[Part 1] Understand Google Search Console (or Google Webmaster Tools)

Google Search Console (GSC), formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, is a free platform provided by Google for everyone with a website. It can monitor how Google observes and optimizes the organic presence of your site, including performance of mobile page, observing your referring domains, highest-traffic pages and searches and rich query results.

The Impact And Role Of Google Search Console?

GSC is helpful in both micro and macro levels. You can see the impressions made each month and find out why a high-traffic blog has suddenly plunged. It is also very useful for a content strategist performing SEO. Whether you’re an SEO consultant, a business owner, site administrator, marketer, app creator or web developer, this tool is very useful.

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Using GSC for the first time, especially for those who are not that “techy” enough can be overwhelming. You will have to understand a lot of terms; you will see a lot of labels, graphs that are confusing and hidden filters. However, the more you use it, the less confusing it will become for you.

Since we don’t have the time to learn everything for a long period of time, this guide is straight the point and will show you all that you need to learn to become like a pro.

What this article will teach you:

  • Step-by-step details on how you can add your website to Google Search Console.
  • How you can set up permissions, users and owners.
  • Details on sitemap submission.
  • Dimensions and metrics discussion.
  • Making use of filters.

Before you do anything else on your GSC, you need to sign up first if you have not done this yet.

How To Add Your Website To Google Search Console

Step 1: Do a search on ‘google search console’
Step 2: Click on ‘Start Now’ and it will prompt you to login to your Google account.
Step 3: Select either ‘Domain’ or ‘URL prefix’ property type, and put in your site’s domain or the URL respectively.
Step 4: Search Console will need you to verify the ownership. Depending on which property type you choose, the verification process will be different:

Domain Property TypeVerify domain ownership via DNS record
URL Prefix Property TypeVerify via HTML tag, Google Analytics tracking code, Google Tag Manager (GTM) container snippet or DNS record

GSC Site Verification

This is a very crucial step since GSC will be giving you access to information that’s confidential regarding on the performance of a website or an app, including the influence on how Google crawls it. You need to verify your app or site first.

Doing so will give the specific user power to control a particular property. It is a must that there is at least one owner who’s verified in each GSC property.

You also have to take note that when you verify your property, it does not affect performance and PageRank in Google search. Adding your site to GSC does not boost your rankings.

4 Types Of Verification Method

  1. Associate DNS record: Sign in to your domain name provider such as Vodien, eNom, or GoDaddy. Copy the TXT record as shown to your DNS configuration, and press verify.
  1. HTML file upload: The easiest and straight-forward verification method. Download the HTML file and upload it to your site.
  1. Google Analytics tracking code: Ensure your site’s homepage contains either analytics.js or gtag.js snippet, and you have the ‘edit’ permission for your Google Analytics property.
  1. Google Tag Manager (GTM) container snippet: You need GTM account to use this verification method. You must have ‘manager’ permission for your Google Tag Manager container.

* Web pages that are hosted by Google such as site and blogger pages will automatically be verified.

Types Of Roles

GSC has two major types of roles. You need to get a good grasp of understanding on this for you to do everything correctly.

  • Owner: this role has complete access and control over the GSC properties. This person can modify the settings, remove or add users, access all the tools and see all the data. If the property verification procedure has been completed, the owner is deemed verified. A person who is added by an owner that’s verified is called a delegated owner, they are able to add other delegated owners as well.
  • Full User: a full user has view rights to all the data and take some actions.
  • Restricted User: restricted user only has simple view rights on most of the data.

It is very crucial as to who you will be giving permissions. It is not advisable to give full ownership to everyone on board since this can create confusion and disaster. What if someone accidentally changes a very essential setting? It’s advisable to delegate permission properly as to who should have the authority.

Here’s an example:: Your technical SEO manager is a verified owner. You have a content strategist, which means this person could be using GSC all the time but does not need to change any of the settings; this person is known to be a delegated owner. Your blogging team that analyzes blogs as well as post performance and uses GSC, they are known to be full users.

Do You Need A Sitemap?

In the search results of Google, a sitemap is not needed to show up. So long as the page is organized in the correct manner wherein all of its pages are linked to each other logically; the web crawlers of Google will be able to find most of the pages that you have normally.

However, there are 4 instances when a sitemap can improve the crawl ability of your site.

