How to Set up Your Website in Google Webmasters Tools (Search Console)

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We love data. Has the change you’ve made to your website worked? Are more visits coming after writing about a specific topic on your blog? Is your social media promotion working? We always want to know more.

One of the great enigmas of the Internet today is knowing how to better rank our website on Google, the ultimate search engine. In this post we are going to study an essential tool for this purpose: Google Webmaster Tools (now known as Search Console).

What is Google Webmaster Tools? What is Search Console Good For?

Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a set of free tools that Google offers to optimize, analyze, and check the status of our website in their search results. Just watch this video where Google itself explains what Google Search Console is:

As you can see, if Google analyzes the content and structure of your website and detects something strange, you’ll find the details about it in Google Search Console. This way, you’ll have the information you need to fix it and make the search engine happy.

Knowing more about how this tool for webmasters works is key to optimizing your website. That’s why we’re going to look at some of the highlights of Google Search Console so that you can get your hands on the tool and get started in no time.

How to Add Your Website to Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console

In order to view your website data in Google Search Console the first thing you have to do is to add your website. You need a Google Account to do this. Log in to the Google Search Console website with your account and you’ll see the welcome screen below:

Google Search Console home screen once you'll see when you're signed in with your Google Account.
Google Search Console home screen once you’ll see when you’re signed in with your Google Account.

At this point you must enter the full web address (URL) of your web page in the text field. Then click on the Add a Property button and then a screen will appear to validate the website:

Google Search Console asks you to validate that you own a website before you start viewing its data.
Google Search Console asks you to validate that you own a website before you start viewing its data.

This step is important, because if you don’t validate that you’re the owner of the website you’re adding (or, at least, that you have sufficient permissions on it), you won’t be able to set it up and get access to Google Search Console data (something totally understandable, by the way).

There are several ways to validate your website in Google Search Console, but the most recommended is the one that Google shows you by default, which is to upload an HTML file to the root directory of your WordPress installation. To do this, download the file from Google Search Console (you can see the link in the previous screenshot), upload it to your website via FTP, and then click on Verify.

If you have followed the steps correctly, that’s everything you need to do. You’ll be taken directly to the Google Search Console control panel.

The Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console) Dashboard

The Google Search Console dashboard contains a lot of different views with different information about your website’s performance on Google. Let’s take a look at some of the main views in this section to learn how to move around the interface with confidence.

Google Search Console includes different sections where you can check the status of your website from a search engine point of view.
Google Search Console includes different sections in which you can check the status of your website from a search engine point of view.

The first thing you’ll encounter int this interface is a summary view with information about the current status of your website. Specifically, you’ll see any crawling errors the Google robot has found when indexing your pages. In addition, you also see the search analytics with the number of clicks your website had on Google results, as well as information about the sitemaps (we’ll see this later) you’ve added in Google Search Console (if any).

Structured Data

Structured data enriches the information that the search engine finds on your website and makes it easier for you to catalog it. To do this, you should include structured data in your website, either through your theme or through a WordPress plugin.

Google Search Console lets you see how Google interprets the structured data in your content and if there are errors in it.
Google Search Console lets you see how Google interprets the structured data in your content and if there are errors in it.

Google Search Console has a specific section for the structured data that Google detects on your page. Also, in case there are errors in your data, usually because you have missed something on a page, here you can find what’s missing and see what you can do to solve it. In the historical graph you’ll see the errors detected and, when you fix them and Google correctly index your structured data, you will see them disappear.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

AMP is a project by Google and other organizations to accelerate the loading of web pages on mobile devices. You have a more in-depth article on AMP and how to set it up here.

Google Search Console shows you how many pages on your website are compatible with AMP and if there are errors.
Google Search Console shows you how many pages on your website are compatible with AMP and if there are errors.

Google Search Console has a specific section for AMP where it shows the total number of pages it has indexed with AMP support on your website. Also, if it finds AMP compatibility errors in any of them, you will be able to see it. You even have access to a compatibility test and an option to notify Google you’ve fixed your website and it’s time for them to recheck it.

Search Analytics

One of the most important sections of Google Search Console is the search analytics section. From here you can see the most frequent queries people make on Google and how many clicks each one brings to your website. This is perfect to see if you’re indexing correctly by the right keywords.

Google Search Console allows you to discover the keywords that people use in Google to reach your website.
Google Search Console allows you to discover the keywords that people use in Google to reach your website.

If you see that the keywords that appear there don’t have much to do with what you want, then you have work to do to create content that can attract visitors with the keywords you’re interested in.

Sitemaps

A Sitemap is nothing more than an XML file with the list of pages you want Google to index on your website. There are several plugins in WordPress that can create a sitemap on your website, but if you have Yoast SEO installed, you should know that this plugin already creates one that usually works pretty fine without your doing anything.

Google Search Console allows you to specify a sitemap of your website to help Google index it better.
Google Search Console allows you to specify a sitemap of your website to help Google index it better.

Take the sitemap URL and add it to the Sitemaps section of the Google Search Console to make it easier for Google to index those pages. Also, as in the previous cases, if Google has problems indexing any of the pages that are listed in the Sitemap, it will tell you to fix it.

The Future of Google Search Console

Google is updating the Google Search Console interface and you can now try it out. But if you do, keep in mind that it is not yet complete and there are reports and views you’ll only find in the old interface.

The new Google Search Console interface shows you relevant information about your website and its contents.
The new Google Search Console interface shows you relevant information about your website and its contents.

The new Google Search Console interface includes information about the link structure of your website, where you will find the most linked pages of your website both on your own website and on other websites. You can even find out which external websites link to you the most.

Google Search Console allows you to view information about the link structure of your website.
Google Search Console allows you to view information about the link structure of your website.

Do You Need the Search Console If You Have Google Analytics?

The answer is a resounding yes. While Google Analytics focuses on your visitors and their behavior, Google Search Console gives you a more search-engine oriented viewpoint. With this tool you will know what Google knows about your site and how Google “sees” its pages.

What you should do is combine both tools to get more out of all the analytics and improvement suggestions you will get from this data. As we always say, the more data you have, the better decisions you can make. So I encourage you to start with Google Search Console now if you’ve never done it before.

Final Remarks

There are thousands of web analytics tools out there. But if one of the most important search engines is giving you a tool to check the quality of your site, ignoring it can be fatal. After reading this article about Google Search Console/Webmaster Tools you will no longer have an excuse not to get information and improve your website.

With the different views and reports provided by Google Search Console you have a long way to go in terms of optimization. Leave us your experience in the comments; I’m sure they’ll be very interesting 😉.

Featured image by Freddy Marschall on Unsplash.

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Antonio obtained his PhD in Computer Science at UPC. He has several publications in the field of data mining and information retrieval applied to conceptual modeling and health informatics. He specialized in the design, development, and integration of web services and cloud applications. He's an active contributor to the WordPress community and participates in meetups, seminars and WordCamps.

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