Google Search Console - Setup basics

Google Search Console basics – A powerful FREE tool to understand your search traffic

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Business owners often ask me – Shyam, how do I know which keywords my site is ranking for? How much traffic am I getting from Google search? Well, the short answer is Google Search Console.

And the good news is you can do it yourself and do not need to pay to know. In this blog, I will take you through the exact steps to set up Google Search Console for your website and get to know everything you wish to know about search traffic. Let’s get started.

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free tool from Google that gives you insights on the search performance of your website.

Google Search Console welcome screen
Google Search Console welcome screen

The tool will tell you everything Google knows about your website and your website’s performance on Google search. For eg. here is the search console dashboard for one of my clients:

Sample Google Search Console dashboard - ShyamGovind.com
Sample Google Search Console dashboard

As you can see, there is a treasure trove of data here. We will get to that in some time. Let’s first understand how to get this data first.

Setting up Google Search Console

In order to access Google Search Console, you need to have the feature enabled for your Google ID. Now, if you are using a regular Gmail account, then you do not need to do anything special. Just go to https://search.google.com/search-console

But in case, you are using your company ID (i.e. you have company email services purchased from Google) – there is an additional step.

Enable the Google Search Console feature

So, some people may use email services from Google for their company. For eg. my email services (shyam@shyamgovind.com) is with Google’s Professional email services.

In that case, Search Console is not directly enabled for you, and you may see this error when you go to Search Console:

Error accessing Google Search Console - no permission.

In this case, you need to ask your tech team to enable Search Console in your company’s Google Admin dashboard. It will be under Apps > Additional Google Services > Google Search console. Make it “ON for everyone”.

Note that this only enables the feature and does not give access to your website to everyone.

Google Admin dashboard - How to enable Google Search Console for users.

Once you enable this, go back to Search Console URL: https://search.google.com/search-console

You should now be able to use Search Console.

So, now we have got access to Search Console. Let us now, link our website to the Search Console and get the search performance data.

If you are accessing Search Console data for the first time, you will see a screen like below to add a property. A “property” is basically the website you want to see data for.

Google Search Console - how to add a property

If you have been using Google Search Console, you will have to click on the drop down at the top-left and click on “Add property”.

Google Search Console - how to add a new property in the dashboard

There are two ways to add a website (i.e. property) – Domain method and URL prefix method.

URL prefix method – Add GSC property

In URL prefix method, you are basically adding a particular URL of your website and tracking just that URL for search data. For eg. may you just want to see data for https://learn.shyamgovind.com

You may want to see the search data only for that sub-domain and not all the URLs in ShyamGovind.com. In that case, you can use the URL prefix method.

For most people, I would suggest you to use the Domain method of adding a property.

Domain method – Add GSC property

In the domain method, we are basically asking Google Search Console to gives us access to all the search data on any permutation of website URL.

This means that irrespective of whether someone goes to www.shyamgovind.com OR https://shyamgovind.com OR http://learn.shyamgovind.com – give us access to all data.

Domain method of adding GSC property - ShyamGovind.com

Let’s see how to get access via the Domain method.

Adding a DNS record for verification

First, we type in the domain we wish to add to Google Search Console (GSC). Say we want to add Apple.com

GSC - add a new property example - ShyamGovind.com

Once we add the Domain name, GSC will ask us to verify that we own the domain. This is done by adding a new DNS entry in the Name server configuration.

GSC - add a Domain property - DNS verification

You have to copy the code and paste it as a new TXT (or CNAME) record in the DNS configuration.

IMP NOTE: 

Please DO NOT do this on your own, if you are not confident. DNS configuration is very sensitive and must be done only by experts. 

That’s it. You should now have access to the dashboard with all the search data showing up.

Let’s now go through a brief overview of what we see in the dashboard.

Google Search Console dashboard overview

Google Search Console gives a great level of insight into how the website is doing in search. Let us understand with my own brand new website: ShyamGovind.com

Google Search Console basics

There is a lot to discuss in the Google Search Console. We can’t do that in this one blog post. I will create separate blogs explaining each of the aspects in GSC. But let’s cover the main overview in this section.

The first important tab in the Search Console is the “Performance” tab. Let’s understand the basic metrics in the Performance screen.

1. Impressions

Impressions are basically how many times your website shows up in the search results.

2. Clicks

Clicks are the number of times, someone clicked on your search result.

3. CTR

CTR is Click Through Rate i.e. rate at which your website got a click each time it showed up in search result. In terms of formula, CTR is basically the ratio between clicks and impressions.

4. Average Search Position

Average Search Position is the average position of our website on the search results page. So, if you came up twice in search results, once at position 1 and another time at position 99 – your average search position would be (1+99)/2 = 50.

Conclusion

Google Search Console is one of the most powerful tools that you must set up for your website. This will help you know exactly how your website is doing when it comes to search.

We will explore more of GSC’s incredible functionalities and other such technical SEO topics in the coming days.

Further reading

If this blog got you interested in Google Search Console, you might want to read more about it in HubSpot’s blog. SemRush’s guide on Google Search Console is also pretty nice.

If you are interested in learning how to add a new user to Google Search Console, I explain it in simple steps here.

Video Explainer

Hope it helps.

Until next time,

Shyam


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