Google Search Console (GSC) – A Beginners Guide

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console earlier referred to as Google Webmaster Tools. It is a free platform to check how Google views your website. Google Search Console supplies valuable information about your website. By reviewing your website, you can improve your organic presence, and with increased website visitors, you can improve your business. 

For what is Google Search Console used?

Google Search Console lets you analyse data from the Search Engine Result Page like what percentage of customers view your site from Mobile, Desktop or Tablet and much more. Data provided by Google Search Console enables you to find out exactly which parameters are helping your website and which ones need improvement. It supplies crucial data on a day-to-day basis. It also lets you know by email about indexing problems, security issues and errors that will affect your website’s search ranking.

 

As you can see, it’s not just enough to add your website to Google Search Console. You should analyse the data every day to find what’s going right and what is pulling your ranking down and remedy the same. 

 

The upsetting part is that most businesses don’t utilise the full power of Google Search Console because most of them think that just adding their website to Google Search Console is enough.

 

Why should everyone with a website use Google Search Console?

As mentioned above, Google Search Console and created by Google to check your website’s performance efficiently. If you are in business and set up your business website to drive traffic to your business centre, you will want your website to stand out and seen by your potential clients, and GSC will assist you in doing that. 

 

How to add Google Search Console to WordPress Website?

To start using Google Search Console, you will need to ensure that you possess a Google account. If you do not have one, first create a Google account.
  1. Go to the Google Search Console page and click on the “Start Now” Button.
 
  1. You have to sign in using your Google Gmail Account.
  2. Click on the “Add Property” button and add your “Website URL”. Keep in mind that Google considers HTTPS and HTTP as two different protocols, also https://example.com and http://example.com as two separate web addresses. You can confirm the correct address by going to your WordPress Dashboard >> Settings Page >> Site Address Field. 
  3. Now verify your ownership by choosing a verification method:
 
  • Domain Name Provider
  • HTML File
  • HTML Tag
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Tag Manager
It is easier to verify your ownership by the HTML Tag method, and I will explain this method. With the HTML Tag method, add a meta tag to your site’s <head>section. In WordPress, do as follows:
  • Add the tag to the child theme’s header.php file or
  • Inject it into the header using a plugin.
If you are directly adding the meta tag to the theme, make sure you are using a child theme; otherwise, you will lose Google site verification every time you update your theme.

Step 1: Copy the meta tag by going to the Alternate methods tab. 

The Google Search Console interface, selecting HTML tag and copying the value in the box. Paste the meta tag into your sites home page in the <head> section, before the first body section. Do not remove the meta tag, even after verification succeeds.

 

Step 2: Adding the meta tag using the free Headers & Footers Plugin.

Insert the free Insert Headers and Footers Plugin in your site. Then go to Settings>>Insert Headers & Footers and paste the meta tag in the “Scripts in Header” Box and then click the save button. 

 

Step 3: Click the verify button at Google Search Console.

To complete the process, go back to the Google Search Console interface and click the “Verify” button. Remember not to remove the HTML file even after verification has completed.

What are the features in Google Search Console?

 

How to Setup owners, users and permissions in Google Search Console?

  1. OWNER: The verified owner has total control over all properties in Google Search Console. The owner can access every tool, see all data, change any settings and add or remove other users.
  2. USER: There are two types of users: a Full User and a Restricted User. The Full user can take some actions on most of the data it views, while the Restricted user can only view most data.
  3. PERMISSIONS: Permissions should not be allowed to all members of the team. Full User permission is entitled to the verified owner and a few others who need to change settings. Other owners are referred to as delegated owners with partial ownership powers.

How to Add an XML Sitemap to Google Search Console?

The question is, do you need a Sitemap in GSC? Google says that if your site is organised correctly with all the pages logically linked to each other, the Google crawlers will find most of your pages. An XML sitemap is a way for website owners to tell search engines about all the pages on their website. It also tells search engines which links on your website are more important than others. But there are a few situations where a sitemap will improve a site’s crawlability: 
  1. The site is extensive. If there are too many pages, a sitemap will assist Google crawlers from not missing out on any pages.
  2. Lots of pages are “isolated”.  Pages have a few inbound links from other pages and may be difficult for web crawlers to discover. 
  3. New Site. New sites have few or no backlinks, making them less discoverable.
  4. The site uses rich media content.  Your sitemap will make it easier for Google to format and display in search.
Now you need to install and activate the Rank Math or Yoast SEO plugin. After activation, the plugin will automatically generate an XML sitemap for your website, and the URL should look like this:   http://asanexample.com/sitemap_index.xml    Don’t forget to replace asanexample.com with your domain name. Enter your domain name into GSC.   Under the GSC dashboard, click on the ‘Sitemaps’ from the left column and then paste the last part of the URL. Once you have built your sitemap, submit it using the Google Search Console Sitemaps tool. Google Search Console will check your sitemap and use it to improve your website crawling.  

Why do we need to connect Google Search Console to Google Analytics in your WordPress site?

