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Google search console beginners guide

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What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is one of the best free tools from the internet giant Google. It is used by web masters, SEO guys and website administrators because Google Search Console helps to monitor our site’s performance in Google search results. Therefore it is very very important free tool and every blogger or site administrator should have it. Google Search Console will help you improve your site rankings and it also offers in-depth data and reports for advanced SEO specialists.

Benefits of Google Search Console

GSC has a number of features and benefits. So it’s my humble advice to add your website in the google console in order to improve the site rankings. Google Search Console will help you to:

  • Optimize your website for SEO rankings
  • Find any broken links
  • Request re-indexing for any updated links
  • Find if your website is present on Google and it is crawling
  • Monitor the traffic stats and search queries that target your site
  • Let you know which sites are linking to your sites which helps in building backlinks

Let’s explore more!

Requirements

Step #1 Login to Search Console

Open the Google Search Console to add our website as a property. When you first login to the console, you’ll see the following screen.

google search console welcome page

That means there are 2 property types in Google Search Console:

  1. Domain
  2. URL Prefix

Google added Domain recently and it’s an update from the internet giant. It’s a new way to add your website and before that URL prefix was used.

This is very important to understand that Google considers domain.com and www.domain.com as 2 separate entities. Therefore, go to your WordPress dashboard and go to settings to find your domain address. I am using www.softwarespice.com for my domain, hence, it’s your choice to use with or without www and it will not affect the SEO of your site. I’d recommend to use www.mydomain.com.

website address in general settings of wordpress

Domain vs URL Prefix

Well if you can see the above image, you can clearly check now the Domain property will cover all the URLs if we just write softwarespice.com. We don’t need to add separate properties for mobile, www, http or https versions of the site.

Whereas in URL prefix which was old method, it was required to add a separate property for separate site URL. Like if I use URL prefix here, I will add separate properties for http and https versions.

I hope it’s clear now, so we will move to the next step.

Step #2 Select the Domain Property

Select the property as Domain and add your website address as domain.com and press continue.

enter domain name in google search console

If you just write softwarespice.com, it will cover all the URLs like:

  • softwarespice.com
  • http://softwarespice.com
  • https://softwarespice.com
  • http://www.softwarespice.com
  • https://www.softwarespice.com
  • http://m.softwarespice.com
  • https://m.softwarespice.com

Step # 3 Verify the Domain

Now it will ask to verify the domain name with a TXT record.

verify your domain with google search console

You need to add that TXT record in your domain name provider like domain.com or namecheap.com. If you have the access you can add it simply. Copy the record, go to the DNS provider and edit the DNS zone section and add a new TXT record and paste the code and save it. It should look something like that:

add the txt record in your dns provider

Boom! Our domain is verified. Go to property to check!

verification succeeded in google search console

Step# 4 URL Inspection

I have taken any random post’s link and pasted it into the console’s inspect URL bar to check if the URL is live on google and it is indexed.

test our page indexing in search console goole

The page is live on Google and it is currently indexed. In case of any issues, you will get an output that URL is not on Google. In case of any issues with a page or post, you can Request Indexing to bring it live on google.

Step #5 Check Performance of Your Website

Just under Overview, on the left hand side is Performance button in the search console. The performance section briefs us about the total clicks, total impressions, average CTR and position.

check performance of your website google console search
Search Type

Additionally there are 3 options to filter out the traffic coming to your site. We can check by web which is default, image and video. Hence it is very important to optimize your images on the website as people search on Google via images as well.

Date Range

Next to the search type, there is date range option in the google console. We will get the report of total amount of clicks and impressions on yearly and monthly bases. Furthermore, down at the bottom, we can customize the date range.

Add New Filter

There is plus + New sign right next to the date range box, clicking on it will ask you to filter the search by query, page, country or device. Let’s say, if I choose the country and filter the traffic from United States, the report will show us the top searched pages and posts of my website from US.

search type date range and country in google console search

Scroll down below to see the output of the search filter. You can see the top queries, top pages of your site, countries and devices.

Step #6 Coverage

In the coverage section, we get the following details about our site’s pages:

  • Pages that Google is not indexing due to some issues or errors
  • All valid pages that Google is indexing
  • Excluded pages that are intentionally not indexed

We need to go down to see the pages with error and find their details. You can see all of that in the details section.

page with errors on search console

Here you can see I have a page on my website that is have some errors. Rest of all the pages are valid and currently indexing in Google. Down below in the details section, let’s see what kind of error my page is showing.

So one of the page is showing some 5xx error, click on the Server error(5xx) to know more details about the exact faulty page. You can see right at the bottom of the page that is having some errors. We need to fix the errors with such pages and request Google Console for re-indexing.

Step #7 Adding a SiteMap

Sitemaps are very important from SEO point of view. Visit any popular blog and right down at the bottom or somewhere in the menu, you’ll find a Sitemap link. A sitemap is an XML file or a PHP script which contains the information about all pages. It helps and give instructions to search engine crawl bots, so its clear that your site should have a sitemap.

