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A Beginner’s Guide to Google Search Console

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmaster’s Tools, is a product offered by Google that allows website administrators or owners some ability to monitor and manage their site’s presence on Google search results. Search Console can be a really effective tool in helping understand how Google perceives a website.

Setting Up Google Search Console

Step 1: Log in to Google Search Console with your Google account credentials. You will be directed to a page that looks like this:

The next step is verifying the ownership of your website.

Step 2: Enter your website URL (for CSU Social Blog it is http://social.colostate.edu)

Now, there are five methods by which you can verify ownership. The idea with each is that you copy a snippet of code generated by Search Console and paste it on your website using any of the methods. For four of the five, you would require the help of your website developer or ‘edit’ permissions in your Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager.

If you use Yoast plugin in a WordPress website, the easiest method, in my opinion, is HTML Tag. Here’s a quick walk-through of what you need to do with this verification method:

  • Copy the HTML code generated by Search Console
  • Login to WordPress
  • Go to Yoast Plugin, add the code in Google Search Console box and hit ‘Save Changes’
  • Go back to Search Console and hit ‘Verify’

And that’s it! You are all set to use this tool.

Basic Optimization with Google Search Console

Search Console is loaded with features but let’s talk about some that are absolutely essential:

XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a way of explicitly signaling to Google a list of all URLs meant to be indexed by Google. Your site’s XML sitemap generally resides at yoursite.com/xml

If you do not see anything at this location then you might need to build a new XML sitemap. There are a number of tools that you can use to create one. WordPress’ Yoast Plug-in helps you generate XML sitemaps. Once you have your sitemap in place, you can submit the URL to Google Search Console by going to the ‘Sitemap’ report.

Use the ‘Coverage’ report to Manage Site Errors

The coverage report displays how Google perceives URLs within a particular website. It shows you:

  • Errors: Potential Site errors that prevented Google from indexing the webpage. These include server errors, redirect errors, page not found (404 errors), etc.
  • Warnings: A page indexed by Google but explicitly blocked using robots.txt file by the website owner features in the ‘Warnings’ list
  • Valid URLs: All your website pages that are in Google’s index
  • Excluded URLs: All URLs that were not indexed by Google due to some reason

It is critical to keep an eye on errors and warnings. If you see the count of errors and warnings increasing over time, you should take a deeper dive into potential causes. Google suggests self-explanatory fixes for all these errors and warnings. I will cover some quick fixes for each of these in a future blog.

Optimize Content with ‘Performance’ report

This report gives an overview of what search queries you are showing up for, the number of impressions and clicks for your webpages, and the average position on Google for that query or page.

To optimize your site content based on this report, do this:

Look for queries that have low Click-Through (high number of impressions but low clicks). Try to include the exact match of these queries into their corresponding webpages. You can include these keywords in page titles, meta descriptions, and within the on-page content. The idea here is to align your site’s content to the search queries. The higher the relevancy of your page titles, descriptions and content to a search query, the higher the CTR, and as a result, you can expect to have a higher position in the search results.