Google Search Console

Monitor and maintaining your website’s presence in Google search results.

Learning Goals

At the end of this Tutorial you will be able to:

  • Add your website to Google Search Console (GSC).
  • Create and upload an XML sitemap file.
  • Connect GSC to your Google Analytics account.
  • Use the various featues of GSC to improve your performance on Google search results.
  • View detailed reports on your website's traffic, keywords and click-through rates (CTRs).

About Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool offered by Google to help website owners monitor and maintain their site’s presence in Google search results.

It provides essential marketing data that you need to start tracking. It also alerts you about errors, security issues, and crawling/indexing problems that may affect your website’s search rankings.

Adding your website to GSC

Simply go to Google Search Console website and click the Start now button.

Click the start now button

You’ll be asked to sign in using a Google / Gmail account. Once logged in, you will need to enter your website URL.

Google Search Console offers two number of methods of adding your website. The simplest is Domain.

Enter the URL of your GitHub-hosted website as follows:

Choose a property type

Note that Google considers HTTP and HTTPS as two different protocols. It also considers and as two different websites.

After entering your website URL, click the Continue button.

Next, you will be asked to verify ownership of your website. The simplest option is to use HTML tag.

Verify ownership

Click on the HTML tag to expand it and then copy the code inside the <head> of your 'home' web page. Next, upload that index.html file to your account on GitHub.

Finally, go back to Google Search Console settings and click on Verify button.

Click the verify button

Google Search Console will now look for the HTML tag in your web page and show you a success message.

Verification success

That’s it. You have successfully added your site to Google Search Console. You can now click on the Go to Property link to visit your Google Search Console dashboard.

Adding an XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is a way for website owners to tell search engines about all the pages that exist on their website. It also tells search engines which links on your website are more important than others.

Adding an XML sitemap to your website helps search engines better crawl your website. While it doesn’t give you a boost in search rankings, it can definitely help search engines index your content more efficiently.

Your sitemap web address will look like this:

Use Sitemaps XML or similar website, copy the file into your 'main' folder and upload it to your GitHUb account.

In the Google Search Console dashboard, click on the ‘Sitemaps’ option from the left column. After that, you can paste the URL and click the ‘Submit’ button.

Add a new sitemap

Google Search Console will now check your sitemap and use it to improve your website’s crawling.

Connecting GSC to Google Analytics

Connecting Google Search Console to your Google Analytics account helps you analyze search console data in Google Analytics. This provides you with a new perspective on your top-performing content and keywords.

To connect Google Search Console to your Analytics account, open a new tab in your web browser, go to Google Analytics and sign into your account. From the bottom left corner of the man Dashboard screen, click the ‘Admin’ (gears) icon.

Click the admin settings button

Google Analytics will now switch to Admin view. In the middle column, click the Property Settings option and then click the Adjust Search Console button.

Adjust console

On the next screen, click on the Add button to select your website.

Add search console

Analytics will now take you to the Google Search Console website showing you the list of all websites you have added to the search console. Select the property you want to link to Google Analytics from the dropdown menu.

Select a property

After that, you’ll need to select the Google Analytics property you’ want to connect with Search Console and click the Continue button.

Choose associated Analytics property

You’ll now see a popup window showing that you’ve successfully connected Google Analytics and Search Console.

Confirm association between analytics and search console

That’s it. You have successfully connected your Google Search Console data to your Analytics account. You can go back to the Google Analytics Search Console settings page to see the connected Search Console and click the Save button.

See search console and analytics connection

You can now view the newly unlocked Search Console reports in your Google Analytics account under the Acquisition option. It also helps unlock 'keywords not provided/set' in Google Analytics.

Landing page report in analytics

The first report you will find there is the Landing Pages report.

For each landing page, you’ll see the impressions (number of times a page appeared in search results), clicks, click-through rate (CTR), and average position in the search results. Combined with that page’s analytics parameters like bounce rate, sessions, and pages per session.

Clicking a landing page will show you the actual keywords that brought users to this landing page.

Search query report

Next, you can Switch to the Countries report, and you will see countries listed in the same order. This helps in creating content and geolocation marketing campaigns for people from different regions.

Countries report in search console

The Devices report will show you how your site performed in desktop, mobile, and tablet search results.

Devices report in search console

Next, Queries are the most important of all reports among this data. It shows you the keyword data missing from your Google Analytics reports. You can see which search terms are driving traffic to your site.

Queries report in search console

Working with search indexing issues

The most helpful feature of Google Search Console is that you can troubleshoot indexing errors.

These errors can affect your search rankings by stopping the search engine from crawling and indexing the pages on your website.

You can easily locate these errors under the Coverage report.

It shows you which pages from your website are indexed by Google and which pages resulted in an error or a warning.

