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When I install a site, whether custom or premade, I always ask the client for their Google Search Console login details, so that I can 1) connect their site to Google Webmasters and 2) submit a sitemap after the project install. All too often, I get the following responses:
“I don’t think we need this.” – Nope! If I’m asking you for it, you need it.
“We don’t have it.” – You still need to sign up for it.
Google Webmasters | Google Search Console
Google Webmasters and Google Search Console are the same things. In May of this year, Google rebranded Webmasters Tools to Google Search Console, but you will likely see both phrases used throughout the site and in your WordPress Dashboard.
What does it do?
Google Search Console allows you to check how your website is being indexed and optimize the visibility of your site. The best way I can explain it is with this analogy: You can let your boyfriend guess what you want (not use Google Search Console), and see what happens, or you can tell him what you want (submit a sitemap), and get what you want (optimal search engine visibility).
Why is this important?
SEO. Regardless of the type of content you provide, submitting sitemaps to Google Search Engine can help you out significantly.
How do you set it up?
There’re a few different ways you can connect your site to Google Webmasters. Here are a few of my best practices:
- You want to use the same email account for Google Webmasters, Google+, and Google Analytics. It will make it easier for you to connect accounts.
- You can also verify your Google Webmasters Account through Google Analytics.
- My two favorite plugins for Analytics and Webmasters are both by Yoast. I always use these two plugins on all of my installs. I prefer their Analytics platform to any of the others because I can see my analytics in my dashboard.
Submitting A Sitemap
Once you signup for Google Webmasters, the next step will be to submit your first sitemaps. Another frequent mistake I see is that people use a separate Sitemap plugin instead of Yoast. As Yoast is already installed on most sites, you can use this for your Sitemap.
Under SEO, select XML Sitemaps. You’ll see the following “You can find your XML Sitemap here: “XML SITEMAP.” Select that button.
A new window will open up with your sitemaps. Most people will just see the page, post, and category sitemaps, but in my example, you also see my sitemaps for Downloads (Blog Shop) and Jetpack Portfolio (my portfolio).
Go to Your Google Webmaster’s Account, and select “ADD/TEST SITEMAP”. A yellow box will show up that says “Refresh Sitemaps”, and refresh your sitemap.
But Wait, There’s More!
Once you submit your sitemap, and Google process it, the good stuff comes up!
- Structured Data: This tool shows you the number of Structured Data elements and markup errors. You can download the report to fix any problems and use the Structured Testing Tool to fix problems. The Structured Testing Tool offers suggestions for how you can fix pages with errors.
- HTML Improvements: Yoast SEO Plugin does a great job of giving you feedback on individual pages and posts, but overall it doesn’t look at your site. Under SEARCH APPEARANCE, HTML Improvements will provide you with feedback on your meta descriptions, title tags, and Non-indexable content. If you are repeating keywords, this section will show you where.
- Sitelinks: When your site appears on Google, you will typically see your home page and then a few key pages – site links – below it. If you think that a site link should not be there, you can demote it. Copy the page URL, and enter that it should be removed.
This section tells you where your visitors are coming from, what domains link to your website, and what your internal link structure looks like.
- Search Analytics: This popular report illustrates insights into your organic Google traffic – popular searches, pages, devices, and countries. You can compare your desktop and mobile users, see how many people come to your site via Google Image search, and check the average position of certain pages.
- Links to Your Site: This free alternative to paid options that shows you the domains, anchor text, and most-linked pages on your website.
- Internal Links tab shows you the pages that receive the internal post links (which also helps with higher page rank).
- Manual Actions: In this section, you will see any Google penalties, which are ineffective. For most people, this page should be blank. If you have a penalty, you will see a message. If your site is hacked or has poor content, you will be notified here.
- Mobile Usability: This section outlines any issues that could arise in the mobile experience, such as touch elements too close or content not sized to the viewport.
This section shows you how many pages of your website have been added to Google’s Index, and it allows you to remove any unwanted URLs.
- Index Status: Here you’ll see the status of your sitemap. These are the URLs that Google can access. If the URL is blocked by robots.txt file or require a login, they will not be displayed.
- Content Keywords highlights the most important and frequently used keywords on your website. If these keywords don’t align with your brand goals, you might want to think about what you are writing about on a daily basis.
- Blocked Resources: This tab shows you what pages are blocked by robots.txt rules
- Remove URLs: If a page is already index and you want to remove it, you can use this tool to do it. You will need first to make sure you update the robots meta tag or robots.txt file before submitting the disallowed request.
Before your site is indexed, it is crawled.
- Crawl Errors show all the errors Googlebot encountered while crawling your site. It will give you a code and divide the report by device. If you fix the crawl errors, you can mark them as fixed. I would also suggest checking out YOAST Premium if you have a lot of issues
- Crawl Stats are the number of pages that have been crawled in the last 90 days.
- Fetch as Google is a diagnostic tool that simulates how Google renders a certain page. You can use this feature to detect differences between browser rendering.
- Roboto.txt Tester tests new robots.txt markup and checks for errors.
- Sitemaps are where you submit and refresh sitemap for your site!
Google Search Console can tell you a lot about your site, and this post is just an overview of the capabilities. For most people, the index status, search analytics, and the keywords are the most important elements. I try to refresh my sitemaps every two weeks. I read somewhere that technically I’m supposed to do it each time I generate new content (daily), but two weeks works for me.
If you want to learn more about Google Search Console, make sure to check out the Intro to Webmaster Academy.
Want more SEO tips? Check out these posts!