Google search console for beginners
Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is a resource which is used by many different types of people. Ranging from webmasters, designers, SEOs through to business owners and app developers. Google changed its name in early 2015 to include a more diverse selection of users.
For the people who are not so familiar with Google’s search console, I’m going to help you understand from the beginning. GWT is a free service that allows you to learn vital information about your website, and lets you know who is visiting your website.
By using this tool you can find out the volume of people that are finding your site and how they are finding it, it can even narrow it down to what technology they are using to search e.g. mobile devices or a PC. It will tell you the most popular page on your site and can even aid you in fixing any potential problems, submitting sitemaps and checking robot.txt files.
Adding a site in google search and getting it certified
If you are yet to use Googles search console, you will need to verify and add your site (or sites) before you can proceed to do anything else. By doing this you are proving to Google that you are either an authorized user or the website owner. Which is understandable as the information you are given by Google is very important and should be kept classified.
Getting this done is not hard. The first step is to log on via your search console account. When you have logged in you need to select the tab named “add property”. You then enter the URL of the website and click “add property”.
Depending on how much experience you may have with HTML, verifying your site can be quite complicated, but not to worry, that is why we are here to help you.
Including a HTML tag
This is probably the best way for site owners who have experience with HTML coding.
The first step is to click “manage property”, you then need to continue onto “verify this property”. The “HTML Tag” should pop up under the “recommended method”. However if this does not occur you should click on the “alternate methods” tab and click “HTML tag”. That will give you the HTML data you will need to verify your site.
You then need to copy the code and open it with your HTML editor for the homepage of your website. Paste that same code into the “<head>” part of the HTML code. Your site may already have a Meta tag, if this is the case just ignore it, the code will not affect the current one. Just make sure it is placed in the <head> section of the site. If needs be you can create one just for verification.
Once this has been completed, publish and save the new code, after doing so open up the homepage of your site. From this point you should view the source code for the site which should be seen in the <head> section.
When you have double checked the code has been applied, go back to your search console and press “verify”. Google will attempt to check the code for your site for the verification code needed. If the code is not found then Google will give you information on how to deal with the error. If it has been found a screen will pop up to let you know.
It is vital that you do not remove the verification code from your site when it has been verified, if you do so the site will no longer be verified.
Uploading a file via HTML
To be able to do this you will have to have access to the sites root directory.
From your dashboard on search console, click “manage site” > “Verify this site”. If for any reason the “HTML file upload” is not under the “recommended method” tab then it should be under the “alternate method” tab.
Once selected you will then be prompted to begin downloading a HTML file. Allow this download to take place and once it has been completed, upload it to the location specified. It is vital that you do not edit this files content including the name. If you do so the file will not be verified by the search console.
When completed, return to the search console and press “verify”. If this has been done right a page will pop up informing you it has been verified.
Once verified DO NOT delete this file from your site.
How to verify through a domain name provider
Domain name providers are the company that you got the domain from (the host for your website). When you verify via the domain name provider, it proves you are the owner of the domain, but it doesn’t stop there, it also proves you own all of the subdomains and subdirectories that are in association of that domain. (This is the better option for people with larger websites).
From your dashboard you need to select, “manage site” which then leads to “verify this site”, again if you do not see the domain name provider option you should then check the “alternate method” tab.
When you select “domain name provider”, you will be prompted to select a domain provider from a list of providers which are commonly used, e.g. GoDaddy.com. If you cannot find your provider then you should select “other”. You will then be instructed to create a DNS TXT record on behalf of your provider. If that doesn’t work you will be instructed to create a CNAME record instead.
Google Analytics code
If you are already a user of GA (Google Analytics) this is likely to be the best option for you. First of all you will need to have the access to be able to check the HTML code for your site to assure the tracking code for the GA is placed in your homepages <head> section. If it is not already there you will need to move it there in order for this method to function.
Via the search consoles dashboard you need to click “manage site” > “verify this site” if the “google analytics tracking code” option is not available you need to check the “alternate method” tab. Once you select the “google analytics tracking code” you will then be given instructions to follow.
Once verified DO NOT remove the GA code from your site as it will leave your site unverified.
Google tag manager
If you already use GTM then this may be the best way for you to verify your site. If you wish to use this method please assure the “view, edit and manage” permissions are allowed for your GTM account. The GTM code has to be placed immediately after your sites <body> tag.
Via the search consoles dashboard you need to click “manage site” > “verify this site” if the “Google tab manager” option is not available you need to check the “alternate method” tab.
Once you select the “Google tab manager” you will then be redirected to a page showing it has been verified.
Once verified DO NOT remove the GTM code from your site as it will leave your site unverified.
