If you’re familiar with SEO, you may know Google Search Console as Google Webmaster Tools. If you have a website and are looking for a way to monitor and optimise it, then you should be using GSC.
Google Search Console is a free platform that offers information on site and mobile site performance, displays rich search results and allows you to view the highest traffic queries and pages.
You too should be benefiting from this amazing tool right now! This guide will guide you through Google Search Console step-by-step, from adding your website to more advanced uses of the platform.
Google Search Console will help you monitor how your website appears in Google search results. You can also use it to gain access to other important data, including information on search traffic, information on the specific queries that show your pages on SERPs, information on backlinks and more.
Monitoring your website’s traffic and optimising the way it shows up on Google’s search results means you can easily identify errors and drastically improve your rankings.
Adding and Verifying Your Website
First of all, make sure that you’re signed in to the right Google account. Head over to the Google Webmaster Tools page and click on ‘Start now’.
Google will then ask that you select a property type. The new Domain feature will let you input all URLs across all subdomains and all URLs across https or http. Domain input requires DNS verification while the URL prefix option allows for multiple verification methods.
Google Search Console offers access to confidential information about a website’s performance, which is why you need to have your website verified first.
There are many other verification methods available. You can upload a verification HTML file or use a Google Analytics tracking code. Keep in mind that websites hosted by Google (e.g. Blogger) are automatically verified.
The performance tab will tell you which pages do best on your website and what keywords you’re currently ranking for. You can see the data up to 16 months, but the data only becomes available once you set up your account (i.e. you won’t have access to metrics and data gathered before you created your account).
Keep an eye on this tab to quickly identify keywords or pages that look like they might require some more optimisation. If you click on the performance tab, a list of four items will appear in the middle of the screen: ‘queries’, ‘pages’, ‘countries’, and ‘devices’. You can sort each one of those sections by clicking on ‘clicks’, ‘impressions’, ‘average CTR’, or ‘average position’.
Clicks clearly indicate the number of people who clicked on your website in the search results. This mostly depends on your position. The Impressions tab offers information on how often a specific page on your website appears in the search results. Average CTR (click-through rate) will tell you the exact percentage of people who clicked and made it to your website.
This tab may be a bit more technical but provides users with valuable information that shows how many pages have been indexed, how many have yet to be indexed, and what went wrong with the pages that were not indexed.
The goal is to have all the pages on your website indexed. Errors are caused when a page redirects users to dead or non-existing pages or when broken code and errors are found in your theme. If you click on a specific link, you’ll be able to find out more about the affected URLs. Fix any errors and click on ‘Validate Fix’.
When creating new content, the number of indexed pages on your website should increase rapidly, and the stats should reflect that. Any sudden drops usually mean that Google is having a hard time indexing your pages. Unexpected sudden spikes are not a good sign either. They may point to duplicate content issues, automatically-generated pages, or even hacks.
AMP, Job Postings & Events
If you’ve setup AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for your website, you’ll be able to check for errors in Google Search Console. You can see which URLs are affected and test whether they’ve been fixed. Click on one to receive more information about it. Try to get everything fixed and then click on ‘validate fix’ on the right-hand side of the screen.
The Job postings tab lets you track the performance and stability of your job postings website function. You can also gain useful feedback on your structured markup for events by keeping an eye on the events tab.
You want Google’s bots to be able to crawl your site effectively. If Google crawlers can properly identify and follow linked pages on your website then you’ll surely see a big difference in ranking.
To help Google with crawling, you should submit a sitemap of your blog or website via GSC. You can also still use the Google Webmaster Tool to submit your sitemap.
Once on the Google search console main menu, select your website and click on Sitemaps, located on the left sidebar. Add your sitemap URL on the input box that will appear on the right side of the screen.
A sitemap is not necessary to rank but will improve your site’s crawlability and is especially useful if your website’s big. The more pages your website has, the harder it is for Google to track minor changes or additions.
A sitemap is also extremely useful if your website is relatively new. Newer websites have fewer backlinks, and it is difficult for crawlers to discover them.
Google Search Console also provides users with a detailed list of all the external and internal links on your website. You can see what pages you’re linking to and what pages are linking to you.
You can use the links tool to find out if any important pages are not linked to enough. Remember that you want new and high-ranking pages to get the most internal links.
Google Search Console may be one of the most useful tools around, but some tabs are missing from the new version of the platform. There are some things that you still can’t do in the new GSC, which is why it’s good to keep the old version of GSC handy, just in case:
- Search Appearance tab. ‘Structured data’, ‘rich cards’, ‘data highlighter’, and ‘HTML improvements’ are all missing in the new version.
- International Targeting tab. Offered easy optimisation to pages who targeted audiences from all over the world.
- Crawl Stats tab. The new crawls tab doesn’t seem to display every single error.
- Security Issues tab. Users used to receive notifications every time their website had a security issue.
That’s all for today! We’re sure that Google will soon add these missing features to the new version of GSC. In the meanwhile, keep the old Google Webmaster Tools handy, and make sure you check our blog regularly for any updates or changes.