A Beginner’s Guide to Google Search Console for SEO

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Are you curious about what search queries, or keywords, people are typing into Google to find your website? Or what keywords are driving the most traffic to your website? Or maybe the keywords that you should optimize a bit more to improve the quality and quantity of traffic to your website from Google? Enter, Google Search Console for SEO.

Google Search Console (GSC) is a free SEO tool that provides you with a wealth of knowledge on how your website is performing in organic Google search results (organic meaning no paid ads). In turn, you can use the data provided by Google Search Console to improve your keyword and SEO strategy.

In this beginner’s guide to Google Search Console, I’ll be giving you details on…

  • What is Google Search Console?
  • What does Google Search Console do?
  • Who should use Google Search Console?
  • How to add your website to Google Search Console
  • How to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console
  • How to request indexing of your website with Google Search Console
  • How to connect Google Search Console with Google Analytics
  • The basics of Google Search Console analytics
  • How to use Google Search Console

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmasters Tools, is a free tool from Google that enables you to track the performance of your website on Google. In turn, the analytics provided by Google Search Console enables you to improve your SEO keyword strategy with the goal of increasing your website’s ranking or presence in organic search results.

Google defines Google Search Console as: “Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console to be included in Google Search results, but Search Console helps you understand and improve how Google sees your site.”

What does Google Search Console do?

Now that we’ve defined what Search Console is, you’re probably wondering what it does, the tools it offers, and the data it provides. For a free tool, you are going to get a wealth of knowledge about your website, how people find you, and how to improve your overall SEO strategy.

First, Google Search Console allows you to confirm that Google knows your website exists. This is done by connecting your website to GSC, submitting your sitemap, and by requesting indexing of your website. Each of these items ensures that Google is up to date on everything about your website and can properly display it in search results.

Next, Google Search Console notifies you of any indexing or spam issues with your website. The indexing issues are broken down by status (error, warning, or valid) along with the reason for the specific status. For error or warning indexing issues, you can request that Google re-index the new or updated content after you resolve the indexing issues.

Google Search Console also lets you view all traffic to your site from Google searches. You are able to see how often your website is appearing in search results (impressions), which search queries your website is appearing in, what position your website falls at in search queries, how often users click through to your website from those queries, and so much more.

RELATED: SEO for Beginners – A Glossary of SEO Terms Explained

Who should use Google Search Console?

The easy answer here is for anyone and everyone with a website. Google Search Console is an essential (and free) SEO tool to have in your business toolkit. From business owners to bloggers, marketers, web developers, shops, restaurants, SEO experts, and every business in between, Google Search Console is for everyone.

How to add your website to Google Search Console

Adding your website to Google Search Console takes just a few steps and I promise, it is not as techy of a process as you assume it may be. As soon as you add your website to GSC, this free SEO tool will start tracking data. Pretty cool, right?!

  1. Sign in to your Google business account. If you don’t have a Google business account, you can create a free Google account.
  2. Go to Google Search Console.
  3. Click “Add a Property.”
  4. Select if you want to add your website via Domain or URL Prefix. I recommend adding your website to Google Search Console via Domain but you can learn more here about the 2 options.
  5. Enter your website (ie: yourwebsite.com if you’re going the Domain route or https://www.yourwebsite.com if you’re going the URL Prefix route).
  6. Click “Continue.”
  7. Select from the options how you want to verify your website. The options include:
    • HTML file upload: you’ll upload a verification HTML file to a specific location of your website
    • HTML tag: you’ll add a <meta> tag to the <HEAD> section of your website’s code
    • Google Analytics tracking code: you’ll copy the Google Analytics tracking code that you use on your site
    • Domain Name Provider: sign in to your domain registrar (ie: GoDaddy) and verify your site directly from Google Search Console OR you can add a DNS or CNAME record
  8. Once your website is verified, you’re good to go!

How to Connect and Verify Your Squarespace Website with Google Search Console

How to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console

Now that your website has been added and verified with Google Search Console, you’ll want to submit your sitemap. A sitemap is just how it sounds, it is a digital map or file of your website and all of the pages, links, etc that it includes. Your sitemap helps search engines like Google know what your website is about, how it flows, how to navigate through it, and so much more.

  1. In the Google Search Console dashboard, select “Sitemap” from the navigation on the left-hand side.
  2. Enter “sitemap.xml” in the available space after your website URL. If your website URL isn’t listed, simply add /sitemap.xml at the end of the URL. It will look something like this: https://www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml
  3. Click “Submit.”
  4. Done!

In this Sitemap tab, you’ll be able to see when your sitemap was submitted and the date that Google last read your sitemap, meaning the last time Google went through your site.

How to request indexing of your website with Google Search Console

You’ve connected and verified your website successfully, and you’ve submitted your sitemap; now it is time to request indexing of your website with Google Search Console. Indexing is a nice way of telling Google to add your site – or a new page/blog post – to search results.

  1. In the search bar at the top of the Google Search Console dashboard, enter or paste the full URL to your website or a specific page/blog post and hit enter.
  2. Once loaded, GSC will let you know if the page has been indexed by Google. If it has, you’re good to go! If not, click “Request Indexing.”
  3. When the indexing request is complete, a pop-up window will appear to confirm.
  4. Done!

