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A Complete Guide to Google Search Consol

Learn Google Search Console

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Here is one of the best guides on Google Search Console (GSC). It’s for both beginners and advanced learners of SEO. It’s your ultimate guide to get the most out of the search Console in 2020.

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, this guide is designed to help you get most out of the GSC that can be reflected in your success in SEO and online marketing activities.

How to Use Google Search Console to Boost SEO

Beginning from how to get started with the Search Console and up to many essential pro tips, including the latest strategies and techniques in SEO, this guide covers almost everything that can help you to become the most informed and advanced SEO expert for Google Search. You know that mastering Google Search means being capable of driving the 92.42% organic search traffic to your websites and Android apps for relevant searches.

The present guide is a significant part of something known as technical SEO, as well as SEO in general. However, after going through this thoroughly, you’ll find that all technical aspects of SEO are actually easy to learn and apply.

As the primary objective of helping you with the best practices on Search Console is concerned, digging deep is highly required. However, you have alternative options. You can either go thoroughly through the entire guide or skip any section(s) as you want.

While advanced learners may skip the first few sections, beginners need to go through the entire guide so that they can be well prepared to use the Search Console properly. It will help them to do better SEO to boost the search ranking of their webpages.

Table of Content

  1. Introduction to Google Search Console
    1. What is Google Search Console
    2. Who Need to Use Search Console
    3. How Search Console is Helpful to You
    4. Old versus New Search Console
  2. Getting Started with Search Console
    1. Setting Your Google Account
    2. How to add your site to Search Console and Verify Ownership
      1. Option 1: Adding Domain Property to Search Console
        1. Pros and Cons
        2. Verifying Domain Ownership
      2. Adding URL Property to Search Console
        1. Uploading HTLM File to the Root Directory
        2. Adding HTML Meta Tag to the Header Section
        3. Verification by Google Analytics Account
        4. Verification by Google Tag Manager
        5. Additional Notes
  3. How to Set up Target Country and Language Preference in Search Console
  4. Setting up Preferred Domain Type
  5. Creating and Submitting XML Sitemaps to Search Console
    1. What is an XML Sitemap?
    2. How to Create an XML Sitemap?
    3. Do You Really Need an XML Sitemap?
    4. Do Sitemaps Affect SEO?
    5. Submitting Sitemaps to Google
  6. How to Smartly Use Google Search Console?
  7. Working with Google Index and Managing Coverage Issues
    1. Monitoring and Managing Valid Indexed Pages
    2. Monitoring and Managing Excluded Pages
    3. Fixing Error for Coverage Issue
    4. Working with Warning
  8. Monitoring and Troubleshooting Site Enhancement Issues in Search Console
    1. Mobile Usability
    2. AMP
    3. Logo
  9. Monitoring External Links and Managing Internal Links
  10. Site Performance Report in Search Console: Monitoring and Analyzing
    1. Understanding Metrics, Dimensions and Filters
    2. Filtering the Dimensions
    3. Comparing the Dimensions
  11. The Use of Data Highlighter
  12. Inspecting Individual URLs
    1. Importance of URL inspection
    2. Performing URL Inspection
  13. Removing URLs from Google Index
    1. Temporary Removal
    2. Permanent Removal
  14. Conclusion

Introduction to Google Search Console

This section will help you learn the basics of the Search Console. If you are an advanced learner, you may skip this section.

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console (GSC) is a free web service by Google that helps webmasters and SEO professionals to improve search visibility and ranking of their websites for Google searches. It’s one of the most essential SEO services that each one in SEO, digital marketing, and web technology profession (along with webmasters and/or website owners) should be familiar with. In fact, it’s a wonderful treasure house to help you with your technical SEO performance.

Who Need to Use Search Console

Google Search Console is a must to have tool for all who are in SEO, digital marketing, website design, and web application development profession. Those who manage and monitor their websites, such as, webmasters and website owners should also learn about GSC. Simply, if you have a website, you need to learn and use the GSC; otherwise, you can have big losses in terms of organic traffic to your website

From generalist to specialist, from newbie to advanced, Search Console can help you.

