It’s really no secret that Google’s search engine is a little arcane. Outside of a few tidbits of information the company has offered us, what little knowledge we have about Google’s algorithms is gleaned from guesswork. That’s precisely what makes something like Google Webmaster Tools – now known as the Google Search Console – so invaluable for any website owner.
A free service provided to anyone who owns a website, Google Search Console is designed to help webmasters better optimize their sites for search. It allows you to directly tweak how search engine robots interact with certain pages on your site. You can submit a sitemap, for example, or submit no-index requests on certain pages (meaning Google will ignore the existence of those pages).
Those are all pretty cool features, sure. But they’re not unique to Google’s console. You can just as easily no-index pages through a robots.txt file, and you don’t necessarily need to submit a sitemap – doing so just increases the chances of Google finding every page you want it to.
What makes Google Search Console truly valuable is the information it provides, such as…
- Pages on your site that are viewable on mobile
- Pages Google is unable to access
- What queries people are using to find your website
- Pages on your site that have been manually flagged as spam
- The flow of internal links throughout your website
- What pages are linking to your website
- Website traffic
In other words, it tells you virtually everything you need to start optimizing your site.
Getting Started With Google Search Console
First thing’s first, you’ll want to enter the URL for your website and verify that you’re the one who owns it. Google allows you to do this in multiple ways. Choose whichever is most convenient – it doesn’t really matter which you use.
Once the verification process is complete, you’ll be able to access your dashboard. Give the platform a few hours to start populating with data. Note that depending on the size of your website, it might not take that long, and you might start seeing results a whole lot sooner.
From here, the platform is fairly intuitive to use. You’ll be able to see a detailed breakdown of how each page on your site is performing, inspect specific URLs, and investigate the cause of any crawl errors that are flagged. As recommended by Neil Patel, you can also use a robots.txt generator and an XML sitemap generator to give the platform more information about your site and get a more complete picture of how well it’s performing. At the end of the day, search engine optimization is all about creating small advantages for your site – little tweaks that might give you a leg up on the search engine results page. With that in mind, there’s really no reason not to use the Google Search Console. After all, it’s free, so you’ve nothing to lose.