Getting started with Google Search Console
Jon / June 13th 2023 / 8 minute read
Getting started with Google Search Console can be overwhelming for beginners who are new to website optimisation and search engine ranking.
We’re going to simplify the process and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to navigate Google Search Console, so you can harness its power to improve your website’s visibility and performance on search engines.
We’re going to walk you through the essential features and functionalities of Google Search Console, such as:
- What is Google Search Console?
- What is Google Search Console used for?
- Benefits of using Google Search Console
- How to setup Google Search Console
- Google Search Console verification methods
What is Google Search Console? (GSC)
Google Search Console is a free and powerful tool that enables website owners to monitor the performance of their website in Google and diagnose issues that could impact their organic traffic.
What is Google Search Console used for?
Monitor your website performance, page indexing status, and detect issues affecting visibility. Get notified about indexing errors, security issues, and penalties.
Submit your XML sitemaps for efficient discovery and indexing by Google. You can also remove specific URLs from Google’s index if needed.
Access data on organic search traffic, keywords (queries) driving traffic, CTR, and page positions. Optimise content and improve visibility.
Website enhancements & usability
Gain insights into structured data for better search engine understanding and visibility in search engine results pages (SERP). Improve mobile usability, fix crawl errors, and optimise website speed.
Implementing structured data helps search engines understand your website better. It provides extra information about your web pages, like product details or reviews. Using structured data can increase the chances of appearing in special SERP features, attracting more clicks and improving visibility.
Optimising your website for mobile devices is crucial. Responsive design ensures your site adapts to different screen sizes and devices. This improves user experience, increases time spent on your site, and reduces bounce rates.
Identifying and fixing crawl errors is vital for search engines to navigate and index your website. Google Search Console provides insights into broken links, inaccessible pages, and server issues. Addressing these errors promptly ensures smooth crawling and indexing.
Website Speed & Core Web Vitals
Fast-loading websites not only enhance user experience but also positively impact search rankings. Optimising speed involves reducing file sizes, leveraging browser caching, optimising code, and addressing Core Web Vitals metrics such as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). By improving these Core Web Vitals, you can enhance user satisfaction, encourage search engines to crawl and index your pages more efficiently, and ultimately improve your website’s visibility in search results.
The Security Monitoring feature in Google Search Console helps website owners protect their sites from security threats. It actively scans websites for malware infections, suspicious activities, and unauthorised access attempts. When any security issue is detected, Google sends notifications to the website owner via Search Console.
Receive notifications about policy violations or penalties. Address issues and request reconsideration if required.
Manual actions in Google Search Console are penalties given to websites that violate Google’s rules. Unlike automatic penalties, these actions are imposed by real people working at Google.
When a website engages in shady techniques or has spammy content, it can be penalised by the manual review team.
Google Search Console provides a report informing website owners about manual actions, explaining the issue, providing guidance on how to resolve it, and offering an opportunity to request reconsideration. Adhering to Google’s rules is crucial for website owners to maintain their website’s visibility in search results and avoid these penalties.
Benefits of using Google Search Console
- Not only is it free, but It’s one of the most comprehensive SEO tools available. SEO professionals use this data and supplement it with other third party tools when making data-led decisions.
- Data reliability – rather than third party tools, which do have their place and are best used in conjunction with search console data, Google Search Console data is specifically about your website.
- Support and troubleshooting via Google Search Central Community – Users can seek help and guidance for specific issues they encounter in Google Search Console. If you’ve got a question you can post it here to receive assistance from knowledgeable community members or even Google representatives who actively participate in the discussions.
- Data accuracy – Although Google Search Console is still data that’s sampled from your website, the data that’s available is more comprehensive and allows for quantitative data analysis.
How to setup Google Search Console
To begin using Google Search Console, newcomers must first add and verify their website(s). This process confirms to Google that they are the rightful owner, webmaster, or authorised user. Google takes this step to ensure that valuable and detailed information about your website is only shared with authorised individuals.
You’ll need a Google account to access GSC. It’s recommended that you use the same email address that you’ve used for Google Analytics UA/GA4 to streamline connecting Google Analytics with GSC and to keep any email reports centralised to one email address.
If this is your first time using Search Console, head to https://search.google.com/search-console/about to get started.
You’ll be prompted to enter your Google account email and password before arriving at the verification screen.
Google Search Console verification methods
Before you can start using your GSC data, you need to verify your website by first selecting a property type
There’s two methods of doing this:
- URL prefix property
- Domain property
We’ll get into the benefits of each of these methods in a moment, but for now we’re going to select the URL prefix verification method.
You now need to enter the absolute URL for your website.
This means the complete URL that you see in your search bar.
Ours would be https://www.teapotcreative.co.uk/
Click ‘continue’ and you’ll arrive here:
- HTML file When choosing this method, you will need to download an HTML file and upload it to a specified location without making any changes to its content or filename. It must remain unchanged for successful verification in Search Console. After uploading the HTML file, return to Search Console and click “Verify.” If everything was uploaded correctly, a confirmation page will indicate that your site has been verified. Remember not to delete the HTML file from your site after verification to maintain the site’s verified status.
- HTML tag you can add a <meta> tag to a specified page’s HTML. We will check for the existence of this tag to confirm the verification. If the tag is not found, we will provide information about the encountered error. It’s important to note that this tag is associated with a specific user, and Search Console will regularly check for its presence.
- Google Analytics – If you are already using Google Analytics (GA) to track your website’s traffic, it could be the simplest option for you. However, before proceeding, you should ensure that the GA tracking code is placed within the <head> section of your homepage’s HTML code, not the <body> section. If the GA code is not in the <head> section, you will need to move it there in order to use this method.