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Google Search Console is an indispensable tool to SEO professionals and anyone looking to optimize their website to get found on Google. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about Google Search Console and how to use it to improve your SEO results, including specific tactics and strategies that you can use to boost rankings.
Google Search Console is a free tool from Google that helps you monitor the health of your website through a wide variety of tools and reports. Formerly “Google Webmaster Tools”, this updated version is an essential tool in your SEO toolbox for just about every aspect of your website that will allow you to monitor and improve your SEO.
This extensive Google Search Console guide will:
Why Use Google Search Console?
Google Search Console allows you to:
To start with, you will need to have a Google account to set up Google Search Console. If you’re already using a Google product – Google Ads, Google Analytics, Google Docs, Google Business Profile, formerly Google My Business, or a Gmail account – you should already have a Google Account.
I would recommend you use the same email address to set up all Google Products. This will make it easier for you to link between accounts and share data.
Step 1: Go to Google.com and click ‘sign in’ at the top right
Step 2: Click ‘Create an account’
Step 3: You can choose to create a Gmail account or click ‘use my current email address instead’ to use an existing account, such as your work email. Then click ‘next’.
If you already have a Google account, or once you create a Google account, you’re ready to create a Google Search Console Account.
Steps to setting up Google Search Console via the Domain Option
When to use the Domain option:
When to use the URL Prefix option:
In 2013, Google switched searches to HTTPS, claiming improved security.
The downside was that important keyword data disappeared from Google Analytics.
But now there is an easy way to retrieve some keyword data, by linking Google Analytics to GSC.
To link GSC to Google Analytics 4 to access keyword data, take the following steps:
2. Click on the blue link button to open up the configuration tab
3. Click on the ‘choose account’ button to select your search console property.
Select the correct account you want to link and click the confirm button.
click Next, to continue
Congratulations! Your analytics and Search console are now linked.
To access the GSC data in Google Analytics 4, take the following steps:
You can now access your GSC data from reports.
Within The Google Search Console Report in Google Analytics 4 there are two main reports:
Expanding any of these dimensions will open more metrics like clicks, impressions, click-through rate, and average position for individual queries or landing pages.
How to Add Your Website Sitemap to Google Search Console
A sitemap is essentially a table of contents for your website.
There are two types of sitemaps: HTML sitemaps, which are typically designed for your website users to easily find pages on your website. Especially for large websites with lots of pages.
XML sitemaps, which are typically designed for search engines. These include the pages, videos, and other files on your website so that they can be more easily discovered for indexing.
How to Find Your Sitemap
If your site is built in WordPress and you are currently using the “Yoast” plugin, then the sitemap should already be there, you just need to access it.
Follow these steps:
If you don’t use WordPress and use another website platform such as Squarespace or Shopify, they both have built-in XML sitemaps.
Access Shopify XML Sitemap Instructions here.
Access SquareSpace XML Sitemap Instructions here.
For other platforms, I would recommend reaching out to their support directly for guidance on how to locate your sitemap.
If you don’t use “Yoast”, and you’re not sure if you have an XML Sitemap you can go to yoursite.com/sitemap.xml. If you have a sitemap, you’ll find it here. If not, you will need to create one.
To create a sitemap, go to xml-sitemaps.com and follow the steps to generate a sitemap and add it to your website.
Submitting a Sitemap to Google Search Console
This concludes the process of setting up your business in Google Search Console.
Your website is now verified by Google, and you can now:
Now that you have successfully set up Google Search Console (GSC) on your website, you can access a variety of insights and monitor your website’s overall performance on Google.
To do this, simply click on the Performance tab in the left-hand section. This displays metrics about your website’s performance, including clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and average position.
This is my favorite part of this tool, as you can always confirm if the changes made on a specific page impacted the page’s performance.
In addition to the above core metrics, the performance section also provides a variety of other dimensions including:
You can use these features to identify areas that need improvement on your website.
To explain how to use these features, I’ll create a simple case study and try to walk you through how to troubleshoot it using these tools.
Using GSC to identify pages that need more attention and improve your website’s conversion rate.
A client complains that their traffic has gradually dropped in the last 6 months and seeks suggestions to improve their site’s traffic.
To tackle this issue, we will need to filter out pages that meet certain criteria, such as pages that have experienced a drop in clicks during the selected period and have contributed to this traffic loss. Once these pages have been identified, we can then optimize them to improve their performance.
Click on apply.
This will filter the Performance report to show you only the pages on your client’s website that have received a minimum number of clicks in the past 6 months. You can adjust the number of clicks in the filter to see smaller or higher clicks.
