You’ve bought your domain, set up your new website….whats next…how do people find you online?
Google Search Console is your next step.
Its useful to tell Google that you’re now online. To do this you can set up Google Search Console (previously called Google Webmaster Tools) and register your new website.
If used well Google Search Console can really help to improve your visibility online.
Google is a search engine, just like Yahoo and Bing, and it uses algorithms to filter and find stuff – which it then displays in pages and pages of information – in a ranked order of relevance (PageRank)
In order to rank well with Google you need to do a variety things to your website to improve its visibility – this is the process of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO for short).
One of the first things you can do to increase your chances of getting found online is to register your website with Google Search Console. Yahoo and Bing have similar processes but we are going to focus on Google for now.
Using Google Search Console (GSC) gives you access to lots of information about your website’s visibility on Google, which we’ll explain in the guide below.
What is Google Search Console?
It is a free tool offered by Google that allows you to monitor your website and see how it’s doing within the Google Search Results. It’s not something you have to sign up in ordered to be visible on Google but it offers valuable insights as to how you can improve your PageRank
Google Search Console provides reports that can help you understand how your web pages are appearing in the search results. It can show you how people found your website, and what search terms they used and how often the pages are clicked. This can help you gain insight into what to do with your website in the future – it helps you with new content ideas and keywords.
How to Set up Google Search Console
STEP ONE: Make sure you have a Google account.
If you don’t already have one it’s easy and free to set up. (TIP: If you have Gmail then you’ve already got a Google account)
STEP TWO: Once you’ve logged into your Google account the visit the Google Search Console webpage.
This is where you’ll find the Search Console dashboard.
STEP THREE: In your dashboard area click on the red box that says “ADD PROPERTY”.
A box will pop-up and you can enter your website URL (domain) – then click the blue ADD button. Now you’ve added your website!
STEP FOUR: Verify your Website
Understandably, Google has to verify that you own this domain and the website on it. They don’t want to give out sensitive information without checking it’s you!
Don’t give up on this step – it can be tricky if you are new to techie stuff but don’t be daunted – you can do it!
There a few ways to do this;
- HTML file: This is the method the console recommends, however, if you’re not experienced in using HTML, then this way can be quite complicated.
- Google Analytics: If you have set up Google Analytics for your website (which we 100% recommend) then you can use that account to verify your website. Just follow the onscreen instructions.
- Domain Name Provider: To verify your website through the domain provider, choose this option.
If you are new to techie stuff then I would recommend doing either the Domain Name Provider step to verify your domain.
Or, if you are using WordPress then I would use the Yoast Search Engine Optimisation plugin and the HTML Tag option to help you verify the website.
If you use the Domain Name Provider step then Google takes you through the process – you will end up adding what’s called a TXT file to your domain – this will then verify you are the owner of the website.
The WordPress Alternative plugin method.
Click the Alternative Method tab and then click on the HTML Tag button and then leave this page open and go to your WordPress website in a separate tab.
Install the Yoast SEO plugin onto your WordPress website – and once you have activated it then in the WordPress dashboard click on the SEO link and the Search Console.
Then follow the steps to Get Your Google Authentication Code – you will be lead through these steps and then you can get given an auth code that you copy and paste into the SEO plugin area.
Once you have done this then you can then click SEO > General > Webmaster Tools
Go and grab the HTML Tag from the Google Search Page you have open and paste it into the Google Verification Code area within the Yoast Plugin.
Enter the code into the box and then click Save Changes.
Then pop back to the open Google Search Console web page and finish the verification process by clicking VERIFY
Step Four is then DONE – Phew – I bit of a faff but worth it!
STEP FIVE: Add a Sitemap
In simple terms, a Sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website that you want Google to be able to find.
For SEO purposes it is important to upload an XML sitemap. This helps Google find all the pages on your website more easily. The technical term for this is indexing.
The easiest way to create a sitemap if you have a WordPress website is to use the free tool provided by the Yoast SEO plugin – which is one of the 12 Plugins your website needs. You can access the plugin on your WordPress dashboard.
If you don’t have a WordPress website then you can use this sitemap generator tool – just enter your url (domain name) and click Start. You then be able to download the XML Sitemap.
To upload the sitemap, click “Crawl” in the menu on the left-hand side, and then click “Sitemaps”. Once you’ve uploaded a sitemap, Google can then index the pages of your website.
How to use Google Search Console
So now that your account is set up, you can start making use of the information Google Search Console has to offer.
However, bear in mind that Google needs to collect information before it can show you anything, so it might take a few weeks for the information to become valuable.
The dashboard is the first page you see when you log into the Google Search Console. From this page you can see an overview of the information Seach Console has to offer.
From this menu you can access a whole range of reports about your website.
This section is quite self-explanatory. This is where Google will show you any messages about important findings on your website. For example, crawling errors.
You can set up email notifications, so that if there are any urgent problems with your website, you’ll be notified straight away. Without having to log into GSC.
This section shows you lots of information about how your website looks in Google’s search results; its Search Appearance.
Next to the “Search Appearance” option in the menu on the left hand side you’ll see an “I” information button. Clicking this button gives you a rundown of each element of a Google search result. You can click on each element for further information.
In this section there are 5 sub-sections.
This section shows you all the pages on your website which contain structured data. It will also inform you of any pages with errors in the data.
When you search for anything on Google, the results don’t just show you the name of the website or the page title. You’re often shown plenty of useful information.
