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Beginner's Guide to Google Search Console


Introduction

Search engine rankings are a given requirement for any website looking to be listed on a search engine. Many see ads as a good way to quickly gain leads and impressions, however, it is expensive and leads start to go down once you stop spending. Moreover, many do not have the budget to hold long term high-spending campaigns for ads. How do we gauge our website performance and grow leads and rankings? Here is where Google Search Console comes in.


Google Search Console is a completely free tool offered by Google, which can help you in monitoring your website’s performance as well as identify any site presence issues and allow you to ensure your on page SEO is on the right track.


Getting started

To begin, you must create a Google Search Console account. With an existing google email address, you would be able to create an account immediately. You will then be brought to start the search console. You can either enter a domain or a URL prefix, depending on whether you want your whole website to be viewed or restricted to certain webpages. You can add both domain and URL prefix properties for the same domain.



The next step is to verify your ownership of the webpage. For domain verification, a DNS Record is needed in order to verify the website. However, if you use URL prefix, verification can be done in 7 ways:


  • DNS Record

  • HTML file upload

  • HTML Tag

  • Google Analytics tracking code

  • Google Tag Manager container snippet

  • Google Sites

  • Blogger


The default and most recommended way to verify your website is by adding a HTML file to your website, although using the DNS record is very simple to set up. After completing the verification process, you will be able to view data on your dashboard. Sometimes it might take a few hours for it to start showing, but within a day, all your data would be loaded in the dashboard.


Screenshot from Google’s Search Console Training Video


Features

Now that your dashboard is set up, you can have access to multiple tools within the Google Search Console to analyse your website and monitor its performance on Google.


Overview

The overview is able to give you a brief glance of how your website is performing in terms of details such as keyword ranking and leads as well as site traffic. You will also be able to view the crawling status and if there are any errors while the Google bot crawls through your website, as well as the number of sites that have been linked to your webpage and the number of indexed pages on Google.


Performance

In this section, you would be able to view a breakdown of the website performance on Google and search engine results. You can view your performance based on country, devices, dates and queries, and see the performance of your pages as well as search appearance in the search engine.


URL Inspection

This feature allows you to search for any url in your domain or website in the inspection search box and show you results from web searches and check if your website can be reflected on Google search results and if there are any issues in the crawling of the webpage. This gives you in-depth information on the performance of the particular webpage.


Index

In order to better rank your website and let Google know what to crawl and allow your webpages to be ranked on the search engine, there are 2 sections that will enable you to instruct Google on what to do.


Coverage

When viewing the coverage section, you will be able to view indexing errors within your website. It is divided into sections to view pages with error, valid with warnings, valid, and excluded. This can allow you to see which web pages have issues to be solved, and compare impressions against the different kinds of web pages based on its indexing status. If you have pages with sensitive content or web pages that you do not want Google to crawl and rank on the search engine, then you should create a robots.txt file to prevent any search engines from accessing those particular search pages, and consider a password for websites that are highly sensitive.


Sitemap

The sitemap is a list of pages in your website that allows Google to find and understand the hierarchy of the webpages. On the console, you can upload an XML file that contains the information about the pages you have in your website. It cannot be more than 50,000 URLs or have a file size of more than 10 megabytes, if not the file has to be split into different files. It is important to submit a sitemap as it can help Google to understand what are the pages on your website in order for it to be indexed. If a sitemap is not uploaded, then Google may not be able to index all pages on your website, which can lead to less traffic. When uploaded, Google will inform you of the pages that are indexed. However, it is common for some pages to not be indexed, as the content might not be deemed as unique, or have generic meta and title tags, and as well as the lack of linking of other websites to your internal pages.


Removal

This tool can help you to block pages temporarily from Google Search results on sites that you own. If you need to immediately take a website off Google Search, you can use Temporary Removals to remove the webpage off of Google Search for 6 months. To permanently remove, additional steps must be taken. You can also use it to remove a particular content in the page without removing the actual page itself. The outdated content section provides information on requests made by the public to remove or update the information on the website if it is no longer relevant and accurate. The public is unable to force you to change or remove the information, so it is for you to review and determine if the information is suitable for you to take down. SafeSearch filtering allows you to view if there are any websites that have been deemed as adult content, which were reported by users.


Enhancements

Mobile usability is a tool to enable you to view whether there are issues when viewing your webpage on mobile devices, and if the website is mobile friendly or not. This can allow you to view the issues and rectify it, optimising it better for your mobile users.


Manual Actions

This section shows any alerts from Google if any of your pages have been determined to cause spam by a human. Google has human reviewers who would evaluate web pages that are spammy and give warnings to site masters to tweak and change their website content. 


Links

This section provides a report to let you know what websites are linking your webpage, and what is related to those links or said about it. Divided into internal and external links, internal links tells Google that those linked pages are important to your website. Google will recognise that it is important and rank it higher on search results. Your page rank will not be as high if you do not link to your internal pages. External links link to your website from other websites, and are harder to get but more valuable. This can greatly improve your rankings as it is one of the top ranking factors used by Google.



Conclusion

Search Engine Optimisation, although tedious and a lot to take into consideration, is very important and is probably the cheapest and yet best option to ensure that your website is well ranked on Google search results for the long run. A lot of analysing and tweaks go into ensuring that your website’s on page SEO follows best practices and achieve high rankings on Google. With comprehensive yet easy to use tools provided for your use, you can definitely increase your leads and understand how Google search works better.