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The Ultimate Guide to Google Search Console in 2023. All You need to Know
By the end of this tutorial, you will be able to understand, optimize and work with the Google Search Console tool
In this lesson:
- What is Google Search Console
- Why do You Need Google Search Console
- How to Get Started
- How to Use Google Search Console
- Google Search Console Reports and what they do
- Google Search Console Tools and what they do
- Other Google Search Console Features
We’ll start with basic definitions and logical questions
What Google Search Console is?
Google Search Console or GSC – is a free tool that allows you to maintain, troubleshoot and monitor your website presence inside Google search
Moreover, you can see website changes historically, selecting a date of the beginning (max 16 months) till the date you want (except future)
If you want to check your website stability through Google search – use the GSC tool, it is filled with a lot of information about a website that helps you to optimize it in a better way, emphasizing its good and bad sides
Why Would You Need a Google Search Console?
Google Search Console provides valuable insights about website traffic, organic search ranking, and technical SEO issues completely free with a decent accuracy
With Google Search Console (GSC) you can:
- See which pages are ranking in Google
- Get detailed reports on your organic traffic, divided by (country, device, pages, and queries)
- Identify SEO technical issues and their solutions
- Track the performance of your website (including Google Discovery, news, and other Google resources)
- Get alerts when Google encounters security issues or spam
How to Get Started? (Skip if you have GSC installed already)
#1. Go to the Google Search Console Tool
You’ll see something like this
#2. Select a property type and add your website
You have 2 choices to let GSC add your website:
- Domain type
- URL prefix type
Domain type – is used when you want to add not only the main domain but its versions
For example, if you have 2 more versions of a website (http://, https://) or a subdomain m.yourwebsite.com
Chose whatever fits you the best
I’d recommend you to chose URL prefix type, this is how you can differentiate your multiple domain protocols and subdomains, eventually get clear analyzing reports, and control these versions more effectively
#3. Verify your domain name
For URL prefix type, there are 5 methods to do that:
1. Uploading an HTML file
You just need to upload the given by Google HTML file to the root folder of your website
- Download the given HTML file
2. Put it in the root folder of your website
3. And click “Verify” button when it’s done
(Don’t delete this file after verification, it has to be alive to let Google Search Console work properly)
2. Adding HTML tag
Simply add the file suggested by the Google tag, inside your <head> section of a website, and hit “Verify” button
1. Open up your header template inside your CMS system, and find where the closing </head> tag
2. Copy the tag provided by Google
3. Paste it before the closing </head> tag in your template
4. And click “Verify” button in Google Search Console
3. Using Google Analytics Account
If you got Google Analytics installed, you can verify the ownership by simply clicking the “Verify” button over here
Requirements for the method:
- Your homepage must contain either your analytics.js or gtag.js snippet.
- Your tracking code should be in the <head> section of your page.
- You must have the “edit” permission for the Google Analytics property.
Make sure that you have configured basics in Google Analytics (created a view and a property for your website)
If so, click the “Verify” button and that’s it
4. Using Google Tag Manager (GTM)
For this method, you have to have Google Tag Manager installed on your website, and also 2 requirements:
1. Having an existing container (basically a website added to GTM called container)
2. Must have a “Publish” or “Admin” permission over your website
To make sure that you have that permission or access points
1. Go to the “Account settings”
2. Then click “User Management”
3. And click over a user to see a permission level
Now go to the Google Search Console and hit the “Verify” button
And that’s it
5. Adding DNS Records
To verify Google Search Console using the Domain provider name (DNS) you need to:
1. Go to the provider website (a place where your website is hosted, for example, godaddy.com)
2. Find DNS options or DNS servers
3. Copy the CNAME or TXT record type from Google Search Console
4. Add the corresponding record to a DNS records
Save it and wait, it usually takes an hour, but it can last up to 24 hours before changes will apply
You can try to click the “Verify” button over time to check the verification process
You can also verify your domain by using the Domain property type on the Google Search Console home page
For that, type your domain name straight, without using protocols (https:// or http://)
And add corresponding DNS records inside your provider website (same as method #5 )
Then click the “Verify” button to accept the changes
The process takes up to 24 hours, but usually, it takes 1 hour
When it’s done, we can now take a look more closely at the options that the GSC tools and reports are suggesting to us
How to Use Google Search Console
To use Google Search Console for the very first time, you should have to do these first:
- Verify site ownership (previous step)
- Make sure that Google can find and index your pages, you check that out using Index Coverage Report, go to “Indexing” → “Pages”
- To check mobile usability for users using mobile devices, go to “Experience” → “Mobile Usability”
- Make sure you have submitted the sitemap.xml file inside Google Search Console, go to the “Indexing” → “Sitemaps” report
- Make sure your website doesn’t have any manual sanctions imposed by Google, for that, go to the “Security & Manual Actions” → “Manual Actions” report
- Take a look at the page experience report, it can emphasize where you might be having problems with certain pages for both: desktop and mobile devices. For that, go to the “Experience” → “Page Experience” report
And there are more
As an example, I’ll take one of the website examples I have, and explain everything about Google Search Console reports and tools
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Google Search Console Reports
The Google Search Console contains a lot of useful reports that might help you during the work process of a website.
