If you’re like most website owners, you want to increase your search rankings and traffic. In order to do this, you have to have insights into how search engines are indexing and ranking your content to what SEO improvements you need to make.
Without data, you are just guessing, and your SEO efforts will be inconsistent at best. Let me show you why you need to be using Google Search Console to easily gain access to tons of valuable search data about your site that can help improve your SEO efforts.
Once you set up and verify your website, you will be able to access the search data that Google has on your website and use it to improve your rankings and troubleshoot any issues with your site or pages.
In this article, I will walk you through how to set up and use Google Search Console data to maximize your SEO efforts and improve your site’s search performance.
What is Google Search Console?
Google created Search Console (formerly called Google Webmaster Tools) to allow website owners like you, to manage their websites’ visibility in search engine rankings.
It provides analytics about the performance of your website, including data on impressions, clicks, search queries, and more that help you quickly identify issues and opportunities to improve your site’s organic search traffic.
What is Google Search Console Used For?
Google Search Console is primarily used to monitor your website’s performance in search engine rankings.
It provides data on impressions, clicks, search queries, and more that can help you identify problems that need to be fixed on your site and opportunities to improve your rankings through tweaking current pages or generating new pages.
Its data and reports can be mined to find valuable insights to help you optimize your current content and provide insights into where you should focus next in your content plans.
What is the difference between Google Analytics and Search Console?
Both Google Analytics and Google Search Console are tools that Google provides to help you analyze your site’s performance and traffic. While they both provide a wealth of data and valuable insights about your sites, there are key differences in the types of data and focus of each tool.
Google Analytics is a comprehensive analytics tool that provides you with tracking data and traffic data from all sources. It helps you track and better understand how visitors interact with your website.
When used with Google Ads and Google Tag Manager, you get detailed conversion data to help optimize your advertising budget.
Google Search Console, on the other hand, is more focused on SEO-related data related to Google search results and search performance.
It provides search analytics, including impressions, clicks, and search queries, along with crawl errors and more that can help you identify any issues or problems that may be affecting your site’s ranking in search results.
Why is Google Search Console Important for SEO?
You need data to drive your SEO efforts, and Google Search Console can give you the detailed data you need on how your site is performing in Google’s search results.
You can quickly identify issues that are affecting your site’s page rankings, analyze the performance of your search results, and find areas to target for SEO improvements.
You can use the data on impressions, clicks, and search queries to help you identify areas to optimize your content to improve its click-through rate, bounce rates, and rankings in google search results. You can also use the data to discover new opportunities to target with new content.
Google Search Console provides you with tons of resources to diagnose technical SEO issues and helps guide you on where to focus your SEO efforts for the most impact.
How to Get Started with Google Search Console
Getting started with Google Search Console takes just a few steps. Here are steps to get started and make the most out of Google Search Console:
Set Up and Verify Your Website
The first thing you need to set up your Google search console account by going to the Google Search Console sign-in page.
Once you have signed up, you will need to create a “Property,” which will track your site. Just click on “Add Property” and then select the property type as shown below:
Select the property type based on how you want to verify site ownership. The domain property type requires DNS verification, while the URL prefix type gives you several other options for verification.
Once you’ve selected the property type and entered your site’s domain or URL, you will need to verify site ownership. If you chose the URL prefix method, then you have 5 options for verifying your website.
The easiest options are to use your Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager accounts if you have already set them up. Otherwise, you will have to upload the HTML file, add a meta tag to your home page, or add a DNS record.
Add Additional Users
Now that you have your account set up, you can add additional Google Search Console users to allow other people to access your site’s data. To add another user, just click on settings and go to ‘Users and permissions’.
Click on the Add User button and enter the google account email of the user you want to add and then select the permission level.
The owner permission level gives them full access, including the ability to manage users. Full access gives them access to all the data but not the ability to manage users. And Restricted gives them access to only the areas you allow.
Add Your Sitemaps
Once you’ve set up and verified your website, the next step is to submit your sitemaps to Google Search Console.
What is a sitemap and why is it important for your website?
A sitemap is an XML file that outlines the structure of a website and provides Google with information about the pages on your site.
You need to create and submit an XML sitemap as it helps Google discover, index, and rank content quicker, ensuring that all relevant pages on your site are indexed quickly and accurately.
