Three things you’ll get from this article:
1. A way to test whether Google can see you or not
2. The difference between Analytics and Search Console
3. Two easy ways to build and submit a sitemap
A lot of people assume that once they put their web page up, Google and other search engines will just find them. That’s not always a safe assumption. If you’re not getting the results from search engines that you think you should be, there are some steps you can take to figure out what’s going on.
How Google sees you
If you want to see how Google sees you, open a web page and in the address bar at the top, type “site:”, followed by your URL. So, if you were from the Australian Dental Association, for example, you’d type in “site:www.ada.org.au”. What you will see is every page on your site that Google sees too.
So if you type your URL and you see a result with no web pages (or fewer than you have published) you know why your site isn’t turning up in Google searches. It’s because Google hasn’t indexed you.
The difference between the Google index and the web
A key thing to remember is when you ask Google to search the web, the page of search results you get isn’t directly from the web. The results are drawn from Google’s index of the web. Not the web itself.
Google’s software crawls through links to discover popular and respected pages. Then they index them on their own servers. Then they serve it back to you as search results.
So it makes sense that you should find some way of making your website as discoverable as it can be.
Luckily there’s a tool you can use to check your site to see if Google likes it. It’s called the Search Console.
So some of you might have already signed up for Google Analytics (if you haven’t, you should). Google Analytics tells you how many visitors you’re getting, how many are returning visitors, how they get to you, and whether they’re spending time on your site. It’s like looking at your site from the outside in.
Google Search Console (which used to be called Webmaster Tools, but changed its name earlier this year) is like the flip-side of Analytics. It looks at your site from the inside out. It can tell you who is linking to your site, and gives you ways of making your site more discoverable by Google.
If you have already signed up for Google Analytics, signing up for the search console is easy. Just go to the Search Console Website (at google.com.au/webmasters/tools) and sign in using your Google account—the same one as you use for Analytics.
Two simple fixes to make a difference
If you’re visiting Search Console for the first time, you might be asked to add a property. This would be the URL of your website. Open your site in another window, and copy-and-paste the URL.
Once you’ve connected your site, have a look over the right-hand side of the page under the panel named ‘sitemaps’. It’s a good idea to add a sitemap here, which Google’s crawlers will read to index your site.
There’s a couple of ways you can produce a sitemap. You can either do a manually produced .txt file: copy-and paste URLs from your site, then save the file as a simple text (or .txt) file.
If you are using WordPress, and the Yoast plugin, your sitemap is automatically produced by Yoast. You’ll find it on your WordPress dashboard in the left-hand menu, under SEO, XML Sitemaps. A button under the ‘General’ tab will open a page with a list of your sitemaps. You then use the URL of that page in Search Console.
What happens next?
Well, in many cases… nothing. Which is a bit unnerving. You can end up sitting there thinking, ‘But I did all the stuff they told me to. WHY AREN’T I RANKING AT NUMBER ONE YET?’
Just submitting your site doesn’t mean it gets immediately crawled or indexed. It may take several days or weeks. One site we have read through suggested it could take a couple of months.
But if you haven’t done these things, Google and other search engines may never discover your site. So this is where you start.
Your next step
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