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Google Search Console: Beginner’s Guide

Looking for a free yet the most powerful SEO tool for your IT services? Google Search Console is a free service that lets you learn a great deal of information about a website and the people who visit it. Google Search Console can also be used to find out things like how many people are visiting the site and how they are finding it. It can also assess if more people are visiting the site on a mobile device or desktop computer, and which pages on your site are the most popular. Plus, it can help you find and fix website errors, submit a sitemap, and create and check a robots.txt file.

Want to start taking advantage of all that Google Search Console has to offer? Here are a few guides to consider.

Adding and Verifying a Site

Google Search Console Home Page

Step 1: Sign in to Search Console with your Google account. Then, you’ll see a box next to a red button which says “Add Property.”

Step 2: Enter the site URL that you want to add in the box and click “Add Property.”

Voilà! The site is now added to your Search Console account.

Step 3: You need to verify the site.

NOTE: You should be the either a site’s owner, webmaster, or other authorized user. Google Search Console provides detailed information and insights about a site’s performance and Google doesn’t want to give that information to anybody who asks for it.

Here are a few different ways to verify the website:

1.    HTML tag

Adding HTML tag to verify a site is best for users and site owners who have experience working with HTML code

Select “Manage Property,” from the Google Search Console dashboard. Then click “Verify this property.”

If the “HTML Tag” option does not appear under “Recommended method,” click “Alternate methods” tab and select “HTML tag.” This will provide the HTML code that needs verification.

Copy the code and use the HTML editor to open the code for your site’s homepage. Paste the code provided within in the <Head> section of the HTML code.

HTML tag

Once the verification code has been added, save and publish the updated code, and open the site’s homepage. From there, view the site’s source code. Take note that the verification code should be visible in the <Head> section.

Once the code is added to the site’s homepage, go back to Google Search Console and click “Verify.”

Google will then check the site’s code for the verification code. A pop-up message will appear on the screen if the code is verified. If not, Google will provide the information about the errors it encountered.

NOTE:

1. If the site already has a meta tag or other code in the <Head> section, it doesn’t matter where the verification code is placed in relation to the other code; it simply needs to be in the <Head> section. If your site doesn’t have a <Head> section, you can create one for the sake of verifying the site.

2. Do not remove the verification code from the site when it has been verified by Google Search Console. If the code is removed, it will become unverified again.

2.    HTML file

In uploading an HTML file, you must be able to upload files to a site’s root directory.

Select “Manage site,” from the Google Search Console dashboard, and click “Verify this site.”

If “HTML file upload” is not on the option listed under “Recommended method,” it should be under “Alternate method” tab.

HTML file upload

You will be asked to download an HTML file when you select this method. Download it, then upload it to the specified location. Do not make any changes to the content of the file or the filename; the file needs to be kept exactly the same. If it is changed, Google Search Console will not be able to verify the site.

Go back to Search Console and click “Verify” after the HTML file has been uploaded. A pop-up message will appear on the screen if the HTML file is correctly uploaded and the site is verified.

NOTE: Do not delete the HTML file from your site. If the file is removed, it will become unverified again.

3.    Domain Name Provider

The domain name provider is the company you purchased a domain from or where the website is hosted. When you verify via your domain name provider, it not only proves you’re the owner of the main domain, but that you also own all of the subdomains and sub-directories linked with it. This is an excellent option for large website.

Select “Manage site,” from the Search Console dashboard, then “Verify this site.”

If “Domain name provider” is not on the option listed under “Recommended method,” it should be under “Alternate method” tab.

Domain Name Provider

After you select “Domain name provider,” you will be asked to choose your domain name provider from a list of commonly used providers, like GoDaddy.com, bluehost, SQUARESPACE, DOMAIN.COM, etc.

 If your provider is not on this list, choose “Other.” You will be given instructions on how to create a DNS TXT record for your provider. If a DNS TXT record doesn’t work for your provider, you will have the option of creating a CNAME record instead.

4.    Google Analytics code

This could be the easiest option for site’s owner, webmaster, or other authorized user. First, check the site’s HTML code to make sure the GA tracking code is placed within the <Head> section of your homepage’s code, not in the <Body> section. If the GA code is not already in the <Head> section, move it there for this method to work.

Select “Manage site,” from the Search Console dashboard, add click “Verify this site.”

If you don’t see the “Google Analytics tracking code” option under the “Recommended method,” look under the “Alternate method” tab.

After you select “Google Analytics tracking method,” you’ll be provided with a series of instructions to follow.

Google Analytics Code

NOTE: Once your site has been verified, do not remove the GA code from your site, or it will cause your site to become unverified.

5.    Google Tag Manager

This might be the easiest way to verify the site if you already use Google Tag Manager (GTM). To use this method, you need to have “View, Edit, and Manage” permissions enabled for your account in GTM. Before using this method, check the site’s HTML code. Make sure that the GTM code is placed immediately after your site’s <Body> tag.

Select “Manage site,” then “Verify this site” from the Search Console dashboard.

If “Google Tag Manager” is not on the option listed under “Recommended method,” it should be under “Alternate method” tab.

Google Tag Manager

Select “Google Tag Manager” and click “Verify.” If the Google Tag Manager code is found, you should see a screen letting you know your site has been verified.

