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A Complete Guide to Google Search Console

A Complete Guide to Google Search Console

Learn Google Search Console

Updated on

Here is one of the best guides on Google Search Console. This is for both beginners and advanced learners of SEO. It’s your ultimate guide to get the most out of the search Console in 2020.

How to Use Google Search Console to Boost SEO

Beginning from how to get started with the Search Console and up to many essential pro tips, including the latest strategies and techniques in SEO, this guide covers almost everything that can help you to become the most informed and advanced SEO expert for Google Search. You know that mastering Google Search means being capable of driving the 92.42% organic search traffic to your websites and Android apps for relevant searches.

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, this guide is designed to help you get most out of the Google Search Console that can be reflected in your success in SEO and online marketing activities.

This guide is a significant part of something known as technical SEO, as well as SEO in general. However, after going through this thoroughly, you’ll find that all technical aspects of SEO are really easy to learn and apply. Leading you towards simplicity throughout all complexities is my other objective behind the construction of this Google Search Console guide.

It is the most comprehensive guide on the internet on learning Google Search Console with more than 8500 words and 75 illustrative images.

As the primary objective of helping you with the best practices on Search Console is concerned, digging deep is highly required. However, you have alternative options. You can either go thoroughly through the entire guide or skip any section(s) as you want.

While advanced learners may skip the primary sections, beginners need to go through the entire guide so that they can be well prepared to use the Search Console. It will help them to boost the search ranking of their webpages.

Structure of the Guide

The outline of the Google Search Console Guide is as follows:

  1. Introduction to Google Search Console
    1. What is Google Search Console
    2. Who Need to Use Search Console
    3. How Search Console is Helpful to You
    4. Old versus New Search Console
  2. Getting Started with Search Console
    1. Setting Your Google Account
    2. How to add your site to Search Console and Verify Ownership
      1. Option 1: Adding Domain Property to Search Console
        1. Pros and Cons
        2. Verifying Domain Ownership
      2. Adding URL Property to Search Console
        1. Uploading HTLM File to the Root Directory
        2. Adding HTML Meta Tag to the Header Section
        3. Verification by Google Analytics Account
        4. Verification by Google Tag Manager
        5. Additional Notes
  3. How to Set up Target Country and Language Preference in Search Console
  4. Setting up Preferred Domain Type
  5. Creating and Submitting XML Sitemaps to Search Console
    1. What is an XML Sitemap?
    2. How to Create an XML Sitemap?
    3. Do You Really Need an XML Sitemap?
    4. Do Sitemaps Affect SEO?
    5. Submitting Sitemaps to Google
  6. How to Smartly Use Google Search Console?
  7. Working with Google Index and Managing Coverage Issues
    1. Monitoring and Managing Valid Indexed Pages
    2. Monitoring and Managing Excluded Pages
    3. Fixing Error for Coverage Issue
    4. Working with Warning
  8. Monitoring and Troubleshooting Site Enhancement Issues in Search Console
    1. Mobile Usability
    2. AMP
    3. Logo
  9. Monitoring External Links and Managing Internal Links
  10. Site Performance Report in Search Console: Monitoring and Analyzing
    1. Understanding Metrics, Dimensions and Filters
    2. Filtering the Dimensions
    3. Comparing the Dimensions
  11. The Use of Data Highlighter
  12. Inspecting Individual URLs
    1. Importance of URL inspection
    2. Performing URL Inspection
  13. Removing URLs from Google Index
    1. Temporary Removal
    2. Permanent Removal
  14. Conclusion

Introduction to Google Search Console

This section will help you learn the basics of the Search Console. If you are an advanced learner, you may skip this section.

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console (GSC) is a free web service by Google that helps webmasters and SEO professionals to improve search visibility and ranking of their websites for Google searches. It’s one of the most essential SEO services that each one in SEO, digital marketing, and web technology profession (along with webmasters and/or website owners) should be familiar with. In fact, it’s a wonderful treasure house to help you with your technical SEO performance.

Who Need to Use Search Console

Google Search Console is a must to have tool for all who are in SEO, digital marketing, website design, and web application development profession. Those who manage and monitor their websites, such as, webmasters and website owners should also learn about GSC. Simply, if you have a website, you need to learn and use the GSC; otherwise, you can have big losses in terms of organic traffic to your website

From generalist to specialist, from newbie to advanced, Search Console can help you.

Google

How the Search Console can Help You?

  • Digital Marketers and SEO professionals are the top beneficiaries of the Google Search Console tool. If you practice digital marketing and SEO but don’t have an adequate understanding of GSC, you’re going to a big looser. Learning and using GSC can help you in monitoring real-time organic traffic to your site through Google, optimizing your site for higher Google ranking, fixing errors and issues including your site’s security, and controlling search appearance for your site on Google search. GSC data can help you in better marketing analysis while you integrate the same with other marketing tools like Google Analytics or Google Ads.
  • Webmasters or site admins can get great help from GSC by monitoring the healthy performance of their site and resolving errors and issues in their sites through the data available with GSC. 
  • Web developers can monitor code and markup errors and resolve the same with the help of GSC.
  • Business owners with websites should have basic knowledge of Search Console so that they can have information and idea about the generic (natural performance) of their websites even though they are not doing any SEO activities for their sites.

Old Versus New Search Console

Google Search Console was previously known as Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) till Google rebranded the service as Search Console on May 20, 2015. Google declared a beta version of the new Search Console in January 2018. Beta testing graduated in October 2018, and by the end of March 2019, the new version came out as a major player. However, till the date of the latest update of this complete guide to Google Search Console, the old Search Console hasn’t entirely vanished from the scenario. Though the features that have been migrated to the new version are no more available in the old one, some hallmarks in the old version haven’t yet been migrated. Therefore, we need both versions simultaneously.