Linking google analytics to the search console
Google search console may seem like it offers the same information as google analytics, but they do have their differences. Google search console is used to gather more internal information, for example who is creating a link with you or if there is any malware on your site. On the flip side, GA is more focused on who is visiting your webpage, how much time they spend on it and where your hits are coming from. So be aware, it may look as if you are looking at the same report but they do offer different information.
One thing you may find beneficial is creating a link between the GA and your search console. This will integrate the information collected from both sources and give you an extra report.
To do so you will need to click on the site which you want to connect via the search console. In the top right corner of your screen you will see an icon which looks like a gear, select this icon and choose “google analytics property”.
From this you will see a list of accounts associated with your google analytics. From here all you need to do is select the GA account which you need and click save.
Sitemaps are files that hand over vital information, regarding the organisation of your site and the content that it offers, this information gets sent to the search engines and web crawlers.
Sitemaps include metadata, this includes your sites details such as how often your site is updated, images and other media content.
You are simply making Googles job a whole lot easier by submitting your sitemap, this is because you are making sure that they have the relevant information they need to allow them to carry out their job with more efficiency.
You will not inherit a set-back if you do not submit a sitemap as it isn’t compulsory, however submitting one holds no harm whatsoever, specifically for new websites which do not have many links to other websites.
Before you can submit a sitemap, your site has to be verified and added in the search console.
From the search console dashboard, choose the site wish to submit a sitemap for. To the left there is an option labelled ‘Crawl’ following that you need to select ‘sitemaps’.
When you select ‘sitemaps’ there is a button on the top right hand of the page labelled ‘add/test sitemap’. This will bring up a mini window with space to add text too.
In this box you need to type ‘system/feeds/sitemap’ and select ‘submit sitemap’.
That’s it, you have now submitted your sitemap.
Checking robot.txt files
All users are different, not everybody wants every page of their website or the directories to be indexed by search engines. If this is the case for you, and you have pages you want to keep away from the reach of search engines, then you need to edit your robot.txt file.
This file is inserted into the soul of your website and tells web crawlers (robots for search engines) what you do and do not want to be indexed, this is done by using a command called robots exclusion standard.
These commands are instructions, although search engine crawlers used by the likes of Google may accept these commands, it is very possible that less credited search engines may not accept them. Two different web crawlers may interpret a command in different ways.
You can check your robot.txt file to see what is or isn’t being allowed. To do so take the following steps.
Select the crawl option again. This time select ‘robots.txt tester’. This will show you your robot.txt file and allow you to make any necessary changes needed. It will also show any errors it encounters.
However if you do make any changes through ‘Google’s robot.txt tester’, those changes will not automatically update on the robot.txt file hosted within your site. But don’t fret, it is easy to update this by yourself.
When your robots.txt file is the way you need it, press the submit button located beneath the edit box in the bottom right corner of your screen. When you have done so it will then give you the option to download the updated robot.txt file.
You just need to upload it to the location of your old robot.txt file was. Be aware the domain name will change, but the file should always remain named robot.txt, this should be saved in the root of the domain.
You should then return to the robots.txt testing tool and select ‘verify live version’, this will ensure you have the correct file on you website.
Submitting to google
If for example you have made many changes to your website, the most time efficient way of getting the changes you’ve made indexed by Google, is to do so manually. This will bring any changes you’ve made for example any content on your page, on to search results ASAP.
To begin, as always you need to log in to your Google search console. Next you should select the page you need to submit.
After choosing your page you need to click ‘crawl’ and then ‘fetch as google’.
Once selected, the following window should pop up.
Some people may need to fetch a whole website, if so you need to leave the box blank. For any other instance you should use this box to enter the URL of the page you need to index.
Once you have done so, select ‘fetch and render’, this can take some time depending on the volume of pages you wish to index.
One the index has completed, you will see a ‘submit to index’ button at the bottom of the page (close to the ‘complete’ status).
You will then see two different options. ‘Crawl only this URL’ (this is to be used if you are only attempting to submit one page) or ‘Crawl this URL and its Direct links’ (used for an entire site).
That’s all it takes, Googles search nots will now catalogue your pages content and the changes should appear on the search engine giant in under a week.
Errors in google search console
As we all know, nobody wants problems with their website. But most times, you may not even be aware of a problem unless you are told about it. This is where the Google search console comes into play. The search console can both identify and notify you of any errors on your site.
If you want to scan your site for any errors, you need to select the site you wish to check. Click ‘crawl’ > ’crawl errors’.
The crawl errors page will now pop up. This will display any URL errors identified by Googles bot’s, looking something like this:
Any errors will be shown at the bottom of the page, a description is available by clicking on the error.
We hope that this guide has been able to help you with any queries you may have had. Now you are verified and everything is now set up, you can begin to record all of the information that Google’s search console has for you.
If you have any further questions please comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.