Google Webmaster Tools (also called Google Search Console) is a free service offered by Google to help monitor and maintain your websites online presence in Google search results. Using this service isn’t required to be included in Googles search results but it will help to understand how to optimize your website for better search results in Google.
In this guide, I am going to talk about all the features of Google Search Console and how to use it to increase your search presence in Google.
Why use Google Search Console?
The google search console provides a plethora of great tools to monitor and optimize your sites performance in Google:
- Allow Google to access the content you want them to access
- Submit new content for Google to crawl and index
- Remove any content you don’t want to be crawled or indexed
- Scan and fix any malware or spam on your website
- Submit an XML sitemap so Google knows all your pages
- View recommenced HTML improvements
- Monitor any securities issues on your website
- View search keywords that you are ranking for
- Monitor rich snippets and structured data
- View backlinks pointing to your website
- Monitor mobile website performance
- See how much Google is crawling your website
- View crawl errors on your website
Who should use Google Search Console?
If you have a website than I would highly suggest that you use Google Search Console. Whether you have a simple blog or a large corporate website, using this service can increase your customers and traffic as well monitor your website for any potential issues.
Any business owner that has a website should be using this free service by Google. It can give business owners vital information on how their visitors are reaching their site and its monitor any potential spam or security issues.
The term SEO stands for search engine optimization which is the methodology of gaining position in the search engines to increase traffic to your website. SEO specialist should use the Google Search Console to see incoming backlinks from linkbuilding, view content keywords, and monitor keyword performance.
Using this tool in conjunction with Google Adwords and Analytics can provide a sophisticated look at your online presence in the search engines.
Website administrators need to be able to monitor their website daily and this tool is just for that. It provides a good analysis of security issues, site loading issues and malware.
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Google Search Console can help web developers by monitoring common markup issues such a duplicate meta descriptions, errors in structured data or HTML errors.
How do you use Google Search Console?
The Google Search Console can seem quite daunting when you first sign up but after reading this guide, you will be able to use it to its full potential.
Getting started with Google Search Console is simple… Just sign up for free at the Google Console. Once you are in the search console you will have to add your website by selecting ‘Add a Property’.
Note that if your website has SSL (https), then you should add both secure and unsecure (http) version to the webmaster console.
Google Site Verification
When you add your property to the console, you will then have to verify that you are the actual owner of the website. Google allows a few different ways to do this:
- Google Analytics
- HTML file upload
- Domain name provider
- Google Tag Manager
- HTML tag
It’s really up to you which option to choose… If you already have analytics installed on your website than its quite simple to verify your website using the Google Analytics method. If you have access to your code you can add the HTML tag pretty easy. Its just a small piece of code that you put in the <head> section of your website. Here is an example of our Google verification code that we put in the <head> of our website homepage:
<meta name="google-site-verification" content="nT0o3GJh09cFrsPFtFVYxMwReZNapE13t5wBRH_Olbg" />
Submitting a XML Sitemap
The first thing you should do after verifying your website is submit an XML sitemap to Google. A XML sitemap is a file that lists all of the pages included in your site. Sitemaps also include important metadata like when a page was last updated and what type of content is included in the pages. Search engine bots can crawl these files much easier than trying to guess all of your web pages.
Content management systems like WordPress allow you to download free plugins like XML sitemap plugin to create a sitemap for your website. Any other type of website can use a online XML sitemap generator to create a sitemap.xml file. Simply upload the downloaded XML file to your websites root folder and its ready to submit to Google.
The only issues with this method is that every time you add new content, you will have to update the sitemap and re-upload it to your server.
In the left menu of the Search Console there is a section called ‘crawl’. Select crawl->Sitemaps and this is where you submit your sitemap to Google. Choose ‘Add/Test Sitemap’ and enter in where your sitemap is located on your server.
That’t it! Your sitemap will now be analyzed by Google and will tell you if there is any errors. You can view how many web pages are in your sitemap, how many images and how many pages are already indexed in Google.
Structured data is a text-based markup that helps search engines organize your content with data rich snippets in your HTML. Structured data information is found in Google Search Console when choosing Search Appearance->Structured Data. This section will show all the data that Google has found on your website including any errors.
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness"> <h1><span itemprop="name">Tyton Media</span></h1> <span itemprop="description"> Full Service website solutions including website design, creation and management.</span> <div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress"> <span itemprop="streetAddress">5601 west 136th tr</span> <span itemprop="addressLocality">Overland Park</span>, <span itemprop="addressRegion">KS</span> </div> Phone: <span itemprop="telephone">913-334-7715</span> </div>
When you include structured data on your website, you make it eligible to appear in more Google Search features:
- Rich Results: structured data for things like articles, videos and recipes. This will enhance the display of your website in Google Search and increase its CTR.
- Knowledge Graph Cards: Knowledge graph cards are a way for Google to interconnect search results combining facts, people and places together for more relevant and accurate results.