Aside from that is free, it’s accessible and intuitive
And of course, it has many reports I will be talking about down below
The Google Search Console Overview report is a dashboard that provides a high-level view of the performance of your website in Google search results. It provides a summary of important metrics that you can use to assess the health of your website and to identify areas for improvement.
Specifically on these reports:
#1. Performance Report
The performance reports – allow checking how many clicks/impressions you got for a selected time range. Moreover, via this report, you can check website average CTR and position of a website, sorted by countries, devices, and exact pages
#2. Indexing Report
The Indexing report – allows seeing how many pages are not in Google Index and how many aren’t in, providing errors with its description
#3. Experience Report
The Experience report – shows how many pages are in good/bad conditions in terms of mobile usability and Core Web Vitals Core Web Vitals are a set of specific factors that Google considers important in a webpage's overall user experience signals
#4. Enhancement Report
The Enhancement report – allows checking the structured data validity, such as schema.org data, for example (breadcrumbs or video structured data)
Google Search Console Performance report allows checking a website performance in Google in terms of
- Average CTR on the search results page
- Average position in Google
And not only that, but you can also check out:
— Keywords that a website is ranking for in Google along with positions
— Landing pages, a website is getting traffic to
— Traffic acquisition by countries
— What device type people used to reach a website
It also could be sorted from a top degree to low, using a date-range option at the very top of the report
For example, you can select date-range (up to 16 months) to see an average position of a website in Google Web results in a dynamic graphic
You can also switch from a basic Google search (web) to a video or an image one (seeing your images’ performance in Google)
And even compare it in the next tab
For example, I can compare my regular clicks from Google Search results with clicks or impressions coming from Google Images
And even see the differentiation between its average positions and CTR’s
Moreover, if you need to analyze data by a certain page or query, for example, you want to know what average position the certain page has
You can filter that too
Select “New”, and a window appears
Select what you need to filter, in my example, I want to check out an average position by TV series on my website in Google Search
Click “Apply” and see the results
So my average position for 3 months for pages containing /series/ in the URL is 9.9
You can also use RegEx A regular expression is a sequence of characters that specifies a match pattern in the text. Usually, such patterns are used to find operations or strings expressions or exact URLs to filter specific addresses or address
This particular report can serve you as an analytical one, you can export any information you’ve selected and place it inside
- Google Sheets format (online)
- Excel format
- CSV format
To enter the Performance report, just hit the “Performance” tab in the left sidebar of the Google Search Console dashboard
URL Inspection Report
The URL inspection report allows inspecting and analyzing a particular page of a website to see page indexability status in Google. Also, the information can include data about a user experience, structured data, AMP pages e.t.c
You got 2 ways to use this tool
1. At the very top of the Google Search Console tool, look for a search bar
2. At almost every report in the Google Search Console tool, you can observe the “Inspect” icon 🔍 next to the URL. Click that.
When you’re done fixing pages, inspect it and request Indexing again
To do that, just inspect the URL again and click “Request Indexing” button
This feature can help Google crawler find the changes on a particular page and reindex your positions faster
By the way. As practice shows, there is also a limit for the manual indexation process: 10 pages/per 24 hours, keep that in mind
Page Indexing Report
The page indexing report is a report that allows checking conditions of pages whether they are indexed or not, pointing to the particular problem with details provided
You can also turn on the comparing graph to see the ratio between indexed and non-indexed pages
And see the exact problems
We can see the EXACT reason and the number of affected pages
We can click on any problem and see its description and the probable solution or hints
So if you ever wonder why your pages aren’t in Google, you can ask Google Search Console about it
When you finish fixing a page, you can also validate it in order to get a faster response from Google pointing to a new status of a page
For that, return to the problemed-category you want to fix, for example, “Soft 404 pages”
And click the “VALIDATE FIX” button
Eventually, you will receive an email from Google
It would look something like this
In this case, I fixed the problem with pages containing duplicated field “FAQPage” for my FAQs and got a successful response from Google within 2 hours
In Google Search Console, an experience report refers to a set of metrics and insights that provide website owners with information about the user experience of their website visitors. The experience report provides data on website speed, mobile-friendliness, security, and accessibility.
