Set up Google Search Console

The Google Search Console (GSC, formerly Google Webmaster Tools) allows you to collect data such as clicks, impressions, or the number of indexed pages in Google. It is one of the most critical monitoring tools for the performance of your website in Google search and can also be used free of charge. You can find out how to create a GSC account for your website and have it confirmed here.

What is the Google Search Console?

The Google Search Console contains the webmaster tools from Google and is a free tool with which you can collect and evaluate a lot of data about your website with Google.

The data on the keywords that brought users to your website is particularly valuable. These are no longer transferred via Google Analytics alone. This data can also be used for other Google services. For example, you have the option to link the  GSC with Google Analytics and Google Ads, and there is also an interface for  Google Data Studio.

You can also get data on the indexing of your website, crawling, and backlinks that point to your website via the Google Search Console. With their help, you can understand how Google rates your website.

Create a Google Search Console account

First, you have to create an account for it and set up a property for your website. The prerequisite for this is that you have a Google account. If you later want to link the GSC with other Google services, you should always use the same account here.

search console login

Google Search Console homepage

As soon as you are logged in here, you have the option via “Add property to create a data view for your website.

There are two options here: You can create a property for the entire domain, a so-called domain property. Or you choose the URL prefix; with this property type, you can create properties for individual domain areas, for example, for subdomains or subdirectories.

console dashboard

Create a property in the Google Search Console

Difference between domain and URL prefix property

The difference between the property variants is that only the actual URL path is recorded under a URL property. For example, you will only receive data for URLs that are located at https://www.demowebsite.com. The subdomain (note fictional example) https://www.demowebsite.com does not run into the URL property. Subpages at http://www.demowebsite.com (without https) are also not recorded here. In the domain property, however, all subdomains and domain variants are covered.

Since the Google Search Console only stores 1000 URLs per day and therefore, only 1000 URLs can be evaluated, large pages need to set up additional URL prefix properties. Otherwise, you can only evaluate a small part of your website. For smaller pages, however, the domain property is an excellent way to get an overview of all data and evaluate it quickly.

Depending on how your website is structured or how you want to evaluate the associated data, one of the two variants may be more suitable. But there is nothing wrong with creating both variants and letting them run in parallel. 

Create domain property

The domain property, therefore, contains data for all URLs of a domain, including all subdomains as well as http and https versions of the website. To create a new domain property, simply click on Add property and select the property type “Domain”.

Next, you have to confirm that you are the owner of the website for which you want to create the property. With the domain property, this is only possible via a DNS query. There are various other options for the URL prefix properties.

With the DNS confirmation, a specific entry in text format is stored in the DNS system of your web host. Basically, entries in the DNS system are used for various purposes (for example, even if you move your webspace, and this is to be assigned to a new domain).

The Search Console gives you an entry in TXT format, which has to be stored in the settings of your web host account under “DNS settings” or “DNS system.”

So log in to your web host and save the code in the space provided.

By clicking on “Add record”, a new entry with an individual type can be created.

You can now enter the specified value from the Google Search Console in the “Entry” field. By clicking on “Add” and then “Save”, the changes in the DNS system take effect. However, this can take a few minutes.

domain verify

Note: You should be extremely careful with existing entries, because if you change the A record, for example, your website may no longer be accessible.

Create URL prefix property

Once you have decided to create a URL prefix property, simply click on the corresponding selection, enter the part of your domain for which the property is to be created (with http or https and subdomain prefix), and click on further.

Confirm ownership

Next, you will also be asked to confirm ownership of the website. The Search Console offers you more options for this than with the domain property:

  1. Verification via the domain name provider
  2. Upload HTML file
  3. Include HTML tag
  4. Verification via the Google Tag Manager
  5. Verification via Google Analytics

Verification via the domain name provider (DNS)

As with the domain property, with the URL prefix property, you also have the option of ownership via the domain name provider. Simply follow the steps above.

Confirmation via HTML file

An HTML file verification is the verification method recommended by Google Search Console.

Confirm ownership via HTML file

The Google Search Console prompts you to download an automatically generated HTML confirmation page and upload it to the standard or root directory of your website.

You usually upload the HTML confirmation page via an FTP client, which can be installed on your desktop computer. Various software solutions such as FileZilla or  Cyberduck are suitable for this, which can be installed for both the Mac and Windows operating systems. With the FTP access data from your web host, you can then log in via the software and upload the file.

If you have a website that you did not develop and therefore did not upload to the server yourself, or you do not know how to set up an FTP client, you can alternatively use the “WebFTP” provided by most web hosts; This “WebFTP” can be called up directly in the browser within a few seconds without complicated setup.

The confirmation page usually comes from the Google Search Console in the standard directory / HTML /. Make sure that the confirmation page is in the correct directory where the website is located.

After the file has been uploaded via FTP, you can click “Confirm” after confirming the reCaptcha (“I’m not a robot”). If everything is uploaded correctly, the Google Search Console can use the verification HTML file to determine that you own the website and that you are authorized to set up the Search Console.