Getting Started with Google Search Console

This section will guide you throughout the processes of setting your Search Console account. If you are already all set up, you may skip this section.

Setting up Your Unique Google Account

You know it that to be able to use any Google service, you must have a Google account. From a single account, you can avail of all Google products, free as well as paid.

To get set up your search console account, you can either use your existing account associated with your official email or a new one. Don’t forget to have a mail (Gmail) account with your parent Google account so that you can receive communications from the Search Console in your inbox. Note that the Search Console is the only communication platform between Google and webmasters.

Adding Your Site to Search Console and Verifying Ownership

In order to submit your site to Google, open Search Console and follow the following steps:

Hit the ‘Start Now’ button as you’re seeing in the above image. You’ll be redirected to the Search Console welcome screen. You’ll find two options to add your property to the Search Console. One is adding a domain name without any prefix, such as example.com; and the other is adding a complete URL with all prefixes, such as http://www.example.com. The screen looks like this:

You might be confused about choosing an option, and that’s normal. Therefore, let me tell you in detail.

Option 1: Adding Domain Property to Search Console and Verifying Ownership

If you select the first option to add your property, all variations of your domain, including HTTP and HTTPS types, and subdomains including WWW and non-WWW versions, will be included as a single property. You don’t need to add protocol and sub-domain variations in further steps. I highly recommend this option.

Pros and Cons of this Option

The advantages of this method are:

  • It’s a convenient and time-saving method.
  • Google will consider all variations of your domain, including HTTP and HTTS, WWW and non-WWW as well as other prefixes equally while crawling and indexing your webpages.
  • When you upgrade your domain protocol from HTTP to HTTPS, you won’t need to update your property in the search console.
  • If you’re using a CMS for your website like WordPress, you don’t require to re-paste the HTML meta tag to your header code for each update of the theme (in case you’re not using a child theme).
  • You don’t need to add separate sub-domains, such as www.example.com, m.example.com, etc. to add to your account that is required in the second option (for better management of property report).

The limitation of this option is:

If you choose this option to submit your site, you’ll avail only one method to verify your ownership of the property – that’s through adding a TXT (text) file to your DNS (Domain Name System). For any reason, if you’re unable to access your DNS, you can’t verify ownership of the property. However, verifying ownership of property by this method isn’t difficult.

How to Verify Domain Ownership by Add TXT file in DNS?
  1. Choose the first option on the left side of the welcome screen. Enter your domain name and hit ‘Continue’.
  2. In the next window, copy the TXT record displayed in the specific box.
  3. Login to your account at your domain provider’s website and open the DNS panel.
  4. You’ll find existing DNS records for your domain and the option to add a new record.
  5. Click on the ‘Add’ button and enter the following values:
    1. Select type ‘TXT’
    2. Enter ‘@’ for host
    3. Paste the TXT record that you’ve copied from the Search Console for the field ‘value’.
    4. Set TTL to one hour
  6. Click the ‘Save’ button and refresh the browser window
  7. Return to Search Console
  8. Click the ‘Verify’ button to let Google know that your personal record is assigned to your domain.
  9. Note that DNS changes may take time to apply. If Google can’t find the record immediately, wait for a few hours to verify it again.

The DNS record file in your account on your domain service provider’s website looks like this:

Depending upon the appearance setting of your service provider, the look may be slightly different. You can find an “add’ button to add new record. New record adding panel looks like this:

DNS record adding panel

Option 2: Adding URL Property to to Search Console

If you get any trouble in verifying ownership through the TXT record, you should choose the alternative – that is, selecting an URL instead of a domain to submit a property to Search Console and verifying ownership for it. In this case, you can add only one primary URL (sub-domain) at a time – such as www.example.com or m.example.com with a protocol, i.e., either HTTP or HTTPS. This option further facilitates you with multiple choices for verifying property ownership. You can verify ownership of the property by five alternative methods:

  • Uploading an HTML file to a specific location of your website
  • Adding an HTML meta tag to the header section of your homepage
  • Using your Google Analytics account
  • Using your Google Tag Manager account
  • Adding a TXT file to the DNS records
1. Site Verification by Uploading HTML File

This method allows you to upload an HTML file to the root directory of your website. Though it’s simple, you require to access your server to upload the specific file, either FTP or the server’s control panel like cPanel or Plesk, etc.

Step 1: After selecting the ‘URL prefix’ option, you’ll be prompted to download an HTML file. Click and download the file to your computer.

Google site verification by HTML file upload method

Step 2: Connect to your website via SFTP. You may read the documentation by your hosting service provider to learn how to access SFTP. Once you’ve successfully connected, upload the file that you downloaded from Search Console to the root folder of your site. If you face any problem, contact your hosting service provider.

Step 3: Return to Google Search Console and click on the ‘verify’ button to complete the process.

2. Site Verification by Adding HTML Meta Tag to Your Website

With this method, you’ll need to add a simple meta tag to your site’s <head> section.

Step 1: Select ‘HTML tag’ option. Find the tag and copy it.

HTML meta tag verification method for Google Search Console

Step 2: Access your site’s home page header code. Paste the code at the <head> before the first body starts.

Step 3: Go back to search console and click on ‘verify’.

Note for WordPress Users

If you have a WordPress site, you need a plugin to add a header tag to your website. Out of many plugins, I found, “Insert Header and Footer’ is the most convenient. You can install and activate this plugin to your WordPress site and add the HTML meta tag through this plugin in the site setting option.

3. Site Verification by Google Analytics Account

If you already have a Google Analytics account for your website, you won’t require the above complex verification methods. Just ensure that the Google tracking code is pasted at the of the site and click on ‘verify’ to complete the process.

