The success of any business relies on a lot of factors. The quality of employees, the right industry knowledge, experienced leadership, a strong value proposition for customers, a solid marketing plan, IT infrastructure and—last but not least—a great website with a steady stream of traffic coming to it.
One of the best ways to drive traffic to your website and rank higher on the search engine results page (SERP) is to set up Google Search Console.
But what is Google Search Console and how do you set it up?
We’ll walk you through every step you need to set up Google Search Console and conquer the world of SEO using Google’s powerful tools. After reading this article, you’ll go from beginner to pro.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Google Search Console?
Google’s Search Console (it used to be called Google Webmaster Tools) is a tool that helps you improve your site’s appearance on Google Search. It helps website owners and administrators monitor and improve their site’s presence in Google search results.
Thankfully, you don’t need to know how to code or understand HTML. But you will need to have some knowledge of how your website content is organized and written.
By taking just a few simple steps to set up Google Search Console, you can improve your search results and drive more traffic to your site.
What Google Search Console Shows You
- How your website is indexed by Google
- How it appears in search results
- Detailed reports on your website’s performance, including mobile usability data
- Data on search queries, average position and click-through rates
Using this data can help you find opportunities to optimize your content and improve your site’s ranking in the SERP.
SEO is a constant game of finding new ways to improve your site’s performance. So tools like Google Search Console are vital in keeping up-to-date on the latest industry trends and trends with your site.
What Google Search Console Helps With
Google Search Console offers a wide range of tools and features.
Important features of Search Console
- The URL Inspection Tool allows you to see how Google crawls and renders your web pages.
- The Performance tab gives you insights into your website’s search performance.
Search Console also gives you tools to fix issues with your website, like crawl errors and security issues. It shows which external links are pointing to your site and provides suggestions for improving mobile usability and user experience.
You can also submit XML sitemaps to help Google better understand the structure and content of your website.
In summary, harnessing the power of Google Search Console will give you an edge over your competitors.
Now let’s look at how to set up Google Search Console so you can dominate the search results.
How to Set Up Google Search Console
Follow these steps to set up Google Search Console for your website.
Step 1: Create a Google Account
First, you’ll need a Google account. (If you already have a Google account, skip this step.) Go to the Google account creation page and follow the steps to create a new account with an email address.
Step 2: Sign in to Google Search Console
Next go to the Google Search Console homepage and sign in. If you have multiple Google accounts, make sure you sign in with the one you want to associate with your website.
Step 3: Add Your Website
Once you’re signed in, click on the “Add Property” button. Enter your website’s URL in the appropriate field and click “Continue.”
Depending on your website’s setup, you will have two options to add your website: domain or URL prefix.
Domain—Use this if you want to monitor all variations of your website (www, non-www, HTTP, HTTPS).
URL Prefix—Use this if you only want to monitor a specific version of your website (for example, www or non-www).
Step 4: Verify Your Website
Next, you’ll need to verify you are the owner or administrator of your site.
Follow the verification process based on whether you chose the domain or URL prefix. This could involve adding a verification code to your website’s HTML, using a DNS verification method, or working with your domain name provider. We’ll break this part down into smaller steps.
Adding a DNS Record
You can verify your website by adding a DNS record to your domain’s DNS settings. This involves adding a specific TXT record provided by Google to your DNS records. When Google detects this record, it verifies you own the domain.
When to use this method: When you have access to your domain’s DNS settings and are comfortable enough to make changes.
Adding a Meta Tag
Another way to verify your site is to add a meta tag to your site’s homepage. This involves adding a specific meta tag provided by Google to the head section of your website’s HTML code. Once Google detects this meta tag, it will verify you.
When to use this method: When you have access to your website’s HTML code and can easily make changes to it.
What if you can’t make changes to your DNS settings or website’s HTML code? Don’t worry! Google offers other verification methods.
Other Verification Methods
You can connect your Google account to your domain name provider. This method allows Google to verify your ownership by checking the DNS provider associated with your domain name.
To do this, simply select your domain name provider from the list and follow the instructions. Google will guide you through the process and help you establish the necessary connections to verify ownership.
Also, note that the verification process can take some time, depending on the method you choose and the responsiveness of your domain name provider. It’s not an instant process. Be patient and make sure to follow the instructions accurately to avoid any delays.
Google also has a helpful glossary of terms if you ever need extra support setting up Search Console.
Step 5: Submit Your Sitemap to the Search Engine
Once you’ve verified your ownership, the next step is to submit your sitemap to the search engine. A sitemap is a file that contains a list of all the pages on your website.
Submitting your sitemap helps Google understand your website’s structure. A well-optimized sitemap ensures that search engines can easily discover and navigate through your site’s content. It also provides important information about the priority and frequency of changes to your pages, which can help search engines crawl and index your content more efficiently.
Other search engines like Bing also provide tools to submit your sitemap. If you submit your sitemap to multiple search engines, you can enhance the visibility and accessibility of your website on different platforms.
Here’s how to submit your sitemap to Search Console:
- Select the property type (domain or URL prefix) for the website you want to submit the sitemap for.
- In the left-hand sidebar, click on “Sitemaps” under the “Index” section.