Important: The HTML file should NOT be deleted after verification! The Google Search Console will otherwise display the error message that your website has not been confirmed or verified.

Confirmation via HTML tag

Another option is to include an “HTML meta tag” on the website. The code snippet specified by the Google Search Console is inserted into the “header” of the HTML document.

Under “Other confirmation options”, the snippet of code to be used is generated by clicking on “HTML tag”. This must now be inserted in the HTML document of your website.

Where exactly is the HTML tag used?

The HTML tag is used in the so-called main source file of your website. You can usually find this via FTP access in the standard directory of your website. The file is usually called “index.html” or “index.php”. If you use a content management system (such as WordPress), the file name may differ. You will find a detailed explanation using the example of WordPress in the next section.

The code snippet specified by the Google Search Console is now placed between the <head> and </head> tags:

<html><Head>

<meta name = "google-site-verification" content = "7_iOmyotPwmKq0tT5edDr-qfSdWzS3608gOhDlbPGJo" />

<title> Your website with the page title </title>

</ Head>

<Body>

<p> The "body" tag contains the visible content of your website. </p>

</ Body>

</ Html>

After saving and uploading the source file with the new meta tag, you can now confirm the website in the Google Search Console.

Set up Google Search Console using WordPress as an example

Most WordPress themes offer various functions as standard to easily integrate tracking code, Google Analytics, or even Google Search Console code.

In the following theme, there is, for example, the option to store the Google Search Console Code via the “Custom Code” tab. With the appropriate settings, this is then automatically placed by the theme in the header area of ​​the website.

If you do not have such a possibility, there is usually also the possibility to store the code directly in the “Theme Options”.

If there is no possibility of integration via the WordPress theme using the methods described above, you can insert the HTML code snippet directly via the theme files. To do this, you have to log in again and search for the “header.php” file of your WordPress theme in the “Design -> Editor” area.

As already described above, the code snippet is now used in the “header” of the website. By clicking on “Update file” the meta tag is now implemented so that the created property can be confirmed in the Google Search Console.

Note: With this change, there is a risk that if the theme is updated via WordPress, the changes in the editor area will be lost. After each theme update, you should check whether the snippet of the Google Search Console is still available.

Verification with the Google Tag Manager

 Verifying the Google Search Console is a child’s play, especially for those who have already integrated Google Tag Manager. Google uses the integrated Google Tag Manager scripts to check the ownership of the website.

If the Google Tag Manager is integrated on the website, no further implementation work is necessary. The ownership can be confirmed with one click.

Confirm ownership through Google Tag Manager

Note: For verification via Google Tag Manager to be successful, the correct integration of Tag Manager is essential.

A common source of errors when integrating the Tag Manager is the wrong placement of the code snippets. The first part of the Tag Manager code should, therefore, be as high as possible at the top of the so-called header area of ​​the website, between <head> and </head>. The second snippet of code should be used after opening the body tag <body> </body>. If other scripts are above the Google Tag Managers code, the verification usually fails.

It is also important that the use of the Google Tag Manager and the Google Search Console runs over the same Google account. Otherwise, the verification will fail.

Verification via Google Analytics

As with the verification option using the Google Tag Manager, confirmation is also possible using the Google Analytics tracking code that has already been integrated. Here, too, it is sufficient if the code specified by Google Analytics is correctly integrated on the website so that Google can understand the ownership.

Note: Similar to verification via Google Tag Manager, and it is important that the Google Analytics code is correctly integrated on the website. Common sources of error also exist here when using different accounts or when positioning the Google Analytics code snippet incorrectly. The code snippet should, therefore, be placed in the header area <head> </head>. One should be careful with a modified snippet of code. Here, too, there is a risk that the verification will fail.

Create multiple properties

Would you like to have the data of another website entered in the same account?

Simply click on “Find property” in the main menu and select “Add property”.

Here you simply enter the URL to your website, and, as described above, you can also confirm ownership of other websites.

Create multiple properties for a domain

Especially if you have chosen a URL prefix property, it is recommended to create several properties for your website in the Google Search Console.

By default, a property with “www version,” i.e., https://www.eure-webseite.com and property without “www version,” i.e., https://eure-webseite.com should be created. So you can understand whether Google subpages are indexed for both variants. This should be avoided regarding the duplicate content problem.

Also, properties with “http version” and “https version” should be set up for the same reasons. The same applies to mobile websites and subdomains.

All this data is automatically entered into the domain property.

If you use the Search Console intensively after the setup, you will find that you only get data for 1000 pages or 1000 keywords via the “Performance” report. If you have a larger page and you want to get more data on keywords or pages, additional property facilities for subdirectories (e.g., www.eure-webseite.com/product) are useful. Then more data will run into your account.

Conclusion

A Google Search Console account is relatively easy to set up. The tool can be used free of charge, and the incoming data are a valuable addition to your web analytics figures. It sometimes gets a bit complicated with the confirmation of ownership, but due to the many different options that the GSC offers here, it shouldn’t be Be a problem.

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