4. Site Verification by Google Tag Manager Account

If you’re using Google Tag Manager, you can easily verify your site’s ownership just by a simple click. Ensure that you have the Google Tag Manager container snippet active on your site and you’ve ‘view, edit and manage container’ level permission in your Tag Manager account. Then click on ‘verify’ to complete the process.

Once you completed adding and verifying a domain, you can further add more protocols and sub-domain to the account. Google offers separate reports for separate protocols and sub-domains.

5. Site Verification by Adding TXT file to DNS

I’ve already discussed this method while presenting about domain verification steps. (Visit the Section again).

Additional Notes

Though there is no real difference between ‘example.com’ and ‘www.example.com’, Google sees both as different entities. If you are not sure whether your domain is with or without www, add both the variation in your Google Search Console account and don’t set any preferred domain type.

Note that even you don’t verify a property or fail to do so, your property will remain with Google, once you complete the submission process. Verification helps you to let Google know that you’re the owner so that Google can allow you to monitor, manage, and troubleshoot your site’s performance on Google Search.

Once you complete the verification, you will avail full authority to your Google Search Console account. You can add more people of your organization with full access (as owners) or with limited access (as users). Note that all owners you add will have equal rights with you to monitor and manage your property on Google search console through their individual accounts. Users will have limited access up to the permission you grant to them.

Setting up Target Country and Language

By using Search Console, you can target a specific country or language community for search appearances and impressions. However, this feature hasn’t yet migrated to the new Search Console from the old one. Hence, you have to visit the old version by clicking on the last tab (‘go to the old search console’) on the tab bar at the right of your new search console account. After clicking the tab, you’ll land on a page that looks like this:

Old Search Console overview

Click on the ‘Search Traffic’ tab in the tab bar at the left and you’ll find the ‘International Targeting’ menu. Click on the menu. The next screen will look like this:

International targeting of website in Search Console

Click on the checkbox and select your preferred country for country-based targeting. In the same way, you can target language based community for the preferred visibility of your website

Note that for language-based targeting, your site needs to be available in multi-languages with valid ‘hreflang’ tag. Similarly, for country-based targeting, you should have a generic top-level domain (TLD) for your site like .com, .org, .net, or .edu. Country specific domains, such as .in or .uk target to the specific country by default. For example, .uk targets to the United Kingdom only while .in targets to India only.

Setting up Preferred Domain and Multiple Properties in Search Console

Though setting up of preferred domain type isn’t yet available in the new Search Console, you can find it in the old version. This option lets you set how your URL will appear in search result, that is, with www or without www.

Just click on ‘Go to the old Search Console’ tab at the end of the tab bar in the left panel and visit the old version. On the old Search Console panel, click on the ‘Setting’ menu and select ‘Site Setting’ from the sub-menus at the top right. Select your choice.

Domain preference in Google Search Console

Creating and Submitting Sitemaps to Google

Once you complete site submission and ownership verification, the next step you may need to care about is creating and submitting XML sitemaps of your site.

What is an XML Sitemap

A sitemap is simply a structural list of pages in a website that can tell what the site contains and how it’s organized.

Sitemaps are of many types, but two primary varieties are HTML and XML sitemaps. An HTML sitemap is a hierarchical human visible sitemap that helps visitors of a site to easily find the web content they are looking for. On the other hand, an XML sitemap is purely intended for Google and other search engines to help them identifying the URLs and data in each section of a website and finding changes and updates within the sitemap.

XML stands for Extensible Markup of Language. The markup helps search engines to easily find URLs on a website that exist from the beginning, added newly, or changed for any reason. In the case of large websites, while it’s not possible to identify all the URLs and their properties through HTML attributes, XML makes it easy to discover those within seconds. URLs and respective pages with all attributes can be found by search engines easily. However, if your website contains more than 50,000 pages, it’s highly recommended that you should have proper XML sitemaps, and you need to submit the same to Google Search Console and other similar service providers like Bing Webmaster. However, it’s not bad, if you create and submit sitemaps to search engines even if you have a small website. Sitemaps help you not only in letting webmaster tools to find your webpages easily but also in discovering an update at the earliest.

How to Create an XML Sitemap

Creating sitemap is an easy process. You can create a sitemap even by not taking help of a sitemap creating tool. Depending upon the size of your website, you need to follow the following steps:

  • If your website is brand new or having few pages (up to 1000), although you don’t require a sitemap, you may submit it as http://example.com/sitemap.xml
  • If your website has moderate amounts of pages with a variety of content, your import sitemaps may be:
    • http://example.com/sitemap_addl.xml
    • http://example.com/sitemap_page.xml
    • http://example.com/sitemap_post.xml
    • http://example.com/sitemap_tag.xml
    • http://example.com/sitemap_category.xml
    • http://example.com/sitemap_taxonomy.xml
  • If your site is really large with many complexities in terms of URLs and content, you can create your legible sitemaps through https://www.xml-sitemaps.com
  • If you have a WordPress website, you may use either All in One SEO or Yoast SEO in order to automatically create, manage and submit your sitemap to Google

Do You Really Need an XML Sitemap

In fact small websites don’t require any sitemap. Only for your satisfaction, you may create and submit sitemaps to Google Search Console by following the above first two steps. However, large website owners should be careful enough to create the most appropriate XML sitemaps for their sites.

Cares Required to be Taken While Submitting Sitemaps to Google

  • While you are preparing sitemaps for your website, be careful of not including low-value pages and categories to sitemaps. Such pages if included in the Google index may create a negative impact on your SEO.
  • Only include those pages in your sitemap that have high value for your site visitors.
  • Exclude pages with ‘noindex’ and ‘nofollow’ meta tag from the sitemaps

Are Sitemaps SEO Factors?

No, exactly not. XML sitemaps have no impact on SEO in a general sense. These are helpful only to help Google or other search engines to properly identify, organize, and index your webpages.

