Google Search Console (GSC) provides valuable insights and data to make your site and content easier to find. But what is Google Search Console exactly, and how can you best use it? Optimizing your website for higher rankings in search engines can bring in more traffic, leads, and sales.
Here, we roll up our sleeves and explore GSC, including what it can do to improve your website’s visibility.
- Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a free dashboard that allows owners to improve website performance in Google search results and other search engines.
- It offers insights into how your site is performing overall, in addition to page performance. From search appearance to search queries, you can use Google Search Console data to improve performance, as well as monitor for dips and spikes.
- Notable Google Search Console features include a URL inspection tool for troubleshooting page appearance, performance reports, sitemap creation and submission, and indexing reports showing crawling and indexing status of all URLs and 404ing internal links.
- SEOTesting is an SEO tool you can use in conjunction with Google Search Console to find out what changes would bring the best results for your website through easily digestible reports sent to your email.
- What Exactly Is Google Search Console?
- How to Access Google Search Console
- Notable Features of Google Search Console
- How to Take GSC Data to the Next Level
What Exactly Is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a free dashboard that allows owners to improve website performance in Google search results. The tool offers you everything you need to boost search rankings, including valuable insights into how search engines view web pages and index them. The information is invaluable in streamlining and optimizing your website, as it allows you to monitor and improve performance.
Google Search Console also has ongoing features that help those experienced in SEO stay on top of new critical updates and rectify potential issues early. For instance, Google Search Console can send notifications when it has trouble crawling or indexing your pages. The notices allow you to fix the problem immediately without affecting your search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
How to Access Google Search Console
Now that you understand Google Search Console, sign up to use the free tool. Accessing GSC ensures you can improve your website and boost search rankings while drawing in new visitors. Here is the two-step process.
Add Your Site
The first step in setting up your site in Google Search Console is creating a Google account if you don’t already have one. Once you have an account, head over to the GSC home page and click on the “add property” button. Here, you’ll be asked to provide the exact URL of your website; make sure to include both http:// and https:// versions of the URL if applicable.
Verify Your Domain
Next, you will need to verify site ownership, which involves downloading the HTML file from Search Console and uploading it to your site. Remember to keep the file even after verifying. Google Search Console offers other methods of verifying website ownership apart from an HTML file upload, including:
- An HTML meta tag that you copy and paste into the head section of the website home page
- Using a Google Analytics (GA) tracking code
- Using your Google Tag Manager container ID
- Signing into your domain name provider and pasting a given TXT record into the DNS configuration
After selecting the confirmation method, tap on the Verify button. The step allows Google to check if you own the site. The last step gives you access to your website’s SEO and performance analytics.
Notable Features of Google Search Console
Now that you have set up and can access Google Search Console, the next step is to examine your website data to improve your SEO and performance in search results.
Here is a list of the search features in GSC that can help you optimize your site and make the process easier.
URL Inspection Tool
The URL inspection tool shows you what Google sees when viewing your page. It is invaluable for troubleshooting whether your pages appear properly in Google search results.
For each URL you submit, you can:
- Request indexing for any pages you update
- View how Google discovers the page using referring internal pages and sitemaps
- View the last time Google crawled the URL
- Check if the search engine is using the declared canonical URL or another
- Inspect the page for mobile usability issues
- Confirm enhancements such as breadcrumbs
- Confirm linking sites
The “Performance” tab of GSC shows all keywords your website covered over the last 16 months. The reports offer four options:
- Clicks: These are the total clicks on search queries that take visitors to your site
- Impressions: The frequency at which your site appears on Google
- Click-through rate (CTR): The rate at which people click through to your site
- Position: This is the average position over a selected period of a specific URL or keyword
Besides the four options, you also get these data views that are selectable for a focused analysis:
- Searches: The number of keywords for which your website is visible
- Countries: Where the organic visits come from
- Search format: How the pages compare with structured data
- Pages: The pages visible on Google
- Devices: The devices your website visitors are using
- Date: The period for which you want to view the data
You can compare or filter all these data views on the performance report. Some interesting analyses you can carry out include identifying keyword cannibalization and finding search intent.
A sitemap is an XML file listing critical pages on your website so search engines can discover them easily. You need a sitemap if your website is large or difficult to crawl because of regular new content. You can create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google via the Search Console. Also, ensure you submit an updated sitemap when you revamp a website. However, remove the old one to prevent data from clogging your account.
Indexing coverage reports show the crawling and indexing status of all URLs Google discovers for your site. The information informs you of any technical issues preventing your web pages from being indexed or crawled correctly. Aim to increase the number of validly indexed pages by solving any errors or warnings the Google index coverage report throws.
Security and Manual Actions
Search Console offers actionable insights into your website’s search performance and clues on areas that require improvement. Security features include automated checks to identify issues such as bad scripts, negative SEO, malware injection, and hacking via the manual actions tab.
Google manual actions are a way for the search engine to demote or remove websites or web pages from indexing in search results. The feature is not related to algorithm changes but is a way of punishing sites for spammy behavior.
