What exactly is a domain property in Google Search Console? You'll learn what is it and why it's important to use it as your primary property.
Google Search Console (GSC) is a powerful free tool offered by Google that gives website owners lots of data. If you don’t have GSC set up on your site, sign up for my free course to find out how. The sooner you set up your Search Console account, the sooner you'll have data about the performance of your website.
Search Console (formerly called Google Webmaster Tools) tells us how our site is performing in Google search results. We can see everything from the terms that people searched for when they landed on our sites to the average position of our pages. Read more about all that GSC can do—especially for bloggers.
Difference Between Domains and URLs
Let’s talk about the difference between domains and URLs. Many people, including myself, use these terms interchangeably, but there is a difference.
The domain of this site is painlessbloganalytics.com. It’s basically the name of the site. Whenever we type a domain name into a web browser, it is converted to a string of numbers known as the internet protocol (IP) address.
URL stands for Universal Resource Locator. It is the complete web address of our site.
Some examples of URLs for my site are:
All of these will take you to my site.
Prior to 2019, Google saw each of these URLs as separate properties. While technically that’s correct, it doesn’t help us to have the Google Search Console data about our site split up into individual reports.
To get the data for all iterations of URLs, we had to set up each individual website property in the old Google Search Console. That was time consuming. And to make sure we had a complete picture of our site’s search results, we had to look at all of the versions.
Typically, the vast majority of our traffic goes to one of those versions, so we would just check that one. But if you had recently made a change such as adding an SSL certificate to your site so that your URL was now https://painlessbloganalytics.com, you needed to check both https and http.
Since then, Google gives us the option to have the data for all of these URLs in one report. That option is the domain property report.
To set up Google Search Console for your site, you have to go through a verification process. The verification method will vary depending on whether you want to verify a URL-prefix property or a domain-level property.
Properties can be verified with one of these methods:
- HTML file upload
- HTML tag method
- Google Analytics tracking code
- Google Tag Manager
- Blogger or Google sites method
- DNS method
The only way to verify the domain property type is through the DNS method which involves adding a file to your domain name server through your domain name provider. This is a little more difficult that just verifying a URL prefix property type. I'll talk more about this later in the post.
What are the Differences Between a Domain Name Provider, a Domain Name Server, and the Domain Name System?
Your domain name provider (also called a domain name registrar) is the company that allows you to pick your domain name and register it.
The domain name system is like the internet's translator. It converts the domain into the IP address we mentioned earlier.
The domain name server is the company that manages your domain’s DNS configuration to ensure that it correctly points to your website. Often, this is just called the “name server.”
For new blogs or websites, your domain name server is most likely your domain provider–the company from which you purchased your domain such as GoDaddy or NameCheap.
If you purchase your hosting through a different company (which I highly recommend) and your website is already set up, your hosting company may be your domain name server.
Another possible name server may be your content delivery network.
Cloudflare defines a content delivery network (CDN) as “a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content.”
If you use a CDN, your name server will likely be managed by that company. For example, I use Cloudflare as my CDN, so that is where my DNS files are.
Why Does it Matter Which Type of Property You Use When Setting up Your Account for Google Search Console?
As we mentioned earlier, the domain property option will give you the most complete information because it covers your entire domain. For the majority of bloggers, this is the best way to set up your account.
But when would a website owner want to use the URL prefix method? Let's think about an online store.
Maybe you want to track your Google search results for your women's shoes page. The URL for that might be https://store.com/shoes/women. We could set up this URL as a new property to find out key SEO metrics for it such as impressions, average position, and average click through rate.
Having this type of performance report for the women's shoes page of your site can help you improve it.
What are the Disadvantages of Using a URL as Your Primary Property in Google Search Console?
While there are specific reasons why a person may want to use a URL property in their GSC account, it makes much more sense to use the domain as your primary property so that you get the results for your whole domain.
How to Verify a Domain Property
The only method we can use to verify a domain level property is through the DNS method. It is a bit more difficult that the URL verification methods.
Google Search Console will give you a small file–either a TXT record or a CNAME record depending on how your site is set up. The instructions here will help you determine which type of file you need to use.
If you would like to see step-by-step video instructions on how to verify your domain property, sign up for my free course, How to Set Up and Configure Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Note: If you've already set up your Google Analytics account, you can skip that part of the course.
After you have uploaded the file to your DNS, verification may be instantaneous or it may take a couple of days.
I hope this has given a better understanding of what a domain property is in Google Search Console. Leave a comment to let me know!