Google Search Console offers analytics that can improve your SEO. Learn how our experts use Google Search Console to optimize sites and measure SEO performance.

Ask any SEO professional about the most important tool in their tech stack, and you’re likely to get the same answer every time. Not only is Google Search Console (GSC) useful on its own, but it also powers many other SEO tools.

So how can you set up this tool and start using it to measure and optimize your website? In this article, we’ll cover how to use Google Search Console for SEO, keyword research, technical issues, reporting, and more.

How does Google Search Console work?

Google Search Console is a webmaster tool that assists website owners and SEO professionals view data that helps improve performance on Google search. More specifically, it helps with:

  • Measuring search traffic
  • Researching keywords
  • Identifying technical problems
  • Increasing online visibility

“Think of Google Search Console as the source of truth when measuring how much exposure and visibility you’re getting on Google search engine results pages (SERPs),” explains Rambod Yadegar, President of HawkSEM.

To use it, all you have to do is verify ownership of your website domain. Then you can use it as a standalone tool or connect it with your choice of Google and other third-party products. We’ll cover these workflows below.

Is Google Search Console free?

Yes, GSC is free to use. There’s never a cost for using this tool, and there’s no paid version. You can also connect this free tool to other Google products (e.g., Google Analytics) at no cost.

Is Google Search Console accurate?

As a native Google product, Search Console pulls data directly from Google search. It’s considered one of the most accurate tools for analyzing search performance.

But there’s a caveat. If you use GSC alongside Google Analytics or third-party SEO tools like Ahrefs and Semrush, you may notice that data like traffic numbers and keyword rankings look a little different.

These discrepancies sometimes make SEO experts question Google Search Console’s accuracy. But remember that the nature of the tool affects how it analyzes and displays data.

For example:

  • Google Search Console focuses on search data
  • Google Analytics focuses on website data

Remember that “GSC doesn’t give you real-time data, so you’re always working a step behind your users. You can see how trends change over time, but real-time data isn’t available. Since Google Analytics does offer real-time data, we use them hand-in-hand,” explains Hardy Desai, Founder and CEO of Supple Digital.

How to set up Google Search Console

Before you add GSC to your tech stack, complete the preliminary setup. Follow the steps below to connect your website and set up your dashboard.

  1. Access Google Search Console
  2. Verify site ownership via GSC
  3. Add Google Search Console to WordPress
  4. Add a user to Google Search Console
  5. Link Google Search Console with Google Analytics

How to access Google Search Console

To get started, go to Google Search Console. Click the blue “Start Now” button.

How to access Google Search Console

How to verify site ownership via Google Search Console

GSC offers two verification methods. To manage and monitor your entire website via this tool, use the “Domain” option on the left. Enter your website homepage URL and click “Continue.”

verify site ownership

You’ll see a popup like the one below with instructions to follow. To verify that you own the website, you’ll need to log into your domain name provider and add the unique TXT record to your website’s DNS configuration.

DNS configuration

After completing that step, click the “Verify” button in Google Search Console. Note that there may be a waiting period of up to 48 hours.

If you want to use GSC to manage and monitor only part of your site (e.g., your blog or other subdomains) use the “URL Prefix” option on the right instead. Enter the URL and press “Continue.”

verify site ownership

You’ll see a popup like the one above with instructions to follow. Google recommends using the HTML file method. However, you’ll also see alternative options to use an HTML tag, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, or your domain name provider.

You can check verification status at any time. Until GSC successfully verifies your website or URL, it will appear on your dashboard in the “Not Verified” list of properties.

your dashboard

Note that if you already use GSC to manage other websites, you won’t see the workflows above. From your dashboard, click to open the menu in the upper left corner. Select “Add Property” to select a verification method.

verification method

How to add Google Search Console to WordPress

If your website uses WordPress, you may have a slightly easier option for configuring it. Here’s how to verify Google Search Console on WordPress.

Go to your WordPress dashboard and download the Yoast SEO plugin, if you haven’t already. Both the free and premium versions work for this purpose.

add Google Search Console to WordPress

From your WordPress dashboard, open the Yoast menu and click “Settings.” Under “General,” select “Site Settings.” Then copy and paste your GSC verification code under “Google.”

How to add a user to Google Search Console

After verifying your property, onboard team members so they can work with you in Google Search Console. Here’s how to give access to Google Search Console at various permission levels.

Select “Settings” in the left navigation. From the Settings dashboard, select “Users and Permissions.”

add a user to Google Search Console

Here, you can view a complete list of users with access to your Google Search Console account. To add another team member or agency partner, click the “Add Users” button.

Add Users

Then enter your team member’s Google account email. Note that the default permission level is “Full.” To choose a different level, click the dropdown menu and select either “Owner or “Restricted.”

