Getting started with Search Console

If you're interested in improving your site's appearance on Google Search, and you're willing to put in a little time learning about search engine optimization (SEO) and Search Console, here is your getting started guide. You don't need to understand HTML or coding, but you do need to spend some time thinking about how your site is organized and written, and be willing to make some changes to your site. The good news is that a little effort can go a long way in improving your search results.
  1. Sign up for Search Console. It's free, there are no upgrades or paid services, and you'll get alerts when Google sees unusual activity on your site, such as crawling problems or indications of hacking.
  2. Add and verify ownership of your site. You'll need to prove that you are the owner of your website, because Search Console shows information about your site that only site owners should have access to, and allows you to make changes that can affect how your site appears on Google.
  3. Understand how to get the most out of help. Did you know that the embedded help window is draggable?
  4. Read our guide to basic Search Console usage. A basic user typically needs only a quick site check-up once a month, unless we alert you that we've found a problem.
  5. Learn the basics of Google Search (follow the beginner SEO track). Topics include:
    • The basics of how Google Search works.
    • An SEO starter guide that offers best practices for your website to ensure that Google is able to find, understand, and present your site properly in search results.
    • How to decide whether you need an SEO expert to manage your presence on Google, or if you can do it yourself.
  6. Check out these reports:
    • Important
      • Check out your property's dashboard. The dashboard page for your property will show any important issues, such as security issues or manual actions, as well as high-level charts of your performance on Google, index coverage, and more. Check out the overview page to see quickly if there are any issues that need your attention.
      • How are you performing on Google? Use the appropriate Performance report for your site. We have performance reports for web search, news search results, and Discover.
      • Is your site hacked? Open the Security Issues report to see whether Google has found any evidence of hacking on your site, which can lead to bad or dangerous user experiences, or even being blocked from Search. (Note that your security issues status is noted on your site's dashboard as well, and if a new issue occurs, you will receive an email notification, so if your property dashboard shows no security issues, you don't need to check this report.)
      • Is your site in violation of Google policies? Open the Manual Actions report to see whether your site violates any of the webmaster guidelines about acceptable site behavior, which can cause your content to be omitted from search results. (Note that if your site is subject to any manual actions, you will see a notification on your site's dashboard, and will also receive an email notification when the event occurs, so if your property dashboard shows no manual actions, you don't need to check this report.)
    • Optional
  7. If, after learning the basics, you decide that you want to learn more advanced topics in SEO or Search Console, you can continue with the advanced users track.

Important Search concepts

These concepts are used throughout the reports and the documentation; it's important that you understand them, or you might not understand (or misunderstand) the reports.

  • Property
    A generic term for a website that you have added to your Search Console account. You can see a list of your properties on your account homepage.
  • Verify
    To prove that you own the website referred to in your Search Console account. A property must be verified before you can start seeing any data for it. You’ll be asked to verify ownership of a site before you can access it in Search Console.
  • Click/impression/CTR - These are the basic metrics for measuring performance in Google Search. You can find much more detail about these metrics here.
    • Click: How many people clicked a link (or image, or video) that led to your site in Google Search, in Discover, or wherever the metric is being measured.
    • Impression: How many people saw a link to your site (or an image, video, or other item) in Google Search, in Discover, or wherever the metric is being measured.
    • CTR: Click-through rate, or (clicks ÷ impressions).
  • Crawl
    Google’s web crawlers follow links and sitemaps in order to generate a list of publicly available URLs that we should visit. This is the first step in the process of being added to Google’s search results.
  • Index
    The process of analyzing the content and meaning of each page, and storing it in the Google repository. This helps Google determine the best search results for a user’s query.
  • Googlebot
    Google’s web crawler. Google has a few different Googlebots that request your pages as different device types (a smartphone, a feature phone, or a desktop computer) to calculate different search results for users searching on these devices.
  • Canonical
    If you host the same page at different URLs, your search results can be diluted across these duplicate pages. For example, you might have the same page at http://example.com/dogs and http://www.example.com/dogs; a search might then show separate, lower ranked results for each page than if you had only a single page. In this case, you should indicate to Google that these pages are the same, and choose one to be canonical (the official page) to show in search results. Indicate canonical pages or sites using a Sitemap, HTML tags, or Search Console settings.
  • robots.txt
    The name of a file on your site that tells Google which pages not to request from your site.
  • Sitemap
    A list of URLs in your site that Google uses as starting locations to begin crawling a website. A sitemap is contained in one or more files stored on your website.
  • Resource
    A web page typically loads many additional resources such as CSS, JavaScripts, and images. Be sure that Googlebot isn’t blocked from accessing any resources that affect the meaning of the page during the indexing process.
  • Render
    Google tries to display all pages that it indexes in order to view the page as a user would. Rendering is the process of displaying the page with the images and layout to help Google analyze the meaning of the page.
  • Manual action
    If your page violates one of Google’s quality guidelines, such as spammy content, it can be subject to a manual action, which will demote it in Google search results.
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