To submit a sitemap, go to the Sitemaps section of Search Console, click “Add/Test Sitemap,” and enter the URL for your sitemap file.
If you don’t know the location of your sitemap, look in the base directory of your web host and see if there is an XML file with “sitemap” in the name – that is your site map. Note: You may have more than one sitemap file, and you will want to submit all of them to Google.
How to create a sitemap If You Don’t Have One?
If you don’t have one, there are tools available that can generate one for you. If you are using WordPress, most SEO plugins will automatically generate a sitemap and keep it up to date as you add posts and pages to your site.
Submit New Pages for Indexing
If you’ve recently added new pages or updated old pages on your site, you can submit them to be crawled and indexed in Google Search Console.
Just enter the exact URL name of the page you want to be indexed in the Search bar at the top of the Search Console dashboard, and Google will check that the page is live and add it to its list of URLs to index in the future.
There is no set time on when Google will get around to crawling your new page, and submitting it more than once will have no effect. So just be patient and know that Google will eventually index the pages you submit.
How to Link Google Analytics With Search Console
Linking Google Analytics and Google Search Console together allows you to leverage the capabilities of both platforms and gain a more comprehensive understanding of how visitors interact with your website.
Linking Google Analytics and Search Console is a simple process that requires access to the Admin section of Google Analytics. Just go to your ‘Settings’ and select ‘Search Console Links’.
Then just walk through the prompts to select your Search Console property and website for web streams, and your accounts will be linked. Once the link is established, you can start to view a range of SEO data from within Google Analytics.
Exploring Google Search Console Tools
Before we jump into how you can use Google Search Console to improve the SEO of your site, let’s explore the Google Search Console dashboard and walk through the various reports and tools it provides.
You need to have a good understanding of how to navigate through the reports and tools to quickly access the data you need to make informed SEO decisions.
Let’s dive into the types of data you can pull from Google Search Console.
What Data Can You Pull From Google Search Console?
Google Search Console can help you gain a more comprehensive understanding of your website’s performance in search engine rankings.
The platform provides valuable insights into keywords and phrases your website is ranking for, how often people are clicking on links to your website from the search engine results pages (SERPs), how much traffic you are getting from organic sources, and which pages are most often visited.
Additionally, you can view information about the types of queries that are driving traffic to your website and which devices visitors are using.
The following sections will walk you through each of the Google Search Console Features in the order they appear in the sidebar within Search Console.
Google Search Console Overview
The Google Search Console Overview page provides a comprehensive overview of your website’s performance in a simple-to-read dashboard of graphs.
On this page, you will get an overview of your site’s performance, page indexing stats, user experience, and structure data stats. This all-in-one page gives you a quick view into the health of your site and helps you see if there are any issues that need addressing.
Performance Search Results
The Performance page of Google Search Console provides an in-depth look at how your website is performing in the search engine rankings.
You can view information about impressions, clicks, click-through rate (CTR), average position, and many more metrics.
Additionally, you can filter this data by query type, individual page, device, country, and time period. Allowing you to do deep analysis down to the page level to help guide you on what SEO changes are needed to improve that page’s search result.
The page also provides information about the queries that are driving traffic to your website and which pages users are viewing most often. This data can be used to identify trends and opportunities for improving your search engine rankings.
URL Inspection Tool
The URL Inspection Tool allows you to analyze your web pages and understand how they appear in search engine results.
This tool enables you to determine whether a page is indexed if it has been crawled recently, and if there are any issues with the page that may prevent it from appearing correctly in web search results.
It also allows you to request that Google crawl a specific page for indexing new pages or re-indexing updated pages.
The Indexing Reports allows you to view the indexed pages of your site, view and submit sitemaps, and, if needed, remove a specific page from indexing. These features allow you to manage how Google finds and indexes the pages on your site.
The Index Coverage Report (Pages tab) helps you understand how the search engine is crawling and indexing the pages on your site.
It provides you with an overview of the indexing status of your pages, allowing you to see which pages are indexed and which ones aren’t.
For the pages that are not indexed, you can view what issues or errors are preventing them from being indexed so that you can work on fixing them or removing them from indexing consideration.
This report provides a detailed overview of the indexing status of your web pages, displaying any errors, warnings, and unindexable pages found by Google during the crawling process.
You can use this data to find out what is preventing your pages from being indexed and ranked in order to fix them.