Adding a sitemap on the  site is very easy and if you want, you can create a different sitemap for pages, posts, tags and categories. But let’s add a complete sitemap of our site. There is a great website known as XML Sitemaps which generates a free XML sitemap in 2 or 3 minutes. Open xml-sitemaps.com in the browser and enter the website to get an XML sitemap.

get a free xml sitemap

We will use the default online generator as it is free. Pro sitemaps and PHP scripts have a monthly price. Let’s create it for free and once it is completed, download the zip file and save it.

download the zip file of sitemap in computer

Now login to your hosting control panel and upload the file in your public_html which is the web directory of your site.

Now get back to the Google Search Console, click on Sitemaps and add the sitemap address which should be like myexampledomain.com/sitemap.xml and click submit. Boom! The sitemap has been submitted successfully.

So that was just a general overview of the search console and the basic steps you need to do.

Time to make our site more Resilient

If you go to the Google’s Webmaster verification home page, you’ll see the following message:

Verifying with more than one method will make your ownership more resilient

google for webmaster tools

Therefore, it is highly recommended to verify our website with multiple verification methods that Google offers. That is a matter of fact that users trust more on a verified website. With that being said, Google also brings up such website at the top that is verified by all methods. Those verification methods are:

  1. Domain Name Provider
  2. HTML Tag
  3. HTML file upload
  4. Google Analytics
  5. Google Tag Manager

So here we go!

1. Domain Name Provider

We already verified our domain while we added the domain as a property. You can go above in Step # 3 and follow the steps to verify your domain. If you still face any issues, please post in comment section and I’d be glad to help.

verify ownership in domain name service

Headers & Footers Plugin

Before proceeding to the next verification, please go to your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins and install Headers and Foorters plugin.

2. HTML Tag

In this verification method, we will add a meta tag to our site’s home page. Copy the meta tag from the web masters page.

html tag for google

Come back to WordPress dashboard, go to settings and see Headers and Footers, we installed this plugin earlier. Click on it and paste the code in the script in header box and click save down below.

meta tag insert in headers and footers plugin wordpress

Click Verify in google web masters and you should see a message like that:

Great job, https://www.softwarespice.com/ is now verified! You can now use Google services for your property such as Search Console.

So we have verified our website by 2 methods. Let’s move on to the third.

3. HTML File Upload

This method is also very easy and just takes a minute or 2. When you check for the file upload button, you will get the instructions and the html file as well.

  1. Download the html file and save it on your computer. The file name will be something like googledf33fwe3rwd2d839436e2.html
  2. Login to the hosting control panel and upload the file in public_html. It’s where your all website data is stored. The process is similar as we did while uploading the sitemap.xml file.
  3. Now confirm if the file has been uplodaded successfully by pasting the link in the browser.
  4. The complete link should be like https://www.domain.com/googledf33fwe3rwd2d839436e2.html
  5. Confirm the output of the link as google site verification: googledf33fwe3rwd2d839436e2.html
  6. Never remove the html file after the verification, you’ll stay verified.
  7. Finally click verify to complete the process.
html file upload in google verification webmasters

Boom! we are now verified by 3 methods, making the site more strong. Let’s proceed to the 4th method.

4. Google Analytics

A google analytics account is required to verify by this method. As we will need the asynchronous tracking code that we will insert in the header.php file. But inserting directly in header.php can break the theme or website, therefore the safe method is to use the headers and footers plugin. I did the same and I recommend to use the plugin and not to touch header.php file.

So first we need to get the tracking code, therefore, first login to the google analytics and at the left hand side, down at the very bottom, there is admin settings symbol. Click on it and it will show all the property settings. Search for the tracking info and under tracking info, you’ll get the tracking code.If it seems to be hard to understand, just see the following image.

google analytics tracking code

Now copy the tracking code.

Paste the tracking code in the WordPress headers box in headers and footers settings and save. Go back to google webmasters and verify.

Awesome! our website is now resilient and verified by 4 different methods.

console verification by google analytics
5. Google Tag Manager

It needs a Google Tag Manager account and you must have Admin access to the Google Tag Manager account that owns the container on the page. First go to the tag manager and copy the container isntallation code.

google tag manager code

Copy the first code and paste it into the headers box of the headers and footers settings. It is just similar as we did above while adding meta tag. Follow the below instructions, else verification will fail.

  • Place the <noscript> portion of the Tag Manager code immediately after the opening <body> tag of your page.
  • You cannot insert anything between<body> tag and the tag manager code.
  • Use the code exactly as provided and do not modify it.

In order to add the body tag, I would not recommend to directly edit your theme and add. It may break something, so it is better to install this plugin to add the body tag. Or if you think, it is still hard to do, then ask your developer to add it.

After that click verify and boom, we are the verified owner of our website with full verification.

Final Thoughts

Google Search Console is a must tool and I highly recommend to set it up. If Google recommends its own tool, it means it will help you a lot for SEO rankings. Furthermore, we can see the weekly performance of our site, most visited pages and posts and most traffic coming from any country.

Additionally, we can see the internal and external links of our website. Also the search console updates us about all the pages and pages with errors. We can inspect any URL at any time, in case of any changes, we can ask google for it’s re-indexing. For better crawling and rankings, it is mandatory to submit an XML sitemap.

Moreover, we verified our website by different verification methods offered by Google Webmaster Tools. I have followed the same way to verify and I’ve shared with you guys. I hope you’ll go through the whole guide, in case of any errors/queries, please post in the comments below and I’d be very glad to assist.

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