Back in 2012, I remember being told by multiple SEO experts to stay away from Webmasters Google Search Console. Their argument? Google will know everything about your site. Well, that’s kind of the point in 2019, isn’t it?
The truth is that Google Search Console (AKA Google Webmasters) is pretty darn useful, especially if you already ranking in the big G or thinking of doing proper SEO. It lets you see what’s happening behind the scenes of your website and how to optimize it accordingly.
However, it’s not a requirement for your site to be featured in search results. It will still get picked up by the crawlers (digital spiders that constantly crawl websites) even without adding it to the webmaster's tool.
What about the 2012 fears? If you’re not doing anything shady you don’t have anything to worry about, but between all Google properties and insights it knows everything anyway, so why bother?
Why Use Google Search Console?
Easy, get the SEO money, the gravy train. No, but in all seriousness here’s what you can and should use Google Webmasters for.
These days it seems most people use the console to submit new posts or pages to Google, as that speeds up the indexing process by sending a bunch of those crawling spiders to the page/post you want. Results? Your page can often get indexed in seconds and not hours or days.
After all, if you’re writing about what happened on the Bachelor or to the Kardashians people need that info now, and not in the week, right?
However, there are other important optimizations tools to use.
- URL Inspection – tests URL for index (if not you can request it) and errors
- Coverage – see what Google can and can’t index on your site
- Sitemaps – place to submit a sitemap or inspect the one found
- Mobile Usability – check mobile usability of the whole site
- Products – rich results found in your site, and errors
- Sitelink Searchbox – rich results in Google itself
- Links – External, Internal and all domains linking to you
While site optimization is important, especially if you need indexing or there is a problem on your site, Performance tab is where I spend most of my time. Here’s where the magic happens, as everyone on MTV Cribs used to say.
What is Performance tab in Google Search Console?
Overview of the performance of your website in search engine. That means:
- Queries – keywords people are typing in find your pages
- Impressions – how many times your site is seen for that keyword
- Clicks – how many clicks you get from the impressions
- CTR – click-through-rate in percentage
- Position – average position for that keyword
If you’re into proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or simply want to get more visitors, this is a good place to start. A long, long time ago you were able to see keywords or queries people searched for to find your site, but not anymore and Webmasters is the only reliable way to find these now.
Which not bad, the only real problem is that all the results are delayed 3 days. Meaning if you want to check a specific period or even a day, the latest one would be 3 days before, so no real-time stats.
However, it does offer other good insights into your website performance that you can cross-check with Analytics to get a better picture. These include:
- Pages – see clicks, impressions, ctr and average position for pages, not keywords
- Countries – same as above but for countries, not pages
- Device – same stats but by devices used
- Search Appearance – types of rich results and their stats
Who Should Use Google Search Console?
At this day and age, I would say everyone that has a website. Even if you don’t care about being featured in the Google search engine or your performance, you still want to know if your site is clean and working properly.
Also, if your site is hacked or infected with a malware, which happens a lot on unsecured hosting, the only way to be featured in Google again and have the “Warning Message” taken out is through the webmasters.
Here are the top 4 groups that should use it.
- Web Administrators – keeping the site up and running is their bread and butter
- Web Developers – know all the errors including markup, structure or HTML
- Business Owners – get information about your business and how to grow it
- SEO Specialists –this one should be obvious, as SEO stands for search engine optimization. So, naturally, you want to use it for your benefits.
How to Use Google Search Console?
Despite all the fancy statistics, Google Search Console is easy to get started with. In fact, it’s a lot easier than Analytics and if you have that you’re good to go.
Google recently added an ability to add a whole domain (including all different protocols and subdomains through DNS verification). Which you can do by logging into your domain provider copy the TXT record into the DNS configuration. They have a whole write up how to do it, but I use the traditional way.
Here are other ways to verify it
- Google Analytics – if you have it on-site that’s all you need to verify
- HTML File – Recommended method where you upload a file to your hosting
- HTML Tag – add the tracking code to the header of your site
- Google Tag Manager – you can use their container snippet for this
- Domain name provider – same as the DNS I talked about earlier
Which is the easiest way?
If you have analytics, then that would be the easiest and fastest. I, on the other hand, try to use the HTML file as it is the least problematic, but that requires uploading it through FTP or file manager on your hosting.
If you’re not comfortable doing that or your host doesn’t allow it, you can use the HTML Tag and place the code in your header. If you’re using WordPress, you can do that Appearance/Editor
Here’s a simple video explaining how to do it
Just be careful and make sure to backup the Theme Header before doing anything. Another way to insert it without playing around with the theme files is using a plugin that inserts things into your header.
Now just go back to the Google Webmasters to verify it and you’re done.
Submitting an XML Sitemap
After verifying your website, the first thing you should do is see if Google has your sitemap correctly.
What is a sitemap? Basically, a map of your site that includes all your pages, posts, videos and the relationship between them.
Now, if you don’t have one or not sure if you do. You can use this Sitemap test https://seositecheckup.com/tools/sitemap-test to check and get the URL for Google.
However, chances are that if you’re using any SEO plugin you already have one and it’s at yooursite/sitemap_index.xml
Once you have the url just click Sitemaps on the leftside menu and submit it.
Interesting Thoughts About the New Console
First, Google seems to change a few things with the console update that happened about a year ago. That’s why it looks different than in other articles and posts.
In fact, it was a major overhaul of the whole console, and many webmasters continued to use old console especially for Fetch URL. A way to get a URL crawled and indexed in minutes like previously stated.
Well, that has been retired by Google and now you must use the inspect URL instead. Which is basically the same thing if you are indexing a URL on your website.
However, there 2 more tools that I was unable to find in the New console but seem to be active in the old one.
This tool allows you to upload a list of backlinks or domains, which you can get from the Links tab, and in your opinion are spammy or hurting your site.
Telling Google, you don’t want those links to be counted by them.
There are rumors that a good portion of people at Google don’t want to include that tool in the new console, as they are confident enough that they catch bad links and not count them anyway.
As of now you can use it on the old console, and maybe it will be imported to the new one, but it will have to wait.
Remove URLs Tool
Remove URLs, is another tool used in the old console but seem to be lost in the new one. Or at least I haven’t seen it yet in any of the options. Is the tool needed?
With that tool, you could tell Google which of the pages or post on your site you don’t want to index. The funny part is that the request will only last 90 days and after that Google will maybe index it again if they feel like it.
From my understanding, that tool is supposed to be used as a temporary way hide the page and after you do that you’ll need to delete the page, password protect it or use a nonindex meta tag, which doesn’t always work, to make it permanent.
The Future of Google Search Console
Now, I’ll be updating this post as the new features are added but if you have any questions or want to me to cover something else, please post a comment below.
Looking forward to seeing what Google Search Console comes up with next.