Google Search Console: The Definitive Guide
Updated: Nov 24
If you're looking to do any form of SEO, then you need to use Google Search Console.
In this post, I’ll show you how to use Google Search Console step by step.
Let’s get started!
If you want to jump ahead to a certain section, just click on the link below.
What is Google Search Console?
Verify Your Site
Add a Sitemap
Reporting: Google Data Studio
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console is a free webmaster tool from Google. It helps you optimize your website by providing data for performance, coverage, sitemaps, and more!
You don’t have to be signed up for Google Search Console in order to show up for Google Search results, but I highly recommend it.
It’s a powerful search engine tool that isn’t too difficult to use if you know a few things about how it works.
Step 1: Sign Up for Google Search Console
To get started, simply visit their website and click “Start Now”
You’ll need a Google Account in order to sign up.
Step 2: Verify Your Website
Once you sign up, the next thing you need to do is verify your website. This shows Google that you have ownership of your website and are authorized to manage it on their platform.
There are 7 different ways to verify your ownership. Watch the video below for a step by step tutorial on how to verify your site.
Once you have your site verified, you have to wait a couple of days for it to start populating data.
Then you can start using the tools.
Step 3: Performance
I recommend starting with the Performance section. This is where you learn all about your clicks, impressions, click-through-rate, and average position in Google Search results.
You can get there by clicking on “Full Report” from the home page or by clicking on “Performance” on the side panel.
Once you’re there, you’ll notice some metrics and a graph at the top.
This shows clicks, impressions, average CTR, and average position for the selected search type and date range.
You have to CLICK the section you want to show up on the graph. By clicking the different sections, you can TOGGLE between the different metrics of your performance.
The great thing about this report is that it is data coming directly from Google! There are several SEO tools available on the market, but this is one thing that I love about GSC.
Since it comes from Google it's the most accurate in my opinion.
Below the chart, you can see more information about queries, pages, etc. You can also click between each of those tabs for more information.
I like to spend most of my time on analyzing queries and pages. Then you know the keywords that you’re ranking for and the best performing pages on your website.
So may be wondering how you can use this report to your advantage?
Here are a couple of ideas.
Look at the average CTR of your pages.
If you see you have a lot of impressions but a low click through rate for one of your pages, then you have a great opportunity!
The best way to improve the click through rate of one of your pages is to optimize your title tag and meta description.
Below is an example of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). When Google indexes your website, they display your URL, title tag, and meta description for each page to the end user.
So you can try to optimize your page to get more clicks.
For example, this page includes the year with brackets in the title. That way the user knows it is not a post from 2010 that is no longer relevant.
For more tips on improving your organic CTR, check out this guide on organic CTR from Backlinko.
Optimize existing pages that are performing well.
Some people think you have to keep putting out new content to improve your SEO, but that’s not always the case.
You will probably get a better return on your investment if you go back and make your good pages even better.
For example, this site has a really strong page that is getting five times the clicks and impressions than the other pages.
Rather than focusing on the other pages, you could go back and make this page even more effective.
That could be things like improving the title tag and meta description as mentioned above.
It could be adding more content and linking to better resources.
It could be adding more internal links to help some of your other pages rank better or introduce your users to new pages.
Whatever it may be, the goal here is to focus on quality rather than quantity.
Here’s a great post from Neil Patel on how updating old content can help with your rankings.
See which keywords are ranking for which page.
One thing about Google Search Console is that almost everything is clickable. You can see which keywords are ranking for which page by clicking on the page, and then clicking on the “Queries”.
This will give you an idea of which keywords your page is ranking for and can help you further optimize your content.
Maybe you want to add a section about a specific keyword so you improve your rankings.
The filtering options are endless and different combinations give you different insights.
There are so many ways you can use the performance section of Google Search Console to analyze your performance and take action.
It’s updated daily and is probably where I spend most of my time.
If you’re wanting more information, here’s a great video that gives an in-depth look at the performance section.
Step 4: Add a Sitemap
Adding a sitemap is important step for your SEO. It helps Google understand which URLs are on your website and can lead to your website being indexed faster.
If you have a Wix website, they automatically create a sitemap for you. You simply put in your domain and add the ending below.
So this is what our website would look like.
The same thing is true if you have a Shopify website. You just add the xml sitemap ending to access your sitemap.
Once you have your sitemap ready to go, you add it into Google Search Console. This video gives a great overview on the entire process.
Reporting: Google Data Studio
Now that you know how to use Google Search Console, it's time to optimize your reporting.
Google Data Studio is also a free tool that allows you to create real-time dashboards and connect multiple data sets.
One of the data sets you can connect is Google Search Console.
I like using Data Studio for reporting because it can be as simple or complex as you like. I prefer to keep things simple, but it's a powerful reporting tool.
Here's a quick explainer video about Data Studio if you're not familiar with it.
To make things easy for you I created a simple template that you can use to get started. The report shows clicks per day, your top keywords on Google, and clicks by device.
This should give you and idea of how many clicks you are getting and which keywords are performing best on which device.
You can then take that information and further optimize your site based on the numbers the report is showing.
Another option is the template report from the Data Studio team. This report is more complex. but might be what you're going for. It has more data and more filtering options so you can further analyze your website.
I love how clean and visual this report is. It's also a great option if you're wanting a dashboard rather than logging into search console all the time.
The thing I love about both of these reports is that they are SEO specific reports. They give you data directly from Google so you can best optimize your site for SEO.
They can also be great if you're creating a report for a client or company and want to visually represent the results they are getting.
Data Studio does have a learning curve, but with some practice you can create custom reports that provide you with actionable tasks and valuable insights.