Google

How the Search Console can Help You?

  • Digital Marketers and SEO professionals are the top beneficiaries of the Google Search Console tool. If you practice digital marketing and SEO but don’t have an adequate understanding of GSC, you’re going to a big looser. Learning and using GSC can help you in monitoring real-time organic traffic to your site through Google, optimizing your site for higher Google ranking, fixing errors and issues including your site’s security, and controlling search appearance for your site on Google search. GSC data can help you in better marketing analysis while you integrate the same with other marketing tools like Google Analytics or Google Ads.
  • Webmasters or site admins can get great help from GSC by monitoring the healthy performance of their site and resolving errors and issues in their sites through the data available with GSC. 
  • Web developers can monitor code and markup errors and resolve the same with the help of GSC.
  • Business owners with websites should have basic knowledge of Search Console so that they can have information and idea about the generic (natural performance) of their websites even though they are not doing any SEO activities for their sites.

Old Versus New Search Console

Google Search Console was previously known as Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) till Google rebranded the service as Search Console on May 20, 2015. Google declared a beta version of the new Search Console in January 2018. Beta testing graduated in October 2018, and by the end of March 2019, the new version came out as a major player. However, till the date of the latest update of this complete guide to Google Search Console, the old Search Console hasn’t entirely vanished from the scenario. Though the features that have been migrated to the new version are no more available in the old one, some hallmarks in the old version haven’t yet been migrated. Therefore, we need both versions simultaneously.

Getting Started with Google Search Console

This section will guide you throughout the processes of setting your Search Console account. If you are already all set up, you may skip this section.

Setting up Your Unique Google Account

You know it that to be able to use any Google service, you must have a Google account. From a single account, you can avail of all Google products, free as well as paid.

To get set up your search console account, you can either use your existing account associated with your official email or a new one. Don’t forget to have a mail (Gmail) account with your parent Google account so that you can receive communications from the Search Console in your inbox. Note that the Search Console is the only communication platform between Google and webmasters.

Adding Your Site to Search Console and Verifying Ownership

In order to submit your site to Google, open Search Console and follow the following steps:

Hit the ‘Start Now’ button as you’re seeing in the above image. You’ll be redirected to the Search Console welcome screen. You’ll find two options to add your property to the Search Console. One is adding a domain name without any prefix, such as example.com; and the other is adding a complete URL with all prefixes, such as http://www.example.com. The screen looks like this:

You might be confused about choosing an option, and that’s normal. Therefore, let me tell you in detail.

Option 1: Adding Domain Property to Search Console and Verifying Ownership

If you select the first option to add your property, all variations of your domain, including HTTP and HTTPS types, and subdomains including WWW and non-WWW versions, will be included as a single property. You don’t need to add protocol and sub-domain variations in further steps. I highly recommend this option.

Pros and Cons of this Option

The advantages of this method are:

  • It’s a convenient and time-saving method.
  • Google will consider all variations of your domain, including HTTP and HTTS, WWW and non-WWW as well as other prefixes equally while crawling and indexing your webpages.
  • When you upgrade your domain protocol from HTTP to HTTPS, you won’t need to update your property in the search console.
  • If you’re using a CMS for your website like WordPress, you don’t require to re-paste the HTML meta tag to your header code for each update of the theme (in case you’re not using a child theme).
  • You don’t need to add separate sub-domains, such as www.example.com, m.example.com, etc. to add to your account that is required in the second option (for better management of property report).

The limitation of this option is:

If you choose this option to submit your site, you’ll avail only one method to verify your ownership of the property – that’s through adding a TXT (text) file to your DNS (Domain Name System). For any reason, if you’re unable to access your DNS, you can’t verify ownership of the property. However, verifying ownership of property by this method isn’t difficult.

