Search Console is a free Google service that helps monitor (and maintain) your website’s performance. This is the quintessential tool for any website owner. Search Console allows you to see how Google reads and ranks your website and adjust any errors you might have.
It may feel overwhelming at first, but honestly, it is straightforward. Get your website and Search Console open and let’s begin!
This article will help guide you through
- the difference between Google Analytics and Search Console
- how to verify Search Console for your website
- how to submit a sitemap
- learning which search queries are matched with your site
- how pages of your website rank in Google
- finding your backlink report
Difference between Google Analytics and Search Console
It is important to understand the difference between these two platforms.
Google Analytics (GA) collects data on the visitors who come to your website. This is done by collecting the number of users, pageviews, bounce rate, behavior flow, and demographic info (country, language, etc).
Search Console (SC) collects data on how Google interacts with your website. This data shows any errors your site might have, how to appears in search queries, and current ranking for pages.
|Data||Platform||Where to find||Why is it useful|
|Traffic source||GA||Acquisition > Overview||Learn where your traffic is coming from (organic vs social)|
|Demographics of visitors||GA||Audience > Overview||Know more about website visitors (location, language, interests)|
|On-site behavior||GA||Behavior > Behavior Flow||See actual visitor journeys on your website|
|Impressions in search results||SC||Performance > Search Results||Check if pages of your website are being found on Google|
|Keyword rankings||SC + GA||SC: Performance > Search Results|
GA: Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages
|Check current rankings and find new possible keywords|
|Core Web Vitals||SC||Enhancements > Core Web Vitals||See if your website is satisfying Google’s Core Web Vitals guidelines|
|Backlinks||SC||Links||Examine the health of your link profile or disavow spam backlinks|
How to verify Search Console for your website
Search Console can be accessed here. Similar to setting up Google Analytics you will connect it to your Google account. Check that you are connecting all of these to the same account that is separate from personal ones.
Once logged in you will need to add a property. The screen shown above will appear giving you two options to verify your property (aka website).
Verifying via Domain
Verifying your Search Console property by the domain is the preferred method, but some people may not feel comfortable doing it. If that is you, skip below to verifying via URL prefix.
- Enter your URL without using https or www. (ie: “consultinghelene.com”)
- Click Continue
- Follow the instructions on the pop up according to your domain provider.
- Log into your domain provider and go to DNS records
- Add a new TXT record and paste the code provided by Google.
This will verify all properties of your website (http, http://www, https, https://www, .m) at once.
Verifying via URL prefix
For this process you will need to run through the process four times to add all of your properties.
It is possible it will automatically verify your properties based on previous actions done to your website (such as Google Analytics). If it does not, then select HTML file upload.
- Download the HTML file
- Log into your hosting and navigate to your Cpanel file manager
- Locate your site’s root directory. This folder contains wp-content and wp-config.php (if using WordPress).
- Upload the HTML file into the root directory
- Click Verify in Search Console
Do this until all properties are added.
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5 Things to Check In Search Console
Now that you have Search Console installed and integrated, it will begin to collect very valuable data about your website. Typically you will receive an email from Google anywhere from a few days to a few months (for newer sites) to let you know your site has been read and is now ranking in search results.
Search Console doesn’t look as fun as Google Analytics at first, but just trust me on this. You are about to unlock valuable data about how Google perceives your website.
Check if a sitemap is submitted
The very first thing you should do inside Search Console is to check that you have a sitemap submitted. The menu can be found on the left side of the page. Go to Index and then Sitemaps. Here you will see if Google has access to your sitemap.
If a sitemap is missing or any errors are present under Status then submit a fresh sitemap. Depending on your website this URL can vary.
Sitemaps help search engines to understand and read your website. If you want your posts to be discovered through Google, you need a sitemap.
Read these 5 essential SEO tasks for every small business website to learn more.
Check Mobile Friendliness
Check the mobile-friendliness of your website. Around half of internet traffic is done via mobile phone and Google also has a policy of mobile-first indexing. This means it is vital for your website to have a working mobile version of itself (or be responsive) if you want to rank in search results.
