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How to Recover Historical Search Console Data

One of the things that I run into a lot with clients is where they've lost access to their Google Search Console data.

More often than not they never even knew such a thing existed.  Which occasionally makes tracking down the owner of that data somewhat of a challenge.

If you're a newbie to the Search Engine Optimisation game then Google Search Console is first and foremost where you'll find the keywords that a website ranks for.

And when I say 'ranks for' I mean, it shows up in search results, even if that position is on page 320.

Together with the word or phrase it shows up for, you'll also get shown how many times it showed up (impressions) how many times it got clicked, and the star of the show, in what position it appeared.

There's also a Click-through rate column, but when I'm working on a site for the first time with low traffic the CTR is not as important as the other 3.

The reason Search Console data is so key is that without it you can't really say in what position your site appears in the search results and you can't see all the keywords you rank for.

And just in case you're thinking wait, can't I see my rankings if I Google myself? You would be incorrect.

The majority of us are always signed in to our Google accounts, so when you do a search, Google records it, it's trying to help you after all.

So if you've visited a website many times you'll most likely see that website in your page one search results.

The problem is, that your target market doesn't see the same results. And that's why Search Console is so great. You get to see the position your site lands in for all 'those' searches.

The next reason Search Console historical data is so important is that you can stop ranking for a keyword.

You could also be ranking for keywords that have nothing to do with your business or you might have never ranked for an important industry-specific keyword.

For example, this website should technically rank for the word 'seo and web design' after all that's exactly the service we offer, and yet every now and then we simply disappear from the search results altogether.

Without Google Search Console we'd never know that.

Now that we've discussed why Google Search Console is so important, let's move on to discovering whether or not you ever had it linked to your website.

How to Check if You Have Google Search Console Linked to Your Website

The only way to check if you have Google Search Console linked is to access your websites public_html directory.

Step 1

Log In to CPanel

Note: Your ISP will have emailed you the URL and login details when you first signed up for website hosting.

Step 2

Select File manager from your Dashboard.

Note: Internet Service Providers don't all use CPanel and when they do there are a variety of layouts. The key is to find your File Manager. If you don't see it right away, look for a search box and type in 'file'.

Step 3

Once you're in the file manager look for your public_html folder.

Step 4

Find an html file that starts with google and is followed by a long string of numbers. If you find it, it means Google Search console has been linked and has been collecting information about your website.

If you do find a google verification file the next step is to find out who has that information. Normally it's the company that designed your website. You'll need to contact them and ask them to give you access to your Google Search Console data.

How To Gain Access To Your Historical Google Search Console Data If You've Lost Contact With The Person Who Installed It

Ok so you've confirmed that there is indeed a Google Search Console verification file on your site. But how do you get access to the data?

This is where the problem comes in. Because unless the person who initially verified the property shares it with you there is no simple way to get all that data in a few simple steps.

Instead, to get it, and by it, I mean both some or all of it, you need to add a TXT item to the site's DNS records.

You Will Need

  1. A Gmail account. You may want to use an existing Gmail account or create a new one.
  2. Access to your CPanel dashboard.

Step 1

Go to www.gmail.com. This will take you to your existing Gmail account. Click your avatar icon top right.

Step 2

From the dropdown that appears select Add another account.

Step 3

A new page opens up and you're shown a list of the Gmail accounts you're currently logged in to. Select Use another account at the bottom of the list.

Step 4

That takes you to the log-in page. Ignore the email or phone input field and select the Create account option.

Step 5

Choose your prefered option from the selection that drops down.

Step 6

Fill in the details as per the form that pops up.

Note: Remember to keep a copy of your new Gmail accounts password

Step 7

Another form pops up, for this one fill in your account recovery information.

Step 8

The next form that pops up is the terms and conditions. Scroll to the bottom and click agree.

Step 9

The next window that opens is the confirmation window. Click continue.

Note: When you click Continue, another tab for Google My Business will open. Close that tab for now. You'll find that the original tab now shows you your new Gmail account dashboard.

Step 10

That's it. You're done and you now have a new Gmail email address.

Step 1

Sign in to Google using the Gmail address you want to connect Google Search Console to.

Step 2

Go to Google Search Console

Step 3

Click the Start now button

Step 4

Google Search Console opens and asks for you to select property.

Note: They only want the website address that comes after the www. which means you should remove any prefixes that include the https://www.

Step 5

Google Search Console checks to see if that website exists.

Step 6

The next screen that pops up is the domain ownership verification. Keep this tab open while you proceed with the next steps.

Step 7

Log in to your CPanel Dashboard

Step 7a

Log In to CPanel

Note: Your ISP will have emailed you the URL and login details when you first signed up for website hosting.

Step 7b

Select File manager from your Dashboard.

Note: Internet Service Providers don't all use CPanel and when they do there are a variety of layouts. The key is to find your File Manager. If you don't see it right away, look for a search box and type in 'file'.

Step 7c

Once you're in the file manager look for your public_html folder.

Step 8

Once you're in your CPanel dashboard either look for or do a search for the DNS Zone editor.

Step 9

Click the manage button.

Step 10

Click the Add Record button.

Step 11

A new entry will appear and here you will need to add:

  1. Your URL without any prefixes
  2. A TTL  (Time to load) speed of 1200
  3. Set the Type drop-down to TXT
  4. Go back to the Google Search Console Tab we left open earlier and copy and paste the code into the record section.

Special Note - Not all CPanel layouts allow the addition of a TXT DNS record.  If you find yourself unable to add it send the Search Console Code to your Hosting provider and ask them to add it for you.

If your hosting provider needs to add the DNS record, go back to Search Console and click verify later. Then in a day or so when the record has been added repeat all the Search Console steps to this stage and click verify.

Step 12

Once you've verified your ownership of the property you'll see an unpopulated dashboard. Now all you need to do is wait a few days.

Step 13

After the dashboard has populated you'll see something like this image below. Which mean you now have access to the historical data you were looking for.

Comparing the recovered data to live data.

For the purpose of this tutorial, we accessed our own website data. And naturally, we compared it to our normal dashboard.

Even though there seemed to be a glitch with the overview, by clicking into the performance report the figures matched up fairly closely.

Here's what our normal overview looks like. Compared to the restored data report. And the second line is the performance reports side by side.

Ranking on Google takes time and dedication. But without factual data all ones efforts are nothing more than shots in the dark. Google Search Console a vital tool in ensuring you are making progress.

Summary

Step-by-step instructions with images on how to recover historical Search Console data for those times when you've lost touch with the person who originally set it up.

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