Say, for example, you search for a supermarket on Google. The search results will show you information about opening times, and the busiest periods throughout the day. Google is able to show this information in search results because of structured data.
Structured data allows Google to better understand the content of a webpage. In simple terms, it’s like labeling each section of the webpage. So taking the supermarket example, the opening times section has been labelled as “opening times” so that Google can find it more easily.
For beginners, this may seem extremely complicated and maybe not something to worry about straight away. But it’s always good to have a basic understanding so that if the term “structured data” pops up, you’re familiar with it.
Rich cards are shown at the top of a Google search result. They offer easy access to information that Google thins will answer your search query.
These are set up using structured data from your web pages, so again, if you’re a beginner, you might not want to worry about this for now.
This section makes it easy to find and fix problems with your structured data. You can follow the onscreen instructions to find the data you want to be highlighted and Google will do the rest!
This page will find any problems with your website’s HTML and offer you help to fix these problems. For example, if Google was unable to index a page, it will pop up here.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
AMP are linked to your website to make sure the pages load quickly on mobile devices.
If you have AMP set up you will see information about their performance in this section.
This section is where you’ll find tonnes of useful information including how often your website appears in search results, what people are searching for when they find your website, and how many times your website has been clicked on under each search query.
Under this section, you have access to a whole range of reports on your traffic.
At the top there are four boxes you can tick; Clicks – the number of times your website was clicked on, Impressions- how many times your website appeared in the search results, CTR (click through rate) – the percentage of people who saw and clicked on your website and position – the topmost position your website achieved in the results. Ticking any of these boxes will show the data in the chart and in the table.
Understanding what this data means can give you a valuable insight into how people find your website.
Below the chart, you’ll see a list of the top search queries people have used to land on your website.
Turn on Clicks and Impressions by clicking the boxes at the top.
Compare the number of impressions with the number of clicks. If a search query has an impression of 200, it means that your website has appeared 200 times when that search query has been entered into Google.
This sounds great. But compare it with the number of clicks. Say, for example, there were only 2 clicks. That means that 2/200 people clicked on your website when they saw it in the results.
Using this information you can try to figure out what it is that made people decide not to visit your website.
Links to Your Site
Here, you can see all the other websites that have linked to yours. This can be really helpful in getting more traffic to your website, especially if a high profile website links to yours.
There are three sections.
- Who links the most
- Your most linked content
- How your data is linked
The reason that this data is so valuable is that you can use it to find out which of your content is being linked to the most and try to replicate similar content that will be equally as successful.
You can also make sure that no spam or other negative websites have linked to your website, as this could have a negative effect on your traffic.
Internal linking is linking between pages on your own website. For example, on the page of a blog post, you could link to another of your posts that would be relevant to read next.
This can greatly improve your SEO. It can decrease the bounce rate, increase session duration, and increase pages per session. These are all things that mean users have had a positive experience on your website and will improve your rankings.
In this section of GSC you have an overview of all your internal links. You can fix problems such as links to a page you’ve since deleted or renamed.
Hopefully, whenever you click on this page it’ll say “No manual webspam actions found”. This is where Google alerts you to any ‘bad behaviour’ on your website. Anything Google detects as spam will be highlighted here. But as long as you’re following Google’s guidelines, you should be OK.
In this section you can let Google know your target audience. If you only want to target people in the UK, enter this information in the box under the “Country” tab.
If you really want traffic on your website, it has to be mobile compatible.
So this section is really important. It’s where Google will let you know if any of your web pages are incompatible with mobile devices.
Common problems include content being wider than the screen, and elements on the webpage being too close together.
This section gives you an overview of all the pages of your website that Google has indexed, and how it is handling them.
Under this sub-section, you’ll find the URLs of all the pages that Google has indexed. What’s most useful in this section is the graph. What you should expect to see is the number of indexed pages steadily rising.
Any big changes like sudden drops or spikes, immediately let you know that there’s something going on on your website.
You can look into this more on the advanced tab.
This section is pretty straightforward. If there are any URLs you want removed, you can do so here. Just type in the URL that you don’t want to show up in Google search results.
Currently, GSC only shows you removal requests from the last 6 months.
Crawl is the technical term for Google examining your website for pages to index. In this section, you’ll find everything to do with helping Google find all your web pages correctly.
This is where Google will list any site or URL errors. You’ll also have access to a bit of information about each error such as when it occurred and how many times it occurred in the last 90 days.
It’s important to keep on top of these errors so that Google doesn’t think your website is low quality.
This page shows you the Googlebot activity in the last 90 days. You can find information about how many of your pages are crawled per day.
Again, it’s always good to check up on this from time to time, to make sure Google is crawling your website properly.
Fetch as Google
This page offers a tool to help you to fix the errors found on the Crawl Errors page.
Using fetch as Google allows you to see what is causing each error, so that you can fix them manually.
We’ve mentioned robots.txt files before. You can use this type of file to tell Google which pages of your website that you don’t want to appear in search results.
In this section, you can test your robots.txt file to make sure it’s working in the way you want it to.
This section is one we’ve already introduced you to early on. It is where you can upload your XML sitemaps, in order to help Google to find your web pages more easily.
On this page you’ll see a warning message from Google. They recommend that you only use this feature if you know how URL Parameters work. If you’re a beginner, it’s probably best to just leave this one!
Pretty self-explanatory; this section will tell you whether there are any security issues on your website. Hopefully it’ll always be clear!
If you’re site is hacked, unfortunately this can be very difficult to sort out.
For help with hacked sites, visit this link https://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/hacked/