Google Search Console: The Ultimate Beginners’ Guide for Ecommerce Entrepreneurs

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Google Search Console is an excellent tool for making sure your ecommerce store is performing the way it should. Search Console can automatically crawl your pages and warn you of any critical errors. Not only this, but it also allows you to make sure your ecommerce store is appearing in Google search results correctly.

The best part? It’s absolutely free, easy to set up, and works automatically. Some users find it a little daunting to get started with Google Search Console, but don’t worry.

This guide is aimed at beginners and will show you how to set up Google Search Console and the best ways to use its most important features.

Sound awesome? Let’s get started

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a Google Webmaster Tool. These tools allow website owners to gain valuable insights into how users interact with their site and how their sites perform in search engines.

Basically, Google Search Console has two core functions:

  1. To monitor the health of your website – this includes crawling your site to make sure there are no errors or malware present.
  2. To collect organic search data – this includes what users type into Google to get to your site.

Why Should I Use Google Search Console?

As your store begins to grow, so to do the number of product pages. While keeping track of the health of a one-pager with 10 products may seem simple, how about 50 landing pages and 500 products?

If for some reason one of these landing pages throws up a critical error, you need to know.

These types of errors could be a redirect that is incorrectly set, an indexing error, or a malware attack. Finding out about this late can cost you valuable conversions.

This is where Google Search Console steps up to the plate.

By default you will get an email notification if any critical error is found, meaning you can react in a timely fashion.

As an ecommerce store owner, data insights can give you the edge.

You should try and use all the data you can – the more you know about your users and how they behave the more informed and data-driven your marketing decisions become.

Google Search Console data includes:

  • External links – site that link to your website.
  • Organic search queries – terms or keywords users type into Google to find your store.
  • Organic conversions / user behaviour – how do organic visitors to your site convert.
  • Critical errors / malware attacks.
  • Mobile usability – makes sure your site is providing a good user experience on mobile devices.
  • Google Index – which pages Google has successfully indexed.
  • Sitemap – which sitemap detailing the layout of your website has been submitted to Google.

Knowing which sites are linking to your store can make sure you never miss an organic outreach opportunity.

Imagine if a blog linked to your store, and you never even knew!

A quick check in Google Search Console and you can see every link.

Manually searching for keywords you think you may rank for is not an effective use of time. Google Search Console can give you this information.

Convinced yet?

Good.

How to Setup Google Search Console

The first thing you will need is a Google Account. This is a prerequisite for using Google Search Console.

One of the most common questions at this stage is:

Can I register for Google Webmaster Tools / Google account without Gmail?

Actually, yes. It’s a common misconception that you need Gmail to have a Google Account. (If you already have a Gmail account you can skip this step). Head on over here to do this:

register-for-Google-account

Enter your first and last name, your email address (your primary, non-Google email address), and set a password. Click next. You should receive an email in a few seconds. Click on the link to verify your email address.

Hey presto! You just created a shiny new Google account without Gmail..

Where to Find Google Search Console & How to Login?

Login to your Google account and hit the menu button in the top right corner.

menu-webmaster-tools

Click Webmaster Tools.

How to Register My Site for Google Search Console

We’ve made it to Google Search Console, but before we can use it you will need to register your site. (Please note that to register your site you must be the owner or or have the correct permissions.)

Click Add A Property.

Google Search Console Overview

Next enter the web address of your store and click Add.

enter-name-to-register

Now you will be asked to verify ownership of the store. This is because Google Search Console collects sensitive data. Only the owner of the site should be able to access this. We are going to skip the recommended method, as for Shopify store owners the easiest method is as follows.

verify-1After clicking on Alternate methods select the HTML tag option. If you have already added Google Analytics, then you will notice this method is very similar.

Don’t worry If you are not familiar with this.You won’t have to do any coding yourself, it’s just a simple copy and paste. So copy the code (make sure you select it all. Head over to your Shopify admin panel.(if you want to learn how to do this check out this awesome guide)

verify-2

Once you are logged into your Shopify admin panel click Online Store, then Themes over on the left:

online-store-themesNow over on the right click Actions and Edit code in the dropdown menu:

edit-code

Click on theme.liquid (your filename may be different depending on your Shopify theme  e.g. theme.xyz) Finally, paste the code you just copied from Search Console directly after the <head> tag. Make sure to click Save.

add-code-to-theme

Head back over to Search Console and if you followed all the steps correctly you should see that your site is now verified. Congrats. You are now ready to start using Google Search Console.

register-succesful

How to Find and Submit a Sitemap

There are quite a few misconceptions about sitemaps, so let’s address these first:

What is a Sitemap?