This can be checked in Mobile Usability under Experience. If any pages have errors they will show below in the details.
Core Web Vitals
You may have heard Core Web Vitals taking up conversations among SEOs and developers. It is a new initiative by Google to help improve the user experience of websites. Aimed at slow loading websites with huge elements, outdated code, and content that shifts upon loading.
Under Experience, click Core Web Vitals. There will be 2 charts, one for mobile and the other for desktop, showing how your website’s URLs are performing.
Click Open Report to see exactly which aspect of Core Web Vitals you will need to adjust. Admittedly, this is a very technical aspect of your website and should only be adjusted if you know what you are doing.
It is important to be able to access this data for your website, not to fix it immediately, but to put it on the investment list. Core Web Vitals will not be the end of your website if you score very poorly, but it is the canary in the coal mine that there is a technical issue that is affecting user experience.
|Web Vital||Abbreviated||User Experience||Optimized when…|
|Largest Contentful Paint||LCP||loading||within 2.5 seconds|
|First Input Delay||FID||interactivity||FID is < 100 milliseconds|
|Cumulative Layout Shift||CLS||visual stability||maintains a CLS < 0.1|
Queries and Rankings
Under Performance in the menu, click Search Results. This is my favorite part of Search Console and where you can see which keywords you are ranking for and what search queries your pages are appearing in.
Upon opening this page it should look like the image above. This shows information about when your website appeared in search results. Queries are the terms real people typed into Google, and when they received results, one of your pages was included.
Total clicks are every time someone clicked through search results to your website, total impressions happen when your website appears in results, and average CTR refers to the click-through rate. CTR is calculated by dividing the total clicks by impressions. The average position is exactly that – your average position in Google results.
By default, the Average Position is unselected. Click the checkbox if you would like to see positions in the data.
Below the line chart are six tabs that you can choose from: Queries, Pages, Countries, Devices, Search Appearance, and Dates. We won’t go through everything today – it isn’t important at this moment.
Queries will show all of the Google search queries that generated impressions of your website (aka your website appeared in the results whether they were seen or not). You can use this data to see which keywords are bringing in organic traffic or find new keywords that might be relevant.
Click Pages and you can see the average position for each page of your website. Do be mindful that this is the average position. Ideally, each page is ranking for multiple keywords and some of them can be in the first position and others not.
To see your keywords for individual posts or pages, click the URL of the page you want to examine. Then click back to Queries. There should be a new filter above the line chart showing (Page:https//..). Now it shows the keywords for that page to see how they individually perform.
I recently posted an article about using niche or seasonal content to drive traffic to your site. As you can see in the image above, these are the keywords that the article ranks for and their position in results. Also, you can see the boost in impressions and clicks during the seasonal period showing the strategy’s success.
Read the SEO Case Study: Increasing Traffic via Seasonal Content to learn how to do this for business.
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You may have heard about backlinks and that you “need them for SEO”. So what are they and do you have any? Backlinks are links to your website from a different website. They act as an off-page SEO signal letting Google know that the page being linked to is valuable in some way.
In Search Console, at the bottom of the menu, click Links. This is your link report showing all external links (backlinks) and internal links. Internal links are ones you have made between pages of your website.
Clicking more at the bottom of each section will open additional information about the links. You can learn which pages of your website have backlinks, how many, and from where. A full list of backlinks can be exported via the Export External Links button on the top right.
Google Search Console is the best free SEO tool out there. It provides all of the data points that you need to see how your website is performing in search results.
Without Search Console connected and verified, you are unable to adequately examine your SEO efforts, catch errors quickly before they become a serious issue, and monitor your site’s performance.
As a small business owner, you might still be wondering why is this relevant to you? It is relevant because you should have your own website that acts as your digital store, and if you want people to visit your site or to gain new customers.
Even if you are not ready for optimizing your website or even considering SEO, the earlier you get Google Analytics and Search Console connected the better. It can only collect data once integrated – not retroactively.
Let me know below in the comments if this was helpful and feel free to reach out if you encounter any difficulties.
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