Google Search Console (GSC) is a must for any business hoping to get more website traffic from search engines. But what exactly is it, and how do you use it?
At Cognique, we’re clued up on all things SEO. Explore our step-by-step guide below for everything you need to know about Google Search Console – and how we can help you start using it to your business’s benefit.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console – previously called Google Webmaster Tools – has always been an essential tool for search marketing. It’s a free (yes, FREE) service provided by Google that helps you monitor how your website is performing in Google Search results and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.
You can do all sorts of useful things with GSC, including:
- Confirm that Google can find your website
- View the performance data for your website: the search terms or queries your site is found for, how often people searching click through to your website for those queries etc.
- Troubleshoot common issues, such as how mobile-user friendly your website is
- Receive immediate alerts about website issues, such as Google encountering any indexing errors
- Request the re-indexing of new content
- Blacklisting spammy backlinks
Google Search Console is an essential tool for any website, but it’s especially useful for business owners focusing on SEO and marketing. It works in harmony with other Google marketing tools such as Google Analytics, Google Trends, and Google Ads, giving you access to all the data you’ll need to make smart technical decisions about your website.
To use GSC, you will need:
- A recent version of any of the common internet browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Edge or Safari
- A Google account
With these in place, you’re ready to set up Google Search Console and transform the way your website supports your business – for the better.
How do you set up Google Search Console?
Before you set up Google Search Console, it pays to have Google Analytics up and running first. Then you’re ready to follow our step-by-step guide to all things Google Search Console below.
1. Go to Google Search Console.
2. You’ll then need to login by:
- Using the same details you use to access your Google Analytics account
- Using your Google account (or creating one if you don’t already have one and clicking “Start Now”)
3. Once you’ve successfully logged in, click the ‘Add Property’ button at the top of the page on the left.
4. Enter the URL or domain of your website, then click ‘Continue’. Your website domain is the name of your website, minus http(s):// and www.
5. You’ll now be asked to verify that you ‘own’ the website in one of four ways:
- The quickest and easiest method to verify website ownership is via your Google Analytics Tracking ID. Simply open Google Search Console using the same Google accounts you use to access Google Analytics, choose ‘Google Analytics’ on the verification details page for your website, and click ‘Verify’.
- If you have access to the root of your website, you can upload an HTML file. First download the HTML file of your website provided by Google. You will then need to access the root directory of your site using an FTP client, upload the file, and return to GSC and click ’Verify’.
- If you manage the hosting of your website yourself, you can verify this via your hosting provider.
- If you use Google Tag Manager, you can verify via Google Tags. Simply open up the Google Tag verification box within Google Search Console and click ‘Verify’.
Once you’re set up, you’ll have to wait around a week before any useful data shows up on GSC. However, something you can do straight away is submit an XML sitemap. An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the important pages on your website. This helps Google to find content on your site and index it more quickly.
1. Before you can submit a sitemap, you’ll need to create one. If you use WordPress, you can install the Yoast SEO plugin, which will automatically generate XML sitemaps for your site content.
2. Alternatively, there are many online tools that will create a sitemap for you (which you then need to upload to the root of your website).
3. Once your sitemap is live and created on your website, you can go to the sitemap section of the Google Search Console and click ‘Add a new sitemap’ shown in the left hand menu.
4. Done! All that remains now is to wait while your sitemap is ‘crawled’, ready for you to reap the rewards of using Google Search Console.
Why should you use Google Search Console?
Once you’ve followed our guide to setting up Google Search Console, you may ask yourself: what exactly will I use this for?
Aside from the appealing fact that it is a free tool, GSC offers many key features for businesses interested in increasing their website traffic from search engines. If that sounds like you, read on for reasons why Google Search Console could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
1. You can analyse your performance in detail
GSC shows you lots of key information relating to your website, including:
- The search terms (queries) that your site was found for in Google search results
- The most popular pages of your website
- What devices users browsed your website on
- The number of clicks through to your website
- Any technical errors on your website that effect Google finding your site
To view this data, simply log into your GSC account and go to ‘Performance’ on the left hand side menu.
2. You can submit your XML sitemap
As described in the setting up GSC guide above, adding an XML sitemap to your website is an important first step towards improving the way it works for you – and a basic component of Search Console is the ability to add a sitemap.
- Adding an XML sitemap allows you to submit your pages directly to Google, rather than relying on Google Search to crawl and index your website.
- This will help your site get indexed quickly, and means more pages get indexed – an especially useful feature if your website is new.
You can also upload a robots.txt file to tell Google which pages you don’t want it to crawl and index, then use the robots.txt Tester tool in Google Search Console check that it’s working.
Contact us for help with Google Search Console and more
Although it’s a handy and free tool (did we mention that?), setting up Google Search Console and putting it to its best use will not come as second nature to everybody – and that’s where we come in.
If you need a hand with Search Engine Optimisation, Cognique is here to help. With a huge range of tools in our marketing arsenal – from keyword research to optimised content creation – we can help you create the best possible website for your business. Contact us today to find out more.