Switchings a little to tools you can use to analyze your own website, today we start with a free tool to help you understand how Google is crawling and indexing your website.
Today’s tool is Google Search Console.
To use GSC, you’ll need to go through verification. This makes sure that you actually own the website or domain in question. There are two strategies for verificiatin: Domain and URL-based.
If you want to claim the entire domain and your website has subdomains associated with that domain, then using Domain authentication is easiest but requires access to your DNS records.
Start here by entering your domain name.
Next you’ll need access to your DNS or Domain Name Server settings.
Once you are verified, your GSC will begin to collect data.
Here is the overview screen where I can see how many people clicked from Google searches to my website in the last 4 months
As well, the “Coverage” area is telling me that when Google crawls my website, it finds 448 pages with successful responses and 15 that are unsuccessful.
This is so useful for finding broken pages, because you can drill down into the broken pages and see exactly which pages are returning non-successful results. It shows this to you in a chart over time, which can, in my case, help me catch problems in my WordPress blog.
In my case, I can see that some pages recently (in June & July) started showing broken links. Here I can see what my broken URLs are so that I can go fix them. (Be right back!)
On the Performance tab I can see my impressions (that is, the number of times my site came up in search results) as compared to clicks.
Down below, it even shows you what people were searching for that led them to your website.
While many of the other tools featured in this series have been helping you do competitive research, this tool provides you with the insight only available to the person who owns the website. And these aren’t approximations like some of the other tools featured— Google is actually showing you true results from its massive search infrastructure that powers Google searches.
Sometimes you put something up that’s a mistake. Sometimes you write something on your blog that you regret. Many savvy observers know there is a “Google cache” that will hang on to some content that allows removed content to still be visible to the internet “in the cache.”
For the most part, most web operators will let Google re-crawl their site and make updates as necessary. Often this is fine: Google is smart enough to crawl you site more often if it changes more often, and less often if it changes less often, thus the time that the old content lingers in the cache typically is not a problem.
With GCS are two powerful tools: Removing a URL or clearing out the cache of its content (forcing Google to do a re-crawl). You need this if you accidentally put up embarrassing content.
First of all, know that the first step is to actually take the content off of your website. (Like, really remove it.) If you want to remove an entire page (URL), you would remove the content from that page, make the page either return nothing or an error and then use the GCS remove tool to remove the URL. Alternatively, you can use a standard
robots.txt file to tell Google not to index a URL (be sure to do this in addition to blocking the URL in the GCS interface as shown here)
If for some reason you want to leave the content up but not have it show up on Google (for example, it is semi-private), you would use a
robots.txt file instead of removing the content to instruct Google not to index the URL. If you had accidentally forgotten to do this —that is, something you intended to be semi-private shows up on Google search — you would fix your robots.txt file first and then use the GCS interface here to “temporarily” (they say “for about six months”) tell Google to block that URL from showing up in search results.
If you have content that you have changed but for some reason Google’s cache doesn’t seem to be keeping up with your changes, you can also use the GCS to tell Google to clear out the cache and re-index your page, shown here.
Google Search Console has even more features than I’ve been able to cover today, including web vitals, mobile usability, and a way to see your internal and external lnks, and a basic security audit too.
Being a free tool GCS is an absolute no-brainer for any site owner who wants to understand better their organic and search-based reach on the internet.