Submitting Sitemaps to Search Console

  • Click the ‘Sitemap’ tab under the ‘Index’ group at the left panel of your search console account.
  • Copy the created sitemaps of your site one by one.
  • Paste at the sitemap line as shown in the following figure and hit the ‘Submit’ button.
Submitting Sitemaps to Google Search Console

At any time, if you require adding a sitemap or removing an existing one, you can do it by using the ‘Sitemap’ under the ‘Index’ Group.

How to Use Google Search Console

Google Search Console Overview

Google Search Console provides you a number of excellent tools and reports that can help you boost SEO to a great extend. Starting from a simple overview of your site’s performance and status on Google search, you can perform the following activities with Google Search Console:

  • Analyzing different dynamics of performance by setting metrics and configurations
  • Viewing index coverage reports with valid coverage, exclusion, errors and warnings
  • Knowing the reasons why some pages are not indexed
  • Checking the mobile usability status and issues of your pages
  • Knowing in details about the existing enhancement status of your webpages with rich snippet appearance on Google SERP
  • Finding out the AMP status along with errors or warning (if any) for your pages
  • Knowing details of internal and external linking status
  • Checking out if there is any security issue with your site or your site have any manual action
  • Inspecting individual URLs for their index status
  • Request re-indexing after an update and changes

Working with Google Index and Managing Coverage Issue

Once you complete submitting your site to Google, Google Bots (aka, Crawlers, or Spiders) start crawling the pages on your website to index them in a huge online database. It doesn’t mean that Google doesn’t crawl webpages if those are not submitted through the Search Console. Google Bots do crawling and indexing webpages throughout the internet automatically and continuously. However, adding a site to Search Console with (or without) valid sitemaps helps Google proceed speedily, discover the maximum number of valid pages on your website and manage them in the respective database in a better way. Furthermore, you can monitor and manage how Google crawl your webpages. You can tell Google not to crawl some pages those you want shouldn’t appear in search results.

In your Search Console account you can find two tabs – ‘Coverage’ and ‘Sitemap’ under the ‘Coverage’ group. You are already familiar with the ‘Sitemap’ tab since I have discussed most of the aspects of it. Now let’s learn about the coverage issues.

Webpage Coverage Status by Google

Under the coverage report you can check which pages are indexed and which aren’t along with details about indexing errors and warning issues. Let’s dig deep.

Valid Pages

Valid pages are those pages indexed by Google and can appear in search results with all relevant enhancements like rich result or AMP. There is no crawling error or blockage with these pages. These pages are blocked neither by any robots.txt tag nor by any ‘nofollow’ meta tag. Either you have submitted these pages to Google in a sitemap or Google have discovered these pages beyond a sitemap. Here you can exactly check that which pages are indexed.

Excluded Pages

Excluded pages are those pages of your website that are not indexed. There are many reasons that Google excludes some webpages from the index database. Some reasons may be in the wanted category having positive SEO impacts and others some may be in an unwanted category with negative impact. So, you need to check details of the report and act in accordance

If you find that your pages are excluded from the index either due to ‘noindex tag’ or ‘alternative pages with the proper canonical tag’, it’s really good for your website and SEO. You don’t need to do anything. There are also some reasons neutral in nature, such as, ‘discovered – currently not indexed’ or ‘crawled – currently not indexed.’ This means, the pages can be indexed soon.

The negative reasons why a page is excluded from search index are many. The important ones you should take seriously are:

  • Crawl anomaly – these are mostly server errors, errors with 5xx level response codes, such as 501.
  • Not found (404) or soft 404 – you have permanently or temporarily deleted the pages but haven’t set proper 301 or 302 redirections.
  • Duplicate, submitted URL not selected as canonical or duplicate without user-selected canonical – you haven’t set the proper canonical tag for a set of similar URLs pointing to a single webpage.
  • Page with redirection – you’ve redirected the submitted URLs to another location.

Valid with Warning

Those pages marked as ‘valid with warning’ indicate that although the pages can be indexed or are already indexed, there are yet some issues to fix. Warnings are, in fact, recommendations to help you improve your SEO ranking by eliminating even minor issues from your site. You need to check for the error, troubleshoot the errors, and resubmit to search console for validating again.

Error

Errors are the most serious issues that prevent Google to crawl and index webpages. While you find any error notification by Search Console, take the earliest action to fix the issue. After fixing the issue, let Google know that you’ve fixed the issue so that Google can re-validate the page. Through your Search Console account, Google will report you, if any error issue arises. Learn more about how to fix errors through this typical example.

Monitoring Site Enhancement Issues in Search Console

The ‘Enhancement’ aspects in the new Search Console correspond to ‘Rich Results’ and ‘Structured Data’ in the old version. Depending upon the availability of ‘Enhancement’ or ‘Structured Data’ on your website, you’ll find a number of tabs that contain enhancement reports under the group heading ‘Enhancement’. Most important enhancement aspects are

  • Mobile Usability
  • AMP
  • Logos
  • Sitelinks Searchbox
  • Media
  • Social Profile

Depending upon the type of your website and business, other enhancements or structured data, you may consider are:

  • Article
  • Breadcrumb
  • Carousel
  • Book Critical Review
  • Review
  • Forum
  • Corporate Contact
  • Livestream
  • Fact Check
  • Video
  • FAQ
  • Dataset etc.

Mobile Usability

Since maximum of web users visit a site from mobile devices, Google adopts mobile first policy. Mobile friendliness is a Google’s core search ranking algorithm. If your webpages are not mobile compatible, besides getting lower position by Google Search, you’ll also miss many visitors who might otherwise visit your site through their smartphones. Hence, you should regularly check for any mobile usability issue reported by search console. In case any such issue is reported, try immediately resolve it. Learn here – how to fix mobile usability error reported by Search Console.