Coverage report

Next, scroll down, and you will see the detailed list of all the errors. Clicking on a link will open the detailed view, where you will also find the link to learn more about the error and how to fix it.

The following are a few common indexing errors you may see:

  • 404 error – This error means that the crawler followed a URL and saw a 404 error.
  • Server error – This means that your website server timed out or didn’t respond. This could happen if your website were under heavy traffic, was under maintenance, or unavailable for any other reason.

Now let’s take a look at how to fix some of these crawl errors.

Working with 404 errors ('missing pages')

Google lists any 404 errors. For example, you accidentally deleted something or forgot to redirect users to the new updated version.

Simply click on the error in the Index Coverage report, and it will show you all the pages displaying that error. Carefully review the pages and if you see a page that shouldn’t be there, then copy its URL and open it in a new browser window.

If you see a 404 error page in your browser, then this means that you need to fix this page.

Now, if it is a page that no longer exists but you have a newer or similar version of it, then you would want to redirect users to that page.

Working with security issues

Security issues

Security issues not only stop Google from crawling your website, but they could also cause a sudden drop in search traffic. Google may temporarily remove affected pages, show a warning to users, and drop a page’s ranking.

Security issues will be highlighted on the overview screen as you login to your Google Search Console account. The most common security issue is websites affected by malware and trojans.

Manual actions and requesting reviews

While security issues are automatically triggered, manual actions are the penalties that are imposed by human staff from the Google Search team after a careful review. If a manual action is taken against your website, then this is pretty significant and can immediately take away all your search traffic.

These manual actions usually occur when a website is involved in illegal activities, spamming, and other fraudulent or fishy activities.

Manual actions

Clicking on Manual Actions link will show you the actions in your search console report. You will also find detailed information about the issue that triggered it and how to clean it up.

Once you have removed the objectionable content, you can click on the request review button. Your website will now be reviewed and reconsidered by the Google Search team, and they can decide on removing the penalty.

Using GCS to increase traffic

Now that we have covered the technical bits, let’s get to the fun part of growing your website traffic by utilizing the data available in Search Console.

Google Search Console helps you uncover keyword data, find your top-performing keywords, and discover hundreds of potential keywords where you can easily rank and get more traffic.

We will also look at links and how to use them to improve search rankings.

Mining Keyword Data in Google Search Console

Keywords are the search terms users type in search engines to find information.

Marketers and website owners can optimize their content to target desired keywords and improve their chances of appearing on top in search results.

Previously, keyword data was available in website stats and analytics reports in Google Analytics. However, Google encrypted that information in 2013 when they switched to HTTPS.

As a result, if you try to view search queries in Google Analytics, you’ll most likely see ‘not provided/set’ keywords. A simple solution to this issue is connecting Google Analytics with Search Console.

You can also view the keyword data in your Google Search Console reports.

It gives you a full view of the keywords your website is ranking for, average position, clicks, and impressions (number of times your site appears for that keyword).

You can see this information in your Google Search Console reports under the Performance tab.

Performance report

On the top, you will see a graph of your website’s performance in search results. Below that, you will see the keywords data, which you can filter by position, impression, and click-through rate.

Top keyword in search console

You can sort this data by clicking on any column or using the filter option to narrow down the results.

Filter top keywords

You can also switch to the Pages tab to see the performance of your pages in search results.

Clicking on any page in the list will filter the results for that page. You can then switch to the ‘Queries’ tab to see the keywords that bring the traffic to that particular page.

Finding Low-hanging Keywords That You Can Easily Rank

A lot of your pages may be ranking on page 2 or 3 of Google search results for different keywords. These are the keywords that you can quickly work on to rank higher and get more traffic.

In your Performance report, click on the filter icon and then select the ‘Position’ option. Next, you’ll be looking for keywords where the average position is higher than 7.

Use filter by position

Search Console will now only show the keywords where your site appears on an average position of 7 or higher. Now, click twice on the position column to sort the list in ascending order.

Sort positions

As you scroll down, you will find tons of keywords that rank between 7 and 30. All these keywords are low-hanging fruits where you can easily rank higher.

To view more results, scroll to the bottom and select a higher number for ‘Rows per page.’

Rows per page

When choosing the keywords to work on, you would want to choose keywords based on their number of impressions. Higher impressions mean more search traffic for those keywords.

To do that, you can export the data in CSV format and then open it in spreadsheet software.

download data

Using Link Reports in Google Search Console

Links play an important role in SEO. Search engines use them as a metric to determine how important a page is and where it should rank in search results.

The Links report in Google Search helps you see your website’s performance in terms of links. It shows you external links, internal links, top linking sites, and top linking text. More importantly, it shows top linking sites, how often they link to your site, and how many pages they link to.

