What is Google Search Console? Why and how to use?

Google Search Console

Last Updated on 21 August 2020 by Lukasz Zelezny

What is Google Search Console, and why should you use it? Once upon a time… (well, not all that long ago when you consider Google didn’t land on our computers until 1998) Google created a tool to help web developers maintain and troubleshoot their website’s presence in Google’s search results.

This was dutifully named Google Webmaster Tools.

 

However, in their infinite wisdom, Google decided that it wasn’t just handy for webmasters to understand what was happening behind the scenes. They thought it pertinent for anyone to have access to that information, and to boost their website performance.

What is Google Search Console?

So, in 2015, they changed its name to Google Search Console and promoted it as a valuable free monitoring tool for:

  • Business owners
  • SEO specialists
  • Digital marketers
  • Site administrators
  • Web developers
  • App creators

What is Google Search Console used for?

GSC helps you to monitor, maintain and troubleshoot your website’s presence in Google Search results. It does this with a range of tools and reports that make everything simple and straightforward to see and understand.

Its main functions include:

  • Confirms Google has found your website and has crawled its content.
  • Helps you to fix any indexing problems, and then allows you to re-index the new or updated content.
  • Provides a mass of search data about your site—including:
    • Which search queries you appear in
    • How often you return a result
    • How often users click through from a result
    • Ranking keywords on your site
    • Your site’s page rankings for specific keywords
  • It alerts you if it picks up any spam or indexing issues and site penalties.
  • Shows you which sites link to yours.
  • Encourages troubleshooting for AMP, mobile usability, and other search features.

Why would you want to know all of this stuff? Well, there’s a lot of competition out there. Google processes over 5 billion searches every day. To get found in all of that traffic, you need to understand your website’s ranking and performance. Using that information, you can improve your results to achieve those all-important conversions.

Why use Google Search Console?

According to Google itself, here’s why: to improve your performance on Google Search.

Okay, so how? Well, by taking care of these vital components:

Optimise your content with Search Analytics

You’ll find out which search queries are resulting in visits to your site. By analysing your impressions, clicks and position in searches, you know how to do more of the good stuff, and resolve the areas that aren’t working.

Getting your content on Google

You can submit your URLs and sitemaps to make sure they are crawled. You can also check that Google has the most up-to-date version of your site in its servers.

To receive alerts about any issues and instruction into how to fix them

GSC emails you whenever it spots something amiss. That way, you can identify which sites or pages have issues, how to fix them and to let Google know when you’ve taken care of the problem.

To better understand how Google sees your web-pages

The inspection tool uncovers a highly detailed view of the crawl, indexing, and information on your pages—directly from Google’s index.

How to use Google Search Console

This depends on the level of your experience and precisely what you want to achieve from its tools.

A beginner with very little time to spare

If you have a basic website and run a small business, you should use GSC to understand how searches work, and how to feature on more Google products (including YouTube, Google Maps, etc.) so you can be found more often.

You should then use GSC to optimise your website and become easier to find.

With your new results flying in, GSC will help you measure them and use them to boost your results even further.

Beginners with the time and the inclination to learn

If you’ve got a little time to invest, it’s worth it; the results will speak for themselves. GSC teaches you about SEO and how to create the best chances of attaining traffic. Not any old traffic though—relevant traffic for your product and service, to attract new customers and conversions.

SEO operative and marketers

Advanced users use GSC to redesign ineffective or poorly performing sites. They deep-dive into its vast range of reports, analysing areas of concern, to customise and boost performance.

  • Control crawls and indexes
  • Create sitemaps
  • Target international and multi-lingual sites
  • Migrate pages and complete sites
  • Manage user experience
  • Optimise for mobile
  • Design search appearance

Web developers

Website developers and managers utilise GSC’s range of reports to monitor test results and to debug the site code.

