Google Search Console is a free service from Google that allows you to check your website is indexed in their search engine, what users are searching for to see your website in their search results, and what changes they suggest making to be more useful for your users.
Search Console has tools and reports that help you track and measure how your site is performing in their search engine, as well as providing issues on each url for you to fix.
It allows you to submit your sitemap(s) and individual urls for crawling and indexing, and lets you then review the index coverage so Google sees exactly what you want or expect it to.
Crucially, you can see the the queries users are searching for in order to be shown your site and all the information that comes with that, including:
and average position.
Since 2020, Search Console also provides detailed breakdowns of url issues, including schema markup issues, speed issues, and manual actions.
The url prefix property only tracks urls with the specified prefix, including the protocol (http/https). That means if you want to track different protocols or subdomains you’ll need to create a url prefix property for each version. It’s only really the best option when you have a small and simple site with no other protocols or subdomains. This version can also be implemented easier than the domain property as you don’t need DNS access.
The domain property tracks all subdomains (m, www, and so on) and multiple protocols (http, https, ftp). It’s the best view of all versions of your site so you’ll be able to see all data in one view. It’s easy to set up but you do need DNS access, so it can be slower if you need to go through a developer or website owner to make the change.
Google has detailed instructions on how to set up both the url prefix and domain properties.
Once you’ve created a website property, you need to verify it before it can begin tracking from your site. Below is Google’s breakdown of the different verification methods.
Relatively simple, but requires the ability to upload a file and publish it on your site at a specific URL. Might not be possible on a site hosting platform.
Relatively simple, but requires the ability to edit the HTML source code of your site's homepage. Might not be possible on a site hosting platform.
Simple, if the page already has a Google Analytics tracking code for a Google Analytics account that you can access. If the page does not have a tracking code, you must must add one (which may require creating a Google Analytics account if you don't already have one).
Simple if the page already has a Google Tag Manager snippet for a Google Tag Manager account that you can access. If the page does not have a snippet, you must must add one (which may require creating a Tag Manager account if you don't already have one).
Use the recommended method for each platform.
More complex, but is the only way to verify a Domain property. If your domain provider is listed in the verification wizard, then this is a simple process. Domain properties are useful because they include data for all protocol (http/https) and subdomain variations of your property.