Search Console (formerly known as the Webmaster Tools) is a free web app created by Google. It can help you improve your site and thereby get more visitors.
With Search Console, you connect your site to Google and share information directly with the search giant. In return, Google provides you insights into how they “see” your site and many other useful details. Google notifies you if and when there’s something you should fix to rank higher or even to regain your lost rankings.
Alongside the tracking code from Google Analytics, verifying your site with Search Console should be one of the first things you do when starting a new blog. It’s an essential part of optimizing your site for search engines.
Things Search Console can help you with
Search Console gives you a lot of useful information and sends you notifications that you can use to improve your site:
- You can see how your site appears in the search results
- See which search phrases and queries people use to find your content
- See which of your posts get most visitors from search
- View clicks, impressions, click-through rates and average search positions for your content
- See which sites link to you, which posts they link to, and what words they use to link to you
- See which internal pages you link to and how many times you link to them
- See “page not found” errors that Google has discovered on your site
- See any other HTML, usability and security issues detected
- Get notified if you’re running an old version of WordPress
All this means that you can learn about specific problems Google has with your site. Many of these are also problems that may annoy your visitors. Fixing these will help you get higher search rankings, more traffic, and happier visitors. And all this as a free service. It’s a must for all bloggers who want to optimize their sites. Let’s take a look at how you add your site to Search Console.
Adding and verifying your site to Search Console
- Visit Google Search Console and log in using your Google account
- Click on the “Add A Property” button in the top right corner
- Type in the domain name of your site in the window and click “Add”
- Verify the ownership of your domain name. Google’s recommended method is to upload a verification file to your server, but a plugin such as Jetpack can help you do this too. Alternative options are to verify your domain through Google Analytics (if you’ve already set it up), or add an HTML tag to the <head> section of your site
- Choose the method you prefer and go through the process
- After you verify the ownership of your domain name, your setup is complete
4 things to do after connecting to Search Console
These are the things you should do after signing in to your profile for the first time:
- In Crawl > Sitemaps you can add your sitemap file to tell Google about your content and help them learn which pages are most important to you and how often those pages change. An XML sitemap is a file that lists URL’s of your pages with additional metadata such as when the post was last updated. Several WordPress plugins can help you create an XML sitemap. This one is one of the most downloaded.
- Click on the Settings button on the top right and then “Site Settings“. Here you can specify your preferred domain. Should your site be displayed with or without www in the URL. Make sure the domain name version you pick here is actually the same as the domain name you use in Settings > General in your WordPress dashboard.
- In Search Traffic > International Targeting you can inform Google if you are targeting a specific language or a specific country. This could be the case for those that run multilingual sites.
- You should subscribe to get email notifications if you don’t plan to check the Search Console regularly. Click on the Settings button in the top right corner, choose “Search Console Preferences” and enable email notifications. All the valuable insights will now be delivered to your email inbox.
A guided tour through Google Search Console
There’s quite a bit of information that you get access to in the Search Console. It all helps you get a better picture of how optimized your content is, and what changes you need to make. Here’s a guided tour of the different sections and information they provide:
Dashboard is where you get a quick overview of any significant and critical messages that Google has sent you and the current status of your site regarding Crawl Errors, Search Queries, and Sitemaps.
Make sure to monitor these as Google will give you warning signs if there are things that need your attention such as Google robots being unable to crawl your site, new 404 pages found that you should fix immediately, and any increase or decrease of your rankings in search results. You will also be notified via email.
“Messages” is your inbox which features any message that Google sends you about your site. These are mostly automated messages that can alert you to some things that Google has discovered that you may have to take a look at. Things such as an increase in the number of “page not found” occurrences or a drop in rankings.
Search Appearance gives you more details on how your site and pages appear in the search results. This includes information about Structured Data (your schema.org data), Rich Cards, and HTML Improvements (issues with titles and tags of your pages). Review these recommendations and fix any outstanding issues.
Search Traffic is very interesting. It tells you what keyword phrases Google ranks you for, how many impressions and clicks you get from the individual search results, what positions you are ranked in, and even which of your pages are best ranked. Google also shows information about internal links and external sites linking to you.
“Manual Actions” part tells you if Google has taken action and removed your site from their index because of spam, harmful content or any other reason. “Mobile Usability” section informs you if there are any usability errors with your site design on tablets or mobiles.
Google Index gives you the status on how many of your pages are indexed and what keywords you are using the most. Here you also have the option to remove URL’s from Google’s index if you don’t want them to display any longer.
Crawl section gives you “Errors” (such as 404 page not found) encountered on your site. There’s also details on how Google crawls your content and how frequently. Make sure to fix or redirect any missing pages. This helps improve the user experience and will contribute to you having better rankings. The easiest way is to use a plugin such as this. You do also edit the .htaccess file on your server. Add a new line for each redirection:
Redirect 301 /old-post-permalink/ http://yourdomainname.com/new-post-permalink/
Security Issues section will be empty hopefully. Do check and see if Google discovered some important matters you should deal with. To reduce your exposure to hackers, these are the things you should do to keep your WordPress safe and secure.
Other Resources section gives you links to some other useful Google products, such as “Structured Data Testing Tool” and “Pagespeed Insights” which help you speed up the loading time on your content.
Google Search Console is a highly recommended app to learn more about your site. Register for an account, add your site, and stay tuned for the email notifications. Then make sure to act on the recommendations in order to improve your search rankings and get more happier visitors.