What is Google Search Console and why link it to your website?
Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a free service offered by Google that allows, through the use of a dedicated platform, to monitor the presence of your website in the search results index.
It is an indispensable tool for every Webmaster and website owner who wants to understand what users’ interactions with the website and the behaviour of each page in Google’s Index.
Search Console thanks to tools and reports, allows you to:
- Check that all pages on your website have been correctly crawled by Google bots;
- Look for possible errors in the scan and the possibility to request new indexing of the contents;
- Send a sitemap of your website and tell to Google bots which pages you wish to include in the index and which you do not;
- Verify website performances over time, Click Through Rate that led to a visit, how many impressions your website gets on the index and the average position;
- Identify sny problems related to usability on mobile devices and necessary corrections;
- Check the presence in the search index of breadcrumb, site link boxes, structured data and any related errors;
- If necessary to take action to increase the security of your website;
- How many external links and which websites are linked to the pages of your website.
Who should use Google Search Console?
Anyone who has a website has every interest in knowing how their tool behaves in the Google search index.
In fact, a website is a tool for promoting your business. Customers and potential one can get in touch with it and find useful information that meets their needs.
It’s in the interest of any entrepreneur to know how his promotional tool is performing. For these reasons, it is necessary to know Google Search console if you are:
- The owner of an offline business with a website;
- Manager of online activity of any kind;
- An expert in web marketing and SEO;
- A web developer.
How do I connect Search Console to my website?
If you are interested in checking and improving your site’s ranking in the Google search index and want to spend time on content optimisation (SEO), well, you are in the right place.
You do not need to know any programming language. All you need to do is follow this simple guide that will guide you step by step to connect Google Search Console to your website.
Create your account or sign in to the service
First, go on this page, press the “Start now” button and create your free account on Google to access the service.
If you already have an account, simply log in with your credentials. If not, you will need to create a username and password to access the service.
Once you have created your account you can access the Search Console via this link. Add it to your Bookmarks bar for quick access.
Add and verify website ownership
It is necessary that Google can verify that you are the owner of the website. On the Search Console, confidential data is shown to website owners and substantial changes to the way website data are shown on the search index, can be made.
You can complete the verification:
- Verifying the ownership of the domain;
- Checking the URL prefix.
How to verify domain ownership
The domain ownership check is done by adding a TXT type record, within the DNS of the domain.
First, you will need to enter your domain name in this format: www.yourwebsitename.extension in the window that appears when you click on “Add property”.
Copy the code provided by Google and paste it into the DNS management panel to create a new TXT record.
How to check the URL prefix
This verification allows you to check traffic only for URL addresses that are verified and provide several possibilities for verification.
The first thing to do is to enter your domain name in this format: https;//www.yourwebsitename.extension in the window that appears when you click on “Add property”.
Remember that the URL must be fully indicated. For example, for my website, I could enter the URL: https://www.giuliovallata.it/en/
You have several possibilities to verify the ownership of the domain.
Upload an HTML file to your website
To proceed with this verification mode you must download the file provided by Google and upload it to your domain hosting service or via FTP.
Add an HTML meta tag to your website’s homepage
By selecting this verification mode you will need to copy the code provided by Google and insert it into the <head> section of your website, before closing the </head> tag.
If your website is built in WordPress and uses a Genesis theme, you can do it quickly this way: access the WordPress panel to manage your website, in the Appearance section, navigate to Customize and then to “Header / Footer Scripts” and paste the code in this section.
Check domain ownership with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager
If you have already linked Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager to your website, you can use this method. Google Search Console will make sure to find the Google Analytics tracking code on your website.
If you have not yet linked your site with Google Analytics, I will explain how to do so in this guide.
How to start using Google Search Console
Now that you have verified the ownership of the domain or URL, pages linked to your property will be included in the Google index.
The process that leads a page to appear in the search results can be schematically shown in these three steps:
- Display in search and ranking.
The crawling process enables Google to identify the pages on your website and to understand its content. Google decides how to index the pages on your website and when to return them to users as a search result.
Google automatically scans your website in search of new content.
After the new page has been crawled, Google analyses the text content, images, video files and other data to try to understand what’s the content of the webpage.