How to connect Google Search Console with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is another free SEO tool from Google that provides you with in-depth website traffic and conversion data. Google Search Console, on the other hand, provides you with in-depth information on how your website is performing in search results. By pairing the two (2) SEO tools together, you’ll have a wealth of well-rounded data about your website.

  1. Go to your Google Analytics account.
  2. Click the “Admin” option in the bottom left-hand corner; it has a gear icon next to it.
  3. Under the “Property” column (the middle column), click “Property Settings.”
  4. Scroll down to where it says “Search Console” and click “Adjust Search Console.”
  5. Select the reporting view(s) in which you want to see the GSC data display in Google Analytics.
  6. Done!

The basics of Google Search Console analytics

Since this is a beginner’s guide to Google Search Console, I’m just going to cover the different analytics you can see (and should be paying attention to) in your Google Search Console dashboard. I won’t be getting into the nitty-gritty of analyzing the data now, we’ll save that for another time.

In the dashboard, you’ll want to pay close attention to the Performance section on the left-hand side. When you click that, you are going to open up a wealth of knowledge and information on your site. Let’s start at a high-level overview first.

At the very top, after you select Performance from the left-hand side of the dashboard, you are able to adjust the settings of the data that appears. You can filter by search type (web, image, news) and/or by date. For date, you can filter by the last 7 days, 28 days, 3-months, 6-months, 12-months, 16-months, or a custom date range of your choice.

The graph at the top displays visually the total number of clicks, impressions, average CTR (click-through rate), and average position of your website in Google search results. Clicks and impressions are automatically selected and appear in the graph. To see CTR and position, just click the small check box to activate them in the graph and the table below it.

Below the graph, you will see a table with different tabs: queries, pages, countries, devices, search appearance, and date. Let’s break down some of these terms so you can get a better understanding of the data you are looking at.

  • Total Clicks: Total clicks represent the number of times a user clicked through directly to your site.
  • Total Impressions: Total impressions represent the number of times a user saw your link in search results.
  • Average CTR: Average CTR (click-through rate) is a percentage of total impressions that resulted in a click to your website.
  • Average Position: The average position represents wherein a search result your website falls. Here, the lower the number the higher your page appears in search results on average. For example, a 4.2 means your website is landing around the 4th position in search results (hello, page 1 rankings), versus 25.8 where your site would be landing around the 26th spot.
  • Queries: Queries data is displayed in the first tab of the table below the graph. Queries represent the search terms that a user is typing into Google to find your site. These search terms are keywords – aka that essential piece of SEO. You can also click on a specific search query and it will adjust the graph and table to show you stats for that specific query. It’s a great way to dial in a bit closer on those keywords bringing traffic to your website.
  • Pages: In the table below the graph, the pages tab displays the exact page or link on your website and the stats (clicks, impressions, position, CTR) for that specific page.
  • Countries: The countries tab allows you to see where people are located that are finding your site in Google search results.
  • Devices: The devices tab is great to see the breakdown of people finding your website in Google search results on desktop vs mobile vs tablet. As a Squarespace & Showit web designer, I am constantly stressing the importance of having a mobile-optimized website. The data in this tab shows why that is so important, especially if your mobile clicks are the highest.
  • Search Appearance: Search appearance breaks down special search result features like an AMP or rich result. Here is a full listing of the search appearance types that may pop up in your Google Search Console results.
  • Dates: The dates tab lets you see day by day how many clicks, impressions, the average CTR, and average position individually.

How to use Google Search Console

I probably sound like a broken record but for a free SEO tool, Google Search Console provides you with a wealth of information about your website and insight on how you can improve your site for improved rankings on Google. If you still don’t believe me, here are 15 examples of the many things you can learn from Google Search Console as part of your SEO strategy…

  1. Identify pages of your website with the highest traffic.
  2. Identify search queries, or keywords, driving the most traffic to your website.
  3. Identify your average CTR (click-through rate) in Google searches.
  4. Monitor your average CTR over a specific period of time.
  5. Identify search queries, or keywords, with the highest CTR.
  6. Monitor your impressions over time, or how many people are seeing your website in search results.
  7. Monitor your average position over time, or where in a Google search your website is appearing.
  8. Learn how many pages of your website have been indexed.
  9. Learn what pages of your website haven’t been indexed and why.
  10. Identify mobile usability issues with your website.
  11. Identify the total number of internal links your website has.
  12. Identify the most popular anchor text, or words that are hyperlinked, external links.
  13. Learn how many backlinks your website has, or how many websites are linking to your website.
  14. Identify AMP, or accelerated mobile page, errors and how to fix them.
  15. Compare your website’s performance in Google searches across devices (desktop, tablet, mobile).

There you have it, a beginner’s guide to Google Search Console for SEO. Do you have any specific questions about Google Search Console?

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Hey there, I'm Stepf—Google Superfan & Passionate Educator

And the showit website designer and seo strategist you’ve been looking for

Through strategic Showit website design and done-for-you search engine optimization, I work with innovative and creative business owners like you to build magazine-worthy websites that effortlessly attract your ideal client—so much so that they’ll never want to leave.

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