The sitemap section allows you to submit new sitemaps and view your submitted sitemaps. We have already covered the process of submitting sitemaps above.
You can see all the site maps that have been submitted, along with the last read date, the status of the sitemap, and the number of pages and videos listed in the site map.
And by clicking on a sitemap, you can get more detailed information, including the page indexing report for that sitemap.
The ‘Removals’ tool allows you to submit individual pages you want to be removed from indexing and track the status of your removed URLs. Sometimes it is necessary to remove an outdated page from indexing to prevent it from cannibalizing newer content in the rankings.
The Experience Reports section provides detailed insights into the performance of your site’s pages based on user experience metrics.
Google now factors in user experience and usability across devices as a major component of its ranking algorithm.
So you should use these reports to identify any usability issues and make improvements to ensure you are providing your visitors with the best possible user experience on all devices.
The Page Experience report provides data on how user experience and interact with your site.
It will show you how long it takes for a page to load, how many visitors interact with the page, and whether there are any errors or issues preventing your page from loading correctly.
Core Web Vitals
The Core Web Vitals report provides you with a comprehensive view of your page performance regarding three key indicators: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
You need to have a basic understanding of what each of these metrics represents about your page’s performance:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – LCP measures the render or load time of the largest block visible within the viewport (screen’s view of the content). The guideline for this metric is 2.5 seconds or less for a good user experience.
- First Input Delay (FID) – FID measures the time from when the user can first interact with the page until the browser can respond to that request. The guideline for this metric is 100 milliseconds or less for good user experience – any longer, and the user will notice the delay.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – CLS measures the stability of the layout of your page as it loads and is viewed. It basically is a score of frequency and number of layout shifts (visible elements moving on the page) that occur over the lifespan of your page. The guideline for this metric is 0.1 or less for a good user experience.
These metrics are essential for providing a user-friendly experience, as they measure how quickly the page loads, how interactive it is, and how stable its layout is.
The Mobile Usability report in Google Search Console provides you with detailed insights into how your site functions on mobile devices.
The report highlights any mobile usability issues that may be preventing users from enjoying a good mobile experience, including the viewport not set, content wider than the screen, clickable elements too close together, and content not sized to the viewport.
Additionally, the report also provides information about blocked resources, plugins, and redirects.
Making sure your site is optimized for mobile devices is essential for providing a good user experience.
The Mobile Usability report can help you identify any mobile usability issues that need to be addressed and ensure that users can use your site from any device.
How important is it for your site to work on Mobile devices?
60% of all searches are now carried out on Mobile devices, and mobile search usability has become an important factor in Google’s ranking algorithm.
The Enhancements Reports allow you to identify any issues with the structured data on your site, such as missing or invalid information.
These issues can prevent Google from being able to accurately understand the content within your structure data and prevent your pages from including Google Search’s rich results.
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Report helps you see how Google is crawling and indexing your FAQ-structured data and to identify and troubleshoot any issues found in the FAQ-structured data you have included on your site.
What is FAQ Structure Data and Why Use It?
FAQ structure data allows you to create a question-answer section on your page that, when indexed, can show up as additional rich results in your search listing.
This can significantly up search appearance and increase the click-through rate on your pages.
Sitelinks Searchbox allows you to see how your structure data for the search box is being indexed by Google and any issues Google found are preventing it from being used.
What is SiteLINKS SearchBox Structure Data and Why Use It?
Sitelinks Searchbox provides a search box inside the search result for your pages, allowing users to search your website from the result page quickly.
By implementing the Sitelinks Search box, you can make sure that users find what they need on your site faster and more easily.
Security & Manual Actions
Security & Manual Actions allow you to monitor and identify any malicious content on your site and the manual actions taken by Google.
You will want to address and fix any issues identified in these reports, as they prevent your site from ranking until they are fixed.
Manual Actions are actions taken by Google against your site as a result of violations of Google’s Quality Guidelines, malicious content found on your site, or other issues found on your pages.
Quality violations could include Google detecting link schemes or unnatural links to your site, thin content, cloaking, hidden text, and keyword stuffing.
Although Manual actions are very serious since they prevent your pages from showing up in search results, you shouldn’t have any problems here unless you are trying black hat techniques to improve your rankings.
The security Issues section will display any security issues that Google has discovered when crawling your site.