A sitemap is basically a small file that contains the structure of your website. Think of it like a navigation bar for search engines. It helps Google (and other search engines) understand how your website is structured.

Do I Need a Sitemap to Feature in Google Search Results?

While is is not strictly necessary, we highly recommend submitting one. This is because it helps Google to better understand your website and provide more relevant search results to your users.

How Do I Make a Sitemap?

Good news for Shopify store owners: this is done automatically. Just add /sitemap.xml to your domain address and you can view your sitemap in a browser. Each time you add or remove a page to your site, your sitemap is automatically updated. Pretty cool, right?

As you can see, the sitemap is a very simple document. Give it a try with your web address + sitemap-xml.

view-sitemap

Now let’s submit the sitemap to Google Search Console. In Search Console, click Crawl > Sitemaps.

add-sitemapNext click Add/Test Sitemap.

Add sitemap.xml to your domain, then click Submit.

add-sitemap-2

All done. Google will now be able to crawl your site more effectively. As mentioned, you don’t have to worry about updating your sitemap if you make changes to your site – Shopify does this automatically.

How to Use Google Search Console to Monitor the Health of Your Website

Firstly, it should be noted that simply by setting up Google Search Console you have taken a big step towards protecting your site against unexpected behaviour. This is because Google will actually email you if anything majorly unexpected happens. This could include a redirect area or malware detection.

Nevertheless, Google recommends checking Search Console at least once a month for crawl or indexing errors. So, let’s learn how to do this.

How to Use Search Console to Check for Crawl Errors

In Search Console, under Crawl select Crawl Errors. This will display both site errors and URL errors. While it is unlikely that you will experience errors using a Shopify template, it is still a good idea to check this at least once a month.

Particularly for users who customize their template code, make sure that there are no errors preventing Google from correctly crawling your site. If there are errors, Google will also provide you with recommendations on how to resolve these issues.

Crawlerrors

If you want to see how often Google crawls your pages click Crawl Stats. If you notice a unusual spike or dip in the amount Google is crawling your site, check that you have not added any incorrect redirects to pages, or that all URLS are working.

crawl_stats

How to use Search Console to Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Friendly

Most if not all Shopify themes are optimized to be mobile friendly straight out the box. However, if you add custom content, e.g. a blog or another custom product or add-on, it’s worth double checking that your store or site renders well on mobile devices.

There are two good reasons for this: firstly, you want your mobile users to have a great experience; secondly, and more worryingly, Google actively punishes sites that are not mobile friendly. By punish we mean, a non mobile friendly site will typically not rank as highly.

mobile-friendly

If you need a more detailed mobile-friendly test head on over here – this test from Google also offers extra recommendations to improve your site’s mobile performance.

How to Update Your Site in the Google Index

If you have recently significantly changed your website e.g. increased the number of landing pages, redesigned the homepage, or added multilingual support it may be worth re-submitting your site to the Google index.

The reason for this is that while Google will eventually recrawl your site and make sense of the new structure, this make some time. By forcing Google to recrawl your site, this speeds up the process. To do this, under Crawl, click Fetch as Google. Next hit Fetch and Render.

request-indexing

You will see the fetch attempt appear  at the bottom of the window. Click Request indexing. If you want Google to crawl that specific URL, select Crawl only this URL. Use this option if you have only made changes to this one page. Otherwise select Crawl this URL and its direct links – select this option if you have made site wide changes. Finally click Go. Google now knows that you wish to recrawl the site and change how its indexed.

request-indexing-crawl-urls

How to Check Which Sites Are Linking to My Site

Google Search Console allows you to keep track of which sites are linking to your online store (also known as backlinks) . In order to view these backlinks simply click Search Traffic > Links To Your Site. The next page then gives you a detailed overview. We recommend checking this page every week so you never miss a backlink. If someone links to a blog article of yours, for example, this might be a great organic outreach opportunity.

How to Connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics

Before we move on to take a closer look at the data, let’s talk about Google Analytics. To get the most out of your data, we highly recommend connecting your Google Search Console account to your Google Analytics account.

If you haven’t already, we highly recommend registering for a Google Analytics account. Google Analytics allows you to see how much traffic your site is getting and the demographics of your customers.

Google Analytics Home

As you already have a Google account by now, you can enjoy free use of this powerful resource. All you need to do is verify your site. Check out this useful guide for all you need to know about Google Analytics for your ecommerce business.

Why Should I Link Google Search Console and Google Analytics?