Types of manual actions include:
- Unnatural links to your website
- Thin content
- Hidden text and keyword stuffing
- Spammy free hosts
The Google Page Experience report feature grades your URLs for mobile-friendliness. The report includes pages with a “good” experience, “failing” URLs, and organic search impressions from your “good” URLs.
This report tracks the quality of your website page experience based on:
- Security and HTTPS
- Advertising experience
- Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics
Use the report to track the impact of metrics on your organic search channel and identify opportunities for improving page experience and search performance.
Core Web Vitals
The CWV report contains a set of factors Google considers critical for improving a user’s experience. It includes three specific user interactions and site speed measurements:
- First input delay
- Largest contentful paint
- Cumulative layout shift
The Mobile Usability report helps you identify any issues website visitors experience when using their handheld devices. You get chart labels for each page on your website, identifying whether it is mobile-friendly or not.
Some errors the Mobile Usability tab report can identify include:
- Text that is too small
- Clickable elements that are too close together
- Problems with CLS and LCP
Enhancements — Structured Data
The Enhancements section of the GSC dashboard helps you track and manage optional elements of your website that contain structured data. There is an AMP test, a mobile usability test, and breadcrumbs. All the tabs in the section show the number of valid enhancements, errors, or warnings you have.
Use Google Search Console Enhancements reports to find and fix issues likely affecting site performance in Google search results and page speed. Resolving the problems, reading the attached support documentation, and validating the fixes will increase the chances of improving Google’s search results for each page of your site.
Link Reports help you understand the internal and external links in and to your website.
The Links report offers several sections, including:
- Text with the most links to a page
- The page with more internal links than others
- The page with most external links
- Websites with the most links to your website
How to Take GSC Data to the Next Level
Google Search Console is a fascinating tool that can help improve your website’s rankings. However, you can take it a step further by integrating it with another tool. One way of taking the GSC data to the next level is using SEOTesting.
SEOTesting is an SEO tool that uses data from Google Search Console and presents it meaningfully. The tool makes it easy to run SEO tests to find out what changes bring the best results and to get advice on what to scale up. SEOTesting.com’s reporting module automatically sends you reports that help monitor progress from GSC data. Overall, the platform is highly effective for search engine optimization experts and website owners.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Google Search Console Good for SEO?
Google Search Console is a powerful, free SEO tool. Using the provided data, you can gain access to information and features that can help improve the SEO performance of your website. Some ways to use Search Console to improve SEO include:
– Monitoring keyword ranking, average position, organic traffic, CTR, and other metrics
– Identifying sitemaps, disavowing files, and removals
– Troubleshooting and identifying mobile usability problems
– Analyzing crucial internal and external links, the top sites link, top linked pages, and anchor text allocation
– Tracking index coverage and checking if Google crawlers can index your web pages properly
– Improving search appearance instances
Is Google Search Console the Same as Google Analytics?
Both are free tools that help you understand how well your website ranks for particular key phrases and how much traffic they bring in. However, use the programs in tandem to get the most out of each. Search Console is a site monitoring tool that shows how well your site is doing in terms of traffic, clicks, impressions, and more. However, Console will not offer insight into search trends or user intent that is likely affecting your traffic.
Instead, GA offers user data and how search results adapt to new trends. The tool is critical for creating a proactive approach to the type of content you produce to ensure consistent traffic growth and maintenance for the long haul.
Why Is Google Search Console Data Not Matching Google Analytics?
GSC and GA numbers will never match. This is because they use different measurement parameters.
Some reasons they never match include:
– GA measures at the website level, while GSC is a measure of the search result
– GSC clicks depend on Google search clicks, while GA measures Google search and Google Ads clicks
– GSC tracks only one domain per account, while GA can track multiple sub-domains in a single account
– There is a 1,000-page limit for GSC when recording landing pages, and GA does not have such limitations
– Ad-blocking software affects data in GA
Remember, someone clicking on a search result does not mean they visit your site. They can close the browser, tap, or hit the back button before a page loads, which GSC tracks as a click but GA does not.
How Far Back Does Google Search Console Data Go?
Google Search Console keeps your website data for up to 16 months after crawling the pages. You can view how updates to your website content affect the overall site performance within 48 hours.
Overall, Google Search Console is an invaluable tool for understanding your website’s performance in search engine result pages. It can help answer a variety of questions: Are pages appearing the way you expect them to? How does your content rank in comparison to competitors? Does a certain keyword have enough volume for it to be worth pursuing?
GSC provides helpful insights about how users interact with your website that can be used to identify opportunities for growth and improvement. In short, all website owners should use this free and helpful resource to inform their content strategy. Ultimately, by leveraging this tool, your website will become more visible in search engine result pages and be uncovered by millions of potential viewers every month.
With 11 years of experience in the marketing industry, Will Colbath is an expert in SEO content creation and campaign development. His extensive knowledge and skill have helped businesses achieve their goals with increased online traffic and search engine rankings. Outside of work, Will enjoys playing golf and participating in amateur tournaments throughout Southern California.