Adding Google Analytics helps you track your visitors and get detailed information about them, allowing you to make better decisions. Google Analytics provides you with a new perspective on your top-performing content and keywords. A few of the best Google Analytics plugins for WordPress are listed below:
  1. MonsterInsights
  2. ExactMetrics
  3. Analytify
  4. Enhanced Ecommerce Google Analytics Plugin
  5. Google Analytics by 10Web
  6. GA Google Analytics WP Google Analytics Events
  7. WP Google Analytics Events
Some of the above are free. I recommend using MonsterInsights, as it is one of the best Google Analytics plugins for WordPress. MonsterInsights will automatically show your top keywords from Google Search Console in your WordPress admin area.  

Connect your Google Search Console to your Analytics account; you need to go to the Google Analytics dashboard of your website, and at the bottom click on the “Admin”.

   

Google Analytics switch to the admin view, here you need to click on the ‘Property Settings’ section and then click on the “Adjust Search Console”.

   

You need to click on the “Add” field button to select your website on the next screen.

    Analytics will now show you the list of all websites you have added to the GSC. Select your website you want to link to this Google Analytics property and then click on “Save”. You have now completed the process of connecting your Goole Search Console data to the Analytics Account, and you can view all the reports. Some of the reports you will see are:
  1. Landing Pages Report: Number of times a page appeared in the search results, click-through rate(CTR), Average Position in search results, bounce rate, sessions and pages per session, Keywords that brought users to the landing page.
  2. Countries Report: The country reports page shows all the above data by country name.
  3. Devices Report: The devices report shows how your website performed in mobile, desktop and tablet search results.
  4. Queries Report Page: This page shows what keyword data is missing from the Google Analytics Report.
  5. Coverage Index Report: This report shows Google indexed pages and which pages showed errors. 
   

How to Find & Fix Search Indexing Issues?  

One of the helpful features of Google Search Console is that you can find, troubleshoot and fix indexing errors, which can affect your search rankings by stopping the search engine from crawling and indexing the pages on your website. You can find this information in the Coverage>>Index report.

Following are a few indexing errors in Google Search Console:
  • 404 Error – This means that Googlebot cannot find the page. It either no longer exists, or the page is now blank.
  • Soft 404 Error – This error shows when the page’s status code sends a 200 (success) message to the browser, but the crawler sees a 404 error page. 
  • Server Error – This occurs when the website server timed out or did not respond. Server error usually happens when the website is experiencing heavy traffic, was under maintenance, or unavailable for some reason.
  • Not followed – If Google cannot follow a content type, it will display a “Not Followed Error”. It could be javascript, iframe, flash or any other resources that the crawler cannot fetch.
Fixing 404 Errors in Google Search Console This error can pop up if you deleted a blog post. Google will eventually deindex that page, and the error will stop showing. Sometimes 404 error occurs due to a misconfiguration in WordPress Permalink Structure. To fix this, go to Settings>>Permalinks and click on the “Save Changes Button”. Fix Soft 404 Errors in Google Search Console
  • Check to make sure that the page is a soft 404 error.
  • Configure the server to return the proper not found error code (404/410)
  • Improve the page and request indexing.
  • Redirect the page using a 301 redirection.
  • Keep the page on your site but deindex it from search engines.
Fix Server Error in Google Search Console Click on the “URL Inspection” button and open the relevant page in a new tab to confirm the redirect error or redirect it to a page that works. Then, Request Indexing and Validate Fix in Search Console. When this error is resolved, you’ll receive a Passed confirmation message.

How to Find & Fix Security Issues in Google Search Console?

The Google Search Console Security Issues Report is a tool able to launch an alert whenever Google finds out that your site has been hacked or shows potentially harmful behaviour for visitors or their devices. These include phishing attacks and the installation of unwanted software or malware on devices used for connections.  Three main types of impairment are:
  1. Malware & Software (Software designed to harm a device or its user)
  2. Hacked Content (Content placed within the website, without permission, due to security vulnerability) 
  3. Social Engineering (Content generated by cybercriminals, who mislead visitors into doing something dangerous, such as revealing confidential information or downloading malicious software)
Google will post security issues on the overview screen in Google Search Console Account.

What are Manual Actions and Needing Urgent Review?

Manual actions by the Google Search team are penalties imposed after careful review. Manual actions occur when a website is involved in fraudulent activities, spamming or any illegal activity. Manual actions by the Google Search team is very significant and can immediately take away all your search traffic. Clicking on the “Manual Actions Link” will give you all the information about the issue that triggered it and also how you can rectify it immediately. 

 

Once you have removed the error content, you can request the penalty to be reviewed and reconsidered by the Google Search Team.

 

How To Use Google Search Console to Grow Traffic?

Above we have covered most of the technical stuff and now let us go to how we can utilise the data available in Google Search Console to grow your business and drive traffic to your website. There are many ways to drive traffic and grow your business through your website, but I am listing two main ways to do so.
  1. Keywords Research: Keywords are the search terms users type in search engines to find information. Website owners can optimise their content to target these keywords and improve their chances of appearing on top in search results.
  2. Using Link Reports in Google Search Console: The Links report in Google Search Console also shows your website’s performance in terms of links. It shows you external links, internal links, top linking sites, and full linking text. More importantly, it offers top linking sites, how often they relate to your site, and how many pages they connect to.
 

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