You need to add your website to Google webmaster tools (now called Search Console) because it is a free tool that diagnoses your site for a healthy and Google-friendly exposure.
It is never enough to submit your website URL to Google the same way you do on directory submission sites. It’s always better to go a step further to open a webmaster tool account (especially on Google and Bing) that would give you detailed reports about your website performance on search engine.
Though, whether you submit your site or not, Google still has a way to crawl your site and most likely be seen on SERP after sometime.
But, how would you monitor the state of your site and the performance of your web pages on Google result pages? Is it not better to have a way of spying into how Google view your site and what they think about it?
The truth as of today is that monitoring your site performance on Google is like monitoring it on virtually every other search engines because most search engines use Google as the main portal to display their search results.
Why it is important to use GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) or Search Console
– It reveals data about your site that you can otherwise never know.
– It tells you the state of health of your site as perceived by Google (maybe there is an issue or malware on your site). You can for sure rely on their reports because they are search engine gaint. You cannot know better than your master.
– It let you know the position of your web pages par time.
– It also let you know the number of web pages it has indexed.
– It reports the CTR (Click Through Rate) for the search terms your site ranked for.
– It provides tools you can use to implement vital decisions about your site as it relates to SEO.
– Above all, it is a free tool from Google itself. You may watch the video below from Google about SC.
Any business website owner that relies on search engine as one of the major source of targeted traffic must have this all inclusive SEO tool.
But if you in tend to keep your data secret and confidential, then you may think twice before submitting your site to Google search console because you’ll have to grant them access to crawl your site for the purpose of monitoring, diagnose and reporting the performance of your site.
Let’s go on to how you can connect your website with Search Console.
How to submit your site on Google Webmaster tools
The first thing you need to do is register on Google for a Gmail account, that’s if you don’t have one already.
Log in to Google search Console here using the Gmail account.
Enter the full URL of your domain name into the box provided and hit the ‘Add Property‘ button.
The next stage is to verify the ownership of your site. There are multiple ways provided by Google through which you can get this done. The default option is to verify through your domain name registrar.
You’ll have to copy the HTML tag generated and paste it just after the <head> tag, before the first <body> tag of the active theme on your site. Don’t worry, it’s very simple. I’ll walk you through it.
How to insert GWT HTML tag verification code on your website header.
Copy the html code that opened in a small long box when the html option was checked.
Now, log in to the WordPress site you want to verify its ownership. Basically, there are two ways by which you can paste this code on your website.
#Option 1: Go to ‘Appearance‘ on your WP dashboard and click on ‘Editor‘. You’ll see all the files contained in your active theme on the right.
Locate ‘header.php‘ file and click on it. Scroll down a little until you locate this <head> sign. Alternatively, you may use ‘Ctrl+F’ on your keyboard to find it.
Paste the HTML verification code you copied on GWT just below the <head> tag.
Scroll down and click ‘Save‘.
#Option 2: Most themes come with ‘Theme options’ where you can alter so many things about your site and also paste codes to header, body or footer. This is always very handy and helpful to people who don’t want to get their hand dirty with code.
To access this tool (if your theme come with it) go to ‘Appearance’ on WP dashboard and click on ‘Theme Options’. Usually, the name of your theme would be attached to it, e.g. ‘Divi Theme Options’ or ‘Western Theme Options’.
NOTE: Note every theme come with this package.
On the theme option page, click on ‘Integrate’ at the left hand-side. Scroll down to the appropriate box where you can paste the code to the header or footer. Paste the GWT HTML tag into the box. Scroll down and click ‘Save’.
If your theme does not come with this provision (where you can paste code) you may install Insert Header and Footer plugin. It will help you create boxes where you can paste codes on your site header or footer.
Now, go back to your Search Console dashboard and click on ‘Verify‘. You should receive a congratulatory message on the new page that emerges if the code is pasted properly.
If not, you’ll see a red background message at the top of the verification page informing you that GWT could not locate the tag you pasted on your site, hence your site ownership could not be verified.
If this happens, then you’ll have to repeat the process again, but ensure you remove the former code from where you pasted it before adding another one. Ensure you follow the process diligently without any form of distraction.
Assuming the verification process was successful, you’ll see ‘Continue’ link below the congratulatory message. Click on it and you’ll be taken to your dashboard. That’s all about verifying your site on GWT.
The next thing you’ll want to quickly do is to submit your ‘Sitemap’. That’s when Google Search Console can quickly crawl and index your web pages for maximum diagnosis and in-depth reporting.
