Creating a new Google Search Console property
When you open up Google Search Console while logged into your Google account, the first thing you’ll see is a screen giving you the options for your property type: Domain or URL Prefix.
Connecting Search Console & Google Analytics
Earlier, we briefly talked about the distinction between Search Console and Google Analytics. While these are different programs, you may want to consider connecting these two accounts. Doing this will give you access to two additional reports in Analytics: Queries and Google Organic Search Traffic. The benefit of connecting your accounts is that the extra reports in Analytics give you additional options for customizing the order of your metrics/dimensions and how your data is visualized. In the case of the Organic Search Traffic report, you’ll also be able to drill down into your data using seven different metrics available in Analytics.
To connect your accounts, open up your site’s Google Analytics property and select the Admin gear button. From there, look in the Property column and click on the Search Console Links option, found under the Product Links section. From there, click on the blue Link button. Next, you’ll be asked to select the Search Console property you want to link to the Analytics account. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be asked to select your data stream. Next, verify that all your selections are correct and hit the Submit button.
Understanding owners, users, and permissions
Now that you’ve verified your site with Search Console, you need to think about who you want to be able to access your Search Console account and what they can do while they’re logged in. Since many different people commonly access Search Console properties, it’s important to make sure everybody who needs to access the property is able to do what they need to do while limiting the chance that someone might make unwanted changes.
There are two main types of users in Search Console: Owners and Users. Owners have full control over a Search Console property and its data. They can change settings, view data, work with tools, and add or remove other users. Users have more limited access. Someone with user-level access can see data, but they don’t have the free rein that owners get to take other actions or add users.
To add users to a Google Analytics property, select Settings from the left side menu, then click on Users and Permissions. On the next screen, click on the blue Add User button on the right side of the screen. From there, simply enter the email address of the person you want to add, select their access level, and hit the Add button.
Navigating Search Console
Now, let’s start taking a look at the insights Search Console provides. When you first open a Search Console property, the first thing you’ll see is an overview screen, where you can take a quick look at your key metrics, including total clicks from search results, how many pages are indexed and are not indexed, where there may be issues with page experience, and a look at site enhancements from structured data.
You might also see a message letting you know that the URL can appear on Google, but there are problems that need to be fixed. If there’s a problem with the schema used on that page, you’ll be able to find information about those errors under the Enhancements section. You may also want to check the Security Issues and Manual Actions reports to see if there’s an issue that could be preventing the page from showing up in search. We’ll talk about the Security Issues and Manual Actions reports later in this article.
You may also get a message letting you know the URL is not currently indexed by Google. This can happen for a few different reasons:
If you see an explanation that the page isn’t being indexed because of an error, that means it’s being blocked by your robots.txt file, because of a noindex heading in the page’s HTML, or because of an HTTP authorization request header.
If you see a note saying the page can’t appear in search results until it is indexed, this means that Google encountered an indexing error, such as if a page had a 400 or 500 status code when Google last tried to crawl it.
You might also see a message saying that the URL is an alternate version of another page, such as the AMP version of a page. In this case, there is nothing else you need to do to fix it.
The information in URL Inspection reports is based on Google’s last crawl of the page, not the live URL. If you’ve recently made some changes to a page and want Google to crawl it again, you can do so by pressing the Request Indexing button. Just remember that you are only able to request indexing for 10—12 URLs in a 24-hour period, so only request indexing once per URL on a given day. It might take some time for your page to be re-indexed, and submitting multiple requests for the same URL on the same day won’t speed anything up.
Search results & Discover
The Search Results report is going to be where you get a lot of insights into how your site is performing on Google. Here, you’ll be able to see how many impressions your pages are getting in search results, how many clicks you’re getting from search results, and average positions in search results. You can also get information about the ways people are finding your site, like what keywords people are searching for, which pages are getting the most visitors from search, and the types of devices people are using when searching for your site.
This report has some great filters to help you get a very detailed look at your site’s search engine performance with data tailored to your needs. These filters can let you drill down your data based on dates, either by a range of dates or one specific date. You can also look at data for specific pages or page categories, the types of devices people use when searching, and which countries your search traffic is coming from. The Search Appearance filter can also be used to look at which pages are getting rich results in search. The Search Appearance filter can include several different types of rich results your site might qualify for, including videos, merchant listings, event listings, review snippets, and job postings. Many types of results you might see in the Search Appearance filter are driven by structured data on your site, but you may also see a category for pages that meet Google’s standards for a good page experience.
There are a lot of possibilities for how these filters can be used, so if you’re new to Search Console, it’s worth taking some time just to play around with them a bit and get familiar with what they can do. I’ll give you just a few examples:
Let’s say I wanted to know which blog posts on my site have been getting the most traffic from search in the past few months. From the screen pictured below, I’d select the New button next to the filters for web searches and the date range. That will take me to a screen where I can create a filter that shows all URLs that include “myfakesite.com/blog.”
If I noticed my site had an unusual spike in traffic on a certain day and wanted to figure out what might have caused it, I could change the date filter to that specific day and take a look at the terms people were searching for and which pages had the highest click-through rate.
Another thing I might want to do is focus on non-branded keywords my site is appearing in search results for. In that case, I could create a new Query filter to exclude keywords that use a company’s name or a product’s name.
When requesting a removal, you can request the removal of a single URL or the removal of all URLs with a certain prefix. In most cases, you’ll probably want to remove a single URL. But if you want to remove an entire section of your site from search, you’ll want to go with the option to remove all URLs with a given prefix. Just be careful to make sure you select the right option so that you don’t accidentally remove a lot of content that you didn’t intend to. In one notable case, LinkedIn once ran into problems by doing this.
Security issues & manual actions
Hopefully, the Security Issues and Manual Actions reports are reports you’re not going to have to worry about too much. The Manual Actions report is where you can see if there are any instances where a person working at Google has found pages on your site that violate Google’s spam policies. Or if Google believes that pages on your site could be potentially harmful to visitors, those issues will be highlighted in the Security Issues report. The Security Issues report can include things like suspected hackings, malware/spyware, and content that engages in social engineering or phishing.
Legacy tools & reports
Google Search Console has changed a lot over the years, but not all of its past functionality has been incorporated into its latest version. Access to some of these older reports can be found in the Legacy Tools & Reports section.
Last but certainly not least, there’s the Links report in Search Console. For SEOs, this report will be very helpful in letting you see which pages are linked to the most (both internally and externally), what anchor text is being used to link to your site, and which domains link to you the most.
Ready to get started?
We hope this guide has been helpful in getting you acquainted with Google Search Console. Now that everything is set up and verified, you can start taking in all the information that Google Search Console has to offer.