Google Search Console can be a powerful resource for webmasters. The problem is that top bloggers like to tell you that you need it, but really don’t do a great job of educating what it is, and why you need it. This guide will tackle what it is, why you need it, and even how to integrate Google Search Console with your WordPress site.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console (previously called Google Webmaster Tools) allows website owners to directly connect their website to Google and it helps provide a deeper look into how Google sees a website or blog.
The powerful tool gives webmasters the ability to find out if there are any specific problems that could be detrimental to being listed properly in the search results. These problems could be about how secure the website is, if there are errors crawling the website, if there’s unnatural linking, if there are mobile usability issues, and much more.
Why do you need Google Search Console?
The tools that Google provides are free and are a guide to allowing a webmaster to find out if their website is being properly seen, but also there are resources to help with:
- Finding out if your website has crawl errors. If you’ve got crawl errors, you might be sending visitors to web pages that have no content. You want your visitors to find information fast, and with no problems, so in knowing your crawl errors, you can fix the problem by properly redirecting content, or informing Google that it’s been permanently deleted.
- Optimize your website for speed. Ideally, and according to Google, your website should be loading at a speed of about 1 second. The analysis tool allows you to check what you need to do in order to speed up your website.
- Informs you whether your website has malware. Google has your back. If your website has been compromised, then you’ll receive a notice via email and in Google Search Console about the problem. Usually, if Google found a problem, website visitors will be given a warning to protect them until you’ve cleaned up the malware or virus.
- Let’s you know who is linking to you. Knowing who links to you is important. If you’ve got links to a lot of non-relevant websites, you could be penalized by Google for unnatural linking. Having that list will allow you to ask easily hunt down and ask your link to be removed.
There are a lot more features of Google Search Console, but for the beginner, the ones mentioned in this article are the most helpful.
How to integrate Google Search Console with your website or blog
In order to integrate Google Search Console with your WordPress site, you will need to add your website, as well as your website’s sitemap. The reason is that the sitemap — which is a generated list of all your content of your website — will allow Google to crawl and index your website far faster than just submitting your website URL alone.
This tutorial will include the both submitting your website’s URL and your sitemap URL so you get a head-start on being crawled by Google. Also, you will need the plugin called Yoast SEO, which will help you with verifying your website and producing a valid sitemap for Google.
Submitting and verifying your WordPress website with Google Search Console
Step 1: Go to Google Search Console
You will need to have a Google account or sign up. The tool is free to use, and the only emails you receive will be if there are any crawl issues with your website.
Step 2: Submit your website
Add your preferred domain — with or without the www in the URL.
Step 3: Verify your website
You can do this by using the HTML tag method. Copy the code into a notepad or plain text editor. Then copy only the long sequence of letters of numbers.
That code will go into your Yoast SEO General settings, under the Webmaster tab, in your WordPress admin.
Once you’ve added the code, and saved it, you can go back to your Google Search Console tab to click on the Verify button.
Note: If adding the code to Yoast SEO doesn’t work, which does happen for some people, you can also use the Headers and Footers plugin so you don’t have to mess with opening up your theme. Simply copy the whole line under the HTML tag method, and paste it into the header script area.
Congratulations! If you’ve gotten the success message in Google Search Console, you can proceed to the next steps.
Improve the search presence of your website
Step 4: Go to your Google Search Console messages
Google will immediately send you a message and give you a checklist on what to do similar to the image below. Follow each of the messages.
This list will ask you to add all URL variations of your website and set your preferred URL, whether it’s www or non-www, or even HTTP or HTTPS if you have SSL set up. You’ll also set a target country and default language for your website.
If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, you can find your sitemap URL by going to your WordPress admin panel, and navigating to SEO > XML Sitemaps, and then finding the button called Sitemap. You can click on it or use your mouse button to right click and copy the sitemap link. Usually, the Yoast SEO sitemap URL ends with sitemap_index.xml.
Step 6. Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console
In Google Search Console, to submit your sitemap, you will go to the section under Crawl > Sitemaps.
Compare the URL you copied earlier and make sure to add the exact URL path in. Usually, you will just type in sitemap_index.xml into the field, and save that.
Now your WordPress website or blog should be properly integrated with Google Search Console. Depending on the size of your website (how many pages your site has), Google could take a few days to a few weeks to crawl your website.
Also published on Medium.