7 Starter SEO steps: Step 5 – Backlinks, Rankings & Search Console

The SEO Journey - Step 5: Backlinks, rankings & search console

7 Starter SEO steps for beginners and new websites

Step 5: Backlinks, Rankings & Search Console

Written by: Tarquin Lessing . 17 November 2020

Those coming along with this series would, by now, have full website containing primary and secondary keywords with correct SEO layout and structure, which has been submitted for indexing at the end of the last step.

In this step we are going to look at the indexing process, your search rankings for your search phrases as well as a very useful tool which will become a regular for any good SEO, Google Search Console (formerly called Google Webmaster Tools).

If you want to review the previous steps and get your website up to speed, Go back to the series index, else continue.


Let’s us now get started with evaluating your first SEO efforts using the tool Google Search Console.


Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a valuable free tool provided by Google that allows webmasters and SEO’s to check the indexing and visibility of their website and provides tips and advice on areas of concern to help you improve your site visibility.

Search console will help you with tools and reports to check your page indexing as well as the search traffic and performance of your website, allowing you to fix issues straight from the tool to help your site be polished for the Google search results.


Linking your website to Search Console

  • First, login to the GMail account you used for Google Analytics in the previous step. Once logged in navigate to Google Search Console.


search console login


  • 2. Click ‘Add a property’ under the search drop-down.


Add property

  • 3. Enter your website URL in the box and click ‘Continue’.

Please make sure you enter your complete URL. For example, if your site is https://yourdomain.com/ it needs to be that exact URL. Don’t forget the / at the end of the URL. If your site uses WWW or is using HTTP you need to add properties for those as well.


Verifying your site

The last step in the setup process is to verify your site link on Google Search Console.

Google provides multiple ways of getting your site verified and they even suggest adding multiple ways because of security. 

I will run through a few of the methods. You can either choose one which is simple for you, or use numerous methods. The important goal is that Google Search Console accepts your site verification.


Method 1. HTML Verification File

With this method, you just need to upload an HTML file to the root directory of your website. It’s simple, but the downside is that you will need access to your server to upload the file, either via FTP or something like cPanel File Manager.

Step 1: Download Verification File

After you add your site to Google Search Console, you should see an option to download an HTML verification file in the Recommended method tab. Download this file to your computer:

Download HTML verification file


download verification file


Step 2: Upload File Via FTP

Next, you’ll need to connect to your website via FTP or a file manager plugin in WordPress. 

Once you’ve successfully connected, upload the file that you downloaded from Google to the root folder of your site (this is the folder that contains the wp-content folder, wp-config.php, etc.), this folder is very often named public or public_html.

After uploading the file, it should look something like this:




Step 3: Click Verify Button At Google Search Console

Once you’ve uploaded the file to your site, go back to Google Search Console and click on the Verify button to complete the process:

Finish the verification process in Google Search Console


Click Verify


Method 2. HTML Tag

With the HTML Tag method, you need to add a simple meta tag to your site’s <head> section. If you’re using WordPress, you can do this by:

  • Adding the tag directly to your child theme’s header.php file
  • Using a plugin to inject it into the header


Step 1: Copy Google Site Verification Meta Tag

To find the meta tag, go to the Alternate methods tab in the Google Search Console interface. Select HTML tag and copy the value in the box:

The HTML meta tag

Verification tag


Step 2: Add Meta Tag Using Insert Headers And Footers

Next, install the free Insert Headers and Footers plugin at your site. Then, go to Settings → Insert Headers and Footers and paste the meta tag in the Scripts in Header box:

Add HTML meta tag to Insert Headers and Footers plugin

Click Save.

There are also some alternative ways in our in-depth post on how to add code to your WordPress header and footer.


Header & Footer Script inserter


Step 3: Click Verify Button At Google Search Console

To finish the process, go back to the Google Search Console interface and click Verify:


finish the process

You’re all done! You’ve connected your website to Google Search Console! Now that you’ve verified and linked your site, you can do all the other cool stuff that’s Search Console capable of including checking backlinks, site health, submit your sitemap and more!



A backlink is a link from a web resource pointing to your website. A web resource may include a website, web page or directory. 

Backlinks act as an important ranking signal to Google, and the better the quality score of the backlink’s website, the better the advantage would be for the website receiving the link.


Not all backlinks are equal. The quality and index score of the website linking back makes a huge difference in the SEO advantage (the ‘link juice’) your website receives.

In the same manner, if websites with a bad or negative quality score link back to you, it could harm your website’s search score and visibility.


How to check your backlinks

  • Open Google Search console

  • Click on Search Traffic – Links to Your Site

  • Now, in the left side in Search Traffic section, I’ll click Links to Your Site. It’s the page where Google Search Console shows you your inbound links.



It tells you briefly:

  • Number of total links
  • Who links the most
  • The list of most linked pages
  • How your data is linked

The last thing is actually the list of anchor texts. It’s important because it helps you to avoid over-optimizing the text. It’s a theme for itself so I’ll write a blog post about it in coming weeks.