AMP

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. It’s a Google initiative to help users to get most out of the web even with a mobile device with a slow internet connection or poor processor. An AMP version of a webpage loads with basic HTML codes and images or without any CSS and JavaScript code. Since Google gives priority to AMP, your pages with AMP version can help you get better search ranking for the searches conducted through mobile devices. A typical AMP URL looks like: https://www.example.com/page_tile/?amp.

Google Search Console AMP Report

At the top view of the AMP report page, you can find the numbers of AMP pages indexed, the number of pages with warning (recommendation for improvement), and number of pages with errors. At the bottom view, you can check the error or warning types and valid pages.

In order to fix an error or warning issue, click on the issue type. On the next page, you can find the affected pages. You can make a live test, inspect HTML elements, and learn more about the errors. After completely understanding the error report, fix the issues in the root code of your website. Return to your Search Console account. Click on the error type and then click on ‘Validate Fix’. Google start an immediate validation and inform you within a few days, whether the issues were fixed or not.

A logo is the most important branding asset that identifies an organization. Google give priorities to the structured data associated with the logo of your website. Valid structure data with your logo can help you highlighted with rich result in search results. You may visit schema.org to find examples of logo structured data.

Each SEO professional knows the importance of links for a website. Both the external links (backlinks) and internal links are enormously helpful for better search performance and ranking. Webpages having adequate backlinks can be crawled faster and better as well as more frequently. A backlink from a highly trustworthy and authoritative website can boost your page in search results. On the other hand, if a spammy website or a website with security issues links to you, it can equally harm your search ranking. Internal links help Google to find out how the contents and information of your website are structurally organized and to discover new pages, updates, and changes. More internal links help you not only in being quickly crawled but also in getting more search appearances.

Monitoring Links in Search Console

Regularly monitoring links on Search Console is enormously useful in SEO best practices. You can track the following information and act in accordance:

  • How are your internal links distributed
  • How are your external links distributed
    • Which are your top linked pages
    • Which are your poorly linked pages
    • How much times a website links you
    • Which are the linking sites to you
    • Which are the linking pages to you
    • Which keywords are used in linking texts
    • How many backlinks a particular page has

With the above information, you can manage your link building practice. You may either observe the links on Search Console or import the links to your computer for observing latter at your convenience. The most important task you can do with reading about the link that you can identify the quality sites that are linking to you and analyze the reason why you’re linked. Second, you can also identify the bad links that are harmful to you and nullify those with Google Disavow Tool. However, SEO beginners are warned not to use the Disavow Tool as it might also nullify helpful links.

Reading the Link Aspect

Reading the link aspects one by one on Search Console is very easy. Just click a report from any parameter. Let take – Top Linking Sites. Click the site name. The next page will show you details about the linking sites, total links, total linked pages along with a list of top target pages up to 1000 in the count. When you’ll click on any target page, it will lead you towards the destination pages where you are linked.

Top linking sites parameters in Search Console

Monitoring, Managing and Troubleshooting Performance of Your Website with the Help of Search Console

If you’re a beginner, you’re going to be a pro by reading this section and applying the knowledge in practice. If you’re a pro, you’re just going to get many treasures. While beginners should scroll slow, pros may scroll fast and can skip few sub-sections. As a scientific requirement in training, I deliberately kept this section at the end while preparing the blueprint for the entire study material.

You know it well that performance is everything. As an SEO professional or a webmaster or a site owner, your most crucial task is improving performance that your site does better for the relevant business activities. As SEO is concerned, your site should appear in top search results. your site should appear more frequently, your site should appear with a rich snippet or with other enhancement, your site should get more visitors from organic search and more. This is everything about how your site is performing in terms of organic traffic. This is the aspect that no other tool except Google Search Console can help you better. Performance report by Search Console is really a big free gift that you need.

With a number of aspects, dimensions, parameters, matrices and their multiple variations, you may feel little confused. However, it’s not so much difficult. Let me tell you how you can get most of the Google Search Console report on performance.

Reading and understanding the site performance report by Search Console is a bit complex. There are many terms and parameters you need to clearly understand. Assuming that you’re a beginner, I’m elaborating each aspect.

Metrics, Dimensions and Filters

Metrics

Search performance metrics are:

  • Click
  • Impression
  • CTR
  • Position
Metrics in Google Search Performance Report
Metrics in Search Performance Report
Click

A click counts when a user clicks on your link on a SERP, then get landed on your site. You can see total clicks on the top main view, while click for individual dimensions is found in the table.

Impression

Each time a link URL appears on the SERP counts an impression. An impression not necessarily indicates a view. If a user views a SERP that contains a link to your site counts an impression, though she/he doesn’t scroll down to see the link. But if the result link is in another SERP that the user doesn’t visit, it won’t count an impression. Total impression of your links at a given period of time is found in the top main view, while individual impressions are found in the table.

CTR

CTR stands for click-through-rate. It’s the click count divided by impression count and multiplied to 100. For example, if there are40 clicks out of 200 impression, the CTR will be 20%. In the search performance report, you can find your average CTR at the top main view, while individual CTRs can be found in the table.

Position

This is the average of total positions that your site links appear on Google Search at a given period of time. Rich result snippet, knowledge graph, maps, and location along with paid ads are considered as position zero. The first of the normal organic search results is considered as position one. Like CTR, total positions are shown on average.

Dimensions

The dimensions on which search metrics can be viewed and analyzed are:

  • Query
  • Page
  • Country
  • Device
  • Search Appearance
Dimensions of metrics in search performance report
Dimensions of Metrics
Queries

A query is the search phrase or keywords for which your site link appeared on a SERP. The default view shows up to the top 1000 individual queries made within the last three months. However, you can filter and compare query dimensions in the following three parameters for the top 1000 searches.