  1. Your site contains many “isolated” pages. It will be harder for a web crawler to know those pages that only have minimal inbound links.
  1. It is huge. It’ll be easier for Googlebots to miss any additions or alterations if you have more pages.
  1. Google News shows rich media content. If this is the case, Google will find it easier to format and present your website in search because of your sitemap.
  1. It is new. Sites that are new have just few backlinks or links from other websites, and this makes them not so discoverable.

You can submit your sitemap through the GSC site maps tool once you’re done building it.

Sitemap Report

Your sitemap will appear in the sitemaps report once Google has sorted it out and indexed. You can now see the time Google read the sitemap and the number of URLs that has been indexed.

Metrics And Dimensions

Let us try to know a few terms first before we go full blast on this topic.

  • Google Search Console Query – this is actually a search term. It can produce impressions of your website on the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). You can only get these search data here on GSC and not in Google Analytics.
  • Click – a click is counted whenever the user clicks on your listing and directed to your webpage. It is considered as one click if the user clicks a link but quickly hits the back button and then clicks on the same link again. If the user continues and clicks a different link, this will be counted as two clicks. Paid Google results (i.e. Pay-Per-Click listing) are not included.
  • Impression – an impression is generated whenever a link URL shows in a query result. For the impression to be counted, the user does not need to scroll down for the search result to be seen.
  • CTR or Click-Through Rate – the formula goes like this: CTR = (Clicks / Impressions) * 100. For example, your post shows up in 20 queries and then 10 clicks have been registered; the CTR will be 50%.
  • Average Position – it shows the average ranking of your web page for queries or a query. Supposing the 1st query returned your property link at position 3, and the 2nd query returned your property at position 7, the average position across these 2 queries is (3 + 7) / 2 = 5

GSC Filtering

There are more than a few ways on how you can view or parse your data in GSC. Applying the filters can be of big help. It can be confusing when you start familiarizing with it.

Search Type

There are a total of 3 search types:

  • Web
  • Image
  • Video

Your filters should be adjusted according to which category you want to see. Two kinds of traffic may also be compared by simply clicking the “Compare” tab; you can then choose the categories and click ‘Apply’. Doing so will allow you to discover interesting data such as whether a post gets more web, image or video impressions.

Date Range

GSC offers 16 months’ worth of data today. You may select from different periods that are pre-set or a custom range may be set.

Two date ranges may also be compared here in the “Compare” tab. You may choose page, queries, device, page and search appearance. To add up to five other kinds of filters, click ‘New’ tab just next to the ‘Date’ filter.

Layering these filters may also be done. You can filter searches for the words to get the data that you need. If you want to add limitation to the results, you can add another filter to it. You can make it very specific. Play around with filter combinations to see what works.

Coverage Report

The report will show the indexing state of all the URLs that Google have tried or was able to visit in your property. Each of the pages that you have consists of one of the status below:

  • Error – If this shows up, it means it has not been indexed.
  • Warning – it has an issue that you need to know even if it has been indexed.
  • Excluded – it may be your intention for your page not to be indexed. An official page might have been duplicated that has already been indexed, or you might have intentionally excluded the page through a noindex directive.
  • Valid – it means that the page has been indexed.

Sitemap Submitted

Your submitted sitemaps will show the type, the date it was submitted and when it was last read, the status and the Discovered URLs.

  • Sitemap – this is the URL where the sitemap has been posted that is relative to the property origin.
  • Types of sitemaps:
    • Sitemap: a sitemap that is in text or XML format.
    • RSS: an RSS feed format kind of sitemap.
    • Sitemap index: it’s the sitemap of sitemaps.
    • Atom: this is in an Atom feed format.
    • Unknown: it may mean that the sitemap has not been processed yet or the file that had been submitted is not a recognized sitemap category.
  • Submitted – it shows the date as to the last time the sitemap was submitted to Google through this report.
  • Last Read – the last time Google processed the sitemap.
  • Status:
    • Success – the sitemap was successfully loaded and processed with no known errors.  With this, all the URLs will now be waiting in line for crawling.
    • Couldn’t fetch – for some reason, the sitemap couldn’t be fetched. A URL inspection tool may be used here.
    • Has errors the sitemap has one or more errors, but it can be analyzed. URLs that may be analyzed from the sitemap will be waiting in line for crawling. You can click on the sitemap that you see on the table for the list of errors.

Discovered URLs – it shows how many URLs in the sitemap that has been listed. Duplicate URLs will only be counted once. However, if this is going to be a sitemap index, the number is the tally of all the URLs in all of its child sitemaps.

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