Google Search Console: A Primer on the Old Google Webmaster Tools

Definition, Benefits and Steps to Using Google's Search Console

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Google Search Console gives a checkup on the health of your site.. Credit: Sorendls | Getty Images

Definition of Google Search Console:

Formally known as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console is a free online service from Google that can provide information on your site's performance so you can use the data to enhance your marketing and SEO efforts. 

Some features of the Google Search Console include:

  • Submit content for crawling and hopefully indexing 
  • The ability to verify robots.txt and XML sitemap files
  • Remove content you don't want indexed
  • Discover search queries visitors are using to reach your site
  • Monitor backlinks
  • Information on any issues that Google's robots (search spiders) encountered when they visited your site, including broken links, manual penalties, malware detection and more.
  • Information on which pages within your site are indexed in Google.
  • Notification from Google if there are problems with your site. 

 

Although your site can be crawled and indexed in Google's search engine without using the Google Search Console, using the console can give you important information to insure your sites health. 

To get the Google Search Console, you need to sign up, but it's free. First, you should have a Google or a Gmail account in order to log in to Google Search Console. If you use Blogger, Google+ or YouTube, you have a Google account. Here's how to add Google Search Console to your account options:

1. Visit the Google Search Console page.

2. Click on the red, Add a Property button in the top right-hand corner of the page.

3. Enter your website URL into the box and hit Continue. Note you can have more than one website in your account.

In order to provide full functionality, you'll need to verify that you are the site owner or manager.

There are five verification options are available:

  1. You can upload an HTML file that Google provides to your website or blog host's server. This is Google's recommended method.
  2. You can add a piece of code in between the <head> and <body> section of your home page or blog header page.
  3. If you use Google Analytics, you can verify the site through that as long as your GA code is in the <head> section of your home page or blog header page. 
  4. Insert a TXT record provided by Google into the DNS configuration.
  5. If you have a Google Tag Manager account, you can use that to verify your site.

 

Once your site is verified, it will be listed on the home page of your Google Search Console account. From there you can get a variety of data about your website. Here's somethings you can check out:

1) Click on your sites name and you'll be taken to a dashboard. where you'll get a quick overview of your site including any crawl errors, search analytics and sitemaps (number of pages indexed, submitted and any warnings.)

2) On the left, is the navigation menu where you can find all the data and reports.

3) The gear icon on the top right-hand side of the page will give you settings options where you can find other tools, preferences and more. If you click on the gear tool and then select Search Console Preferences, you can set up email notifications.

4) You can get Google Search Console data in your Google Analytics account if you integrate the accounts. You can do that by clicking the gear icon and selecting Google Analytics Property. Select the website you want to connect, and click Save.

5) Messages (left navigation menu)  is where Google will let you know what's up with your site including increases in 404 pages and updates needed for WordPress.

6) Security (left navigation menu) issues is where Google will let you know if it detected anything suspicious on your site.

There is a ton of more information to be found and used from Google Search Console. You can click on the various links to discover the data to be discovered. You might also what to check out Google's Google Search Console page on how to use it day-to-day and monthly to stay informed about your site.

Updated June 2016 Leslie Truex

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