How to Use
Google Search Console
TOOLS TO HELP WEBMASTERS MANAGE AND OPTIMIZE WEBSITES
On the site dashboard, click on Sitemaps to add the XML sitemap. Then click
Add a sitemap to both domains
Enter only the file name and extension (sitemap.xml), not the whole URL.
Set the preferred domain
Navigate to one of the domains within Search Console.
Click on the gear icon and select Site Settings.
Select the preferred domain (www or non-www).
The preferred domain is how the domain will
appear in search engines. It also tells Google that
both www and non-www domains are the same. It
is better to have all traffic coming from the same
domain to consolidate domain and page authority.
Navigate to Crawl, robots.txt Tester. Enter in the robots.txt URL (it should be in the root folder).
Click TEST to make sure Google is able to crawl the website. Make sure the XML sitemap is
included in the robots.txt file. If it is not, then add it via FTP or file manager.
Enter the robots.txt URL Click TEST
Fetch the domain
After the XML sitemap has been uploaded and the robots.txt file checked, navigate to Crawl,
Fetch as Google. Enter a URL and either click the “Fetch” or “Fetch and Render” button. This will
tell Google to test if it can crawl the page and then return any errors that it finds. Click on the
results and fix any errors. Next, click the “Submit to index” button.
Success! Next, click here
Crawl the domain and all linking pages
Click the “Submit to index” button. A pop up window will appear. Select the second option
“Crawl this URL and its direct links.” Click the “Go” button.
Check Messages and Critical Issues
If you click on the “View
details” link, you will be
shown all the messages for
all the URLs.
If your site shows a 100% error rate for any of the three
categories, it likely means that your site is either down or
misconfigured in some way. This could be due to a
number of possibilities that you can investigate:
- Check that a site reorganization hasn't changed
permissions for a section of your site.
- If your site has been reorganized, check that external
links still work.
- Review any new scripts to ensure they are not
- Make sure all directories are present and haven't been
accidentally moved or deleted.
Soft 404 Errors
A soft 404 is when a page is not found, but instead of delivering a 404 (not found) or 410 (gone)
response code, the page either displays a page with a 404 message (not the same as a 404
response code) or redirects to an entirely unrelated page (such as the home page).
The problem with this is Google sees that a page actually does exist (the page with the 404
message or the page that it redirected to). The contents of either page could be crawled and
indexed for the unrelated search query, which effects user experience.
The other issue is that Google will only crawl so many pages per site. If Google is wasting crawls
on pages that do not exist, then pages that do exist are not getting crawled and indexed,
meaning less search presence and less traffic.
Always return a 404 or 410 response code for non-existent pages. Create a custom 404 page
with helpful information. A custom 404 page is a ranking factor.
404 Not Found Error
A 404 Not Found error occurs when someone requests a page that does not exist and a 404
response code is returned. This tells the search engine that the page does not exist. The search
engine will not crawl or index the contents of the page.
Properly formatted 404 pages generally will not affect rankings and can technically be ignored.
They often come as a results of a typo or misconfiguration.
Things to do:
• Fix the 404 (not found) links that come from your client’s site to improve user experience.
• 301 redirect the links that come from other sites (don’t lose potential customers).
• After fixing the 404 errors, mark them in Search Console as fixed.
404 Response Code Check
To check if the site returns a 404 response code or not, use an http status code checker.
Enter the misspelled URL on one of these websites, or find one that you like.
Other URL Errors to Check
• Feature Phone
The crawl stats tell you about Google, not visitors.
- Pages crawled per day
- Kilobytes downloaded per day
- Time spent downloading a page (ms)
You want to make sure that Google is able to
crawl 100% of the site’s visible pages.
The important thing to look at is trending. Is
pages crawled per day decreasing while time
spent downloading a page increasing? There may
be a problem with site speed. See PageSpeed
Kilobytes downloaded per day should be low.
Crunch image, file size, reduce unnecessary code. Compare to: http://httparchive.org/trends.php
Search Traffic – Manual Action
If you notice a drastic decrease in traffic or rankings, you should check Search Console for a
A manual action means that a human from Google viewed the website and penalized the site.
A manual action can be partial or site-wide, meaning particular pages could be devalued or
removed or an entire site could be demoted or removed from the index completely.
A manual action can be very hard to recover from. Google wants to see proof that time and
effort was given to remedy the problem.
It most often takes several reconsideration requests before Google will remove the penalty after
everything has been cleaned up and the site precisely follows Google’s policies.
Google recently began notifying webmasters about issues with mobile usability. Mobile usability
will have a larger impact on rankings.
Mobile Usability – Straight From Google
Why mobile usability?
Google Search aims to deliver the most relevant—and useful—information to people seeking answers. For that reason,
we want to ensure a meaningful “after-click” experience that helps people use information relevant to their task.
Because global web traffic from mobile devices is on the rise, and recent studies show that mobile visitors are more likely
to revisit mobile-friendly sites, mobile usability is now relevant for optimal search results. This means that search results
for mobile users should lead to content that is usable in the following ways:
A defined viewing area (or viewport) that adjusts to the device’s screen size.
Content that flows in the viewport, so that users don’t have to scroll horizontally or pinch the screen in order to see the
Fonts that scale for easier reading on small screens.
Easy-to-touch elements (e.g., buttons) that are well-spaced from other touch elements.
Visual design and motion driven by mobile-friendly technology.
For more information, visit: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6101188
Mobile Usability Study
Check if Google is having issues
indexing the site. Maybe there is a
robots.txt or server issue.
Check to see if Google understands the main
theme of each page by reviewing the keyword
significance for important pages.
Click on the keyword to get more information.
Review how site pages are internally
linked. Are important pages accessible
from other areas of the site?
There are several other resources available in Search Console. An important one to use is PageSpeed
Insights tool. Use it to see how Google interprets user experience and site speed per page. Fix as many of
the issues as possible that Google suggests.
PageSpeed Insights Tool
https://developzers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/The PageSpeed Insights tool analyzes per page. Enter
the URL of the page to analyze. A site mobile site
speed score and user experience score will be
displayed. The lower score will be displayed at the top.
In this example, the speed score is lower so it is
displayed at the top. If User experience had the lower
score, it would be displayed at the top.
The Desktop tab does not have speed and user
experience sections, only a score and then some
suggestions to improve the page.
Google sometimes provides optimized files to
download. The download links are located at the
bottom of the page.