This activity is called indexing.
Display in search and ranking
For each search made by the user on its search engine, Google tries to find within its index the most relevant answer that can satisfy the user.
Google tries to determine, considering some known and unknown factors, the highest quality results that could offer the best possible user experience.
How to request content indexing from Google
Although the content indexing process takes place automatically, you may need to make it faster by telling Google directly which pages to scan.
This operation can be completed by sending a Sitemap via Search Console.
The Sitemap is a file contained at a URL address, for example, “https://www.giuliovallata.it/sitemap_index.xml” which contains information about the pages and content on your site. The file provides Google with a set of instructions for indexing the content.
But how is it possible to create and send the sitemap to Google?
If your website is built using WordPress, there is nothing simpler.
Creating the Sitemap with Yoast SEO and sending it via Search Console
Follow this short tutorial to create and send in a few minutes the Sitemap of your site using the Yoast Seo plugin.
To get started, enter the WordPress dashboard and from the navigation menu go to Plugin, Add New and search for the “Yoast Seo” plugin. Install and activate the plugin.
Before proceeding with the configuration, go to the “Reading” tab of the “Settings” menu and remove the flag from the item “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”. This way you are absolutely certain that Google crawlers will be able to scan the pages of your website.
Let’s begin the configuration of the Yoast Seo plugin.
From the “SEO” menu item that will appear after the plugin has been activated, navigate to “Search Appearance”.
In the “General” tab fill in the data related to “Knowledge Graph and Schema.org” indicating whether your website refers to a person or an organisation, what is its name (in the case of an organisation) and which logo it refers to.
In the “Content Types” tab you can specify what the default appearance of the content on your site will look like in the search results.
In this section you can choose:
- If you want to show the content type among the search results: choosing Yes, the content type will be included in the Sitemap, otherwise the noindex tag will tell the crawler not to include the result in the search index;
- To show the SEO settings for each content in the chosen category. By doing so you can specify for each item how to behave in the search index;
- What will be the basic setting for the Meta Title and Meta description that will be shown in the search results;
- Some additional page markup data in relation to schema.org.
I advise you to proceed as shown in the image below, for each content category.
Now navigate to “Media” and “Taxonomies” and leave the default settings.
On the “Archives” tab, I recommend disabling the “Author Archives Settings” and “Archive Settings by Date”.
Within the “Breadcrumbs” tab enable the setting and choose to display the blog page.
Leave the basic settings inside the “RSS” tab.
Generating the XML Sitemap with Yoast Seo
Once you define what content you want to include in the search index, you can generate the XML Sitemap with Yoast Seo.
To do so: navigate to the “General” section and then to the “Features” tab and press the “XML Sitemaps” button. Click on the link “See the XML sitemap” and you will be redirected to the page where the Sitemap is loaded.
Copy the link of the page.
Send the Sitemap with Google Search Console
To send the Sitemap of your website, generated with Yoast Seo, go to Search Console, browse the Sitemap section and paste the URL of the Sitemap you just copied.
Send all URLs to the Google index
Another activity that has shown me that I can make Google’s content indexing even faster is to send all the URLs on the website one by one.
This is a manual operation that takes time depending on the amount of content on your website and for which you want to request indexing.
To proceed: Paste in the address bar on the Search Console, the full url of the page you want to index.
Google will check if the page is present in the search index, notifying you of the result.
If it does, if the URL is already present in the index, you will not need to take any action.
If it is not, you can press the “TEST LIVE URL” button and wait for Google’s response, which may include the URL in its index.
Please note that this request may not be successful and you will need to wait a few days for Google to include your page in the index.
How to connect Google Search Console to Google Analytics
Before you finish the basic setup of the Google Search Console, you must also connect Analytics to Google Search Console. In this way you can measure the traffic and results of your website in relation to the search terms used by users and display the information from a single tool: Google Analytics.
To link Google Search Console to Analytics, proceed as follows:
In the Acquisition menu navigate in Search Console and Landing Pages and proceed to the setup.
You will be redirected to the Properties Setup page.
You will be able to link the reference website that you have verified in Search Console.
After a few days you can start seeing the Search Console data on your Google Analytics dashboard.