A pop-up message will appear on the screen if the GTM code is verified.

NOTE: Do not remove the GTM code from your site, or the site will be unverified again.

 Link Google Analytics with Google Search Console

Google Analytics and Google Search Console might seem alike. The difference between the two are:

Google Analytics offer information about who is visiting the site like how many visitors you’re getting, how they’re getting to the site, how much time they’re spending on the site, and where your visitors are coming from (geographically-speaking) while,

Google Search Console geared more toward more internal information. For example, who is linking to you, if there is malware or other problems on the site, and which keyword queries the site is appearing for in search results.

Liking Search Console and Google Analytics will integrate the data from both sources and make the most out of the additional reports. Here are some tips on how to link these two powerful tools:

Click on the site you’re trying to connect from the Search Console dashboard. In the upper right corner, you’ll see a gear icon. Click on it, then choose “Google Analytics Property.”

Google Analytics Property

You will be routed to a list of Google Analytics accounts connected with your Google account. Choose the desired Google Analytics account and click “Save.”

Fast and easy, right?

Sitemap

Sitemap is a blueprint of the site that help search engines find, crawl and index all of your website’s content. Sitemap can contain metadata, with information about images and video content, and how often your site is updated.

You’re making Google’s job easier by providing sitemap to Google Search Console. This will equip Google the information they need to do their job more efficiently.

Make sure that the site is verified in Search Console. Select the site you want to submit a sitemap from the Search Console dashboard. On the left, you’ll see an option called “Crawl.” Under “Crawl,” there will be an option marked “Sitemaps.”

Click on “Sitemaps.” There will be a button marked “Add/Test Sitemap” in the upper right corner.

This will bring up a box with a space to add text to it.

Type “system/feeds/sitemap” in the box and click “Submit sitemap.”

NOTE: Sitemap isn’t mandatory. However, it can help potential clients especially if your site is very new and not many other sites are linking to it, if you have a very large website, or if your site has many pages that aren’t thoroughly linked together.

Robots.txt file

Robots.txt is a text file with instructions for search engine crawlers. It defines which areas of a website crawlers are allowed to search. Using this simple text file, also known as robots Exclusion Standard, you can easily exclude entire domains, complete directories, one or more subdirectories or individual files from search engine crawling.

NOTE: Robots.txt files aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be 100% effective in keeping things away from web crawlers.

Here is a tip to check your robots.txt file.

Log into Search Console and select the site whose robots.txt file you want to check.

robots.txt Tester

On the left side of the screen, you’ll see the option “Crawl.” Click on it and choose “robots.txt Tester.” The Robots.txt Tester Tool will let you look at your robots.txt file, make changes to it, and it alert you about any errors it finds. You can also choose from a selection of Google’s user-agents (names for robots/crawlers) and enter a URL you want to allow/disallow, and run a test to see if the URL is recognized by that crawler.

If you make any changes to the robots.txt file using Google’s robots.txt tester, the changes will not be automatically reflected in the robots.txt file hosted on the site. Once your robots.txt file is how you want it, click the “Submit” button underneath the editing box in the lower right corner.

This will give you the option to download your updated robots.txt file. Simply upload that to your site in the same directory where your old one was (www.sample.com/robots.txt). Obviously, the domain name will change, but your robots.txt file should always be named “robots.txt” and the file needs to be saved in the root of your domain, not www.sample.com/category1/robots.txt.

Back on the robots.txt testing tool, hit “Verify live version” to make sure the correct file is on the site. Click “Submit live version” to let Google know you’ve updated your robots.txt file and they should crawl it. If not, re-upload the new robots.txt file to your site and try again.

Fetch as Google and Submit to Index

The fastest way to get the updates indexed by Google is to submit it manually. Here’s how you can do that:

Sign into Google Search Console. Select the page you need to submit. If the website does not use the ‘www.’ prefix, then make sure you click on the entry without it (or vice versa.)

On the left side of the screen, you should see “Crawl” option. Click on it, then choose “Fetch as Google.”

It will bring you to this screen:

If you need to fetch the entire website then leave the center box blank. If not, use it to enter the full address of the page you need indexed, like http://example.com/category. Once you enter the page you need indexed, click the “Fetch and Render” button.

If it’s finished, there will be a “Submit to Index” button that appears in the results listing at the bottom—near the “Complete” status. You will be given the option to either “Crawl Only This URL,” which is the option you want if you’re only fetching/submitting one specific page, or “Crawl This URL and its Direct Links,” if you need to index the entire site.

Click this, wait for the indexing to complete. Google has sent its search bots to catalog the new content, and the changes should appear in Google within the next few days.

NOTE: Fetching might take a few minutes, depends on the number/size of pages being fetched.

Site errors

Google Search Console can immediately notify you of any errors it finds on the site. Here’s how you can check a site for internal errors:

Select the site you’d like to check. On the left side of the screen, click on “Crawl,” then click “Crawl Errors.”

You will be routed directly to the Crawl Errors page, which displays any site or URL errors found by Google’s bots while indexing the page. This should look like this:

URL errors found will be displayed at the bottom. Click on any of the errors for a description of the error encountered and further details.

Document encountered errors, include screenshots if needed. Notify the person responsible for handling site errors to correct the problem(s).

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