Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google to help you monitor and maintain your website in Google's search results.
You may not have heard of Google Search Console before but you may already be familiar with the service by its old name – Google Webmaster Tools.
Google renamed it in May 2015 and it now sounds a bit less technical and more accurately reflects the fact that it is not just for webmasters.
Why use Google Search Console?
It is a free service from Google that can help you to:
- Make sure Google can access your content
- Submit new content (or remove old content)
- Find out how Google sees your content
- See what search terms are generating the most traffic
- Find out who is linking to your site.
It is an excellent service and set of search optimization tools for all sorts of people – from entrepreneurs and small business owners to SEO and marketing specialists, website administrators and website developers.
The first step in getting started is to have a Google account. This article does not cover setting up your Google Account but you can read our separate article on ‘Setting up your Google account'.
Once you have your Google account set up, there are a few basic steps to set up your site in the Google Search Console:
Step 1 – Adding and verifying your site
Obviously, you need to prove ownership of the site before Google will let you add it to your console so the first thing you need to do is add and verify your website.
Once you have logged in, you will see an ‘Add Property' button on the main page.
You can prove ownership of your site in one of several ways:
- By adding some HTML to your page – best if you are used to editing HTML pages. Simply follow the instructions on the screen.
- By verifying via your domain name provider – easiest if your domain name provider is listed (it will have detailed instructions for you to follow).
- By uploading an HTML file – probably the easiest of all if you can upload a file to your website.
How to verify by uploading a file
To do this, click on the ‘Alternate methods' tab:
Then select HTML file upload and follow the instructions (download the file to your computer and upload it to your website):
Once you have done uploaded your file, click on ‘Verify' and your site should now be verified with Google and appear in your main menu.
Step 2 – Linking Google Analytics
The next step is to link your Google Analytics account to your Google Search Console. Google Analytics provides information about who is visiting your site, how many visitors you are getting each day, week or month and where they are coming from. Linking Google Analytics to your Google Search Console will integrate the data from both services to give you extra information and reports.
If you have not already set up Google Analytics on your account, you will need to do this (see our separate article on ‘Getting started with Google Analytics).
In the Search Console Dashboard, go into the site you want to link and click on the ‘Settings' icon (the cog in the top right corner) and select Google Analytics Property:
This will show the list of Google Analytics accounts that you have linked to your Google Account.
Simply select the Google Analytics account you want and click on ‘Save'.
Your Google Analytics Account and Google Search Console Account are now linked.
Step 3 – Add your sitemap
A sitemap is a file that provides search engines with the key information about how your site is structured and includes links to all of your pages. This ensures that search engines and web crawlers have all of the information they need to index your site quickly and effectively.
You don't have to do it but by submitting a sitemap to Google, you are making their job simpler as you are submitting the information they need to index your site properly.
Generating a sitemap
There are various ways to generate a sitemap. If you are using WordPress, there are several great plugins that will do it for you. Two of the most popular ones are:
If you are not using WordPress, there are many online services where you create the sitemap (on their site), download the file generated and then upload it to your site. Two of the most popular ones are:
Either way, you should end up with a sitemap on your website where you can ‘point' at the file (eg yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml) in Google Search Console.
To register a sitemap in Google Search Console, first go into the website you want to edit, then click on the ‘Crawl' menu on the left hand side of the main dashboard:
Then, in the drop down menu, click on the ‘Sitemaps' menu option:
On the next screen, click on the ‘Add/Test Sitemap' button in the top right corner:
This will show a drop down window for you to enter the address of your sitemap page:
Click on ‘Submit Sitemap' and you have now submitted your sitemap to Google for indexing.
This is a brief introduction to setting up your Google Search Console Account, linking it to your Google Analytics Account and submitting your Google site map.
When you first add a new website to your Google Search Console account, you will receive a message from Google with the subject line of ‘Improve the search presence of yourdomain.com' (the Messages option is at the top of the left-hand menu).
This message provides you with a checklist of actions that you need to complete and links to other sources of help within Google.
I hope that this quick start guide has helped – please leave a comment below if you think I have missed anything super important or if you have found it useful.
Mark Woodroof is a qualified marketing coach who was awarded a BA(Hons) in Business and a Diploma in Marketing (from the Chartered Institute of Marketing) in the early 1990's and has spent the last 20 years working with private and public sector organisations.
During that time, Mark has worked with hundreds of business owners helping them to grow their businesses, launch new products and services, set up and manage their own marketing plans, websites and digital marketing strategies.
Today, he specialises in Digital Marketing, Social Media, WordPress Development and marketing automation systems such as ActiveCampaign & Infusionsoft.
Mark's areas of expertise include:
- Marketing Strategy & Planning
- Software Development Project Management (Microsoft.Net & Laravel)
- Customer Relationship Management Systems (Infusionsoft, Zoho & Insightly)
- Web Design & Development
- Digital Marketing Campaign Development
- Mailing List Services (eg AWeber, Mailchimp)
- Traffic Generation Strategies & Tactics
- Sales Funnels, Squeeze Pages & Online Conversion
- Customer Value Optimization
- BA(Hons) Business Studies (University of Portsmouth)
- Diploma in Marketing (Chartered Institute of Marketing)
- Level 5 in Coaching and Mentoring (Chartered Management Institute)
- DigitalMarketer Certifications:
- Certified Content Marketing Specialist
- Certified Customer Acquisition Specialist
- Certified Customer Value Optimization Specialists