By connecting Google Search Console and Google Analytics you can view your Search Console Data from within Google Analytics. This can be useful if you are looking at website data and want to analyze traffic to your website. By seeing all of this in one place, it is easier to keep track of how well your site is performing.

In general, analytics is something you should try to check more often than Search Console. By regularly checking analytics you can see how much traffic is being driven to your store and how well it is converting.

How to Link Google Search Console and Google Analytics

This is actually pretty simple to do. Remember, first you need to have verified your site on both Google Search Console and Google Analytics otherwise this won’t work. If you don’t know how to set up Google Analytics check out this resource.

From within Search Console click on the setting icon in the top right. From the dropdown select Google Analytics Property.

add GA - menu

Now, select the corresponding site/store and click Save.

Add GA to GSC

That’s all there is to it. You have now linked your Analytics and Search Console Data. For the next steps, we are going to use Google Analytics, so head over there.

A Note On Search Console Data

As a dropshipper, you may primarily pursue a paid marketing strategy. Nevertheless, monitoring data in Google Search Console can actually show you when you begin to rank organically. This section aims to highlight the most important uses of analyzing Google Search Console Data.

Unfortunately the majority of organic search queries are typically listed as (not provided). A few years ago, the HTTP standard was largely replaced by HTTPS – basically this means that a lot  user data is now encrypted. Nevertheless, this data is still a really valuable resource.

How to View Your Search Query Data in Search Console

One great way to learn how to read Google Search Console data is by getting access to a demo account. As a new dropshipper, you perhaps don’t have enough valuable data to analyze just yet. To do this head on over here and click Access Demo Account – this gives you access to Google’s Analytics data for Google’s merchandise store. Playing around with this account is a great way to learn. Remember we linked our Search Console Data to our Analytics account? Let’s take a look.

From within Google Analytics click Acquisition > Search Console. This is where all Search Console data is housed. First let’s check out Queries. Note: if you don’t see any data, that means you are probably not ranking organically for any search terms. As soon as you do, the data will appear here.

GA-GSC-Queries-overview

For each query we have four metrics: Clicks; Impressions; CTR and Average Position.

Clicks: This is the actual number of time a user clicks on a Google search result and enter your site. Looking at the second query above “youtube merch” we can see that 200 people clicked on this result in the last 7 days.

Impressions: this is the number of times your site has appeared in the search results for this particular query. In our example above, in the last 7 days, when users have typed in “youtube merch” to Google our site has appeared 695 times. Please note Google also includes times when you did not appear on the first page – so although this is counted as an impression, it’s possible no one saw this result.

CTR: This term stands for click through rate. This is the number of impressions divided by clicks. This measures the percentage of how often people clicked on the search results vs. how often you appeared in the search results.

Average Position: This is an aggregate of where you appear in the search results for a particular query. There are 10 organic search positions per page for Google. This means page 1 begins at 1 and ends at 10; page 2 begins at 11 and ends at 20. The higher the rank the better. In our example, we rank 1.4 for “youtube merch” meaning we fluctuate between the first and second position.  

How to See Which Keywords Link to Which Landing Pages

One very powerful feature is to be able to tie an organic search term to a specific landing page. This way we can see where users searching a specific term land on our site.

To get started click on Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages

Landing-pages

Next click on one of the pages that you are interested in. I will select the home page signified by “/”.

landing-page-queries

These results actually show what organic search terms took users to the homepage. Here we can see for example that while most keywords were navigational, two contained a specific product reference, “google t shirt” – in this case featuring a t shirt on the home page could satisfy user intent.

This was just a brief introduction to the power of Google Search Console data. Used properly you can get great insights into your ecommerce store users.

The New Google Search Console

Google are currently updating the look and feel of Google Search Console and Google Analytics. The aim is to make the Google Search Console interface easier to use.

It should be noted that Google has not yet added full functionality to the new Search Console. But is worth spending 10 minutes getting to know the design, as Google will be rolling this out pretty soon.

Let’s take a quick look.

From within Google Search Console, click Try the new Search Console. This will take you to the updated version.

New console click

As you can see Google Search Console has had a cosmetic overhaul. Under Status > Performance you can access your main dashboard with your most important Search Console data:

New console overview

The new Google Search Console is still in the beta phase but it is worth getting used to the new design before the full version is launched.

Summary

Use Google Search Console to monitor the health of your website. It automatically informs you about errors that could result in losses in traffic. We recommend linking Google Search Console and Google Analytics together. By doing this, you can keep all your important website traffic data in one place – Google Analytics – and check your website health in another – Google Search Console.

Want to Learn More?

Do you have any of your own tips and tricks for using Google Search Console with your store? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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