In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up Google Search Console with various plugins & how to submit a sitemap to track your pages.
Once you have built your site and have started publishing some content, you need to let the search engines know about your website.
What is Google Search Console
Before I get into setting up an account for Google Search Console (formally known as Webmaster Tools), I want to give you a little bit of information about what purpose it serves and why it's super important to have one.
Google's purpose is to bring the best results to their users and to do that; they need to know what websites are related to any particular search term.
That is where the search console comes into play.
Google gives you a free tool that tells you how to rank number #1 for different search terms.
I know it sounds crazy, but it's true.
This is important to your business because it gives you the ability to tell Google what your site is about & track how your content is doing in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
Now let's take a quick tour of Google's Search Console.
A Tour of Google Search Console
The first thing you will see (after connecting your Google account to the search console) is a blank page.
This is where you are going to add your websites.You can add a website to the search console at any time by clicking on the "Add Property" button.
At this point, you will pick whether you want to add an Android app or a website.
Since this is a website about affiliate marketing, this is where you add the URL of your site.
I will explain how to connect your site to Search Console later, but for now, I am just going to be telling you the essential features.Once you have connected your site to the search console, you will see three little sections:
- Crawl Errors
- Search Analytics
Google uses "Spiders" to crawl your web pages, and they can crawl through your links to other pages to get a better understanding of what your site is about, if they find any issues while crawling your site, they will appear in this section.
The three issues that they cover here are:
- DNS (Domain Name Server) Issues
- Problems Connecting to Your Servers
- Robot.txt Issues
This section is self-explanatory. You will see any data related to how your rankings for search terms are & where you are positioned in within Google's SERP.
Since Google is becoming smarter every day, you will notice that you will rank for search terms that you never targeted.
Neil Patel had an excellent tip regarding on-page SEO; If you notice that you are receiving less than a 5% CTR (Click-Through Rate) for a search term, you should go back to your content and optimize your article for that search term.
That tip boosted my rankings for a gaming website that I had a few years back and quickly took my rankings to the first page.
Sitemaps display every URL that is connected to your website.
In Google Search Console, you can track how many of those URLs have been submitted to index and how many of them have already been indexed.
In the newer version of the search console, they give you a bit more insight into WHY a particular URL hasn't been indexed.
To quote Backlinko on the reasons as to why Google won't index a particular URL:
“Submitted URL seems to be a Soft 404”
This means that the page was “not found”, but delivered an incorrect status code in the header.
(I’ve found this one to be a little buggy)
There’s a redirect for this page (301/302).
But it ain’t working.
“Submitted URL not found (404)”
The page wasn’t found and the server returned the correct HTTP status code (404).
All good. (Well, if you ignore the fact that the page is broken…)
“Submitted URL has crawl issue”
This could be a 100 different things.
You’ll have to visit the page to see what’s up.
“Server errors (5xx)”
Googlebot couldn’t access the server. It might have crashed, timed out, or been down when Googlebot stopped by.
Now that you understand the basics of Google Search Console let's get started with setting up your account.
How to Set Up Google Search Console
As I mentioned earlier, if you haven't added your website to Google Search Console, you need to do it here.
By verifying your site, Google now knows that you are either the:
- Site Owner
- Any Other Authoritive Figure
Remember that Google's Search console gives you a lot of important data in regards to your site's performance within the results.
Do you want that data getting into the hands of your competitors?
When it comes to verifying your site, Google gives you a few different ways to verify just in case you don't want to verify your site through the recommended method.
You can verify your site by:
- Uploading a HTML File
- Adding a HTML Tag
- Using Your Domain Name Provider
- Adding GTM (Google Tag Manager) Code to Your Site
- Through Your Google Analytics Account
Uploading a HTML File
Once you have selected this method, you can download the HTML file that you need. Make sure to download it and then upload it to your site.
Important Information: DO NOT delete or modify this file in any way, if you do that it will cause Google Search Console to mark your site as unverified.
In my personal experience, the recommended method has always been to verify through your Google Analytics account.
So if you do not see "HTML file upload" as the recommended method (like in the image above), then it will be in the alternate methods.
If you know how to access your site's root directory, then you can directly upload an HTML file there.
Once you have uploaded the file to the directory, you can go back to your Search Conole and click the "Verify" button.
If the file were added correctly, you would see the image below.
If not, then you might want to retrace your steps to see what went wrong.
Adding an HTML Tag
Amongst WordPress users, this is the most common way to verify your site.
In fact, I will be going over how to connect your site to Search Console using various SEO plugins, and you will be using this method.
Once again, the most likely option to be in the recommended method will be the Google Analytics method, so go to the alternate methods and click "HTML tag."
Important Information: If you have built your site by code, then you can copy the entire code, if not then only copy the snippet of code after the "Content=" section.
