If you sign into your Google Webmaster Tools account this week, you may be a bit surprised: that familiar logo is gone. Instead, you’ll see a new name, Google Search Console, staring at you from the top of the screen. So what is Search Console, and is it different from Webmaster Tools?
Google assures us that the change is just a rebranding. If you log in and check it out, you’ll find all the same tools you had before, including your crucial SEO metrics. Only the name and logo are different.
The reason for the change is that “Webmaster” tools sounded too narrow. The tools include things that are useful to business owners and bloggers who have no technical background. In a sense, of course, all of these people are “webmasters” today—everyone who runs their own site is—but Google worried the techie name deterred people from using it.
No matter what it’s called, we still urge every small to medium business owner to have an account and use it regularly. Nearly every article you read about SEO will start with, “Log into your Google Webmaster Tools account and…” That’s because the tools are free and include a suite of features that are crucial to basic SEO. Those include:
- SEO metrics. There are not many free tools that will show you exactly which keywords you’re ranking for, and Search Console is one of the best. Traffic graphs and total Google Analytics integration round out the crucial data that Console gives you.
- Site errors. Are people running into dead ends or technical errors using your site? If so, Search Console tells you how often, where, and what kinds of errors.
- Sitemap. As good as Google is, they don’t always succeed in indexing everything on your site. You can help fix that by providing an up to date sitemap (here’s how). This will help boost your site’s visibility, and is also done through Search Console.
- Links, links, links. Search Console gives you robust information on the links that point to your pages. This includes who’s linking to your site, which internal pages link to which others, and which internal pages show up in Google search results (for instance, domain.com/blog/how-to-grow-potatoes instead of just domain.com).
The most important features of Search Console, however, are those that let you have a two-way conversation with Google about your site. This is the only place where Google will directly tell you if you have a penalty and it’s also where you can disavow bad links and get a penalty lifted.
Will the new name really make Search Console more accessible? It’s hard to say. But it pays to have an account and learn how to use it. You can sign up for free here.