These issues can range from malicious content, malicious code, or scripts that can damage a web page or the entire website.
Additionally, this section can also include content related to copyright infringement, spammy sites link, links, and phishing.
Legacy Tools and Reports
Legacy Tools and Reports contains legacy tools that have not yet been replaced in the new Search Console.
The only tool left is web tools which contain data on Ad Experience Report, Abusive Experiences, and Abusive Notifications. If you need to view these reports, just click on the Web Tools link.
Linked Pages Report
The Linked Pages Report allows you to analyze the external and internal links for your site.
The external links report provides information on the inbound links from external websites.
Within the report, you can see the top linking sites and your top linked pages, as well as identify any potential errors or issues with these external links.
You can use this data to track your backlink outreach efforts to improve the performance of your website in search engine rankings.
The internal links report allows you to see the profile of the internal links within your website and use this data for auditing the structure of your linked pages.
This can help ensure you are setting up your internal linked pages are linked properly within and between your content silos or topical clusters.
You want to ensure your internal top-linked pages are pillar pages within each content silo to optimize topical authority and page rank.
The Account Settings tab allows customizing your Search Console account settings, including the ability to add new and existing websites and apps, set preferences for notifications and data, select which reports you would like to view, and add additional users that can manage your “Properties”.
Now that I have covered all the different tools and reports, let’s take a look at how can use Google Search Console Data to enhance the SEO of your site to increase your search rankings and traffic.
How to Use Google Search Console Data to Increase Traffic
You should now be familiar with navigating within Search Console and are ready to start leveraging the tools to focus your SEO efforts for the highest return on your efforts.
The following are some strategies that you can use to get some quick SEO wins with increased rankings and traffic for your site.
Optimize High Ranking Pages That Don’t Get Clicks
Optimizing high-ranking pages with low CTR is an important SEO tactic that can provide your site with an increase in traffic and ranking.
A low CTR on a high-ranking page indicates an issue with your listing that is causing users not to click through to your page.
This could be due to a variety of factors, including page titles or meta descriptions that are not persuasive enough to entice a user to click.
By analyzing the CTR data in Search Console, you can identify pages with low CTRs and optimize them through changes to the page title and/or meta description for keyword ranking.
This could be as simple as adding power words or target keywords or more complex changes, such as reworking the structure of the page title to reflect the content better.
Improve rankings for underperforming keywords
Improving rankings for underperforming keywords should be a key part of your SEO campaigns.
An underperforming keyword is one which you currently rank low (below the top 5 spots) and are only getting a fraction of the search traffic for the keyword.
Each position you can jump in the rankings will have a significant increase in the share of search traffic.
By identifying which keywords are underperforming, you can make changes to your content, CTR, backlinks, or internal links to increase your page’s rankings in the search results for that keyword to capture more traffic.
You could also try to create new content directly targeting the underperforming keywords to capture more traffic.
Find pages with performance drops that are losing organic traffic
Using Google Search Console, you can identify pages on your site that have experienced a drop in organic traffic.
This could indicate an issue with a page, such as a change in content or an error that is preventing search engine crawlers from accessing it.
By analyzing the data in Search Console, you can pinpoint these pages and take action to fix any issues that may be causing them to lose organic traffic.
Monitor Backlinks for Outreach
Backlinks should be the backbone of your SEO efforts, as your organic search rankings depend heavily on the number and quality of backlinks to your pages.
You need a variety of links from different referral domains using varying anchor text for your backlinks to have the most impact.
So you need to be monitoring your backlinks regularly using the Link reports to find your best external links and then leverage those to generate even more links.
Learn which content types and topics get the most backlinks
You should also find out which content types and topics are getting the most backlinks so that you can target your outreach around those pages.
Just use the Link Report tools to find the pages attracting the most links, and then try to understand why that content is popular.
Then you can create more content around the same topics and style that resonates with your audience and attract even more organic links through link-building outreach.
Find pages that need more internal links or to be pruned
Not only should you monitor external links, but you should also use the internal links report to audit the internal link profile of your pages.
This can help you identify pages that are in need of more internal links or ones that need to be pruned.
For example, if a page is performing poorly in terms of organic traffic and doesn’t have that many internal links pointed at it, then it may be beneficial to add more internal links from other pages on your website.