An experience report contains the following reports inside it:
#1. Page Experience Report
#2. Core Web Vitals Report
#3. Mobile Usability report (retires on December 1, 2023)
There is no need to explain anything about it, very accessible and quite intuitive for understanding at the first glance
Remember that you can check out a particular page of your website in this report in terms of finding webpage stability, accessibility, and security for mobile and desktop devices to fix problems as they arise
The Enhancements report in Google Search Console provides insights into any potential issues with your website’s structured data markup (for example schema.org), as well as opportunities for improvement.
I have schema.org markup done to my recent guideline about how to perform a technical audit for a website, particularly for an FAQ block over here
I can check what is going it with it right now to find out whether there is a problem or not
Going to my Google Search Console enhancements “FAQ” report
Seeing nothing wrong now, but recently ago I have had some problems with it
And Google emailed me about it before
After a bit of working at this point and I finally avoided the problem, and now an FAQ block can be shown in Google easily
As you can see on the graph in the “FAQ” schema.org report, no pages were found with an issue again, after I fixed it
The categories displayed in the Enhancements report (such as “FAQ” or “Breadcrumbs”) are based on the types of structured data that are found on your website. Google uses its own algorithms to crawl and analyze your website’s code to identify any structured data markup that may be present.
Domain №1 doesn’t have “AMP” report
While domain №2 does
Google Search Console Tools
Aside from reports, the Google Search Console also has useful tools that can help you during technical optimization
The Sitemap tool in Google Search Console allows website owners to submit a list of all the pages on their website to Google. This helps Google’s web crawlers to better understand the structure of the website and to index its pages more accurately and efficiently.
All you need to do to add your sitemap is to generate a new sitemap.xml (if you have none)
To do that
You can use the screaming frog sitemap.xml generator, I have left instructions for you – suitable for any CMS or plain-coded websites
Or if you are a WordPress fellow, you can use YoastSEO plugin
When it’s done, simply put your new sitemap link to the bar inside the tool
And click the “Submit” button
It will start a process for a few seconds
And eventually, you’ll get a status next to the sitemap with discovered pages inside this sitemap
You can actually go to the sitemap and see pages being indexed within this sitemap
You can work with it, by fixing indexation problems, and getting more URLs indexed in Google which has the probability of getting more organic traffic from organic source
The Google Search Console Removals tool allows website owners to temporarily block specific URLs or entire pages from appearing in Google’s search results.
This tool can be useful in cases where a page needs to be removed from Google’s index quickly, such as when it contains sensitive or confidential information that was accidentally published online, or when the content violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
Anyway, we use it to prevent ranking URL’s we don’t want to see in Google.
To use this tool and exclude certain pages from Google Index, go to the “Removals”
Then hit the “New Request” button
Proceed with the step of filling URL you want to exclude
Click “Next” and submit the request
When it’s done, you will see the status of your removal process
Soon, it’ll take 1–2 hours to exclude URLs from indexing
This feature will last up to 6 months, after that, content can appear in the Google index again.
To exclude content indexation forever, use one of the following options
- Use noindex meta-tag on a page
- Make your web server returns 404 status code to a page
- Protect a page using a password in order to restrict indexation
By the way, the Removals tool does have a second feature where you can clear up your cached page and fresh its description on the search until the page is crawled again by Google
The next time Google crawls a page, it’ll be notified that the description has been changed
You can this feature to change a snippet you want to appear in Google instead of the current one
For that, proceed the same steps.
But instead of selecting the “Temporarily remove option” choose “Clear cached URL”
Enter a URL, click next, and submit the request
The Link tool in Google Search Console (GSC) is a feature that allows website owners to monitor the inbound links to their site. Inbound links, also known as backlinks, are links from other websites that point to your site.
It can show you:
- The sites that link to your site (in total), along with the number of links from each site.
- The pages on your site that receive the most backlinks.
- The anchor text used in the backlinks to your site.
- The most linked content on your site.
For example, I can see what external pages are linking to my certain page
To use it, go to the “Links” tab on the sidebar of the Google Search Console dashboard
Additional Features in Google Search Console
The Google Search Console tool also provides some convenient options for users in terms of administrating it via multiple accounts, associating it with other Google services such as Google Analytics or even changing a website address if you need to
User Permissions in Google Search Console
To add a new user in Google Search Console, go to “Settings” and hit “Users and permissions”
Click “Add User”
Enter an appropriate Gmail address of a user you want to add
Select the Permission level you want to grant to a user
Click ADD button and there you go
By the way, there are several permission levels:
Owner – The owner has full control over the account and can add or remove users, view all data, and make any necessary changes.
Full – Users with full permissions can access all data and tools within the account, but they cannot add or remove other users.
Restricted – Users with restricted permissions have access to specific data and tools within the account. This role is suitable for those who only need to access certain data or perform specific tasks.
In case you want to remove access from a user, find 3 dots next to the account you want to remove access from
And hit “Remove access”
Associated Services in Google Search Console
In Google Search Console, Associated Services refers to other Google services that are linked to your website, such as Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager. When you associate a service with your Search Console account, you can access data and features from both tools in one place.