- Click on the “Add/Test Sitemap” button located at the top right corner.
- Enter the URL of your sitemap. This can vary depending on your website platform or content management system. (For example, if your website is on WordPress, the default URL may be “sitemap.xml.” If you’re not sure, check your website’s documentation or ask a web developer for assistance.)
- Click on the “Submit” button.
Once you’ve submitted your sitemap, Google will start crawling and indexing the pages listed in it. This process can take some time, depending on the size and complexity of your website. You can monitor the indexing process and check the status of your sitemap submission in the Google Search Console.
Step 6: Set Up Additional Properties (optional)
You can also take advantage of advanced features to improve the performance of specific sections of your website. One of these features is the ability to configure URL Prefixes Property.
URL Prefixes Property allows you to manage and analyze subdomains or specific sections of your website separately. This gives you more control over monitoring and optimizing their performance, which can be especially beneficial for larger websites with diverse content or a lot of different subdomains.
How to Configure URL Prefixes Property
To configure URL Prefixes Property, follow these steps:
- Select your domain property from the main dashboard.
- In the left-hand sidebar, click on “URL Prefix Properties.”
- Click on the “Add a Property” button.
- Enter the URL prefix for the specific section or subdomain you want to configure (for example, “blog.example.com”).
- Click on “Continue” and follow the verification process for the new URL Prefix Property.
Once you’ve successfully configured the URL Prefixes Property, you can access specific reports and insights for that section or subdomain. This allows you to track its performance separately and make data-driven decisions to improve its visibility in search results.
You can also use the URL Inspection Tool within the URL Prefixes Property to inspect and optimize individual URLs within that section. This tool gives you valuable insights into indexation status, crawl issues and suggestions for improving the visibility of specific URLs in search results.
Step 7: Explore the Features and Reports
Congratulations! You set up Google Search Console. Now it’s time to start exploring the features and reports it offers.
Here are a few good places to start as you get familiar with everything you can do:
- Check out the Performance tab to analyze search query data
- Go to the Coverage tab to monitor indexed pages
- The Mobile Usability tab will help you identify any mobile compatibility issues
- The Enhancements tab will show you how to optimize your website’s structured data and rich snippets
Using the Search Performance Report
The Search Performance report is your main tool for monitoring your website’s performance metrics. It gives you important data, such as the average position of your website in search results, the number of clicks and impressions your website receives, and the click-through rate (CTR) for each keyword.
Here’s how to access the Search Performance report:
- Select the property type (domain or URL prefix) for the website you want to monitor
- In the left-hand sidebar, click on “Performance” under the “Index” section
You should now see a wealth of information about how users are finding and interacting with your website. The key metric to focus on is the average position. This indicates where your website ranks in search results for specific keywords.
Obviously, you want your website to appear on the first page of search results, as higher-ranking positions generally receive more clicks and organic traffic. By monitoring your average position over time, you can see the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and make adjustments.
The Search Performance report also provides insights on the number of clicks, impressions and click-through rates for each keyword.
- Clicks represent the number of times users clicked on your website in search results.
- Impressions indicate the number of times your website appeared in search results.
- Click-through rate (or CTR) is the ratio of clicks to impressions.
These metrics will help you discover which keywords are driving the most traffic to your website and show you opportunities to optimize your content.
Example: If you notice a high number of impressions but a low CTR for a specific keyword, it might be worth revisiting your page’s title and meta description to make them more compelling.
The Search Performance report also lets you filter data based on various dimensions (pages, countries, devices and search type). Digging deeper into this data can provide insights into how different factors impact your site’s performance.
Example: You can analyze the CTR for desktop versus mobile devices, or compare performance between organic search and Google News.
Enabling the Mobile Usability Report
You can also enable the Mobile Usability Report. This is a key step in optimizing your website for mobile devices. As more and more users access the Internet through their smartphones and tablets, making sure your website is mobile-friendly is crucial.
Here’s how to enable the Mobile Usability Report:
- Locate and click on your website property.
- In the left-hand menu, go to the “Enhancements” section and click “Mobile Usability.”
- You’ll see the current status of the report for your website. If the report is already enabled, you’ll see a green checkmark indicating it’s active. If it’s not enabled, you’ll see a message prompting you to enable it.
- Click on the “Start collecting data” button. This will start the process of scanning your website’s mobile pages and collecting data on their usability.
You’ll now start receiving data on how well your website performs on mobile devices. The report will highlight any mobile usability issues, such as mobile-unfriendly content, viewport configuration errors or small font sizes.
Once you identify these issues, it’s best to fix them as soon as possible. This could involve making design changes, optimizing your mobile content or improving the site’s responsiveness.
Fixing mobile usability issues will create a better user experience for your visitors and increase your chances of ranking higher in mobile search results.
Go Forth and Conquer!
There are lots of other things you can do with Google Search Console.
Now that you know how to set up Google Search Console, you are well on your way to conquering the world of SEO and optimizing your website.
In summary, Google Search Console will give you valuable insights into your website’s performance, identify issues that could be affecting your SEO, and help you make data-driven decisions to improve your website’s search engine visibility.