Google Search Console, formerly known as Webmaster Tools, is a tool that provides insights from Google about your website and how it is discovered, viewed and how it can be improved. These insights are invaluable for an effective organic SEO strategy and should be used in conjunction with Google Analytics to get higher rankings and better traffic to your site.
New users will have to add and verify site ownership before they can access any information that Google Search Console may have to offer. It is incredibly important that Google keeps this sort of detailed information about a site’s performance for only the site owner or authorized user. Google can’t, and shouldn’t, hand out every site’s information to just anyone. There are many tools out there that can approximate the type of information that Google will give you in Google Search Console, but this is the most authoritative one as it is the actual source letting you know what is happening. SEM Rush, Ahrefs, Spyfu, Majestic SEO and Moz are just a few of the top approximators out there that can also provide additional insights to help supplement your SEO analysis.
First, you’ll need to login to your Search Console Account using a Gmail account. If you own multiple websites, we would suggest keeping all of your Google products under that same email login allowing you to easily switch between accounts.
Next, you will need to enter the URL of the website that you are trying to claim and click the red “Add A Property” button. The best way of doing this to ensure you are claiming the correct version of the site is to type in the URL of your site into a browser, copy and paste that section into the site. This becomes very important because there are 4 potential versions of a site and if you claim the wrong one you won’t get the insights you need. Without getting into too much detail, each of these “counts” as site and need to be claimed independently of each other.
Best practice for SEO is to make sure each of these potential versions resolves to a singular style. It doesn’t really matter which version you go with but our recommendation is that you should get a SSL certificate to keep up on the latest from Google.
In the screenshot below you can see a highlighted section where you would look to find which version your site currently has.
Next you’ll be asked to verify your property. This can be done in a few different ways, some are easier than others depending on your experience level.
To verify your ownership, Search Console will give you a “Recommended Method”, which varies from site to site, but there are four other alternate methods as well. In this case, they recommend using your domain name provider. It doesn’t matter which of the five methods you actually use, so long as you do it properly.
We have found that the domain name provider is one of the more difficult methods and so we don’t typically recommend this method. Your domain name provider is typically where your website is hosted, and where you purchased the domain name. Each domain name provider has a different method to verify ownership so you’ll have to walk through the steps provided by Google to verify your ownership of the site.
If you have access to the site’s root directory you can upload an HTML file to prove your ownership of the site. You’ll need to follow the instructions, which can vary slightly from site to site. It is very important that you don’t ever remove this HTML file because it will cause your site become unverified.
If you have access to the site and are familiar with site code, you can upload an HTML meta tag to the site’s home page. Copy the code and be sure to place it within the head section. It doesn’t matter where it is placed so long as it is visible within the head section, as shown in the example. Never delete this code from your site as your site will become unverified.
If you are already using Google Analytics this is the easiest option. Sign in to the same Gmail account as you are setting up Google Search Console, and follow the three requirements below for the GA Code. You then just have click verify and you are all set. You should never remove the GA code from your site, or your site will become unverified AND you will lose analytics data.
If you are already using Google Tag Manager this is the easiest option. Sign into the same Gmail account as you are setting up Google Search Console, and follow the requirements below. Then, simply click “verify” and you are all set. You should never remove the GTM code from your site, or your site will become unverified AND you will lose your data.
After you have verified your ownership of a site you will then have access to the Google Search Console Dashboard. You’ll want to associate it with your Google Analytics account in order to maximize the data for your marketing decisions. Google Analytics does a great job of getting you information about who is visiting your site. Areas we frequently use to help drive our decisions include audience demographics, geographic location, source of traffic (social, organic, paid, etc), conversions and other useful information. Google Search Console gives you more of a technical overview of how your site is performing, how your sites look in the search results page, if there are any problems Google has detected, and for what keywords your site shows up organically.
To associate the two properties you’ll want to click the gear icon in the upper right hand corner and select Google Analytics Property.
Once you click that you’ll come to this screen. Select the analytics property that you want to associate with this account.
Then click save:
This will bring up a warning and you’ll just need to click “OK” and voila!
You’ll now be able to see better data in Google Analytics and Search Console. For the main differences between the two, you’ll want to refer to Google’s support section.
Next you’ll want to set your site settings, once again under the gear icon in the upper right hand corner.
In this section you will set how you want your site to display when someone discovers you using Google.
It really doesn’t matter too much which display URL you use, but we do suggest picking one or the other to avoid problems in the future. As discussed earlier, there are 4 potential versions of your site and you should make sure they all resolve to one consistent format via 301 redirects. (e.g., http://oozlemedia redirects to https://www.oozlemedia.com). This will make sure to avoid duplicate content issues, loss of rank due to losing valuable links, etc. Additionally Google Search Console will only show data for the Search Analytics section based off of which version of the site is displayed. If you set the display version to show consistently as your preferred version, you’ll be less likely to split your data between two versions of the site as seen below: