Google Search Console (GSC) is a free set of tools developed by Google for keeping track of a website’s organic search ranking and performance.
Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, GSC is no longer just for webmasters to monitor crawl coverage and indexing; anyone involved in maintaining a website can benefit from data that GSC reports—from site owners and marketers to content editors and SEOs.
This series is a two-part guide where you can learn all about GSC and how you can utilize it for improving your website.
This series was last updated on February 25, 2020. Search Console is constantly being improved and developed by Google, and while we’ll do our best to keep the information here accurate, consider them as current only for the date of the last revision.
How to set up Google Search Console
To start using GSC, all you need is a Google account and a way for you to verify site ownership.
1. Sign in to your Google account and go to Google Search Console.
2. Select property type. (“Property” is simply Google’s term for a website that you want to track in GSC.)
You can choose to enter a Domain or URL prefix.
- Domain – This covers all protocols and subdomains. Choose this if your site supports both http and https, or multiple subdomains (like “m” or “www”) so that you don’t need to add separate properties for each.
- URL prefix – This means that GSC will track all URLs that start with the prefix that you specified. Choose this if you are tracking a specific subdomain or even a subsection of your site.
At 1902 Software, for example, we set up our GSC property using the URL prefix “https://1902software.com/” to exclude subdomains that we don’t need to track like our CRM and project management system, which are all in the same “1902software.com” domain.
3. Verify your site ownership.
If you chose the Domain option, you are required to verify via your DNS provider; for URL prefix, there are various verification methods including DNS record, HTML file upload or tag, Google Analytics, or Google Tag Manager.
Verification is an important step because some controls in Google Search Console can affect a website’s search performance; thus, only the site owner and trusted partners should be allowed access to this tool and its data.
Most of these verification methods are fairly straightforward, but you can always ask your developer for help in setting up.
Google Search Console and Google Analytics
Search Console and Analytics are two different but equally useful sources of data about your website—both track your site performance but report on different aspects of it.
Google Search Console provides reports primarily about your site’s organic search presence and the factors that affect it: which pages are indexed, how you appear on search, the clicks you get, and pages that are eligible for rich results.
On the other hand, Google Analytics tells you all about what happens within the website itself: how many visits you get, how long visitors stay, which pages get the most visits, and the sources where those visits are coming from, among others.
As such, these two tools are best used hand in hand to get the most out of the data that they offer.
So, once you have set up GSC, you can connect it to your Google Analytics account to view Search Console data within the Analytics dashboard.
Linking these two services enables you to get a complete view of organic visitors’ journey, from their searches to landing pages, website navigation, and visit information.
Note that setting up GSC is not a requirement for your website to appear in Google search results; at the same time, it’s also not a guarantee of a higher ranking or better search performance.
Search Console merely provides the data, from which you can gain insights that will enable you to fix issues or optimize your pages for improved organic Google ranking.
In the next article, we’ll be exploring the different tools and features that you can find within Search Console, along with the types of reports and insights that you can get from them.
Next: What can Google Search Console do? A guide to GSC’s tools and features »