  • Query Containing
  • Query Not Containing
  • Query is Exactly
Pages

The page dimension shows up to the top 1000 URLs for all metrics. You can set, filter, and compare page dimensions in the following three parameters.

  • URL Containing (a certain keyword)
  • URL Not Containing (a certain keyword)
  • URL is Exactly (as a certain keyword)
Countries

Country dimension refers to almost all countries where links to your site had clicks and/or impressions. You can filter and compare the country view like other dimensions.

Devices

This dimension refers to the following three types of devices by which your site got clicks and/or impressions.

  • Desktop
  • Mobile
  • Tablet

Like other dimensions, you can also filter and compare device wise searches.

Search Appearances

Search appearance dimensions inform you about the special appearances of your pages in search results. Google support the following 15 special search appearance features:

AMP Non-rich Results

AMP on-rich results link to your basic HTML AMP pages without any graphics optimized for view through slow internet connections for mobile searches. A typical example is:

AMP non-rich result on Google Search
AMP Rich Results

Visually decorated search result links like images with content summary pointing to your AMP pages for mobile searches.

AMP Stories

If your website is well configured and optimized, your content can appear on Google SERP in a rich visual storytelling format derived from your AMP pages that enable users to tap full-screen mode for images and videos on mobile devices. However, such results are rare.

Android App

A relevant search on a mobile device can show the Android app page result in mobile search or/and app installation link as the following example.

Though the above example showing an add, your app may appear on Google Search generic result if well optimized.

Event

Event rich results may be presented in a carousel, group, or individually in Google SERP for a relevant search. The following is an example:

Google Search event results
FAQ

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) page is common to all website. If your website’s FAQ page is properly configured, it may appear with a rich snippet in Google Search. See the following example:

FAQ search result on Google SERP
Google Play Instant

Responding to a query for a service, Google Search may refer a mobile app designed to run in a trial form on a mobile device directly from Search results, without needing to be installed on the phone first. This type of result is rare in search.

How-to

‘How to do something’ is a common search since Google has answers for everything. Google is careful enough not to answer normally. If your webpage is structurally well designed with an answer for ‘how-to’, it may appear in rich snippet with step by step guidelines like the following example.

Job Details

If your website posts a job with detailed description and valid markups, it can appear on Google search like this:

job details in Google Search - SERP
Job Listing

When you search for a job vacancy in Google search, you’ll find the summerized view for many job listing near you at the top of the SERP, above the normal results. A typical result looks like this:

Job listing result in Google SERP
Media Actions

This is a type of rich results with action buttons for media like music, movies, TV shows so that the users can directly listen, play or watch from the SERP. The following is an example:

Q&A

The question and answer rich results appear for the most search queries in Google SERP for highly optimized pages after the top few results. The following is an example of Q&A result on Google SERP:

Rich Results

This is an extensive category that includes any type of rich result defined in structured data including all rich-result sub-types, such as, How-to, Q&A, AMP stories, local businesses, etc. The following is an example of a rich result in Google SERP.

Example of rich result in Google SERP
Search Result Link

This type of enhancement includes any link shown in search results, i.e., a link from your website to an external website or from one page to another page within your website with clear indication in search result. Don’t confuse search result link with sitelink search boxes as well. Though Google mention it as an important search appearance result, the real example is rare. I couldn’t find any search result link for our website. So I’m unable to share any screenshot for this type of enhanced search result.

Web Light Results

It’s the lightweight versions of a webpage, specially optimized for viewing over slow data connection in a mobile device.

The URL of our homepage automatically converted for view in web light result looks like this:

Web Light Result version of an URL

The actual version in the Android smartphone web browser or Chrome browser comes without images and videos, but with basic enhancements and even with logo and ads. A screenshot of our homepage looks like this:

Web light result page in Android smartphone

Users have also option to view the original webpage instead of the optimized result.

Almost all websites have the opportunities to rank for web light results if there is no major technical error.

Filtering the Dimensions

Dimension and parameter filter features in the search performance report are really amazing. You can fitter search performance data by all the five dimensions and their sub-parameters along with ‘search types’ and ‘date ranges’.

Filter Setting by Using Filter Tab on Search Console

Search performance filter tab in Search Console

You can find the ‘filter’ tab at the top of the page for the performance reports in your search console account as shown in the above image. ‘Search types’ for ‘web’, ‘date ranges’ for ‘last three months’ are the difficult settings. By clicking on the tab, you can change the search type to ‘image’ or ‘video’. Similarly, date ranges can be set to any value, starting from one day up to 16 months.

Click on the ‘+NEW’ in order to add new dimensions for filtering, namely, queries, pages, countries, devices, and search appearances as shown in the image below:

adding filter dimensions in search console

While for device, country, search appearance and search type categories, you’ve to select the value from the drop-down menu, for filtering queries and pages, you’ve to select a sub-dimension from the drop-down menu and to enter the value, such as keywords for queries and URLs for pages as you’re seeing in the image bellow.

Any one of the sub-dimensions, you need to select for query and page filtering are:

  • Queries/URLs containing
  • Queries/URLs not containing
  • Queries/URLs exactly

Setting Metrics and Parameters for Dimensions in Search Performance Report

Look at the image above. You can find a further-action icon at the right, I’ve marked it with a red circle. Find this icon on your search performance page. Select a dimension, such as, query or page. Then click the icon. In the check-box, select the metrics you want to filter for the dimension. For example, filter for clicks for a certain query. After checking the box for ‘query’ and entering hit, you’ll find a panel at the left as shown in the below image.

Select a parameter, such as – equal to or not equal to or greater than or smaller than and then enter a value to filter the data.

