Get Started with Google Search Console

Are you a website owner or administrator? If that’s your case, Google Search Console is a tool you will definitely want to master. It’s a great tool that will help you make your website Google friendly and give you valuable insights about how visitors are finding your website.

Get started with Google Search Console

Important note! At the time of writing of this article, Google is still developing its new Search Console. Consequently, there are still some functionalities that are only available in the old one so sometimes it will be necessary to switch back to it.

Why even bother with Google Search Console?

It helps you:

  • make sure Google can access your content for indexing,
  • submit new content for indexing,
  • improve how your web pages are displayed in search results, and
  • make your site more secure by monitoring and resolving malware or spam issues.

It offers a number of great statistic tools to get information about:

  • which queries caused your site to appear in search results,
  • which sites are linking to your website, and
  • your site usability for mobile devices.

So where do we begin?

First things first. Sign into Google Search Console through your Google account. Once in, you will have to add a property – your website. Hit the “Add property” button in the top left corner of the console. You will be prompted to select between one of the following property types:

  • Domain, and
  • URL prefix.

The domain property type lets you verify your website across all subdomains – www, non-www, HTTP and HTTPS. If this the first time you’re adding a property, this is the recommended type as it lets you add all of the necessary subdomains at once. Data for all subdomains are aggregated for this property. The downside is you only have one method of verification available – DNS verification. To achieve this, you will have to sign in to your domain host provider and verify your domain by adding a DNS record that Google provides you with. DNS changes may take some time to apply so you will have to wait a few hours up to a day for this process to be completed.

The URL prefix property type lets you verify only one subdomain at a time. By selecting this option, you will have many more methods of verification available – HTML file, HTML tag, Google Analytics, DNS – so you can pick the one you are most comfortable with. But keep in mind, you will have to repeat this process for each subdomain.

Quick description of the recommended methods of verification:

DNS Verification

  1. In the Search Console, click on “Add property”. A Setup Wizard will appear.
  2. Select the domain property type and click next. Copy the verification record provided in the second step.
  3. Sign in to your domain host provider.
  4. In your Control Panel or other DNS management systems, add a new DNS record.
  5. Select a TXT record type, enter a @, your domain or leave blank, depending on the host provider’s instructions.
  6. Set the Time to Live (TTL) to 86400.
  7. In the Value/Answer/Destination field, paste the verification record provided to you by Google.
  8. Go back to the Search Console and follow the Setup Wizard to complete all the steps.

Upload an HTML file to your host server

  1. Select the URL prefix property type and click next.
  2. Download the file provided to you by Google.
  3. Upload the file to the root folder of your host server.
  4. Return to the Search Console to finish the verification process.

Important note! You have to upload the file to the root directory of your website. If you have a WordPress site, the root will usually be the folder containing the wp-config.php file.

Verify your website in Google Search Console by uploading an HTML file
Verify your website by uploading an HTML file.

Verify by using your Google Analytics account

If you’ve already set up Google Analytics for your website, this is the easiest and fastest way to do it.

  1. Select the URL prefix property type and click next.
  2. Select Google Analytics method.
  3. You must have a gtag.js tracking code placed in the <head> section of your page.
  4. Click on verify.

Important note! To make your domain more visible, you will want to add and verify all the subdomains of your website as mentioned above.

Well done, your site has been added and verified. Now we should be ready to go!

First steps

Set your preferred domain
A very important first step is to set a preferred domain. The preferred domain is the version of your domain (either www or non-www) that you want to show in search results (also referred to as the canonical domain). It’s also the domain that your visitors will be redirected to, whether they type in www or not.

It’s important to understand that Google sees www.example.com and example.com as two separate websites. Setting a preferred domain for your websites has a huge impact on SEO, as it helps improve its appearance in search results, helps prevent duplicate content and consolidates link juice.

In the top right corner of your console click on the gear icon and select Site Settings. Under Preferred Domain select one of the www or non-www options (it’s up to you which one you choose).

Google Search Console - Set Up Your Preferred Domain
Set up your preferred domain.

Submit sitemap and configure robots.txt
To give Google instructions on how to index your website you have to submit the sitemap and robots.txt files. You can read more about this topic in one of our previous posts.

Select target country
Google strives to provide the most relevant results to its users, which means that search results will vary from country to country. If you have a generic domain such as .com or .org, but you plan to target users in a specific country, it is important to let Google know what is your target audience.

Go to Search Traffic > International Targeting > Country tab and select your target country.

Google Search Console - Select Your Target Country
Select your target country.

Important note! If you have a country-specific domain, then this will be selected by default and you won’t be able to change it.

Link your Google Analytics property with Google Search Console

To get the most out of both your Google Search Console and Google Analytics tools, you have to link these two accounts. Having these linked will integrate the data from both sources to provide you with additional reports.

In the top right corner of your console click on the wheel icon and select Google Analytics Property. All you have to do is select your Google Analytics account and hit save.

Link your Google Analytics account with the Google Search Console property
Link your Google Analytics account with the Google Search Console property.

Fetch as Google and submit to index

If you’ve made changes to your pages, the fastest way to get these updates indexed by Google is to request indexing manually. This way your changes will appear in search results as soon as possible.

Click on URL inspection and enter the URL of the page you want to be indexed or inspected. After a few seconds, you will get a short report on your web page. Click on the Request indexing button at the top (see image below) and that’s it.

Google has now sent its bots to crawl the content of your page. The changes should appear in Google within the next few days.

Request indexing of your web pages in Google Search Console
Request indexing of your web pages in Google Search Console.

Site errors in Google Search Console

One of the best features of the Search Console is their notification system. If their bots found any issues while crawling your website, you will be notified via email so you can address these issues as soon as possible.

You can also find issues, errors and manual actions listed in the console. Go to Security and Manual Actions to check if there are any critical issues with your website, such as malware or any other suspicious activities that may indicate your site has been hacked.

For indexing errors – errors that happened because Google bots couldn’t successfully crawl a web page they were supposed to due to any reason – go to Index > Coverage > Error tab.

How to check for indexing errors on your website in the Search Console.
A list of indexing errors in Google Search Console.

Index coverage report

If you have done everything correctly and you have submitted your web pages for indexing, you should be able to see data in this section after a few days. It will tell you how many of your pages have been listed by Google. If you are adding new content, you should see this number increase over time.

Go to Index > Coverage > Valid tab. Now you can click on Submitted and indexed or Indexed, not submitted in sitemap to see a list of all successfully indexed pages on your website.

See a list of all indexed web pages on your website in Google Search Console
A list of successfully indexed web pages in the Search Console.

Conclusion

Google Search Console is a must for every website owner/administrator. Hopefully, this article will show you how to configure some of the most important settings to help Google index relevant content and display data you want in their search results.

Has your site been indexed successfully? Leave a comment below!

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