Previously known as Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console is a free platform useful to individuals like website owners, developers, and content creators used to understand and enhance website performance. This could mean content creators discovering why their latest piece has suddenly lost traffic, SEO Specialists viewing what ranks highly or developers uncovering website issues and determining a solution.
At first glance, Google Search Console can be overwhelming but following this guide, you will see that Google Search Console can and should be used by anyone who owns, manages, or works with a website.
First thing's first - it is important to understand why you should be using Google Search Console and what the features allow you to do with your website. Google Search Console offers a condensed version of the website's most relevant metrics including click performance, coverage, and enhancement reports, all of which can be found in the overview section. Under performance, the four search metrics can be found which include total clicks, total impressions, the average click-through rate, and average position within a Google search for both the website and individual page. The enhancement section offers reports on ongoing and resolved site issues while the coverage section shows site errors that have yet to be fixed like a broken URL. These tools and features along with the confusing graphs may seem a lot to tackle, but step by step you’ll be able to master Google Search Console and get the most from your site.
SETTING UP YOUR ACCOUNT
To begin, each individual will have to create an account. Sign in to your Google account (try to use your business account rather than a personal account). Once you’re logged in you will want to add a "property." Find “website” on the dropdown menu and enter the URL of your site you would like to add. Be sure to input the exact URL from the browser bar. Once your website is added you must verify the account. This can be done through HTML file upload, domain name provider, HTML tag, GA tracking code, or GTM container snippet. This verification is necessary as Google Search Console provides confidential information regarding your site and specific control over the property.
SELECT YOUR TARGET COUNTRY
Although Google can determine your site's target country through your address listed on your website, your server location, the country you get the most backlinks from, and the language in which your content is written it is still important to import what country you are trying to target. This can be done by clicking “international targeting” which can be found on the drop menu under “search traffic.” Select “country” and add the country you are most trying to reach.
LINK TO GOOGLE ANALYTICS
For the best search engine results, you can link Google Analytics with Google Search Console. Open Google Analytics and click “admin” located at the bottom of the left menu. Under "property settings" find the "adjust search console” button followed by “add.” You will then scroll down until you find your website, check the box and press save.
This will provide you with landing pages with impression, click and keyword data.
CHECK FOR SECURITY ISSUES
It is important to check to see if you have any security issues that may be affecting your SEO. To check security issues find the “security issues” button under “enhancements.” Once you press the button Google Search Console will notify you whether or not there are any issues detected.
IDENTIFYING TECHNICAL SEO ISSUES
Following the index coverage report you will have to solve the 404 errors. A 404 error code is an HTTP status code that means the page you’re attempting to reach cannot be found. This can be done by clicking the URL on the list of errors and resorting to the page details on the right-hand side. It is best to visit the webpage in a browser to determine if the page is really down. If yes, input the URL into the URL inspection field at the top of the page. At this time, you can either leave the page as "not found" and it will be removed from Google's index if the page is not necessary for your site or you can redirect the 404 page to a similar webpage.
Valid with warnings: By clicking the valid with warnings tab you will be informed of any warnings regarding your webpage like if your page is indexed but if blocked by robots.txt. To solve why the page is being blocked you will need to go to the robot.txt tester found on the right-hand side under page details. If you would like the page to be indexed you can unblock it from Robots.txt, but if you do not want the page indexed you can either add “noindex, follow” tag to the page or get rid of the page using the URL removal tag. This tag can be found under legacy tools and reports. Click removal, input the correct URL and submit your request. It is extremely important to make sure you had entered the right URL.
Valid: The valid portion of the index coverage report tells you how many pages are indexed in Google. It is important to look for unexpected decrease/increase of indexed pages and an unexpectedly high number of indexed pages. This portion of the report will be brought to your attention if pages are blocking Google, or if you have accidentally blocked, unblocked, or unindexed a page by accident.
Excluded: Not every page on a site is going to be indexed, however, it is important to make sure Google is not excluding pages that you want indexed. When you click on the "excluded" section on the report you will be provided a list of pages that are being excluded from Google's index. Some reasons outlined on the list as to why the page is unindexed can include; the page is redirecting to another URL, an alternate page with proper canonical tag, crawl anomaly, blocked by robots.txt, duplicate page without canonical tag, discovered – currently not indexed and excluded by "noindex” tag.
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