Whether you’re a new business looking to gain a competitive edge or you want to cement your site as a trusted source in your industry, improving your website’s organic rankings is a good place to start. From content upgrades to landing page redesigns, businesses turn to a variety of tools to improve their SEO, eager to claim the coveted #1 spot in Google SERPs. One of these tools, and arguably the most important, is Google Search Console.
Providing a broad overview of issues with your site and how it is performing, Google Search Console (GSC) remains a key component in helping businesses rank well organically. In this article, we’ll cover what GSC is, why it’s important, and provide step-by-step instructions for setting it up.
Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), Google Search Console is a free platform that anyone with a website can use to measure and optimize website performance. It provides a window into your website’s relationship with Google, providing valuable information on how Google ranks your site, along with search traffic numbers, manual actions, security issues, and mobile performance.
At its core, GSC is an SEO tool designed to help you monitor, maintain, and optimize your website’s organic search performance. It provides a clear understanding of what parts of your website need work, with greater insights into the following:
Likewise, GSC is invaluable when it comes to error notifications, as the program can alert you to potential issues almost immediately. This helps you correct these errors quickly, which is especially vital if your business relies on online inquiries or sales. Along with these benefits, GSC provides a number of tools to help improve your website. These include:
Website owners can assist Googlebot in crawling and indexing their pages by submitting a sitemap through GSC. This is especially crucial when a website contains hundreds or thousands of pages and, when done correctly, helps to boost that site’s rankings in Google search results.
Thankfully, this process is fairly straightforward. You can automatically create the XML file you need using the Google Sitemap Generator, and then submit it to GSC. Keep in mind, however, that you might need to wait for the report indicating Google has indexed your sitemap. This should then result in Googlebot crawling and indexing your website more efficiently.
Understanding how Google indexes your website’s pages is key to optimizing them for better organic rankings. For instance, let’s say your brand was heavily invested in fashion marketing and you published new content or redesigned a webpage in support of those marketing efforts. Ideally, you want to know how Google is indexing those changes. By using the URL Inspection tool, you can submit these URLs (and others) to better understand how Google is crawling those pages or take note of any ranking fluctuations.
Performance reports provide valuable metrics about your site’s organic performance, including page and keyword rankings. You can use the data from these reports to analyze your overall site or individual page performance, with different metrics like average position and click-through rate (CTR). Checking the performance tab regularly is also recommended, as this can help you stay on top of which keywords or pages might need further optimizations down the road.
As mentioned above, one of the more important goals for your website is to help Googlebot crawl it quickly and efficiently. The faster and more often Google crawls your site, the sooner you might see improvements in search rankings, especially if you’ve already applied the necessary steps to optimize your website for SEO. Crawl Status Reports help you understand which pages have been crawled and which ones have not.
In today’s mobile-first environment, a responsive, mobile-friendly design is a crucial part of ranking well in organic search. By using GSC’s Mobile Usability tool, you can gain valuable insight as to where your site stands on this front, as well as the fixes required to further optimize your site.
Now that we’ve covered a few of the important tools found in GSC, here’s how you can set up your account and start leveraging these powerful features.
Setting up GSC is as straightforward as any other Google account. Start with setting up a Google account if you don’t already have one. If you already have a Gmail, Google Ads, or Google Analytics account, you can use the same login information. Once you’re ready, follow along with the steps below:
Once you’ve established a Google account, sign in to Google Search Console where you’ll be taken to a menu to select a property type.
On the welcome screen, you’ll notice that you’re given the choice to add a property type via your domain or a URL prefix. To keep things simple, it’s recommended you use a domain, as this sets up your account as a domain-level property. While this might sound complicated, it essentially means that you’re connecting GSC to every aspect of your site. As for what that would look like, you’d simply enter the name of your website minus the http(s):// or www. For reference, our domain is veloxmedia.com. From here, your next step is to hit “Continue” just below the entry field.
If you select “add a property using a URL Prefix”, things are a little bit different. Whereas a domain includes all subdomains and protocol prefixes associated with that domain, a URL Prefix is a single property, meaning it only connects GSC to one version of your site. In other words, it means you’ll need to set up GSC for each of the following four URLs in order to get accurate data.
Note: If you use other subdomains like blog.yourdomain.com or shop.yourdomain.com, you’ll need to create a property for each of these URLs as well. The key thing to remember is that you’ll need to repeat the GSC setup process for each URL.
To fully implement GSC and start collecting data from your website, you’ll need to verify that you’re the website owner. Keep in mind that the verification process varies depending on whether you chose URL Prefix or Domain in the previous step.
Here’s how those verification processes break down:
If you chose verification for a domain property in the previous step, you’ll need to verify ownership through your DNS provider. A good first step is to see if you can find your DNS provider in the dropdown menu provided. Selecting from this list will provide detailed instructions specific to your provider. If you don’t see your DNS provider listed, you can leave this as “Any DNS service provider.” If you have a website development team, they will know what to do with this verification.
Next, you’ll need to hit the “Copy” button to copy the TXT record provided to you by Google. After you’ve copied the TXT record, open your domain’s registrar in a new tab and log into your account. From here, navigate to the list of domains that you own and choose the one you wish to configure. Look for the option to manage your DNS records. Depending on your provider’s site, this might be located in different places. Your goal is to look for any mention of “DNS” and click it. This should bring you to a Domain Management screen where you can find a list of your DNS records.
[image of txt record]
If all went smoothly, this will add a TXT record for GSC. With that TXT record added, simply return to GSC setup and click “Verify.” Once finished, you should see a green “Ownership Verified” message.
Note: Updating DNS records can sometimes take up to 72 hours. Don’t be too worried if you need to come back in a few hours or the next day to verify ownership.
If you’d rather not adjust your DNS records or don’t have access to your registrar, there are alternate options for verification. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll walk through Google’s recommendation of verifying via an HTML file. This will require you to upload an HTML file into the root folder of your website. While this is easy to do, the downside is that you’ll need access to your server, whether that’s through an FTP or cPanel File Manager. Here’s how that process breaks down:
Head back to Google Search Console and click “Verify”
While GSC might seem complicated at first, it becomes relatively easy to understand once you focus on your overall organic search goals. That being said, should you have any additional questions about how to set up or leverage GSC for your business or brand, VELOX Media is here to help. Our web development and search marketing experts work with a variety of clients and SEO tools across multiple industries, optimizing paid and organic campaigns across Google, Facebook, Instagram, and more.
Contact VELOX Media today to learn how we can help you get the most out of your SEO strategies and improve your site rankings in Google SERPs.