Updated: 17th September 2019
If you’ve not heard about Google Search Console you’re missing out on a fantastic tool. I am going to tell you a little about why it’s so useful and what it can do for you. Primarily though I’ll walk you through how to set up a Google Search Console account so you can take advantage of all the tools and information it offers to help you manage your site in the best way possible.
What is the Google Search Console?
As you can see from the image above, the Google Search Console provides you with a series of tools to help analyse, maintain and problem solve.
It offers a bunch of powerful features to really help you out. For example the Search Console enables you to:
- See how effectively crawlers are looking at your pages and any issues they encounter
- Understand who is linking to your site
- Discover if Google sees anything spammy or otherwise undesirable about your site
- See how many people are visiting your site and which search terms they use to land on your pages
- Investigate usability issues
- Add or refresh your pages in its index!
Google Search Console & Google Accounts
First you need a Google Account… but you may already have one if you use Gmail.
If you don’t have a Google account, sign up for one. It’s pretty straightforward to set up… I have written about this here:
Once you have an account, you’ll automatically have access to a stack of free and very useful online tools to make you more productive and help you manage your presence on the Web, such as:
- Google Ads – Google’s pay per click advertising tool
- Gmail – free email
- Google Drive – give you 15 gigabytes of free online storage
- Google Calendar – a time-management and scheduling tool
- Google Alerts – a content change detection that sends you alerts
- Google Sites – a tool for creating a basic website
- Google Photos – a photo sharing and storage service
There are dozens of other free tools that come automatically with a Google Account, however we’ll put these aside for another day.
When you’re set up with an account all you need to do is visit the Google Search Console homepage. If you’re already logged into your Google Account you’ll go straight to the overview page that’ll look something like this:
At this point you’ll need to tell Google about your site. You can see two options:
- URL Prefix
You have to choose one of these so that Google to verify that you are the official owner of your domain.
Add URL Prefix Property Type
The first option relates to Domain. This option requires you to add your top level domain name and domain extension. In the image above, you can see it’s example.com.
There’s no need to add “https” or “www”, since with the domain option the Search Console will report upon all traffic relating to that domain. So for example, the following will be included in reports for anything that lives on that domain:
- Subdomains such as my.example.com, mynew.example.com, another.example.com
- Protocol variants like http, https or ftp
- www or non-www domain variants.
Traditionally, Google Search console treated all the above “versions” of domains as separate sites. You used to have to add each version as a separate entity into your Search Console account so your bases were covered.
Nowadays the Search Console formally recognizes that such version profiles can relate to the same site and so provides the ability to report on traffic going to each version in one profile.
This is useful for those people who want to see all traffic across their domain in one place.
Domain property types are a little more fiddly to set up than URL prefixes because they require you to update DNS records in your Domain registration account so you can verify the domain is yours.
How to Set Up Domain Property Type
As I mentioned earlier, setting up the Domain property type is a little bit tricky because you have to to add a DNS TXT record to your domain registration account (for example Namecheap or Domain.com).
After selecting the Domain property type, the Search Console will provide you with some text to use in your TXT record:
You add this text in your domain registration account for your target domain as a new TXT record.
Each domain registration service will have a slightly different process for this so you’ll need to check their support guides for how to do this.
Once you’ve added the TXT record to your domain, the Search Console should be able to see it. You just need to click the VERIFY button to request verification.
Normally the TXT record updates within a few minutes but it can take up to 24 hours… so Google Search Console might not see it immediately and might complain about it!
All being well though, when you click VERIFY you’ll see this:
If something’s not right, you may see an error message. Common errors might be:
- A typing error with the domain you’ve submitted initially
- Server connection problems
- Typing mistake in the TXT record
If there is an error, the Search Console will explain and guide you in how to fix it.
How to Set Up URL Prefix Property Type
The second option relating to URL prefix property type is for those people who only want to see reports for a specific URL. This option will take the domain version you supply to it and specifically provide data relating to it.
So if you specify your URL prefix to be www.example.com the Search Console will not report on anything related to visits to example.com (i.e. people who have not used www.example.com to reach your site). It also won’t report on subdomains such as mynew.example.com.
This of course has disadvantages over the Domain property type, but it is easier to set up verification that you own the domain. There are actually many ways you verify, each of them a bit less fiddly than its Domain counterpart.
Verify With an HTML File
You can also verify your site by uploading an HTML file containing your verification code to your server. The Search Console will create a downloadable file for you to add to your server as you go through the verification process.
Verify with HTML <meta> Tag
Another option is to a dd an HTML <meta> tag to the the <head> section of your homepage (Search Console provides the <meta> for this if you choose this option).
Verify with Google Analytics
Additionally you can use your Google Analytics account (if you have one) to connect your site to.
You just need to add the current Google Analytics gtag.js tracking code in the <HEAD> section of your site’s pages. However, you must also have admin rights for the Google Analytics property itself so verification can proceed.
If this is already set up you can verify in one click.
Verify with Google Tag Manager
You might also consider using container snippet code from your Google Tag Manager account (if you have one).
Similar to Google Analytics, if you’ve already set up your property with Google Tag Manager you can verify your property with just one click.
Other Ways to Verify Your Site
If you’ve built your site using Google Sites or want to add a Google Blogger account, the property will be automatically verified. Because these are Google accounts, you will have already been verified.
As with each of these verification methods you may encounter errors. However, the Google Search Console set up process will walk you through diagnosing the problem and fixing it.
Which Search Console Property Type Have I Set Up?
For SideGains, I have both property types set up. My Domain property type is set up as sidegains.com and my URL prefix property type is set up solely to look at https://sidegains.com. It’s the best of both worlds!
Summary: How to Set Up Google Search Console Accounts
- Google Search Console accounts are free to Google Account holders.
- When you set up an account you will have access to some extremely useful tools for understanding problems with your site.
- The Search Console provides you with reports about the keywords people used to find your site and where you rank for them.
- It is a vital tool for SEO.
- You have to verify that you are the official owner of any site you want to add into the Search Console. There are several ways to do this.
- It’s possible to add up to 1,000 properties in one account.
That’s it for now. Thanks very much for visiting!
Please add a comment below or ask me a question on any aspect of how to set up a Google Search Console account and I’ll get right back to you!