Since Google Webmaster Tools first launched around 10 years ago, its been the first port of call for webmasters diagnosing issues with their website. In 2015 that hasn’t changed. We may have sophisticated tools for monitoring web projects and software that shows us our data in a million different segments, but Webmaster Tools remains as valuable today as ever.
I should mention first and foremost that as of May 2015, it is no longer called Webmaster Tools but in fact, Google Search Console. It’s essentially the same set of tools, just with a different name and a greater focus on making the data within more accessible and open to less tech-savvy people. It follows a couple of minor UI changes and an overhaul of the ‘Search Queries’ tool. Check out Google’s John Mueller reminiscing over Webmaster Tool below…
So what is Google Search Console?
It is a free and useful way for webmasters to view their own website the way that Google sees it. It features the following information:
- How many pages on your site have been indexed
- Errors encountered while crawling your site
- The crawl rate of your site
- Analyse your website’s performance in Google organic search via ‘Search Analytics’
- Which domains link to your site
It also allows you to:
- Submit your xml sitemap(s) to Google and receive feedback on how many contained URLs are indexed and any URL errors found
- Test URLs against your website’s robots.txt file to ensure they are blocked/allowed
- See how Google renders (views) your website with the Fetch as Google tool
- Configure the use of parameters on your website
- Check the implementation of Hreflang tags, via the International Targeting tool
Google Search Console allows you to report the actions you have taken to solve some of the issues you have diagnosed, for example:
- Submit and update disavow files
- Reconsideration request
- Submit and configure new parameters
- Remove URLs from search results
Search Console implementation and verification
Many of us who have been using Webmaster Tools for years probably don’t even remember how we implemented Google Webmaster Tools across our websites. Often we get invited by another owner who has already verified the site previously.
For new users of Search Console, the options for verifying your site are:
- Adding a meta tag to your home page (proving that you have access to the source files). To use this method, you must be able to edit the HTML code of your site’s pages
- Upload an HTML file with the name you specify to your server. To use this method, you must be able to upload new files to your server
- Verify via your domain name provider. To use this method, you must be able to sign in to your domain name provider (for example, GoDaddy.com or networksolutions.com) or hosting provider and add a new DNS record
- Add the Google Analytics code you use to track your site. To use this option, you must be an administrator on the Google Analytics account, and the tracking code must use the asynchronous snippet (all codes generated these days are but legacy ones may not be – it’s time to upgrade!)
- Verify via the Google Tag Manager Container Snippet which should be placed after the opening <body> tag of your page
For many, the easiest option will be verifying via your Google Tag Manager Account or via your website’s Google Analytics code. We recommend that you use the same account for all Google products and if it’s a business account, create a central account for the entire business.
Delegating access in Google Search Console
GWT allows the administrator of the account to provide access to multiple users by adding them to the Verification Details via the “Manage” link as you log in to the tool.
Once you have clicked the “Manage” link, you will be directed through to the Verification Details page, where you will be allowed to add/edit/delete the users who have access to the data via their own Google account.
To add a new user, click the “Add an owner” button and enter their email address. This will only work for users who have a registered Google Account, so if they do not currently have one please refer them to step 1.
If you would like to remove any users who have been previously added then just click the “Unverify” link.
What is Search Analytics?
Previously called the ‘Search Queries’ report, Search Analytics is still in beta (as of 16th June 2015) however, its definitely an upgrade in terms of data and segmentation. Whilst this feature still only provides the last 90 days worth of data, you can get quite granular in order to identify impressions and clicks across:
- Landing pages
- Date range
For full run through of how to use the data contained within the Search Analytics tools, see Google’s documentation here.
Finding this data in Google Analytics…
If you link your Webmaster Console account to your Google Analytics account, you can access this same data in the ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ section within ‘Acquisition’ in Google Analytics (see image below) This is helpful if you like to have all your data in one place, although it should be noted that this still only provides the last 90 days of data.
So there you have it, our beginner’s guide to Google Search Console. If you have any tips to share or questions on making the most of this excellent, free resource that we haven’t answered here, drop us a comment below.