Here is an example knowledge graph card:
Its a good idea to check up on this section regularly to find and fix any errors in your structured data. Google provides a great structured data testing tool that allows you to view markup and errors on your website.
Rich cards were introduce in May 2016 and build off the success of structured data. Similar to rich snippets, rich cards use structured markup to display content in a more engaging format for better user experience.
Currently rich cards are available for use on the following content types:
You can now view and manage your rich cards in Google Search Console. If Google has crawled your website and found Rich Cards, this data will be available in Search Appearance->Rich Cards on the left navigation menu in Google Webmaster Tools.
You are able to view and manage any errors or invalid cards. Rich cards allow your website to stand out more in search results increasing your CTR, visitors and traffic.
If adding structured data snippets to your HTML or website is not possible, you can still submit your website to the data highlighter to improve your look in search results. Simply click the ‘start highlighting’ button and fill in a URL to a piece of content on your website. This is usually a blog post or article page. Choose which type of content your page is and select ‘tag this page and others like it’.
Google will crawl your site and find all of the similar pieces of content and make you go through a tagging process so it can better understand how your content is formatted. Go through each page selecting each piece of information, clicking done when all the items have been selected. Make sure to double check that you have selected the entire text for each snippet.
Select the title, author, date published, image, category and any ratings. Once Google understands your website structure you can review & publish the page set. The data highlighter page will show your page set and how many pages are included in it.
The HTML improvements section shows you detailed information about any HTML errors/suggestions that Google has for your website. It will check for potential issues with duplicate title and meta tags. Keep an eye on this section to make sure all of your HTML meta tags are all unique and the right length.
If you have no errors like us then you will see a message like below:
The Search Analytics section is one of the best parts about Google Webmaster Tools. You can analyze your performance in Google Search viewing all your keywords and where they rank in the SERPs. Although this data is not up-to-the-minute, it still gives you a good idea where you are ranking for your target keywords.
If your site is not brand new, you will see a list of keywords and some data about each keyword. Select the following data to see it in the table:
- Clicks – The amount of clicks to your website from this keyword
- Impressions – The amount of views your website received from this keyword
- CTR – The click through rate of the keyword
- Position – The position in Google Search of this keyword
Here is an example of some of the keywords we are ranking for:
This information can be very helpful in doing keyword research and finding the best keywords to rank for. Look for keywords with high impressions and a low position because this means a lot of people are searching for that particular keyword and you are already ranked for it.
There are also a number of tools you can use to get these reports sent to your email so you don’t need to constantly check. Ninja Reports offers Google Search Console Email Reports that can send you this data daily, weekly or monthly.
Removing URLs from Google Search is simple with the Google Search Console. In Google Index->Remove URLs you can request to remove certain pages of your website. To do so, simply click the ‘temporary hide’ button and enter in the URL you would like to remove.
A confirmation will appear telling you choose the request type. If you are wanting to remove the URL completely select ‘temporary hide page from search and remove from cache’. When you click ‘submit request’ you will see the URL appear in the table below with the status of the page. Once it has been removed from search results, you are safe to delete the page from your website.
The crawl stats section in the Search Console can give you a good insight on how much Google is crawling your website per day. If you do not see any data in this section, then Google has yet to crawl your website. Give it some time and you will start seeing data for the last 90 days of activity.
The most important graph is the pages crawled per day graph. This gives you a good look at how much Google is visiting your site. The amount of pages crawled per day is usually equivalent to the popularity and authority of your website.
When Google crawls your site, it also looks for any errors that block Googlebot from crawling certain pages. The crawl error section has 2 types of errors:
- Site Errors – If Googlebot cannot access your entire website, you will see errors here.
- URL Errors – This section specifies certain URLs that return a HTTP error code.
For optimal performance and results, you should have zero crawl errors. When you come across an error, simply fix it and mark it fixed in the crawl errors section of Google Search Console.
Fetch as Google
Fetch as Google is a tool provided to webmaster that shows you how Google renders pages from your website. It is also a great way to get your website indexed in Google faster.
When you enter a URL into the Google Fetch tool, a Googlebot will crawl the desired page resulting in your page getting indexed faster. It is a good habit to submit new content to the Google fetch tool and submit it to the Google index. Here is how to do it:
Enter the new URL you are submitting to be crawled. It will be added to the table below the submit form where it should say pending. Once its been crawled, you should see a button to submit it to the index.
A modal will appear asking if you want to crawl only this URL or this URL and its direct links. Choose to crawl this URL and its direct links to allow the Googlebot to crawl other pages on your website. Click Go and your website will be added to the Google index.
In conclusions, Google Webmaster Tools is a very important tool for any webmaster or site owner. Make it a habit to check your webmaster tools daily to watch for errors, new keywords, backlinks and sitemap status. Let us know your favorite tools in the Google Search Console by commenting below.