You can view the queries that are generating impressions for the individual pages, the countries where the impressions are being served, the devices on which they were displayed, how they’re appearing, and the dates on which the impressions were received, by clicking on the dimension tabs.
Once you have identified pages that need optimization to improve their clicks and attract more traffic, you can start to figure out actions to suggest.
For example, you might improve the titles and descriptions of the pages, create more engaging content, make some on-page changes like implementing Schema markup, or make your pages load more quickly.
You could analyze the progress of the changes you made on your website page to see if they yielded any positive results.
To do this click on the date filter button.
Select the compare button and choose the date range you will want to compare. You can also choose a custom date.
Here I compare 3 months after changes were made to 3 months before changes were made.
You can play around with the Performance feature in GSC to obtain various needed insights with the +New button and filter out data as needed.
Google search console offers you insight to understand the technical status of your web pages and troubleshoot errors using the Page indexing feature.
The Page Indexing tool gives an overview of the indexing status of your website’s pages.
It shows you which pages have been indexed by Google and which pages have not. It also shows you the reasons why some pages are not indexed.
To view the Page Indexing report, go to the Indexing section and click on Pages.
This displays two metrics section:
For each page in the “Not indexed” pages section, you will see a reason why the page is not indexed. Some common reasons include:
To troubleshoot an indexing error, click on the reason for the error. This will open a page with URLs affected by this error and a learn more option that takes you to a document with details on how to fix the error.
To delve deeper, click on the affected URL. This will open additional options, such as testing whether the URL has been blocked in the robots.txt file or using the URL Inspection tool.
Clicking on the URL Inspection tool will provide you with detailed information about the page indexing status and any errors that Google encountered while crawling or indexing the page.
You can also use the Page Indexing report to track the impact of changes you made on your website. For example, if you fix a technical issue that was preventing a page from being indexed, you could check the Page Indexing report to see if Google indexed the page.
You should expand the “View data about indexed pages” tab, and check if the number of indexed pages has improved and if the specific page you worked on got indexed.
Identifying Technical Problems with The URL Inspection Tool.
The URL Inspection tool provides you with detailed information about how Google crawls and renders your pages.
To use this tool, go to URL inspection and enter the URL of the page that you want to inspect in the search bar.
You can also access the inspection tool by simply selecting the Inspect URL option when analyzing Indexation issues, as we previously did.
The URL Inspection tool will show you the following information:
To identify technical problems, you can review the information provided by the URL Inspection tool.
For example, if the page is not indexed by Google, you can check the “How discovered” section to see if Google is able to discover the page.
You can also check the Crawl details section to see the last time the page crawled and if there are any errors that are preventing Google from crawling the page.
If the page is indexed by Google, you can review the Enhancement and Experience section to see if there are any mobile usability or page enhancement errors.
Once you’ve been able to figure out and fix the error, resubmit the URL to Google by clicking the VALIDATE FIX button.
If the page is indexed, you can see a preview of the page as it appears on Google Search, to do this
To see how Google is rendering your page,
If the content you see here looks different from the original content on your site, then you should take steps to ensure that Google renders the page correctly. For example, if the images on your site are missing from the screenshot tab, troubleshoot further to identify the root cause of the page rendering issue.
To gain more insight into the technical status of the page you are inspecting, click on the More Info tab.
You can use this information to troubleshoot problems on the page and improve the page’s performance. For example, If you see that Google is unable to load certain resources on the page, you can check to make sure that the resources are not blocked by robots.txt or other access controls.
As shown in the screenshot above, 6 out of 70 resources were not loaded by Google, because they were intentionally blocked for security and privacy reasons.
It is okay to block certain resources, such as login pages, ads, and third-party tracking scripts, from being crawled and indexed by Google. You should only be concerned if you’re blocking essential resources that could impact your site performance.
Google Search Console Page Experience Report: Insights into User’s Experience
The Google Page Experience Report provides a snapshot of how users experience your website and how it performs against Google’s Page Experience criteria, which are a set of signals that measure the quality of a user’s experience on a web page. Google rewards websites with good page experience with higher rankings in search results.
The Page Experience Report is divided into three sections:
To view the Page Experience Report:
This will open the Page Experience Overview section which provides a summary of your website experience on mobile and desktop.
Percentage of good URLs: shows the percentage of your pages that meet Google’s criteria for a good page experience and the total number of impressions they got.
Page experience signals: This section shows which page experience signals your site is meeting and which ones they are falling short on. It also shows the number of URLs that contributed to each signal.
