Do you find yourself launching websites for clients and they call you annoyed that they “can’t find it” within a couple of hours or days?
When I got that first call from a client, I was confused. It was live at their domain. Everything was working how it should. What I didn’t understand was that their employees were, instead of typing the domain in the address bar, trying to Google and find their website.
As you all probably know, we don’t have a lot of control over when Google will index a website. And while you can do a lot to help Google find that website you just launched by how you build and structure it, there’s an awesome shortcut to make that all work much faster and get listed on Google in a matter of hours instead of weeks.
Want to know what it is?
Meet Google Search Console
Google and other search engines will find a website eventually, but that can take days, usually weeks, for a new website to be discovered and listed. It can also take a long time for Google to find recent updates to a website, which means it can be displaying outdated information on their results pages.
How do you fix this?
Google Search Console, formerly called Google Webmasters Tools, allows you to submit information to Google directly about any website. This can be the difference of finding your brand new website in Google’s search results in less than 24 hours instead of 2 weeks. Huge difference!
How Does it Work?
This is all free, so there’s no barrier to registering a website with Google. To start, you’ll need to create an XML sitemap. Luckily for you, that’s super simple to do with the Yoast SEO plugin. Just make sure to double check that you’ve excluded any post types or categories that you don’t want indexed, but Yoast creates that automatically for you at yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml. It’s that sitemap that you’ll want to add in your free Google Search Console account.
Next, you’ll need to go to Google Search Console and create a free account. You’ll need to verify in some way that you own the website you’re trying to register. If you already have Google Analytics on the website using the same email will speed up that process. Google will also walk you through adding a Domain record or a piece of HTML content to the website to prove you own it.
If you choose to go the Domain route, it’ll mean that Google is indexing any version of your website, whether secure or not. I’d typically recommend this, especially if you have control of where your client purchased the domain (like GoDaddy or Name Cheap).
Adding Your Website to Google
Once you’ve verified ownership, Google will give you a few options within your dashboard, but you want to start with the Sitemaps portion. It’s here that you’ll grab that XML sitemap link Yoast created for you (again: it’s yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml) and add it under Add a New Sitemap. All you really need is the sitemap_index.xml part because Google already knows your domain. Just click submit! It’s that simple.
Once Google has your sitemap, it’ll show you when it was originally fetched and when it last updated. You’ll see that mine was actually updated just a couple of days ago, which means Yoast is helping tell Google that my site gets updated on a regular basis.
Don’t be afraid if when you first submit your sitemap that Google gives you a notice that it Couldn’t Fetch. This can happen when a site is brand brand new. Come back and check the status in a few hours or the next day and it should say Success.
What Else Can Search Console Do?
Google Search Console is great for getting your website found, but it’s also fantastic for monitoring the website on Google long after you’ve launched it.
Search Console will send you alerts if suddenly they can’t index a page, if they’re having issues with the mobile version of a website, and any other issues that might prevent that business from being listed.
You can also log in and check the website’s performance on Google, including what search terms it’s showing up for and whether or not it’s getting clicks for those searches. Combine Google Search Console with Google Analytics and you’ll be able to get a wealth of information to help you understand a website’s performance better.
Learn it and how to report those numbers, and you’ve got a nice add-on service to sell for some monthly recurring revenue. This is especially attractive if you also host the website and keep it secure with maintenance updates.
Can a Website Be Found on Google Without Search Console?
The short answer? Yes, of course! A website can still get listed on Google even if you don’t create a Search Console account and submit the sitemap. However, in 10 minutes you can have that site submitted and ready to be found by Google far more easily and accurately with a Search Console account. This is a vital step to make a website’s SEO work better in the long-run, so it’s not really an optional step if you’re building websites for clients.
Plus, adding this 10 minute or less step into your website launch process means you’ll have a happy customer on the other end. It’ll definitely prevent their employees from trying to Google their brand new website and not being able to find it. Save yourself the embarrassment!