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Getting Started with Google Search Console

Most of the time it appears that Google Search Console (GSC) plays the younger sibling to the more popular Google Analytics (GA). Everywhere you look, GA is played up as the go-to source for analytics information for anyone on a quest to improve their rankings in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).

There is no debating that Google Analytics has a lot to offer — it’s an insanely powerful platform that contains a massive amount of data. Unfortunately, all that shock and awe distracts people and prevents them from spending a little quality time with Google Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools).

It just so happens that GSC has a lot to offer. True, there isn’t as much information available as there is in Google Analytics. And it has a distinct lack of flash with no fancy chart or real-time data. But if you choose to ignore GSC, you’re doing so at your own peril.

In this post we going explain how you can quickly get set-up with Google Search Console. We’ll also cover the different pieces of data and some of the tools available to help improve how your website performs in Google’s index.

Why is Google Search Console Important?

If you’re interested in maintaining a competitive placement in the SERPs, Google Search Console is something you want to spend time reviewing on a regular basis.

There seems to be a common misconception the SEO is dead. While that might be true in the sense that gaming search engines is no longer an advisable strategy, Google makes it very clear that there are still many specific steps you can take to improve how your site is indexed and ranked.

GSC provides all kinds of information in regards to your sites performance for specific search queries. What many people don’t realize is that it also contains a variety of information about your site that indicates the overall indexability.

Potentially most importantly, is the fact the GSC provides a direct line of communication between yourself and Google. Any  issues that arise in regards to your website can be posted directly within the console for you to read. This allows you to take immediate action to remedy any problems.

How to Start Using Google Search Console

Getting set up with GSC is relatively simple. Once you’re logged in, just click on the “ADD A PROPERTY” button. You’ll be asked to enter your domain name and then select a method of verification. The preferred method involves uploading an HTML file to your site but the alternate methods are just as effective (and easier). For example, adding a Meta tag can usually be done via your theme dashboard — the image below shows where the tag would go if you’re using Divi from Elegant themes.

With your verification method selected, all that’s left to do is click verify. If you see a green checkmark and a success message, you’re ready to go.

It’s a good idea to set up Google Search Console as soon as possible because it can take quite a while to populate with data. Sometimes it can take as little as a week and other times you might have a 2-week delay. As you’re waiting for Google to crawl and index your site and eventually pass those results through to GSC, it’s a good idea to check every few days for any new messages.

Understanding the Different Sections of Google Search Console

There is actually a lot of information contained within GSC — more that what we can expect to cover in this article alone. But we’ve still got plenty of time to provide a detailed overview. That way you’ll know which areas you should be focusing on.

Let’s get started!

The Search Console is broken down into 6 main categories:

Messages

Anytime Google has information that they need to communicate in regards to your website, it’ll show up here. Although many of these messages can be automatic notifications, you also find information regarding manual penalties or actions as well. Obviously, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on this section.

Search Appearance

The information you’ll find in Search Appearance is specifically related to how your website appears in Google’s search results.

Search Traffic

Regardless of what kind of website you’re running, the information contained in the search traffic section is something you should pay close attention to.

Search Analytics is one of the most important sections of GSC. Here you can sort and filter the information that indicates how well your site is performing in the search results. You have the ability to view clicks, impressions, click-through rate and average position details for each query.

This data can also be filtered based on queries, pages, countries, devices, search type and dates. This allows you to develop a very detailed plan for improving your search performance.

Other important information contained within the Search Traffic tab includes:

Google Index

Here you’ll find all kinds of data about how well your website is being indexed by Google, broken down into 3 main categories:

Crawl

You want your website to be as friendly as possible towards Googlebot — the little creature responsible for crawling your website and sending its findings back to Google. GSC provides a variety of tools to help you make sure you site is well optimized and easy to crawl.

Security Issues

If Google detects that your site may be have been hacked, for example with malware, you’ll find more details here. It’s important to keep in mind that this report is not foolproof. I’ve seen more than one case where a WordPress website has been the victim of a pharma hack and there was absolutely no indication of the issue within GSC.

Use this section as a potential warning system, not the final authority.

Final Thoughts

This post should have provided you with a brief introduction to the Google Search Console. Hopefully, you’ve come away with a better understanding of how GSC can be used to your advantage.

There are several powerful tools build into this console and if you’re serious about improving the indexability and ranking of your website, spending some time to become more familiar with them is definitely a good idea.

If you currently use Google Search Console on a regular basis, we’d love to hear how you feel it benefits your presence on Google.