Your 2021 Guide to Google Search Console
If you have a beautifully designed website but aren’t really sure if it’s serving its purpose, or you’re managing a site for someone else, you’d want to know how it’s performing.
Good thing there are several tools available for collecting and analysing data about your website. Best of all, some tools are free to use. And one of the best free tools for gaining valuable insights about your website is Google Search Console (GSC).
What is Google Search Console?
Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), Google Search Console is a free Google property that gives you access to in-depth reports that can help you optimise your website and improve its SEO performance on Google search.
With Google Search Console, you’ll learn valuable information on how Google ranks your site, search traffic numbers, manual actions, security issues, mobile performance and more.
Note: If you do notice any manual actions or security issues in Google Search Console, we recommend speaking to your developer or SEO provider immediately as it can greatly impact your site performance.
Why You Should use Google Search Console
Since Google Search Console is designed to monitor website performance and provide valuable insights via your Google Search Console account, you’ll also know what aspect of your website needs work or improvement.
Examples of areas for improvement include technical items such as crawl errors that need to be resolved and underperforming keywords which could result in lowered search traffic.
Aside from bringing certain errors or problems to the attention of your webmaster or yourself, Search Control on Google will also notify you when a new error turns up so you can get it fixed ASAP. This is invaluable for all website owners and business owners that rely on online enquiries or sales.
Ready to Set up Your GSC Account?
To access Google Search Console, you first need to set up your account.
Here’s how to set up Google Search Console:
- Create your own Google Search Console account.
- Log into your Google Search Console account and click on ‘Add Property.’
- Enter the site URL and click on ‘Add Property.’
- You will then be prompted to verify your site.
After adding your website to Google Search Console, you’ll need to verify your site as proof that you’re the webmaster, site owner or some other authorised user.
Site verification can be done in different ways, although there are 4 common methods used:
- Adding a Google Analytics (GA) code, if you already use GA to track site metrics;
- Adding an HTML tag, if you possess HTML coding experience;
- Uploading an HTML file to your site’s root directory’;
- Verifying your site through your domain name provider.
Once your verification is complete, you can link your Google Analytics account to Google Search Console account by using the GSC dashboard and clicking on the website you’re trying to link. When this is done, you can start using Google Search Console to get important insights that’ll help you improve site performance.
Using Google Search Console to Boost Site Performance
A preliminary step you can take when using Google Search Console for the first time is to set your preferred domain, i.e. whether you want to use the www or non-www site version. You can do this by checking your site settings and clicking on your preferred domain version (although there’s an option not to).
If you don’t choose a preferred domain, Google might treat either domain versions as ‘separate references to separate pages,’ which could result in less powerful backlinks, ultimately impacting your search engine ranking.
Now’s the time to check other tools you can use to improve your website and explore some reports.
Submit a sitemap through Google Search Console to assist Googlebot in crawling and indexing your pages. When done right, this can boost your site rankings in search results. This is especially crucial when you have a site containing hundreds or thousands of pages.
Creating a Google sitemap document is easy.
You can use the Google Sitemap Generator to automatically create the XML file you need. Submitting it to Google Search Console won’t take long. However, you need to wait for the sitemaps report that states Google has indexed your sitemap. It should then result in Googlebot crawling and indexing your site more efficiently.
2. URL Indexation
A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or web address specifies where a resource (e.g. a web page) is located on the internet. It also indicates how the resource should be retrieved (or the protocol), i.e. HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, etc.
By using the URL Inspection tool, you can analyse specific URLs or pages on your website and request indexing by Google in the hopes new pages or changes are added quickly to their search index. You can retrieve the page you want to see from Google’s index. After retrieval, you can then compare it with the live page on your site to check for differences.
Other technical info would show when and how Google crawled it, as well as how it appeared when it was crawled, and errors, if any. This includes a breakdown of any structured data on that page including product schema, FAQ schema, and more. Understanding how Google reads a page on your website allows you to optimise how it appears in Google search results.
Some errors may be due to Google not being able to crawl your page correctly. In knowing these errors or any indexing issues, you can find ways to address these problems and help Google crawl every URL on your website properly.
We recommend every webmaster use the URL Indexation tool and requesting indexing of your URL when adding a new page or making substantial changes to an existing page.
3. Performance Report
The performance report lets you see what pages and keywords your website ranks for in Google. You can use the data to analyse overall site and individual page performance using different metrics such as Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and average position.
Make a schedule to check the performance tab regularly so it’ll be easier to see which keywords or pages need optimisation.
4. Core Web Vitals reports
Core Web Vitals indicate to Google the quality of the user experience on your website. Therefore, the Core Web Vitals report provides a quick overview of the improvements needed to enhance user experience on your website. These could include issues like slow or incomplete page loads and non-responsive web design.
Core Web Vitals comprise three items: largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. These ‘vitals’ are a set of factors that’ll form part of the Google total ‘page experience’ or UX score.
5. Crawl Stats Report
The Crawl Stats report in Google Search Console provides data about the website’s Google crawling history. For example, it can show information on how many and when requests were made, your server response, and other availability issues.
Through this report, you can find out what’s wrong with your website that’s causing Google to encounter serving problems when crawling it. You can then proceed to the next step, which is troubleshooting whatever is causing Google to not crawl your website properly.
6. Mobile Usability
By using the Mobile Usability tool, Google Search Console can show you if there are any usability problems concerning your mobile website or certain mobile pages. In simple terms, this tool will tell you if mobile phone users are experiencing any problems with your site.
Remember, responsive, mobile-friendly design is crucial to excellent UX performance and high organic search ranking. If there are any errors in the report, you’ll be able to see which pages have problems and the fixes required.
Start Using Google Search Console to Improve Website Performance
Although it may seem like we’ve shared a lot about what Google Search Console can do for you, there’s so much more to learn about GSC and how it can help you optimise your website.
However, with the basics of Google Search Console shared here, we’re hoping you’ll start using it to enhance your digital marketing strategy.
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Alex has a Bachelor of Commerce from Curtin University (Marketing & Advertising), while also being an accredited professional in Google Analytics and Google Ads. He also presents at local universities, small business expos and industry meetings, teaching business owners and professionals about SEO, online marketing, industry trends and SEO best practices.
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