Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is an incredibly valuable (and free) resource to financial advisors and other non-webmaster professionals. Within the tools provided by GWT is Google Search Console, which we’ll be covering the basics of in this post. You don’t have to sign up for Google Search Console to be included in search results. However, having a basic understanding of how Google Search Console works and how to use the tool to optimize your site can greatly improve your site ranking within search engines like Google.

What Is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free tool offered under the umbrella of GWT that helps users uncover tons of great information about your site and those who are visiting your site. You can use Google Search Console to find out things such as: which keyword searches caused your site to appear in search results and did some queries result in more traffic to your site than others, what sites are linking to your website, how the mobile version of your site is performing, ensure Google can access your site content as well as submit new content for crawling and more. (For more from Twenty Over Ten, see: Advisors: 13 Common Website Mistakes You Might Make.)

How Do I Add and Verify My Site on Google Search Console?

If you’ve never used Google Search Console before step one is adding and verifying your site in Search Console. By doing so your proving to Google that you are a webmaster, site owner or other authorized user. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to add and verify your site on Google Search Console:

  1. Log into your Search Console account using your Google/Gmail account credentials.
  2. Once logged in you’ll see a text box to type in your site URL and a “ADD PROPERTY” button.
  3. Enter the URL of the site you want to add to your Search Console and click “ADD PROPERTY” (be sure to include https in front of your web address if you are a Twenty Over Ten user).

Now that your “property” (aka site) has been added Google will now ask you to verify your site. There are a few ways Google allows you to verify your site. However, if you do not have experience in working with HTML it’s probably best to ask your webmaster to verify the site for you. If you are a current Twenty Over Ten user please contact us and we will insert the code to verify your site.

How Do I Submit My Sitemap to Google?

Before you can move onto this step you’ll need to complete step one first to verify your site.

  • Once logged in from your Search Console dashboard on the left you’ll see a menu of options.
  • Choose the “Crawl” drop-down and then choose the “Sitemaps” option.
  • Once you click on “Sitemaps” there will be a button that reads “ADD/TEST SITEMAP” to the right.

  • Next you’ll see a text box pop-up asking for your sitemap HTML.
  • If you’re a Twenty Over Ten user, you will simply type in “sitemap.xml” into the text box after your site URL. So the final product will read: “https://SITEURLHERE/sitemap.xml”
  • Click “Submit” and you’ve successfully submitted your sitemap to Google.

How Often Should I Submit My Sitemap to Google?

Sitemaps are important because they tell search engines important information about how your site is organized and the type of content on your site. When you submit your sitemap to Google it makes their job easier by giving them the information they need and ensuring that the information is accurate. (For more from Twenty Over Ten, see: The Top 7 Website Mistakes Financial Advisors Make.)

Submitting your sitemap to Google isn’t mandatory but it certainly helps. Google updates it’s algorithms from time and time in order to obtain the most relevant searches for your keywords. Once Google has made an update it’s always a good idea to re-submit your sitemap to Google. However, we may not always know when Google does update their algorithms so you should also consider re-submitting your sitemap if you add, remove, or change large amounts of content on your site.

How Do I Use the Search Analytics Report?

The search analytics report within Google Search Console shows how often your site has shown up in search results. The report displays your clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR) and position. What you’re probably wondering now is great, so what do those terms mean and how can they help me in improving the SEO for my financial planning website? Well, here’s a breakdown:

Clicks help you learn how each keyword ranks and how many clicks it received. If your clicks are low consider building more backlinks, create landing pages with those keywords or optimizing your blogs and other site content.

Impressions help you understand how users are interacting with certain keywords. If you’re experiencing a high number of interactions but low clicks you may want to take a look at rewriting your page titles and meta descriptions.

CTR (aka click-through rate) is Google’s standardized formula for the click count divided by the impression count.

Position uncovers your search position per keyword. This is key. Why? Because your position ranking tells us what keywords you need to focus optimizing on your website. For example, say your ranking at number 100 for the keyword fee-only financial planner Columbus, Ohio. Pretty low ranking, right? So now we can know we want to rank higher for those keywords so we can optimize our site for that query.

The above screenshot for the Twenty Over Ten blog tells us that we’re currently ranking in position number one for the keyword query “best financial advisor websites.”

How Do I See Who’s Linking to My Site?

Search engines use links to discover new sites and to help determine how high or low a page should rank in results. Link building is another crucial component in the SEO world. After all, links as a ranking factor are what allowed Google to start to dominate the search engine market back in the late 1990s. If you’re not familiar with link building at it’s core link building is getting other websites to link to your site.

As a financial advisor, building good links can help build your brand and position your company as a thought leader in your niche. As advisors, link building is also about building relationships with influencers in the financial industry. Luckily, Google Search Console also gives us insight on links too. Via the Links to Your Site on Google Search Console we can see a list of the links that Googlebot discovered during its crawling and indexing process, as well as the most common links sources and the pages on your site with the most links.

What’s great about this report is you can see who links to your site the most and what content from your site gets linked the most. This is good intel to be armed with when forming strategic partnerships with organizations to determine if there is a ROI in working with them.

The above Search Console screenshot from the Twenty Over Ten blog shows that is linking the most to our blog articles

The Difference Between Google Analytics and Google Search Console

To put it plainly, Google Analytics and Google Search Console serve two completely different functions. Google Analytics gives us data points about the number of visitors to your site, where exactly visitors are coming from, how much time they spend on your site and the nature of their visit.

On the other hand, Search Console shares information specific to your site. As mentioned earlier in this post, we can see stats such as who is linking to your site, if there are any technical errors on your site and most importantly intel into the keyword queries. It is possible to link the two and SERPs has a great tutorial on how to do so. (For more from Twenty Over Ten, see: 3 Key Steps to Craft the Perfect Online Presence.)

This article originally appeared on Twenty Over Ten.

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