Comparing Dimensions

Just like filtering, you can also compare search dimensions by using the Search Console tool. The features and usability of both ‘filter’ and ‘compare’ tools are similar. You can find the ‘compare’ option next to the ‘filter’ option while you select a dimension to view data or analyze.

Compare between dimensions in Google Search Console

Since there’s no difference in using both ‘filter’ and ‘compare’ tools and I’ve already discussed in detail how to filter data and dimensions, I don’t need to discuss how to compare the dimensions or data. Even beginners can do it, once they learned how to filter data in the GSC.

Highlighting Structured Data in Search Console

Data Highlighter is an important tool in Google Search Console. This tool can help you in highlighting each piece of information and add tags to your web content so that the content can appear as a rich result for relevant search in Google SERP. The available categories of data highlighting for the rich result are:

  • Articles
  • Book Review
  • Events
  • Local Businesses
  • Movies
  • Products
  • Restaurants
  • Software Applications and
  • TV Episodes

For example, you can highlight the detailed information of an article in terms of title, author, date of publication, images, categories, and rating. The same may appear as rich result in Google Search for a relevant query.

In order to highlight data of your webpages, you need to visit the old search console. This tool hasn’t yet migrated to the new version.

Data Highlighter tab is available under the search appearance tab group. The page looks like this:

Data Highlighter in Google Search Console

At first, click on ‘Start Highlighting’. Enter the URL you want to highlight. Select the information you want to highlight. Then select whether you’re highlighting a single page or all similar pages. Then, click on ‘OK’.

Data Highlighter for Google Search -Information Highlighting

In the next screen, you’ll find the live page that you’re going to highlight along with the option to highlight the information. In order to highlight properly, follow the steps:

Let’s suppose you’re going to highlight a local business page. The information you’re going to highlight are:

  • Name of your business
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Opening hours
  • Departments
    • Name
    • Telephone number
    • Opening hours
  • Image
  • URL
  • Average rating
    • Rating
    • No. of votes
  • Review
    • Name of the reviewer
    • Review ratting
    • Review date

The compulsory information are – name, address and telephone number, other are optional. However, for better chances of rich result in Google Search, you should highlight as much as information you can.

Now start:

  1. Be ensured that the information you’re going to highlight is available on your page.
  2. If the information is not present on your page, then edit your page to put all the information and return to data highlighter.
  3. Select the area (text/image/logo) that you want to highlight and right click on it.
  4. Select the tag type from the menu and click on.
  5. Go to another area of your webpage to tag the other information.
  6. Complete tagging one by one.
  7. Ensure that you’ve tagged all required fields.
  8. Click on ‘Publish’.

Inspecting Individual URLs in Search Console

Importance of URL Inspection

Crawling and indexing webpages are automatic processes of Google Search that goes on continuously. Your pages may be crawled and indexed by Google even if you’ve not added your website to Search Console. Your pages may be crawled and indexed beyond your sitemaps. However, there are chances that some of your best pages may be out of Google index for a long time or an important update on a certain page may not has been noticed by the crawlers. There may be cases that errors in some pages haven’t yet informed to you. Since the regular activities of Google Bots are highly autonomous in terms of crawl priority and frequency, new pages of your site may suffer from late crawling or indexing or error reporting.

As a solution to the above mentioned situations and problems, Google give you URL Inspection tool in Search Console. This tool can help you to:

  • Check whether an individual URL is indexed or not
  • Find if there’s any crawling or enhancement issue
  • Live test an URL and troubleshoot the issue, if any
  • Request Google to index a new page on priority basis
  • Re-request Google to cache a new version after page update or change in order to re-index

Performing URL Inspection

This tool is available at the center top of your default screen of your Search Console account as well as a tab in the left tab bar. It looks like this (marked with red rectangles):

URL inspection in Google Search Console - default view

In order to inspect the URL, paste a specific URL in the search box, and hit enter. If the URL hasn’t been yet indexed, you’ll get the following response:

Inspecting URL for index issue in Search Console

You may either perform a live test to know whether your page can be indexed, or you may request Google to index your page. Look at buttons marked with red rectangles in the above image. Click on any one as you wish. Note that the ‘Request Indexing’ button will perform two tasks – testing the live URL and accepting priority index request if the URL doesn’t have any coverage issue.

If everything is OK, an URL inspection live test report will be presented like this:

URL inspection live test report by Search Console

In the normal cases. the requested pages get indexed within few minutes to few hours of requesting. Once the page is indexed, you can view the enhancement of pages for search result like mobile usability or AMP status

If you page is indexed by Google, the screenshot after URL inspection will look like this:

Valid indexed page by Google with all available enhancement

Removing URL from Google Index

If you want that some of the pages of your website should not appear in Google search results, you can remove the pages from Google index either temporarily by requesting Google to not index those pages or permanently by adding robots.txt parameter at the root of your site.

Temporary Removal of Webpages from Google Index

The ‘Remove URLs’ option is available in the old Search Console. This feature hasn’t yet moved to the new version. Hence you’ve to visit the old Search Console so that you can able to request Google to temporarily remove any URL from its index. The tab is available under the Google Index tab group.

Remove URL in Google Search Console

Click on the ‘Remove URL’ tab as you’re seeing in the above image. You’ll find the ‘Temporarily Hide’ button. Click on the button and enter the URL you want to temporarily remove from Google index as shown in the bellow image:

Remove URL request to Google in Search Console

Permanent Removal of Webpages from Google Index

In order to remove an URL or set of URLs permanently from Google Index, you need to add specific robots.txt file to the root of your site. If none of your URL is blocked by the robots.txt, it will look like:

robots.txt file

User-agent refers to the name of the bot, such as Googlebot-Image or Googlebot-News. If you want no Googlebot to crawl a specific URL of your site, you need to block it by robots.txt. The robots.txt should look like this:

  • User-agent: Googlebot
  • Disallow: /your-page-url/

You can read a complete guideline on how to create robots.txt file at the root of your website.

