If Google doesn’t know that your site exists and what pages are on it, then your website is virtually invisible on the World Wide Web and has an extremely low chance of ever drawing meaningful organic traffic. Google is the dominant search engine and you will be starting off at an enormous disadvantage if your web pages aren’t on Google’s database of indexed pages.
Yet, getting Google’s bots to notice your web pages isn’t too difficult. It all centers around the Google Search Console. The better you understand how to work the Google Search Console in your favor, the more effective your efforts will be at getting your web pages indexed.
What is Google Search Console?
The Google Search Console (GSC) was previously referred to as Google Webmaster Tools and is a free resource that shows how Google crawls and indexes websites as well as how web pages appear in search engine results pages (SERPs). It helps you monitor Google’s perspective of your site and provides guidance on how you can best optimize your web pages’ organic presence.
You can see highest traffic pages and queries, mobile site performance and referring domains. If you’ve never used GSC before, the first time you open the console can be somewhat overwhelming. The sea of labels and diversity of options is a little confusing. Fortunately, we are here to break down the main components of GSC and it benefits your web pages.
Adding and Verifying Your Site on GSC
Google begins tracking your website as soon as its added to GSC. That means your site is tracked even if a third party adds it to GSC without your knowledge or approval. However, because GSC provides sensitive confidential information about a website’s optimization and performance, you have to verify your ownership of the site before you can access the tracking statistics.
Verification gives you control over site data. The act of verifying your site doesn’t of itself affect your site’s optimization or PageRank. Nevertheless, the more information you have access to, the easier it will be to rank your pages higher.
Verification can be accomplished in multiples ways. You can upload a verification HTML file to a certain location on your site, you could sign in using your domain registrar account and verify the site on GSC directly, you could add a HTML <meta> tag to a specific page’s <HEAD> section, you could copy the Google Analytics tracking code or you could copy Google Tag Manager’s container snipper code.
Sites hosted on Google platforms such as Blogger are verified by default.
There are two types of roles on GSC.
- Owner – The owner has complete control over the website on GSC. They are effectively the administrator and can add or remove users, see all data, access all tools and change settings. There are two types of owner accounts – verified owner and delegated owner. A verified owner is one that has completed GSC’s verification process while a delegated owner is one added by a verified owner.
- User – Users can see all the website data but can only initiate a limited set of actions. There are two types of users – full users and restricted users. Full users see most data and can take a few actions while restricted users have read-only permissions.
As always, you must exercise caution when assigning permissions and determining who will have what rights. Apply the principle of least privilege and only give verified owner rights to perhaps no more than 2 or 3 persons (but all depending on the size of your website).
Build a site map and submit it via GSC’s site maps tool. Once Google indexes and processes your site map, it will show up in the site maps report. You’ll see the number of URLs indexed and when Google last read the site map.
Note that you don’t need to have a site map for your website to appear in SERPs. As long as your web pages are reasonably linked to each other and the site is well organized, Google’s web crawlers should discover the overwhelming majority of your web pages.
Still, there are instances where a site map will be necessary to enhance your site’s crawlability.
- Your site is enormous – A website for a plumbing service focused on a small section of Chicago pales in scale when compared to a huge global portal like INC.com or CNN.com. The larger a website is, the greater the risk that Google’s web crawlers will miss additions and changes.
- It has ‘hanging’ pages – Any web page that has few to no inbound links from either pages on the same site or from external indexed pages is going to have a difficult time getting discovered.
- Your site is new – New sites suffer from the same problem as ‘hanging’ pages in the sense that they have few backlinks to them and are therefore less discoverable.
Filtering in GSC
GSC provides several ways for you to parse and view data. Here’s a look at the two main ones.
- Search Type – You can filter for three types of search – web, image and video. Web search is where most web sites will get their traffic from but there will be times when video search and image search are responsible for a substantial proportion of traffic. You can compare traffic from two sources by going to the Compare tab and choosing the two search types you are interested in taking a look at.
- Date range – GSC provides as much as 16 months of data. You can set a custom range or pick from the already pre-set time periods.
Other types of filters include query, country, device and page. You can layer the filters which allows you to drill down to a very specific attribute (e.g. filtering for queries containing ‘plumber’ from mobile devices based in Canada).
Well, What Are You Waiting For?
If you have not already added your website to GSC, now is the time to do so in order to increase your site’s visibility and start to collect insightful data on visitor traffic.