Add Users

Here’s a quick overview of the Google Search Console permission levels:

  • Owners have full access to the property and can add or remove other users
  • Full users can view all data and take some actions — but can’t manage users
  • Restricted users can view basic data only

How to link Google Search Console with Google Analytics

The final step in a typical Google Search Console setup is linking the property with Google Analytics. By taking this step, you allow the two data sources to enrich each other, which can provide deeper insights.

To link the two properties, go to your Google Analytics 4 dashboard. Select the “Admin” panel and scroll down to the Product Links section. Click “Google Search Console Links.”

Google Search Console with Google Analytics

Press the blue “Link” button. This option will be grayed out if you’ve already connected a Google Search Console account. Each Google Analytics account supports a single GSC link.

Google Search Console links

Then find your Google Search Console property in the list. Select a web stream, and submit the link for review.


How to use Google Search Console to improve SEO

After setting up your account, you can start using GSC to analyze data and improve SEO.

Upload a sitemap

Google will automatically crawl your website, whether or not you upload a sitemap to Google Search Console. To make the process more efficient, submit a sitemap via your dashboard.

First, generate a sitemap using your website’s content management system (CMS). For example, if you have a WordPress site, the Yoast SEO plugin can generate an XML sitemap for you.


Copy the URL for the sitemap and go back to Google Search Console. Open the “Indexing” menu and select “Sitemaps.” Then paste the URL.


Once you upload a sitemap, it’ll appear on the “Submitted Sitemaps” panel. Here, you can see the status of your sitemaps and the last date the file was read.

View your index coverage report

Once the Googlebot crawls your site, you can monitor the results by opening the “Indexing” menu and selecting “Pages.” Here, you can compare both indexed and not indexed pages.

index coverage report

Ideally, Google crawls all relevant pages on your site so they can appear in search. If your team publishes content regularly, you should see the number of indexed pages increase over time.

Virtually every website will have at least some unindexed pages. For example, alternate pages with proper canonical tags or noindex tags probably aren’t anything to worry about.


But 404 errors, broken redirects, and other issues often warrant additional research. Google Search Console provides a handy list of reasons for all indexing issues so you can get to the root of the problem quickly.

“Some challenges I’ve faced when using GSC are mostly related to indexable pages,” shares Brittany Betts, Marketing Manager at “It will include many pages that don’t exist that are spam-type sites because people will link to us with spammy links to try to hack us or make our site virus-driven. This is a common occurrence for websites in GSC.”

Use the URL inspection tool

To analyze any page on your site, use the built-in URL inspection tool. This tool compares the URL against your sitemap, reports robots.txt indexing issues, and shares the date (if any) the page was last crawled.

URL inspection

Using the this tool, you can test the live URL. If necessary, manually prompt Google Search Console to index the specific page.

Check your website’s performance in Google search results

Tools like Google Analytics can tell you how many people clicked through to visit your website. However, GSC can tell you how many times your website appeared on SERPs and estimate organic traffic.

The Google search performance report shows both the number of impressions on SERPs and total clicks to your website. It also reveals your click-through rate (CTR). This average CTR is helpful for understanding how often users click through from search.

website's performance

Curious about what a good average position is in Google Search Console? This chart estimates where your site ranks on SERPs over time so you can monitor progress and spot trends in your site’s performance.

GSC automatically displays data for a three-month time period. However, you can choose a custom date range and compare it against a previous time period for more nuanced insights.

Spot trends on Discover

If your website appears on Google Discover, you can track that data in GSC too. Like the search performance chart, the Discover chart shows impressions, clicks, and average CTR. All of these metrics are helpful for spotting trends and monitoring campaign performance.

Google Discover

“If I am using GSC data to help improve CTR, it’s mostly when I’m looking at Discover results or search results where people have found us and what our top pages are. If I see that people are finding us through these pages, then I try to improve them so that I can help the CTR and overall engagement time,” shares Betts.

Evaluate ecommerce and enhancements

The enhancements and other tools that display on your GSC dashboard depend on the markup types your website uses. For example, GSC dashboards for ecommerce websites show product snippets and merchant listings.

Evaluate ecommerce and enhancements

If your website has structured data like breadcrumbs, reviews, or recipes, you can monitor these elements from GSC too. For any invalid instances, the report shows a complete breakdown of the problem. While invalid enhancements won’t prevent the page from being indexed, they will prevent rich results from showing on SERPs.

Monitor website page experience

To ensure your website delivers a good user experience, GSC makes it easy to monitor this element. The page experience report displays core web vitals for users on desktop and mobile devices so you can quickly identify and address serious problems, such as site speed.