After creating the robot.txt file, submit the file to Google in the old Search Console. You can submit it through ‘robtos.txt Tester’. Tab for the tester can be found in the ‘Crawl’ tab group.

robots.txt. Tester tab

Click on the tab and enter the robots.txt rules. Note that you can add multiple rules in rows.

Test your robots.txt in Google Search console

You can also test any URL to know whether it is blocked by a robots.txt or not. This option is available at the end of the page. Before testing for robots.txt file, be ensured that those are available in the root of your site.

Conclusion

Google Search Console is not a single tool. It comprises several useful tools to help users monitoring, managing, and improving their site’s organic performance in Google Search as well as managing the healthy operation of their websites. Integrating the GSC with other Google Services like the Analytics or Tag Manager is very useful in better marketing management. Along with this, you should have a sound idea of the most important SEO terms.

In this ultimate guide to Search Console, I discussed almost all aspects of Search Console so that you can get the most of this wonderful free service by Google. However, you may have some questions or doubts to ask or suggestions to improve the guide. Please feel free to ask me everything relevant or to add something to the guide.

Note: If you aren’t yet well versed in SEO techniques and strategies, you can learn everything from this website. Even if you’re looking for professional SEO services from leading SEO experts to boost your website traffic, you can too get it here.

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29 Responses

  1. Alexander says:

    Hey Prabash,
    Thank you for this incredibly compressive and awesome guide to Search Console. I’ve bookmarked this excellent reference. However, if you can help with a PDF copy, it’ll great.
    Detailed treatment of all important SEO aspects is really great. Particularly, your comprehensive guide on monitoring, managing and troubleshooting site performance is very usable. Though there’re many technical aspects, you could make everything simple.
    This is really a great guide!

  2. Rahul Patel says:

    I got this post bookmarked, it can help me all the way.
    I was wondering, how to create an XML sitemap. I solved my problems.
    I was wondering, whether to add both www and non-www versions of my domain – you solved it.
    About filtering and comparing dimensions – it’s amazingly comprehensive.
    Thanks for this incredible guide to Google Search Console. The internet doesn’t have adequate like this one.

  3. Neha Bisht says:

    Thank you for writing this very much needed post, Prabash. Most of the stuff in this category on the internet are either confusing or incomplete. You did a great by writing this. I understand the hard work you contributed through the post.
    In fact, I’m not a big SEO pro, but I can handle a the content and strategic part of SEO. Your incredible guide will help me handling the technical aspects, mostly error reports by search console.
    You’re great!

  4. Harley says:

    Hi fantastic website! Does running a blog like this take a lot of work?

    I have very little understanding of programming but I had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyhow, should you have any recommendations or tips for new blog owners please share. I know this is off subject nevertheless I just wanted to ask.

    Many thanks!

    • Prabash Sahoo says:

      Hi Harley,
      Thanks for your comment.
      As your query is concerned, I’m writing on blogging for new blogger soon. Please come back after few days.

  5. Kristopher Derose says:

    Hi,
    It’s really a complete guide, but too long! Perhaps, I’ll take three sitting to complete it. Bookmarking now.

    • Prabash Sahoo says:

      Thanks for the comment and bookmarking. As length of the post is concerned, in order to make it comprehensive while dealing a vast aspect of technical SEO, I had no other option.

  6. Neva Cranswick says:

    It’s a great learning resource for those who are beginning their career in search engine optimization. You did a big help to me by putting everything about Google Search Console in a single post. It’s too easy to navigate. I bookmarked the page so that I can visit it whenever required in my learning process.
    Thanks.

  7. Megan says:

    I just want to express my thanks to you. Spending two or more hours on this post is investment of time for something real gain. You’re great!

  8. Luca Knowles says:

    It’s really a vast guide. Thank you for letting me a lot about Google Search Console. I’ll further comment after fully reading it.

    • Prabash Sahoo says:

      Hi Luca,
      Thank you for spending time and commenting. I’m looking forwards for feedback, suggestions and complaint from you. Best regards.

  9. Jully Paul says:

    I love to have a pdf copy of this guide. It is well comprehensive and all inclusive. You really deserve a lot of love and respect from me for helping me in knowing all aspects of the GSC in a single place. I understand the hard work, you contributed to do research and compose the guide. Your vast experience in technical SEO is clearly visible from the steps you suggest.
    A lot of loves and thanks.
    – Jully Paul

  10. Amole says:

    I just stumbled upon the vastness of this post and wonder how you could organize everything to put in a single post.
    After all I will be subscribing to your RSS feed and I hope you write regularly.!

  11. Kavya says:

    This post was refereed in a different blog. Just clicked the link and found something better than the previous. It might take me more time to read completely and to make note. It’s a big post indeed.

  12. Evelyn says:

    Howdy, very cool and useful content!!I am glad to find a lot of helpful information here in the post on Google Search Console. It’s updated too.

  13. Niharika Roy says:

    Thanks for writing on Google search console in details. It’s genuinely useful for learners of SEO and related fields. I wish to find a similar post on Google Analytics from you.

  14. Sanjay Shikand says:

    I believe such a massive guide on Google Search Console is unique on the internet. Three mightn’t be no other such clear and comprehensive guide. Even Google has never attempted to help it’s user so that they can use the Console easily. You did a great job.

  15. Zaki Sadique says:

    Hi Prabash,
    This is a massive guide and it’s also free. I visited this post after reading other five. I can say, it’s the best. The post can also be proved helpful to experienced search optimizer. It contain everything on Google Search Console.

  16. Neelu Kulkarni says:

    Hey, thank for a priceless guide. It cover everything on Google Search console. Definitely, I have spent enormous time before composing the guide.

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