When we think of websites, we tend to think of cool pages we saw or great content that we read. However, search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important factors of a website. Without great SEO practices in place, a website won’t have the opportunity to be seen by many people, or may not be easily navigable. Inversely, you may not understand what kinds of terms are bringing people to your website.
Google Search Console is a favourite of content marketing agencies like ours and is one tool that can help you understand what’s going on with your site and how it’s faring in search results.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) allows you to understand how Google interprets and presents your website in search results. There are many factors that contribute to having a great SEO score – relevant keywords, mobile responsiveness, and the number of quality links are just a few of them.
In a previous article, we helped you set up Google Search Console for your domain, and today we’ll be looking at some of the tools it offers to help bolster your website’s SEO.
Google Search Console Terminology
What’s a query?
A query is a term that someone typed into Google search that resulted in your site coming up in search results.
What’s an impression?
Each time a link to your site appears in search results on Google it generates an impression. A user doesn’t have to click on or even see your result for an impression to happen, only that your site is on the page of results.
What’s a click?
When a user clicks on a link in search results that takes them to your site, this generates a click in Search Console.
The Performance section is the meat and potatoes of Google Search Console for most people. This is the section that will tell you which were your most popular queries and top landing pages, among other data.
By default, GSC will show you data for web results (vs. video or image searches) for the last 3 months. You can edit this by filtering the data at the top of the Performance tab.
You can add additional filters, such as a specific query or landing page by clicking on the NEW button. You can get very specific in the data you want to look at. We recommend playing around with combinations of filters to see what’s possible.
The main report will show you your most popular queries sorted by clicks or impressions. You can change which is the main way to sort by clicking on the column title.
You can switch between most popular countries, landing pages, countries, and devices by clicking on the titles in the Performance report.
Things to watch out for include a high impression to click ratio. This could indicate that your site is being included in search results but isn’t enticing users to click on the result. Consider adjusting your meta search title and description to better hook users.
If you want to know the status of a single page, paste the URL into the search box at the top of Google Search Console (this shows on every screen).
What you’ll get back is an overview of the page according to Google. If everything is ok you’ll see green checkboxes. If your page is new and isn’t currently indexed, or if you’ve recently made updates to it, you can click on ‘Request Index’ to ask Google to crawl the page.
The Coverage section of Google Search Console will give you an overview of how many pages have been indexed successfully, as well as any errors that have come up while crawling your site.
We’ve all experienced them – 404 pages, faulty redirects, and every so often the endless loop of pages trying to send us to other pages and so on. Not only can such things diminish a website’s user experience, but they’re also detrimental to your SEO score. You can click any errors that may appear for a more detailed description.
A sitemap is an XML document that details all of the pages that are included on your website. It’s not necessary to have one to show up in search results but we recommend both having one and submitting it through Google Search Console to help Google along. It can be especially helpful for new sites.
Tools like Yoast SEO can automatically create this file for you.
To submit your sitemap to Google Search Console, navigate to the Sitemaps section under Index and enter the URL of your sitemap. If using WordPress and Yoast, this will typically be /sitemap.xml
Google has recently switched to mobile-first indexing so it’s more important than ever that your site be mobile-friendly. The section of Google Search Console will alert you to any errors that may be holding you back.
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages and is Google’s technology for stripping out unnecessary bits from your site to serve up pages super fast. If you have AMP implemented on your site, this section of Google Search Console will give you an overview of how many AMP pages have been indexed and any errors that may have been encountered.
If your site uses the Logo markup, this section will appear in Google Search Console and you’ll be able to review the trends of errors, warnings, and valid items. The Logo markup will specify the image Google Search uses for your organization’s logo in Search results and in the Knowledge Graph.
If your site enables the Sitelinks Searchbox this section will appear in Google Search Console and you’ll be able to review the warnings and errors per page, as well as the list of valid items.
When activated, the Sitelinks Searchbox appears under the main search result from a given brand. So after searching for the brand in Google, you can directly use the search engine of the online store or site where you want to look something up. If you are using Yoast SEO on your WordPress site, this code will likely already have been set up.
Security & Manual Actions
One of the easiest and most surefire ways to help your SEO is to have authoritative and relevant websites linking to your content. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: having links from less reputable websites may hurt your SEO. By visiting the Links section under the Security & Manual Actions heading, you can see which websites are linking to your content as well as your own top internal links. By clicking on any row in the tables you can drill down to get more information about that link.
While these are just a handful of the things that Search Console can do, they are all vital in ensuring that your website has a great SEO score. We encourage you to fully explore all of the things that Search Console can do to gain a thorough understanding of your website’s idiosyncrasies. If you have any questions about getting the most out of Search Console for your website, or questions about SEO in general, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!