How to Verify Domain Ownership by Add TXT file in DNS?
  1. Choose the first option on the left side of the welcome screen. Enter your domain name and hit ‘Continue’.
  2. In the next window, copy the TXT record displayed in the specific box.
  3. Login to your account at your domain provider’s website and open the DNS panel.
  4. You’ll find existing DNS records for your domain and the option to add a new record.
  5. Click on the ‘Add’ button and enter the following values:
    1. Select type ‘TXT’
    2. Enter ‘@’ for host
    3. Paste the TXT record that you’ve copied from the Search Console for the field ‘value’.
    4. Set TTL to one hour
  6. Click the ‘Save’ button and refresh the browser window
  7. Return to Search Console
  8. Click the ‘Verify’ button to let Google know that your personal record is assigned to your domain.
  9. Note that DNS changes may take time to apply. If Google can’t find the record immediately, wait for a few hours to verify it again.

The DNS record file in your account on your domain service provider’s website looks like this:

Depending upon the appearance setting of your service provider, the look may be slightly different. You can find an “add’ button to add new record. New record adding panel looks like this:

DNS record adding panel

Option 2: Adding URL Property to to Search Console

If you get any trouble in verifying ownership through the TXT record, you should choose the alternative – that is, selecting an URL instead of a domain to submit a property to Search Console and verifying ownership for it. In this case, you can add only one primary URL (sub-domain) at a time – such as www.example.com or m.example.com with a protocol, i.e., either HTTP or HTTPS. This option further facilitates you with multiple choices for verifying property ownership. You can verify ownership of the property by five alternative methods:

  • Uploading an HTML file to a specific location of your website
  • Adding an HTML meta tag to the header section of your homepage
  • Using your Google Analytics account
  • Using your Google Tag Manager account
  • Adding a TXT file to the DNS records
1. Site Verification by Uploading HTML File

This method allows you to upload an HTML file to the root directory of your website. Though it’s simple, you require to access your server to upload the specific file, either FTP or the server’s control panel like cPanel or Plesk, etc.

Step 1: After selecting the ‘URL prefix’ option, you’ll be prompted to download an HTML file. Click and download the file to your computer.

Google site verification by HTML file upload method

Step 2: Connect to your website via SFTP. You may read the documentation by your hosting service provider to learn how to access SFTP. Once you’ve successfully connected, upload the file that you downloaded from Search Console to the root folder of your site. If you face any problem, contact your hosting service provider.

Step 3: Return to Google Search Console and click on the ‘verify’ button to complete the process.

2. Site Verification by Adding HTML Meta Tag to Your Website

With this method, you’ll need to add a simple meta tag to your site’s <head> section.

Step 1: Select ‘HTML tag’ option. Find the tag and copy it.

HTML meta tag verification method for Google Search Console

Step 2: Access your site’s home page header code. Paste the code at the <head> before the first body starts.

Step 3: Go back to search console and click on ‘verify’.

Note for WordPress Users

If you have a WordPress site, you need a plugin to add a header tag to your website. Out of many plugins, I found, “Insert Header and Footer’ is the most convenient. You can install and activate this plugin to your WordPress site and add the HTML meta tag through this plugin in the site setting option.

3. Site Verification by Google Analytics Account

If you already have a Google Analytics account for your website, you won’t require the above complex verification methods. Just ensure that the Google tracking code is pasted at the of the site and click on ‘verify’ to complete the process.

4. Site Verification by Google Tag Manager Account

If you’re using Google Tag Manager, you can easily verify your site’s ownership just by a simple click. Ensure that you have the Google Tag Manager container snippet active on your site and you’ve ‘view, edit and manage container’ level permission in your Tag Manager account. Then click on ‘verify’ to complete the process.

Once you completed adding and verifying a domain, you can further add more protocols and sub-domain to the account. Google offers separate reports for separate protocols and sub-domains.

5. Site Verification by Adding TXT file to DNS

I’ve already discussed this method while presenting about domain verification steps. (Visit the Section again).

Additional Notes

Though there is no real difference between ‘example.com’ and ‘www.example.com’, Google sees both as different entities. If you are not sure whether your domain is with or without www, add both the variation in your Google Search Console