site, then you should get one as soon as possible. You may find that you won’t want one of the fancier, more expensive tools out there that essentially does the same thing as Google’s free tool.
All you need to sign up for Search Console is a Google account, which is something you probably already have if you use Gmail or any other of Google’s many products.
The following guide will go over the basics of what you need to know in order to work effectively within Google’s Search Console.
Adding your website to Search Console
After you arrive at Search Console, if you haven’t already, Google will ask you to add a property. Just click the big red button that says Add A Property and then input your website address into the pop-up box.
Next is verification, before Search Console can access your site, you need to prove to Google that you’re the owner/authorized webmaster for the website. There are five methods of verification for Search Console. Google doesn’t have a real preference on which one that you use, although Google does have a “recommended method” that they feel is the easiest way to go about verifying your website.
- The HTML file upload: This method is Google’s “recommended method.” Google provides you with a HTML verification file that you need to upload to the root directory to your site. Once you’ve done that, just click on the provided URL, hit the verify button and you’ll have full access to your website’s Search Console Data.
- HTML Tag: With this method, Google provides you with an HTML tag that needs to be inserted into the <head> section of your homepage, before the first <body> section. We don’t recommend this method, because if you make any further updates to the HTML of your homepage and the tag gets removed, your verification will be revoked and you’ll have to do the verification process over again.
- Google Analytics: Assuming you’ve established a Google Analytics account and your Google account is the same as the one you’re using for Search Console, then you can verify your site this way, as long as the GA code is in the <head> section of your home page and you have “edit” permission.
Once you’re verified, you’ll be able to see your site on the “Home” screen. Here you can access the site, add another property (if you’re a webmaster for more than one website), and see if you have any unread messages from Google.
Getting To Know The Dashboard
The Dashboard is where you can access all of your site’s data, adjust your settings and see how many unread messages you have.
The menu on the left side of the Dashboard is where you can navigate to all the reports and tools at your disposal. The three graphics in the center of the Dashboard (Crawl Errors, Search Analytics, and Sitemaps) are quick glimpses at your general site health and crawlability. These act as short-cuts to reports found in the menu found on the navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen.
The gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the dashboard leads you to your settings menu. This menu gives you access to a variety of tools, preferences, and admin features. From here you can set to receive email notifications from Google about your site health, set your preferred domain and crawl rate, change the address of your website if you’re moving to a new domain, link your Google Analytics account to your Search Console account, and set admin permissions for authorized users of your Search Console account.
Well, that’s it for this week’s tutorial. Next post, we’ll be going over search appearance, structured data, and the new data highlighter tool.