Like most GSC reports, the core web vitals report provides a breakdown of each issue, along with the affected URLs. For example, it may reveal issues with mobile usability, cumulative layout shift, or other concerns.

“Google Search Console includes a site speed report that helped us optimize the quality of the graphics on our website. Large images are among the top contributors to a slow or laggy website,” shares Stephan Baldwin, Founder of Assisted Living.

“Search Console was able to gauge our speed status on a scale of fast-moderate-slow. We used the results to pinpoint the areas in our web design and architecture that needed updating. With an already simple layout, the image sizes took precedence for our makeover. Thanks to that investigation, we now have one of the fastest site speeds within our niche.”

Identify website security issues

In most cases, all URLs on your website should use HTTPS rather than HTTP for added security. The GSC HTTPS report identifies any affected web pages so your technical SEO team can address any potential security issues.

Identify website security issues

GSC also has a dedicated security report to alert you to serious issues with your website. You can find it under the “Security & Manual Actions” tab.

Watch for manual actions

Ideally, you won’t see anything listed on your GSC manual actions report. However, if Google flags your site for spam, any reports will display here.

manual actions

Remember that Google penalizes sites with manual actions. By monitoring and addressing any issues in GSC, you can avoid serious problems with search visibility.

How to use Google Search Console for keyword research

The more your website appears in search, the better GSC becomes as a keyword research tool. Along with charting your website’s search appearance over time, the search results report shows which queries drive the most impressions and clicks for your site.

keyword research

With this report, you can easily see which search queries are surfacing your site most often and increasing share of voice. Since this report provides a list of pages, you can see which pages are performing best for each query.

You can also use this report to look for discrepancies between impressions and clicks. For example, you might see that some queries drive a lot of impressions but few clicks.

Since you know the page is already ranking for specific keywords, you don’t necessarily need to optimize the content or the internal links. To target a higher CTR, reconsider the search intent and update the SEO title or the meta tags.

“Google Search Console provided critical visibility and insights into evaluating my client’s initial content strategy. It was through looking at Google Search Console’s search results dashboard and using a custom (regex) filter with the client’s name that I realized that almost 95% of the client’s traffic was coming from branded searches,” explains Senior Content Marketing Manager Amy Brennen.

She knew then they needed to do more to bring people to their website who were unfamiliar with their company and its offerings.

“Now, we’re purusing a content strategy that’s high volume and focused on the top and middle of the funne,” continues Brennen. “While we’re still in an early phase, we constantly monitor our branded and nonbranded traffic on GSC’s search results dashboard and are encouraged to see the nonbranded numbers going in the right direction.”

How to use Google Search Console to monitor links

Because links affect how your site ranks. GSC monitors both internal and external links. To see either type, open the “Links” tab to view the report.

The external links report shows both the pages with the most backlinks and the sites that link to you most often. This report also shows the top linking text, or the anchor text third-party sites use in backlinks.

monitor links

The internal links report shows a list of the top pages on your site with internal links. Click to view a complete report to identify pages that may benefit from more internal links, which can help you rank higher on Google.

rank higher on Google

How to link Google Search Console with SEO tools

When you connect it with third-party tools, GSC can give you even more insights. Here’s how to use GSC in your SEO tech stack.


At HawkSEM, we use our proprietary software, ConverisonIQ, with GSC to find keyword opportunities.

“By coupling data from Google Search Console with ConversionIQ, we’re able to see which pages drive meaningful business outcomes, not just vanity metrics,” explains Sam Yadegar, CEO of HawkSEM. “A lot of people just use GSC to consume data. However, we take it a step further by gleaning revenue-based insights from the data and building out strategies.”

By using Google Search Console and ConversionIQ, we tripled results for Moneta. We increased Moneta’s net keyword organic portfolio by 326% and boosted Google Analytics goal completions by 23.5%.

SEO tools

If you use a third-party SEO tool like Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, or SE Ranking, you can connect it to your GSC dashboard. Then you can monitor GSC click and impression data in the tool you already use.

Most SEO tools can also use GSC data to help you understand the search types, searcher devices, and search queries that impact your site. With this data, you can take steps to improve your rankings, check search appearance, and research keywords.

The takeaway

On the surface, Google Search Console may seem like a relatively simple tool. However, it’s powerful on its own and when paired with other search tools, including Bing Webmaster Tools. As a result, GSC is ideal for measuring search performance, researching keywords, and monitoring technical and security issues.

At HawkSEM, Google Search Console setup and monitoring are integral parts of our SEO services. Request a free consultation to learn how our experienced digital marketing team can help with everything from SEO strategy to site performance.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's senior content marketing manager. Through more than a decade of professional writing and editing experience, she creates SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of reading, yoga, new vegetarian recipes, and paper planners.