How to submit your sitemap on Google webmaster tools
Still on your GWT dashboard, scroll through the menu on the left and click on ‘Crawl‘. You’ll see ‘Sitemaps‘. Click on it to continue to sitemap page.
Look at your right hand side; you’ll see a red button that reads, ‘Add/Test Sitemap‘. Click on it and paste the suffix of your sitemap URL into the box provided.
I know you would like to ask me ‘how do I generate this sitemap URL or where can I locate it on my site?’ Good question! Now, let’s go over to how you can get it.
The easiest way to create valid sitemap for search engine
To start with, what is sitemap? Sitemap is just a visual document of all your web pages that makes it easier for both users and search engine spider navigate and understand your site better.
There are two types of sitemaps that can be generated each with specific purpose. The two types are:
– XML sitemap
– HTML sitemap
The xml version is created for search engine spider while the html version is good for your audience.
So, the sitemap we want to generate for GWT is the xml version. The easiest way to generate this on WordPress powered website is to install WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
After installing the plugin, go to ‘SEO’ on your WP-dashboard and click on ‘XML Sitemaps‘. WordPress SEO would not enable sitemap for your site by default. So, you’ll have to enable it by clicking on ‘Enable‘. You can also set the number of urls you want to archive per sitemap.
Now, click on ‘XML Sitemap’ and you’ll be taken to all the xml sitemaps the plugin has generated for your site. You may submit each of these sitemaps one after the other on Search Console, but it is better to submit only this:
This URL suffix will capture every other xml sitemaps created on your website.
Just copy the sitemap URL above and paste it into the box for sitemap on GWT. Click on ‘Add/Test Sitemap‘ button. Refresh the page after adding your sitemap. You’ll see in tabular form the number of web pages and images Google spider were able to crawl on your website.
It will display them as ‘pending’. So, you may have to give Google some time to diagnose your site properly.
At this point, you should be expecting to see insightful data about your site when next you visit your GWT account. But one more thing to do so as to be very sure Googlebots will be able to crawl your site effectively.
Test robots.txt file
Robots.txt is the command codes that either block or grant access to specific search engine bots or robots to crawl your site.
It is advisable to test your robots.txt file to see if it is well formed and whether it is not blocking or restricting Googlebots from accessing some or all of your web pages.
To do this, go to ‘Crawl‘ and click on ‘robots.txt Tester‘. You’ll copy and paste the content of your robots.txt file on your web server into the box provided.
Now, to access your robots.txt file, you’ll have to log in to your web host server through ‘Cpanel’ or ‘Filezilla’ or any other similar web file management software.
Let’s use cpanel option for this tutorial because I presumed it’s the most popular and virtually used by all Linux hosting alongside ‘file manager’.
Okay, log in to your cpanel and then look for ‘File Manage‘ and click on it.
Locate the folder that contains the files of the website you want to access. Do this if you have more than one websites hosted on the same account or if the site is on a sub-directory. Otherwise, you should be able to locate robots.txt on the root directory.
Check the small box beside robots.txt file and click on ‘Edit’ tool at the top header of file manager or right click on robots.txt file and then click ‘Edit’ on the drop down menu.
Copy the whole content and then go back to robots.txt tester page on your Google webmaster tools dashboard.
Paste the code inside the box and click ‘Test‘.
If your robots.txt file is certified ‘Ok’ (0 Error; 0 Warning), you don’t have anything to worry about.
Just log out of your dashboard and come back later maybe after 24hrs to check the reports GWT has generated for your website. But if an error was detected, then it implies that you may have to correct it immediately.
I hope to write a blog post on this very soon. In the interim, you may read about how to create and edit robots.txt file here.
Conclusion: Just like Google Analytics, you ought to know how to read the reports that would be generated by GWT for your website so as to be able to draw inferences that would help improve your site appearance on SERPs.
For now, you have learnt the first stage of submitting your site which has ultimately required you to also learn how to access and interpret the reports.
Always cast an eagle eye on the ‘message‘ box because that is where you’ll get important information that is critical to the health of your site.
Google Search Console is able to serve all your SEO reporting needs except the actual number of outbound links to your site. Then, when you link it to your Google Analytics account, you’ll get all the SEO data you need on your site in one place.
Besides this, you can also add up to 10 sites to your GWT account. All you need is to repeat the above submission process. What a wholesome free tool.
Get GWT and see your site the exact way Google search engine sees it. Plus a handful of tools you can use to enhance your site appearance on SERP.
How have you been using GWT to enhance your SEO experience? I’d like to know.