Google Search Console is a tool that allows you to see reports on how your site is being indexed and performing in Google Search properties. There is sometimes confusion between Google Analytics and Google Search Console and how they’re different. I like to position it this way:
- Google Analytics: shows you what users are doing on your site
- Google Search Console: shows you how search engines are seeing your site
From an SEO perspective, Google Search Console is an indispensable tool that allows you to see immutable data on your site’s indexing, ranking, impressions, keywords (queries), page-level performance, schema enhancements, and more.
The first step in accessing all of that valuable data is to verify your website property with Google Search Console.
Different Methods of Website Property Validation
Google launched an updated version of the Search Console dashboard in 2018 and began building out features for it. They officially retired the old Google Search Console in 2019. The updated version of Google Search Console allows website owners to verify their website properties in 2 ways:
- Root Domain Verification – this method of verification requires DNS access and allows to see metrics on all domain properties, including subdomains, https vs. non-https, and more
- Specific URL Prefix – this method will only track a specific version of your domain and allows several methods of verification, including HTML tag, Google Analytics, and more.Root Domain Verification – this method of verification requires DNS access and allows to see metrics on all domain properties, including subdomains, https vs. non-https, and more
Root Domain Verification
The best way to verify your website property Google Search Console is through your DNS.
As long as you have access to your domain provider, you simply grab the text string from the instructions and add it as a TXT record on your domain you want to track. Save the DNS with the TXT record added and wait up to 15 minutes for the changes to take effect.
Once some time has passed, click “Verify.”
Below is a guide to adding a TXT record for some of the most common DNS providers:
- Adding a TXT record to GoDaddy
- Adding a TXT record to Namecheap
- Adding a TXT record to Domain.com
- Adding a TXT record to BlueHost
- Adding a TXT record to HostGator
- Adding a TXT record to DreamHost
- Adding a TXT record to Google Domains
- Adding a TXT record to Hover
Depending on your Domain Registrar, Google Search Console also offers verification via your login credentials so all you need to do to verify your site in Search Console is login to your provider. The following DNS providers can directly verify with Google Search Console:
Verifying Website Property via Site Prefix
In instances where you don’t have direct access to the DNS (this is often the case with 3rd party tech or marketing teams) you can easily add a website with a specific website prefix and verify ownership of the property through a number of methods:
- Adding an HTML file to your site
- Adding an HTML meta tag to your site’s homepage
- Using an existing Google Analytics account
- Using Google Tag Manager
- Utilizing a DNS provider
With each of the options listed above, you’re telling Google that you are the owner of the website property and have permission to view the data.
Before you verify via prefix, you should ensure that everything with your domain is set up the way it should be. Ensure that your SSL is in place and your site is properly configured with HTTPS as opposed to HTTP. You should also make sure that you’re canonicalizing or redirecting to a primary version of your subdomain, whether or not your website is www vs. non-www. That is usually done through your hosting provider or your DNS.
If you verify via prefix one way and later change your default URL settings, Search Console might not track the data properly. If you have HTTPS and HTTP versions of your URL verified, you’ll be able to see discrepancies in the data that Google Search Console shows for each site.
Once you’ve verified that your site URL is set up properly, copy the URL from the address bar in your browser and paste it into the prefix field on the verification dashboard. Click “continue.”
There, you’ll have the option to verify ownership of the URL in a number of ways. For 3rd parties, we’ve found the easiest way to verify a Search Console property is through an HTML tag or Google Analytics. In most cases, it’s easy to gain access to a site’s backend to add an HTML tag. If you’re a marketing agency, you likely already have access to a connected Google Analytics account.
Both those methods have proven to be easy to get done. Things get more difficult with the other verification methods listed. Adding a HTML file requires access to the site FTP, Google Tag Manager verification can be somewhat complicated (as you’ll see below), and going through a DNS provider can also be difficult for a 3rd party.
We’ll walk through each process below and you can decide the easiest way to verify.
Adding an HTML meta tag
Verifying your site with an HTML meta tag is an easy process and most 3rd party providers and website owners have sufficient access to do this.
Once you click that verification method, Search Console will give you an HTML meta tag that will look something like this:
<meta name=”google-site-verification” content=”oj7nSCpvuTGanAuwfekzeRaDPFQq4Q-mzB-xdYneKNA” />
Copy that HTML string.
For the vast majority of website CMSs, there will be a way to access and inject code into the header of your site. You’ll simply paste the code anywhere within the <head> tags and save it.
It won’t change anything on your site.
Then, you’ll come back to the Search Console window and click “Verify.” Google will then crawl the site and look for the meta tag. Assuming that Search Console can find it, you’ll be good to go. If you have a long cache on your website, you may want to wait or flush the cache and try to verify again.
Verifying with Google Analytics
The other primary method of verifying your site on Search Console is through Google Analytics. In most cases, if you’re in the process of verifying Search Console, you’ve already connected your site to Google Analytics.
Expand the “Google Analytics” verification method and click “Verify.”
Google Search Console will then look for all Google Analytics accounts associated with your logged in email address. As long as the email address you’re using is verified with Google Analytics, Search Console will also give you ownership status of your Search Console property.
Verifying with Google Tag Manager
Verifying with Google Tag Manager is done the same way as Google Analytics. As long as you have the appropriate permissions, Search Console will verify your ownership of the site and allow you to see data.
However, Google Tag Manager is a slightly more complex setup and integration than Google Analytics so we’ve found that in most cases, clients don’t have it setup or implemented properly. This is a great method for paid advertising specialists who regularly use Tag Manager to connect various platforms to a single web property.
Once you expand the Google Tag Manager verification method, click “Verify.” Google will look for the appropriate permissions and grant you access accordingly.
Adding an HTML File to the Site
Search Console also gives website owners an option to upload an HTML file directly to their root domain directory and verify ownership that way. The process is relatively straightforward, but requires access to a site’s directory, usually through an FTP.
Once you download the HTML file, you’ll find your site’s root directory and upload the file there. You can verify that the file was uploaded properly by adding the HTML file name to the end of your domain (ex: https://www.yourdomain.com/googleb1e0f5f297ef434e.html). It should pull up something like this:
From there, you’ll return back to the Search Console verification window and click “Verify.”
The Verify by DNS is the exact same process as we outlined above. By including it as an option for URL prefixes, it allows website owners to verify a single URL as opposed to all URL versions and subdomains associated with a website. See above for instructions on this method.
Connecting Search Console to Google Analytics
As a bonus, you can connect your Search Console property to your Google Analytics account so that you can see all relevant query, click, impression, and position data right in your Google Analytics dashboard. In order to do this, you need to have the website verified and connected to both Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
From your Google Analytics admin, you’ll want to click on “Property Settings.”
On that page, you’ll find a section titled “Search Console.” To connect your Search Console property, click “Adjust Search Console.”
You’ll then be presented with all your verified search console properties. Select the current site, and click “Save.”
You’ll then be able to see Search Console data in your Acquisition > Search Console report dashboard.