Getting More Backlinks from Third-Party Websites

Search console shows third-party websites that have linked to your site in the ‘Top linking sites’ report. You can expand the report by clicking on the ‘More’ link at the bottom.

Top linking sites

If you click on a domain name to expand the report, you will see all the pages they have linked to. Next, click on each page to get the exact URL linked to that particular page.

You can now use this data to get more backlinks for your site. Simply visit the website and see how they have linked to you. After that, see what other content they have where your site can be linked from.

Next, simply reach out to the website via email or contact form on their website.

First, thank them for linking to your article and then politely mention that they may want to include a link to an article of yours.

Now, this direct approach may not always work. In that case, you need to be creative. You can offer them to write a guest post for their blog, leave comments on their articles, follow them on social media, or retweet their articles.

Repeat the process for all important external links on your website. With consistent effort, you can get proper backlinks without spending any money.

15. Improving Internal Links to Boost Rankings

It is harder to get third-party websites to link to your content. However, it is way easier to link to your own content from your own site. This practice is called internal linking.

Internal linking helps search engines understand the context and relationships among different pages on your website. It also helps them understand which pages are important based on how often you have linked to them.

This is why you should make internal linking a habit when writing new content on your website or blog.

Now let’s see how to use the links reports in Search Console to help you build internal links.

In Google Search Console, click on the Links report and then click on the More link under the Internal Links column. The report shows how often you have linked to other pages on your site.

Go ahead and click the filter icon and then select the Target page option.

Filter internal links

Search Console will now show you how many pages are linking to this page. You can now compare it with other pages and see whether pages with more internal links are ranking higher than posts with many internal links.

If that’s the case, then go ahead and start adding internal links to pages that you want to rank higher. Make sure you are only linking to the article when it makes sense. Adding links where they don’t make sense would create a bad user experience.

Using Core Web Vitals in GSC

In 2020, Google introduced 'Core Web Vitals' that measures how fast your website is and help the search engine measure your site’s user experience.

In Google Search Console, you can view the ‘Core Web Vitals’ report under the Experience menu on your left. It provides a complete report about your site’s speed score for mobile and desktop.

Core web vitals report

Using GSC to improve mobile usability

Nearly 63% of all Google searches in the United States come from mobile devices. That’s why Google gives an SEO bump to mobile-friendly websites in the search results.

Google has a Mobile-Friendly test tool that allows you to quickly examine a page. The Mobile Usability report in Search Console tells you how Google sees your entire website in mobile performance.

Mobile usability

If you see errors on this page, then this means that these issues may affect your site’s rankings.

To see the affected pages, you can scroll down to the Details section and click on the error.

Mobile errors in search console

Use URL Inspection Tool in Search Console

The URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console provides information about a page if it’s on Google search results or not.

You can check the status of a page and also request Google to recrawl a page. To start, simply enter a URL in the top search bar.

URL inspection tool

Google Search Console will then show you the status of the page is indexed by Google. If it’s not indexed, then you’ll see a message saying ‘URL is not on Google.’

You can click the ‘Requesting Indexing’ button and request Google to manually fetch the page from your website.

Besides that, you can scroll down and see more details in the ‘Coverage’ report. It will show information about sitemaps, crawl history, and indexing.

Detailed coverage report

You can also live test a URL and see if there is an indexable version available. If there is, then simply click the ‘Request Indexing’ option.

Live test URL

Removing URLs from Google Search

So far, we have focused on using Search Console to get your content indexed and improve rankings in Google Search. However, sometimes you may want to remove content from Google Search as well.

One way to do this is to add a noindex meta tag to the page you want to remove from search results. However, depending on how often Google crawls your website, this could take some time before your page actually disappears from search results.

Search Console’s Remove URL tool allows you to request a URL to be removed from the search results. Simply click on ‘Removals’ under Index in the menu on your left.

Removals requests

Now click on the ‘New Request’ button, and a popup window will appear. Go ahead and enter the URL you want to remove, select whether you want to remove this URL only or with this prefix, and click the ‘Next’ button.

New removal request

Google will now block the URL from its search results for about six months. You can add as many URLs as you want and see them in the Removals section in the Search Console.

Adding Users to Access Google Search Console

If you have a marketing team or you have hired someone to help you with SEO, then those users may need access to Google search console data.

Search Console allows you to easily add users and give them access to view all reports without sharing your Google account credentials with them.

To add a new user, simply click on the Settings ยป Users and permissions option under Property settings and then click on ‘Add User’ button.

Add new user

Next, you need to provide the user’s valid Google account email address and select permission to grant them.

Enter user email

There are two types of permission levels. The full permission level will give them access to everything, including the ability to add new users. Restricted permissions will allow them to view the data but not add new users.

After choosing a permission level, click on the ‘Add’ button to save your changes.

The user you added will now receive an email notification, so they can login and view Google Search Console data for your website.