Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google. By submitting your WordPress sites to Google Search Console, you can find out quickly if Google is having a hard time accessing or crawling or site or distinguishing the content on your site.
If you don’t already have a Google Search Console account, visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/. You will be prompted to sign in with your Gmail or Google account or create a new account.
Verifying Ownership of your WordPress Site with Google Search Console
Once you are signed in, do the following to submit your site:
- Click the red Add a Site button in the upper-right corner.
- Enter the URL for your website, for example: askwpgirl.com
- Click continue.
- You will be prompted to verify the domain.
- Click the Alternate Methods tab to verify the ownership using an HTML tag:
- In the All in One SEO plugin, Ultimate SEO plugin, or WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast (recommended), there will be a field in the plugin settings for you to verify your Google Webmaster Tools account. Copy the HTML tag from the Google Webmaster Tools page and paste it into this field. Here’s what it looks like in the General (Dashboard) Settings page for the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast:If you are using the Jetpack plugin (which is the only way to verify the site if you are hosted on WordPress.com), go to Jetpack > Settings and activate the Site Verification module. (It is probably already activated.) Then, go to Tools > Available Tools and you will see this page where you can paste your Meta tag from Google:
- Click Save Changes for the plugin settings. (Note: If you view the Page Source of your site in your browser window, you should now see the verification meta tag in the header area of the HTML.)
- Go back to Google Webmaster Tools and click the Verify button. Be sure you are still in the Alternate Methods tab and have selected HTML tag. If the site does not verify, be sure you copied the content of the meta tag correctly by viewing the page source of one of your web pages in the browser. If you can’t see the meta tag, be sure that you have cleared the cache for any caching plugin you may be using. If you still have difficulty, you can verify using the “Recommend Method” and download the HTML file Google provides and upload that file to your public_html directory, then click Verify.
- Once the site is verified, click the red Add a Site button again. This time, add your site using the www version of the site, e.g. www.askwpgirl.com.
- Click the Alternate Methods tab to verify the ownership using an HTML tag as you did in Step 5 above. However, this time, you do NOT need to add this tag to your website because it is identical to the one you just added. All we are doing is verifying ownership of both the www and non-www versions of the site (which seems silly, I know, but must be done). Click the Verify button, and the site should verify just fine.
Setting the Preferred Domain with Google Search Console
The reason we submitted both the non-www and the www versions of your website is to tell Google which domain you prefer be tracked for errors and stats. We don’t want Google to think that you have two websites with duplicated content displaying at two different URLs (the non-www and the www). This allows you to read errors related to entries for either domain in one place. WordPress is good at using just one URL so that any requests made to the www domain will automatically go to the non-www and vice versa depending on the settings in your WordPress General Settings. It is important that your site content ONLY displays at one URL to avoid duplicate content penalties.
- Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the Google Webmaster Tools window.
- Click the radio button next to the preferred domain name. This should match the domain you have set up in your WordPress General Settings and the way your site displays when you visit it.
Submitting Your WordPress XML Sitemap To Google Search Console
It’s a great idea to submit the XML sitemap to Google when you go live with your site. Google uses your Sitemap to learn about the structure of your site and to increase our coverage of your webpages. Otherwise, it may not find everything very easily if trying simply to crawl your site via links on your home page or in the navigation. To learn more about how Google crawls and indexes your site, read: Google Webmaster Guidelines. If you changed SEO or sitemap plugins, be sure the correct sitemap URL is submitted to Google. If you are using the WordPress SEO plugin, it has a built-in sitemap. If you use a different SEO plugin that does not contain an XML sitemap function, then you can use the Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps plugin.
In the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, go to SEO > XML Sitemaps. Check the box to enable XML sitemap functionality, then click the button to view your XML Sitemap. Take note of the URL: yoursitename.com/sitemap_index.xml .
- In Google Webmaster Tools, click on your website, and then click on Crawl.
- Click Sitemaps.
- Click the red Add/Test Sitemap button.
- Enter the file name for the sitemap. If you are using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, the URL is: sitemap_index.xml.
- Click Test Sitemap.
- If the test is good, click the Add/Test Sitemap button again and enter the filename for the sitemap again.
- Click Submit Sitemap
Receive Email Alerts from Google Search Console
Finally, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the Google Search Console page and select Webmaster Tools Preferences.
Check the box to Enable email notifications. This will let you know right away if Google detects something really wrong with your website.
Using Google Search Console to Detect Problems with your WordPress Site
- Crawl Errors – The Crawl Errors page provides details about the URLs that Google could not successfully crawl or that returned an HTTP error code. For more information on how to diagnose and site errors, read Google’s Crawl Errors page. Be sure to fix any 404 not found errors by either fixing the broken link in your page content or creating a 301 or 302 redirect. The plugin I like is SEO Redirection. It has a clean interface and allows you to choose 302 redirects (temporary) for testing the redirects. Keep in mind that 301 redirects are considered permanent, meaning that the redirect is cached in visitors’ browsers, so if you change the redirect later, visitors may end up in a weird loop.
- Crawl Stats – The Crawl Stats page provides information on Googlebot’s activity on your site for the last 90 days. I would be concerned if you’re stats are low relative to the number of pages you have. It might indicate that the pages are taking too long to load, so Google can’t crawl the site as efficiently.
- Robots.txt Tester – If you have an old HTML site or files you don’t want Google to crawl, you should add these to a robots.txt file in your public_html directory. I generally recommend people use the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast which will allow you to edit this file easily. Also, it’s possible Google isn’t crawling your site because you forgot to uncheck the Discourage search engines checkbox under Settings > Reading in WordPress, so this will let you know that, too. For information on editing your WordPress robots.txt file, see: How to Create and Configure Your Robots.txt File.
- Sitemaps – Google uses your Sitemap to learn about the structure of your site and to increase our coverage of your webpages. Otherwise, it may not find everything very easily if trying simply to crawl your site via links on your home page or in the navigation. To learn more about how Google crawls and indexes your site, read: Google Webmaster Guidelines. If you changed SEO or sitemap plugins, be sure the correct sitemap URL is submitted to Google.