Basically, associated tools are bridges to Google Search Console, helping to understand and visualize data for websites better get a deeper understanding of what is going on with a website
To use this tool, go to ‘Settings” and hit the “Associations”
In the list that appears, select the product that you want to connect (associate)
For example, I’ve associated UA analytics but haven’t associated GA4 analytics yet
Notice: Make sure that the property you want to associate with (for example Google Analytics) is on the same account as GSC
If it’s not, grand access from Google Analytics account you want to be associated with to your current GSC account
In Google Analytics Universal (UA) or (GA4) go to the admin and find “Account Access Management”, then add a user
Choose the property name
And hit “Continue”
Then proceed given confirmations
And click “Associate”
After a few seconds, you will be able to see a new associated product in your Google Search Console
Now you can work with data you have associated with and see it inside Google Search Console Insights combined
Items that GSC can be associated with:
- Google Analytics property
- Chrome Web Store account
- Android Play Store app
- Play Console Developer account
- Google Ads account
- Google Assistant Actions Console project
Change of Address Tool
The Google Search Console “Change of Address” tool is designed to help website owners notify Google about a change in their website’s domain or URL structure. This tool helps to ensure that Google can update its index and transfer any signals it has for the old URLs to the new URLs, thereby preserving the website’s search rankings.
If you want to move your old website, let’s say yourwebsite.com to a new domain name yourwebsite1.com
You can use this tool to help Google understand that an old website is about to move to a new domain name, telling Google direct signals at this point
But before using this tool, make sure that you have configured 301 redirects from an old website to a new one, then use this tool.
Then, you can proceed using the following steps:
Create a redirect map (include old URLs and new URLs next to each other)
Via this map of redirects, configure 301 redirects from old pages to new ones
Add a new property (your new website) inside Google Search Console and verify it
Enter an old website in the Google Search Console panel, then go to the “Settings” – “Change of address” and select a new property (the new website you want to change the address to)
When it’s done, you will be placed in a sort of process that changes your website’s old credentials to a new one (usually it takes a month) but it can take up to 6 months
If Google has found a problem during changing the website address
It will return the process, saying that you have to try to change the address again due to problems
At this point, you can also do these:
- Re-check your 301 redirects from an old domain name to a new one (you can use screaming frog for that with the “Ignore 301 redirects” option included)
- Make sure an old domain is not available for users (you can check Google Analytics’ “session duration” metric for that)
- Make sure your old domain isn’t generating new pages (you can check the Google Search Console “Page” report for that)
- Make sure your web server is handling the crawling process by Google (you can check cPanelcPanel is web hosting control panel software that provides a graphical interface and automation tools designed to simplify the process of hosting and manipulating a websiteof your hosting for that, try to find an option with “CPU usage”) or contact your web host support
- Make sure that an old website hasn’t been blocked for crawling (check your robots.txt, no index tags, pages protected with password e.t.c)
- Make sure you have kept the “Owner” access for both: the old and new websites during the address-changing process
- Make sure that the sitemap.xml files for both websites are appropriate and not linking to each other at any point
Check the “Coverage Report” in GSC of your old website during the changing address process to prevent a change of address failure
Note: do not use this tool to move to a protocol or a website versions
- http:// to https://
- https://www to https://
For that, you can use security protocols
That was it with GSC guidelines for today, I hope you have enjoyed the article, you can subscribe to my newsletter down below or ask anything about SEO in a comment section on this page. Have a nice one and remember practice makes perfect
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What is a good average position in Google Search Console?
There is no one "good" average position in Google Search Console, as it can vary depending on a variety of factors such as the industry, competition, and search intent. However, generally, a lower average position (closer to 1) indicates that your website's content is ranking higher in search results and is more visible to users, which is typically desirable.
Is Google Search Console accurate?
Google Search Console is generally considered to be a reliable and accurate tool for tracking website performance in Google search results. However, it's important to note that the data in Search Console is not always 100% accurate or complete, and there may be discrepancies between the data in Search Console and other analytics tools. Additionally, Search Console may not provide real-time data and may have a delay in reporting data.
Is Google Search Console free
Yes, Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that allows website owners and SEO professionals to monitor and track their website's performance in Google search results. There is no cost to sign up for and use Search Console.
How to add keywords in Google Search Console?
There is no way for adding keywords in Google Search Console manually, but it’s possible to track keywords that a website is ranking for in Google already, for that go to the “Performance” and hit “Queries” tab
How to remove sitemap from Google Search Console?
In Google Search Console dashboard, enter the “Sitemaps” report, locate the sitemap that you want to remove and click on the "three-dot" menu icon next to it. Select “Remove sitemap” and confirm.