In a previous blog piece we talked about what Google Search Console is and why website owners should be interested in using it. In this blog piece we will go over how to set up Google Search Console so you can get it up and running and begin to improve your website, your SEO, your marketing and content, and ultimately your search rankings and conversions.
Adding Your Website to Google Search Console
To begin, you first need to sign into the Google account associated with your website. Do not use your personal email account if you are adding your business website. When you’ve signed into your account, click on Google Search Console. It will ask you to select either the domain or url prefix property type.
This property type is for the entire domain of the website that includes all subdomains (for example: m or www) and multiple protocols (http, https, ftp). If you select the domain property option, you will have to verify it using a DNS record. This option is only necessary if you have multiple subdomains, in most cases the URL prefix option will suffice.
This is the most common property option used and is required in order to import search query data into Google Analytics. When entering the URL, make sure to use the URL that your homepage defaults to. We suggest copying the URL from the address bar and pasting it here to make sure they line up.
If your website supports both http:// and https:// you will need to add both of these as separate sites as well as each domain. If you have multiple domains, you will need to tell GSC which domain you prefer. Otherwise Google may view them as separate sites and split page views, backlinks, and engagement into two or more. This is not what you want. You should also set up a 301 redirect to your preferred domain from your non-preferred domain if you haven’t already done this.
A third type of property is a Google hosted property such as Blogger. As long as you are logged in to the Google account associated with that property, verification will happen immediately.
Once you have added a website property, Google begins to track data for it, even before the verification process is complete. Tracking data does not mean that your website’s search rankings will go up, though. That happens after you access the information from Google Search Console and use it to make improvements and fix any problems it reveals.
Verifying Your Website on Google Search Console
In order to add your website to your Search Console account you will have to prove or verify that you own the site or part of the site that you want to add. This is because Google Search Console gives you access to confidential information about the site’s performance and only you and people you specifically authorize should have access to this information.
If you select the URL-prefix property option, there are multiple options for verifying ownership. A URL prefix includes only URLs with the specified prefix, including the protocol (http/https), not all the subdomains. After you enter the URL, follow the instructions for verification. Different options for verification include using one of the following:
- HTML file upload – This type of verification involves uploading a verification HTML file to a specific location on your website.
- HTML tag – To verify using an HTML tag, add the <meta> tag provided by Google Search Console to the <HEAD> section of the HTML code of the homepage.
- DNS record – To verify with a DNS record, sign into your domain registrar and verify your website directly from GSC or add a DNS TXT or CNAME record.
- Google Analytics – If the Google account you are using has edit permission to the website’s Google Analytics account, you can select this option to verify the account. This option will not work if you are using Google Tag Manager to add the analytics tracking code, using certain website plugins, or have the tracking code in the incorrect place.
- Google Tag Manager – To do this you will need container-level permissions to View, Edit, and Manage in GTM. This method is often finicky as it requires the tracking code to be added to a specific area of the website code. Oftentimes if the code is added through a plugin this verification will not work.
- Website Plugin – While not an official method, there are a number of website plugins and apps such as Yoast SEO that have an option in the settings to verify your website on Google Search Console.
Submitting a Sitemap
While you can wait for Google to crawl your website, there is no guarantee Google’s bots will find and index every page of the website. Submitting a sitemap through Google Search Console is a crucial step towards getting your website to show up in search engine results. To do this, go to the Sitemaps tab under the Index category and to add your sitemap’s URL path. The most common sitemap path is /sitemap.xml.
Performance / Search Query Reports
One of the main features of Google Search Console is the performance report which shows data on how your website shows up on the Google search engine. The four main metrics are clicks, impressions, click through rate, and average position. This data can be broken down further by query, page county, and device. Monitoring the performance report helps determine the SEO effectiveness of your website and allows users to pinpoint areas of growth and decline.
The data that Google Search Console collects about your website can also be brought into Google Analytics by linking the two accounts. Doing this will allow you to analyze your site data even more effectively. We will cover how to connect them in a future blog post, so check back.