If you genuinely want to improve your Search Engine Optimisation, Googles’ Search Console is the most important service you need to use.
Many website owners have heard about Google Analytics. But when asked if they’ve ever heard of Google Search Console the room becomes dead silent. Google Search Console is an absolute must if you’re remotely serious about having your site indexed properly by our neighbourhood friend; Google.
In this article, I will explain what Google Search Console is and why you need it. Here goes.
ps I will be referring to Google Search Console as GSC from now on
Add your site to GSC
- Sign into your Google Account
- Visit Google Search Console
- Add a property
- Select “Website” and enter the URL of your website
- Select how to verify your website. The easiest way is the HTML file upload if you have FTP access (which most do).
- If your site is reachable with http, https, with or without www then you should repeat this for each instance.
If you add multiple instances, and the site is verified, you will see your sites in the property list.
Cool, so now you have verified your site the next thing you want to do is submit your sitemap to Google.
Create a sitemap
First, we need to have a sitemap to submit to Google. However, just before I explain how to create a sitemap for WordPress users, you have to understand that there are two different kinds of sitemaps. There’s an HTML sitemap, which particularly in the earlier days was a must have item to link too. Search Engines rather read sitemaps marked up in an XML file.
If you have a WordPress website you’re in luck because all the common SEO tools have a sitemap XML export, ready made.
For Yoast plugin users, all you have to do is go to the Features tab, toggle the XML sitemaps switch and save changes. Then click on the question mark and the click ‘See the XML sitemap‘. Copy the url and you’re done.
If you need more information how to create the Yoast XML – here’s the link to their post.
SEOPress makes the process a whole lot easier by simply adding a sub-menu XML-HTML sitemap. I have no idea why with Yoast you need to click so much (but that’s beside the point).
Once you’ve clicked on the XML-HTML button, you’ll see this screen. All you need to do is click on the View your Sitemap button and copy the url. ps – if you want SEOpro which I strongly recommend here’s an affiliate link (thanks, I will make a few bucks)
Submit your sitemap to Google
According to Google, you don’t need to submit a sitemap to Google to get indexed, but it certainly helps. Especially if your site holds hundreds of pages, it’s a new site or if you want to show up in services such as Google News.
However, I always recommend you submit your sitemap because it can’t do you any harm either. All a sitemap is, is an index of your site URLs. It’s easier for a bot to read an index than crawl your site. Bots also make mistakes and can miss a few pages while indexing. Adding a sitemap helps search engines crawl every page.
In the left pane, under the subhead Index you have sitemaps. Click on the link or click here if you can’t find it.
Add the url you copied but remove your domain name. Normally the xml sitemap is named sitemaps.xml but I believe Yoasts’ default has a different file name. In my case I use SEOpress Pro all you need to add is sitemaps.xml.
Once you submit the sitemap, you will see the status field change to success or failed. If it’s green, it’s ok, if it’s red you need to check what the error says. Usually, failure means it can’t find the file. In that case, check if you’ve entered the correct sitemap URL.
Assuming the status shows “Succes” you are done and your sitemap is submitted.
Now, before you get all “jiggy with it” you have to realise all you’ve done so far is submit a request to Google to index the sitemap. This doesn’t mean they will do this right away. Once Google has indexed the XML, it can take a few days and even weeks before you see the submitted pages indexed.
Let’s say you publish blog articles; there’s no way telling if Google indexed the articles by crawling your site or by crawling the XML. For you, it doesn’t matter anyway. But don’t worry; you’ve done all you can do to have the search engine(s) to index your site.
Google Analytics (GA) is the best free analytics tools I know of, especially if you become good at it. There’s just a lot of data your visitors are generating. However, what GA lacks, Google Search Console has, and that’s what you’ll find under the Performance button (right up top in the left pane).
The performance statistics are all about the number of impressions and clicks your site is receiving from the search engine. In other words, when a person users Google to search and Google presents your site, this will be counted as an impression. If the visitor clicks on your website, you’ll see that as well in the performance report. Don’t forget to check out the tabs such as country and pages. You will see your high and low performers here. Based on the information you should optimise the low performing pages first. This is what I call the low-hanging fruit.
The performance report is critical, and I’ll explain why.
Google refers visitors to sites like yours and mine (impressions). If only a small amount of visitors decide to click to my website, then that’s a ranking signal for Google. You may expect your site (whatever the reason is) to rank lower over time. This also goes the other way around. Let’s say my site has appeared 1000 times in the SERP’s (Search Engine Result Pages), and 300 people clicked to my website, Google will want to have my site ranked high because obviously a lot of people find my content more interesting than the other sites above and below mine.
The Average Click Through Rate (CTR) is important to monitor. Anything above 1 per cent is ok. Anything lower, fasten your seatbelts because you’re in for a ride, downhill.
As you can see in the image above, the site has appeared 6000 times, 146 clicks and the average CTR is 2.4%, which is pretty good.
The average position is 25, and well, that’s ok but could be better. However, today isn’t as high as a few days ago when the average position was 15 and the CTR 7,9 per cent. So, don’t go freaky if the results are a little off, monitor these results at least once a week (if you have moderate traffic like me).
If you want to solve the issue of lack of page impressions all you need to do is create fresh and relevant content. The page impressions will rise, over time, and if the quality is good, so will the click through rates (CTR). Eventually you’ll see your overall page results will flourish.
Before I forget, it will take a few days before data like the above images will appear in your Search Console. Don’t worry; all is ok.
The crawl stats will show you how frequent GSC is crawling your site, the number of pages crawled a day, and the time it spends crawling. In fact, these are the results you should monitor at least once a week. I have no idea why, but the crawl stats are hidden away behind Legacy Tools and Reports. If you can’t find it click here. This statistic is vital because it’s in this statistic; you can see if Google is indexing your site. Recently one of my clients IT guys made a mistake which prevented Google from indexing the site. As a result, we gradually lost most rankings. However, in the end, the problem was resolved. However, without taking a look at these statistics, we wouldn’t know why the SEO was going down the drain. Moreover, I’m talking about losing serious amounts of visitors.
I just hope one day Google will develop a monitoring tool which will alert webmasters if pages aren’t crawled. It would make life much easier for webmasters like myself. I manage multiple client sites. You can imagine checking each client console report is not my favourite task.
So there you have it…a short, yet detailed Google Search Console Tutorial.
I hope you enjoyed this article and understood the benefits of GSC. Follow the instructions and you should see an improvement. Should you have any further questions, comment below.