I will be talking about how to finish verifying your site through this method later for those using WordPress, but for those who have built their site with HTML or PHP, you can continue to read this section.
Now that you copied the snippet of code; open your editor for your site's homepage (or if you are using PHP, add the snippet of code to your header.php file) & add your code within the section.
Where your code is placed within the section doesn't matter, just as long as the Search Console can find it in the correct location.
After adding the verification code, update the file & check your site's source code in the browser to verify that it's there.
Now you can go back to Search Console and click the "Verify" button. If everything has been added correctly, you will see this page.
If not then retrace your steps to see if you made any mistakes.
Important Information: Remember that once you have verified your site, DO NOT change or modify the code in any way or else the Search Console will mark your site as unverified.
Using Your Domain Name Provider
This method (from my understanding) isn't very common, but it's stilled used or else it wouldn't be an option.
Your domain name provider is the company where you purchased your domain name.
An advantage of verifying your site this way is that you are technically not only verifying the domain but all of your subdirectories/subdomains (if you have them).
Larger websites will probably be the main benefiter of this method.
Once again, you will need to go to the alternate methods in the verification page to find this option.
Once you have selected "Domain Name Provider" you can choose your DNP from a list.
This list will only have the most common providers so if you do not see your provider then choose "Other."
Important Information: It's at this point where you will create a DNS (Domain Name Server) TXT record (or a CNAME record if a DNS TXT record doesn't work for your provider).
You will be given the necessary, so I am not going to explain it here. Once again, when you verify your site, make sure that you do not modify or delete your record or the site will be marked as unverified.
Adding GTM (Google Tag Manager) Code to Your Site
Google Tag Manager is an extension to Google Analytics. To quote Angela Petteys on Moz:
"Digital marketing thrives on data.
No matter what type of site you have, whether it’s a large e-commerce site, a personal website, or a site for a small business, it’s essential to understand how people interact with your site. Google Analytics can provide a lot of the important insights you’re looking for, but when used alone, it does have its limitations.
But by tagging your site and using Google Tag Manager in conjunction with Google Analytics, you’re able to collect much more data than you can otherwise.
Tags are snippets of code which are added to a site to collect information and send it to third parties.
You can use tags for all sorts of purposes, including scroll tracking, monitoring form submissions, conducting surveys, generating heat maps, remarketing, or tracking how people arrive at your site.
They’re also used to monitor specific events like file downloads, clicks on certain links, or items being removed from a shopping cart."
Along with Google Analytics, this method has to be the easiest regarding the steps needed to verify your site.
If you already have your GTM code embedded in your site, then you will need to manage your permissions (similar to how you would if when logging into a website using Facebook or Twitter) & enable your account.
After that, you can click the "Verify" button and you are done.
Important Information: Before doing this method, check to see if you do have your GTM code embedded or else Google will not verify your site. Also, DO NOT modify or delete your permissions from GTM or else your site will be marked unverified.
Through Your Google Analytics Account
This method is the easiest of them all.
As I mentioned earlier, this method will usually be found in the "Recommended method" so you should instantly see it when landing on the verification page.
If you already have set up a Google Analytics account (which you should always do first) then you can click "Verify," and you're done!
Important Information: You will be given a few lines of information when choosing this option. I would advise that you read them. If this method isn't working for you, the few lines of info could be the reason why.
Also, DO NOT modify or delete your Google Analytics code or else your site will be marked as unverified.
Setting Up Google Search Console With WordPress SEO Plugins
For those who use WordPress, I mentioned that using the HTML tag is the most common way to verify your site in Google Search Console.
That is because of the various SEO plugins.
If you are using a WordPress SEO plugin then you get a box where you can add your snippet of code from Google Search Console.
Adding Your HTML tag to SEO Framework
Earlier, I mentioned that for WP users, you only need to take the snippet of code after "content=." For example, here is the HTML tag you will see:
<meta name="google-site-verification" content="TSKdjfksGkSMdEr-JMd394JdmdmmgfF3_HJDFjfnghj" />.
For WP plugins, you only need this section "TSKdjfksGkSMdEr-JMd394JdmdmmgfF3_HJDFjfnghj".
Once you have copied that, add it to the Google Webmaster Verification Code located under the "Webmaster Meta Settings."
Then you can verify your website, and you're done.
Important Information: To drill this into your head I am going to mention it one more time. DO NOT modify or delete anything that involves your Search Console verification or your site will be marked as unverified.
I hope that this guide has been useful to you and now you have connected & verified your website to Google Search Console.
You will not see data straight away, that will appear over the next few days to weeks.
Once you do start seeing data, you can use it however you wish.
If you did like this article, feel free to share it with others in a similar situation as you.
Also, if you have any questions or feedback, then you can use the comment section below.
I always answer back to comments within 24 - 48 hours.