Google Search Console & Site Maps
You learned how to add your website to Google Search Console earlier in the course.
Now you will learn how to navigate Google Search Console and which items you should monitor for good SEO. Plus you will learn how to submit your Sitemaps to Google.
What is Google Search Console?Through Search Console, Google provides website owners information on what Google sees when it visits their site.
As a website owner, you should routinely check Search Console to make sure there are no problems with your site.
We will go through each item in Google Search Console, so you will understand what it means and how it is essential to your SEO.
Welcome to Google Search Console
I find the Welcome to Google Search Console page to be deceiving because it leads you to believe that you haven't added your URLs.
To see your website's information:
- Click the hamburger in the top left corner.
- Click the down arrow next to Search Property.
- Then you can choose the URL. Remember that you should have four versions of your website listed - https://www, https://, http://www, & http://. Choose the one that you designated as the Preferred Domain.
Google Search Console OverviewThe Overview pulls together the data from three other sections and displays it on one screen. We will cover the details when we get to those sections.
PerformanceThe Performance section gives you traffic data and there are no specific SEO items to watch for.
The top box shows your Total Clicks, Total Impressions, Average CTR, and Average Permission. You can click on the question mark in a circle to learn more about each of those items.
The bottom box breaks down the clicks and impressions by different views - Queries, Pages, Countries, Devices, and Search Appearance.
Across the top of the screen are buttons where you can adjust the parameters for each item. Changing the parameter will narrow down the results that appear in each box.
URL InspectionBy entering a specific URL from your site, Google will tell you if the URL is on Google, how the URL was discovered, and when it was last crawled by Google.
If you publish a new post, you can check here to see if Google has added the URL. If you don't want to wait for Google to find your post, you can Request Indexing for the URL.
If you update an old post, it is a good idea to tell Google the information has changed and they should look at it again. You do that by entering the URL here and Request Indexing.
SEO Benefit: The point of SEO is to have Google look at your posts, so the URL Inspection tool gives you the ability to check and make sure Google sees your content.
CoverageThe Coverage section shows if any of your posts and pages have error codes.
The top chart allows you to toggle between the number of posts with Errors, Warnings, Valid posts, and Excluded posts.
The Details box lists all the posts with their coverage status.
The Coverage status that should concern you involves the Errors.
If you have errors:
- Hover over the word "status" in the Details box and then click on either the up or down arrow to sort the list alphabetically.
- Scroll until you find the posts with the Error status.
- Click on the row and Google will give more information about the error and how you should fix it.
SEO Benefit: You want Google to see all of your posts, So it is to your benefit to fix any errors that Google finds.
SitemapsThis is the section where you submit your sitemaps and check their status.
Add a New Sitemap:
- Go to your WordPress dashboard to the Yoast General Settings.
- On the Features page, click on the question mark next to XML Sitemaps.
- Click on the hotlink that says See the XML Sitemap.
- A list will pop up of your sitemaps. If you followed the directions on Yoast settings, you should have a sitemap for pages, posts, and possibly categories. If you have a lot of posts on your site, there may be multiple sitemaps for posts.
- Keep the Yoast sitemap list open. In another tab, go to the Sitemap section of Google Search Console.
- In the Add a New Sitemap section, enter the URL for the first sitemap on the list and click on Submit.
- Enter the URL for each of the sitemaps listed in Yoast and submit them to Google.
It can take Google a day or two to update the status after you submit a sitemap.
SEO Benefit: Remember that your sitemap gives Google the directions to find your content. You want to make sure there aren't problems with those directions and that Google can always find you.
Mobile UsabilityIn this section, Google tells you how your site is doing on mobile.
Most themes are responsive and adjust the size and shape of the content to fit the screen size on which it is viewed.
If you see a lot of Mobile Usability errors, it is time to get a new theme that better handles mobile views.
If you only have a handful of issues, look at your site on mobile and see if you experience the problem Google points out. If not, then it is okay to ignore the errors. If you do, then you should talk to your web developer about a fix.
There are two types of mobile errors that I have seen on blogs:
- Clickable Elements Too Close Together - Google is telling you that it thinks there are at least two items on the page that have clickable items so close together that it will be hard for the reader to click one without also clicking on the other.
- Content runs off the screen - Google is telling you that the content did not adjust itself responsively to mobile view and it is running off the screen. I see this error message mostly with images. Again. Unless you have a lot of these errors, it is okay to ignore them. There is a good chance there was just a glitch when Google viewed the post, and the error will go away on its own.
SEO Benefit: Google has moved to “mobile first” indexing which means it considers the mobile view of your site as primary and the desktop view as secondary. Therefore, it is in your best interest to have a mobile site that works well and that Google can access easily.
Manual ActionsManual actions tell you if your site is in Google jail.
A Manual Action occurs when Google’s algorithm sets off an alarm that says a real live human needs to confirm the problem.
If the human agrees that there is an issue, you will receive a Manual Action against your site.
While you have a Manual Action against your site, Google may exclude you from search results or downgrade your rank.
The only Manual Actions I have seen references “unnatural links,” which means that Google has detected that you have Follow links that should have been No Follow. In other words, Google thinks you are paying for content so they have thrown you in Google jail.
How to Get Rid of a Manual ActionTo get rid of a manual action, you need to fix the problem and then ask Google to reevaluate your site.
Sounds easy, right?
But here's the rub. Google won't tell you where or how many errors you have.
You are responsible for finding the errors on your own.
If you don't catch and fix all the errors, Google won't clear the manual action, AND they still won't tell you where or how many mistakes you have.
I Found a Manual Action. Now What?Don’t panic. Depending on the manual action, there may be a quick and easy way to get out of Google jail.
If Google thinks you have unnatural links, you can place a site-wide No Follow code on your site that will make every link on your post No Follow.
Yes, that means you will lose the benefit of internal linking, BUT that is a small price to pay to get out of Google jail.
If you find a manual action on your site feel free to contact me at [email protected], so I can point you in the right direction to get it fixed.
SEO Benefit: Manual actions are the worst thing that can happen to your site's SEO. If you have a manual action, it should be your #1 Priority to get it fixed. Because until you do, the rest of your SEO efforts won't matter since Google may choose not to display your site in search results.
LinksThe links section provides information on external links to your page and internal links.
External LinksYou can view the top pages people link to on your page, the top sites that link to your site, and the top text for those links.
Internal LinksThe internal links section shows the top linked pages on your site. This information may be useful for deciding if you need to build landing pages. If you have a post to which you frequently link, it may be worth turning that post into a landing page.
SettingsIn the settings, you can verify your site ownership and add users to your site.
Assignment - Submit Sitemaps & Identify Any Problems
- Follow the instructions to submit your sitemaps to Google. Even if there are sitemaps already listed in Search Console, it won't hurt to delete them and submit new ones if you haven't submitted them recently.
- Look through Google Search Console to see if you have any errors. If so, look at the "?" next to the item for more information about the error and the fix.