  •  Download Latest Links

Now it’s time to search for your backlinks. In Who links the most section, just click on the anchor text More,

and you will see these three buttons:

  • Download this table
  • Download more sample links
  • Download latest links

The last button is the one we’re looking for.You can download CSV file directly on your computer and analyze it in Microsoft Excel or you can analyze the data in Google Docs.

You can now open the saved file and review the backlinks to your website



How to check your indexed pages

You are going to use Google Search Console, which you setup at the start of this step to check the website pages indexing.

  • Log in to Search Console, and click on ‘Coverage’ in the toolbar as shown. 



  • You will see a date graph loaded with coloured sections, giving you a quick summary of your website’s pages indexing. You will see a section for any errors, pages with warnings, valid pages as well as exclusions.



Fixing Errors


  • To check for any indexing challenges on your website, click on the icon that is highlighted with a number to view more details.


  • To fix the error, click on the relevant error in the ‘details’ box below the graph as shown



  • At the bottom of the next page which loads you will see a list of the pages affected in order to make the necessary amendments.


  • Once you have made the change to the page(s) affected, go back to the search console and click on the ‘validate fix’ button as shown.



  • You can check on the progress of the validation at any time by revisiting the manner, if websites by revisiting the validation page and clicking on the ‘see details’ button that now appears.



How to check your indexed page status


  • Next you are going to check the status of all your pages indexed. Go back to the coverage section of Search Console.



  • Next , go to the ‘Indexed’ line at the bottom of the graph in the ‘Details’ section and click the ‘Indexed’ or ‘Index but not submitted in sitemap’ line item.




  • A list will load all the pages indexed in your site. Check that all your pages with content are included in this list. If not, you know that there is an indexing challenge or it needs more time.

    We will look at how to solve these challenges in the next step of this series.



Website Ranking Report

Next we will check your website ranking using a free tool, SERPRobot at this link.

There are numerous tools to use for your ranking reports, each offering their individual positive or negative aspects. If you find a tool which you really enjoy, please let me know in the comments below. 

  • Visit SERPRobot
  • Fill in your region (I chose South Africa)
  • Fill in your website domai
  • Fill in up to 10 desired key phrases to check
  • Click on the ‘Check SERP now’ button





  • Your list will now load displaying your term and the ranking position

Actions to take

Now that you have the results for your desired search phrases, you need to know what they are telling us. Before we go into these deductions, it is important to remember that ranking positions could be very volatile and shift positions within a few days.

What you see today, may not be the same tomorrow.

For this reason it is very important not to be too reactionary on any results you see, and rather wait a few days to take another rank check and see if the result is still the same or points to an upward or downward trend.

This is what action ranking positions can suggest:

  • Terms in the Top1 – 3, consistently are considered anchored terms, and will most likely not shift, but remain in this position very easily. There should be little work to do here, but if not already in the #1 slot, check what can be done to further elevate you. Compare with your competition sites and positions to see were SEO opportunities may lie.


  • Terms in the 4 – 10 position are on the right track and need little work to reach the top 3. Again, compare with competitors and see where you can elevate yourself.


  • Terms in 11 – 20 position are the ‘low hanging’ fruit in terms of the best place to look to make quick, meaningful changes. There should be a number of terms available here, and should all be very easy to affect with content changes. Look at the terminology and page structure of your competitor websites in the rank above you. Is there something they are doing better which you can learn from (not copy, but emulate and adapt)?


  • Terms in the 20 – 50 positions or lower will need considerable work and may need extra factors such as additional content pages created on your website to target them 

It is very beneficial to keep a spreadsheet of your ranking positions as they change over time to see any real upward or downward trends. These may be a bit tougher to view and realise just by comparing the last two ranking checks. .With more data, you will see these trends and start to know where to better focus your efforts

In the next step of this series we will be looking at mobile SEO and other SEO factors such as schema markup. 

How is your SEO journey going? Are you having any major pitfalls or challenges with the Analytics or keyword additions? Let me know in the comments below.


Come back and bookmark my blog for more great knowledge to enable you to go from an SEO beginner to a complete SEO winner. Stick around and follow me on my Facebook page or bookmark this Blog. If you would like to chat more about SEO and how I can help your website, please contact me at info@seou.co.za



About the Author:

Tarquin Lessing has been a SEO professional for more than 20 years and operates under the banner of ‘The Search Engine ou’. He started his online journey with the world of BBS and text-based browsing in 1993, with his formal industry SEO experience beginning in 1997. While working on optimization and submission for websites when the likes of Yahoo, Infoseek and Hotbot where the search crazes of the day, he started his love and passion for internet search.

The search landscape was soon dominated by Google’s search experience, which he embraced and became Google Search & Adwords certified. His experience in SEO over this long period has strengthened his base knowledge and has the experience to catapult new sites to success, fix older sites with SEO challenges as well as delve into deeper online marketing, search statistical analyses and pay-per-click strategies. 

Tarquin can be contacted at info@seou.co.za for any consultation, PPC & online marketing or advanced SEO work.