On the other hand, if a page is not receiving much organic traffic and has a lot of internal pages linking to it, then you should consider pruning some of those internal links or pointing them at pages that attract more traffic.
Find Trending Topics
You can use Performance Search Reports to identify trending topics related by looking at pages that are trending up in impressions and traffic.
You will also want to look at the pages that have the most impressions and clicks. Looking at both of these groups, you can uncover content areas that are popular and resonate with searchers.
Now you can plan new content that relates to these topics to tap into their popularity.
Google Search Console with RegEx
Using regex filter queries in Performance Search Reports can be a powerful way to uncover insights into user intent that are not immediately identifiable through other search metrics.
Regex, or Regular Expressions, allows you to create complex filter queries to filter on search intent modifies to find opportunities to target based on search intent.
You can see if searchers are landing on the right pages for the search intent indicated by looking at the CTR and bounce rate.
If your content or metadata does not match the search intent, then it will negatively affect these metrics.
By understanding the user intent behind certain queries, you can tailor your content to capture those searches and drive more organic traffic.
Identify Crawl Errors and Unindexable Pages
You should be checking for crawl errors, such as broken links, and for pages that are not indexed on a weekly bases.
These errors affect how Google crawls and indexes your site, so need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Fix sitemap issues
Sitemaps are an essential element of any website as they provide valuable information to search engines so that they can properly index and rank websites.
You should regularly monitor your site maps using the Sitemaps report to identify any errors Google has found reading in your sitemaps.
And then plan to address them quickly to ensure that your site continues to be crawled and indexed efficiently.
Advanced SEO Strategies Using Google Search Console
The following are more advanced SEO strategies that leverage the data and tools within Google Search Console.
These strategies help you fine-tune your content to optimize its search performance and help your site remain competitive in an ever-changing digital landscape.
Run SEO A/B Tests Using Daily Rank Tracking
Running SEO A/B tests using daily rank tracking is a great way to test small changes to see their effect on your site’s search results.
The key is only to make one change at a time and then track the changes that result in ranking CTR and bounce rates.
Make sure that you track every single metric that changes with each change, so you have a history of what has worked and what didn’t.
Over time, these incremental tests will help you find what works best and help you gain more organic search traffic.
Decrease Bounce Rates
Decreasing bounce rates is an important part of improving performance in search engine rankings.
A high bounce rate indicates that visitors are quickly leaving your site because they did not find the information they needed.
A consistently high bounce rate will lead to lower search engine rankings as Google will move to other sites that match what searchers are looking for above your site.
A high bounce rate indicates that your page is ranking for search phrases that don’t match the content provided.
This could be a problem with mismatched search intent – informational vs transactional, or that your content doesn’t seem to answer the search query in the first couple of paragraphs.
You can solve the problem by either adding content that directly addresses the search query to your current article.
Or you can create a new article that focuses on the specific search query and intent and then include a link at the beginning of the currently ranked article to your new focused article.
Find High CTR Keywords and Expand Content Around Them
Finding and targeting high click-through rate (CTR) keywords can help improve your site’s search engine rankings and drive more traffic to your site.
You can use Search Console performance reports to drill down and find the highest-performing keywords with the best CTR and then plan additional content around them. Or adjust existing content to target the better CTR keywords.
This technique, used in conjunction with A/B testing title and meta description changes, can significantly improve the overall CTR of your pages and increase their rankings
Determine Which Pages Are Wasting Your Crawl Budget
Crawl Budget is a term used to describe the amount of time, energy, and resources that search engine crawlers need in order to crawl through your entire website and index its pages.
If too much of your site’s crawl budget is wasted on irrelevant pages or low-content pages that don’t add any value, it can have a negative effect on your search results.
You can identify low-performing pages in Google Search Console that are not adding much value and choose to remove them from indexing or update the content to them.
This will optimize the pages that are being crawled to those that drive traffic and value for your site.
Overall, Google Search Console is a great tool for helping you improve the performance of your website in search results. With its various features, you can access valuable data that can be used to make adjustments to your content and SEO strategies as needed.
Whether it’s identifying issues such as crawl errors or keyword cannibalization or finding high CTR keywords to expand content around – Google Search Console has the search features and data necessary to help you get the most out of your SEO efforts.
With the right knowledge and tools, you can ensure that your website remains competitive in the search results and reach more potential visitors.