The page experience signals section includes the following metrics:
Clicking on each metric will open a report that shows the reasons for the failing URLs and the individual URLs in each category. For example, this website has 56 URLs that failed the Core Web Vitals test. To determine the cause of this failure, we can click on the Core Web Vital metrics tab.
This reveals that 56 pages take 2.5 seconds to render (load) the largest visible image on the page. We can then click to see the exact URLs that failed the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) metric and try to optimize those pages.
Similar to the Core Web Vitals, the Mobile Usability metric tab in Google Search Console shows you the pages on your website that are not mobile-friendly, as well as the specific reasons why Google has detected this issue. You can click on each reason to see a list of the affected URLs, and then inspect those pages to identify and fix the problems.
Here are some examples of common mobile usability issues:
You can click on the reasons to review the URLs that fall into the category, then inspect them further to see how to optimize them.
Improve Your Website’s Visibility in Search Results With GSC Enhancement Section
The Enhancement Report Section in Google Search Console helps you identify and fix errors in your website’s structured data markup.
What does structured data have to do with the enhancement report section?
Structured data is a way to provide Google with additional information about your website’s content, such as product information, event details, and reviews. This information can be used to improve the appearance of your website in search results and display rich snippets, such as site links, star ratings, and product prices, and increase your site Click Through Rate.
The enhancement report section includes a section for structured data, which shows you how well your website is implementing structured data and any errors or warnings that Google may have encountered.
To use the enhancement report section:
You will see a list of all the different categories of enhancements that Google supports on your site.
If you click on each category, you will see the number of pages on your website that have the enhancement, as well as the number of pages that have errors or warnings related to it.
The Invalid tab for this site shows 0, indicating that there are no pages with invalid structured data.
If your website shows otherwise you can click on each category to see a list of the specific pages with errors that hinder the performance, as well as instructions on how to fix it.
The Links report is another awesome tool that Google Search Console features. You can use this tool to understand and improve your website’s link profile.
The report shows you a list of the external links that point to your website, the anchor text used in those links, and the pages on your site with the highest or lowest number of internal links.
To view the Links report,
This opens the 2 sections of the Links report:
To view pages with the least number of internal links,
And sort out pages with the least amount of links pointing to it.
To see the specific pages pointing to each URL click on the individual page.
You can use the Links report to also:
Understanding how and where Googlebot spends the most of its time on your website is very useful in managing crawl budgets, especially for big websites.
Crawl Budget is the number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl on your site.
The Crawl Stats report in Google Search Console provides information on Googlebot’s experience on your website.
This information can be used to manage your crawl budget and ensure that Googlebot is spending most of its resources on important pages of your website and that valuable content gets indexed fast.
To access the Crawl Stats report,
Go to the Settings section in GSC and click on Crawl Stats Open Report.
This opens up a report that shows Googlebot behavior on your site.
You will see three metrics:
The recommended average response time for a healthy website is typically between 100 and 200 milliseconds, a response time above 500 ms shows Google is having a difficult time crawling your site. However, there are several factors that can affect the response time of your website, such as the following factors:
to improve the response time of your website, try to:
The Host Status section can be seen right under the crawl stats charts,
You can access insights of possible difficulty Google encountered while requesting for your :
and Server connectivity during the ability of Google to connect to your web server and download the pages it wants to crawl. If Google is unable to connect to your web server, it will not be able to crawl your website.
You can click on the host details to gain more insights, such as when Google had issues trying to fetch them.
The Crawl Stat report also gives you access to the crawl request breakdown.
The crawl request breakdown section shows a detailed breakdown of the requests that Googlebot made to your website by filetype, by response, by purpose, and by Googlebot type.
For example, CSS files are being crawled by Google more than other file types on this site. We can minify the CSS plugins to improve page load times and make it easier for Google to crawl.
You can click on each file type to reveal more details.
A high refresh rate could mean that your website changes frequently, this is often the case for News websites.
When Google discovers a new page on your site, it means that Google has not crawled the page before. Google may discover new pages on your site through several ways, such as:
Googlebot type shows you the different user agents that came to your site and the percentage of crawl requests they individually made.
This information can be used to identify specific pages or sections of your website that are being crawled more or less than you expect. However, Google Search Console (GSC) crawl stats provide limited data but in cases where your server logs are not easily accessible, GSC crawl stats can offer valuable insights.
How To Add Users to Your Google Search Console
There are many reasons why you might want to add users to your Google Search Console (GSC) property. For example, you might need help troubleshooting an issue, or you might want to share your data with someone else.
Follow these simple steps to give someone access to your GSC:
3. Click on the Users and Permissions tab.
4. Click on the Add button.
That’s it, the new user can now see your property included in their GSC property tab.