  • Monitor reports for spikes in Index coverage, performance, and mobile usability. For those with AMP pages (Accelerated Mobile Pages—a stripped out version of the HTML, especially for boosting mobile performance), the AMP status report and rich results status reports are invaluable.
  • Use inspection tools to understand issues in indexing and scripting.
  • Learn how to structure data, use AMP, mobile best practices, and making the most from your API access.

How to add your site to Google Search Console

Adding your site to Google Search Console is incredibly straightforward.

  1. Sign in to your Google Account and access Google Search Console.
  2. Click ‘Add property’.
  3. Choose the type of from URL-prefix, Domain, or Google-hosted
  4. Verify your site.
  5. Data should begin to appear over the next few days.

Verifying your site

The current methods of verifying a site in Google Search Console are shown in the following list. Don’t worry; Google provides detailed, easy-to-follow instructions to get you up and running.

  • HTML file upload
    By adding a single HTML file, created specifically for you and your site.
  • HTML tag
    You can add a <meta> tag to your homepage or another specified page. Again, the code is user-specific to determine your site.
  • DNS record
    This method works by adding a string value to the TXT record of your domain with your provider.
  • Google Analytics tracking code
    Google recognises the GA tracking code inserted in your homepage or another specified page in between the <head> tags.
  • Google Tag Manager container snippet
    Placing the <noscript> portion of the Tag Manager code immediately after the <body> tag allows GSC to verify your site. You must have the correct permissions, though, or the verification will fail.
  • Google Sites
    Again, the Google Analytics Tracking Code method allows verification when using Google Sites.
  • Blogger
    New blogs created on Blogger are verified automatically when added. If not, add the property to GSC, and the blog will verify automatically. Older blogs must be verified using the HTML tag method.
  • Google Domains
    Any Google registered domain will be verified automatically when added to Google Search Console.

How to verify Google Search Console on WordPress

As one of the more popular CMS systems, here’s how verification works using the relevant options as described above.

Using the HTML file option

Once you’ve added the site as a property, you can choose to upload the HTML file via FTP. Drop it into the root directory and check for verification on your GSC control panel.

Using the HTML tag option

If you don’t have access to FTP, copy the HTML tag code and head to the SEO>Dashboard of your WordPress site. Select Webmaster tools and paste the code into the Google Search Console field. Hit save changes and check with GSC that the update has worked.

How to integrate Google Search Console with Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides a wealth of information that’s a little different to that of Google Search Console. To get the best out of both sets of data, you can link them together, which provides you with even more valuable reports.

From then on, you can access your GSC information in Google Analytics. With less jumping backwards and forwards between systems, the data is easy to read and analyse for patterns and performance.

Linking them is simple.

  1. Log into your Google Analytics account
  2. Go to Acquisition>Search Console
  3. Click on Set up Search Console data sharing
  4. Choose the relevant GSC account

It’s that easy. And now all that data is yours to monitor and process, in one simple space.

What does Google Search Console crawl do?

When a search is performed, Google digs into its database to provide you with millions of results that relate to your keyword phrase.

Crawling: To find those pages, Google is continuously scouring the Internet for new and updated pages. This part of the process is called crawling.

New pages are crawled if they’re linked to from another website or if they’re submitted manually to Google. When a site owner delivers a sitemap, Google crawls all those pages of the site.

Indexing: Once new pages are discovered, Google analyses the content to understand what the site and its pages are about. This information is stored in the Google Index—a massive database compiled over many computers.

Serving and ranking: When you type your search query into Google, it matches the content in the Google Index to the phrase, and serves what it believes to be the highest-quality pages. It uses a complex system of many data to rank those pages.

Google Search Console Crawl Stats report

GSC provides a Crawl Stats report so users can understand how Google views their pages.

Spikes in the report indicate an issue, as generally, your crawl rate should be stable, growing steadily with the growth of your site.

Your crawl rate might drop if you add a new robots.txt rules, if there is broken HTML or unsupported pages, your site responds slowly, or for a few other reasons. Spikes in your crawl rate can happen if you introduce a lot of new information.