If you are the person who oversees your company website, then you will know how important it is that you monitor how the website is performing. There are several tools that you can use from Google which will help you collect data from your website and analyse it. Google Analytics is one example of this type of tool and Google Search Console is another. This article will look at why the latter is so important.
Why Should You Be Using Google Search Console?
The main reason that Google Search Console was created was to make it easy for people to track the performance of their website. You can use it to see which areas of your website are working well and which areas need work. It can highlight any technical problems that you may be having such as crawl errors. You will also be able to see how you are ranking for different keywords across your site.
If the search console finds any errors on your site, you will be notified of this by email. The fact that you get these notifications mean that you can act quickly to resolve any issues.
Setting up an Account
You will need to create an account before you can start using the Google Search Console. This is done by clicking on the ‘Add A Property’ button which can be found on the top bar. You will be given the option of entering your website as a domain or with the URL prefix. The domain option has only recently been added. It is important to make the right choice so that you can be sure you will be collecting the data that you want. The main difference between the two is that the domain option will track everything within that domain, whereas the URL option will only track that specific page.
Once your website has been added, then you will need to verify that you are the owner of the site. If you have selected the domain option, then DNS verification is the only option that will work. There are other methods that you can use with the URL option.
If you are registering a WordPress site and are using Yoast SEO, then you can get a verification code from your webmaster tools in the Yoast plugin. When you have successfully verified your account, then you will get a message to this effect.
Features in Google Search Console
Now that you are all set up, it is time to test out everything that Google Search Console can do for you. Some of the most useful features are listed below.
The performance tab is where you will find information about what pages and keywords you are ranking for in Google. The data will start to be collected from the time that you set up your account, and you will be able to view this data as far back as sixteen months.
Checking the performance tab will allow you to see which keywords and pages need the most attention. Within the performance tab there are several sections – queries, pages, countries and devices. There is also a search appearance section where you can see how your rich results are performing. There are several options for sorting the results that you get in each of these sections, and these are described in more detail below.
This is the amount of times that someone clicked through to your site from a Google search. This data can be used to determine how effective your meta tags and page descriptions are. If you have a low number of clicks, then you may need to do more to make your site stand out. You can look at the sites that rank above yours for inspiration.
Generally speaking, you also are more likely to get more clicks if you rank on the first page compared to the second.
Impressions will tell you how often your whole website or one particular page features in the search engine results for a specific keyword. The information that you will be given first with this option is for the website as a whole.
You can click on the keyword to find out which pages of your site are ranking for this word. You can get more detail about this from clicking on the pages tab. This will show you the pages that are ranking for the keyword. In some cases, this may not be the page that you want to rank and so improvements will need to be made to the page you are trying to target. This can be done by improving the content on that page or ensuring that the page loads quickly.
3. Average CTR
The average click through rate, or CTR, shows you the percentage of people that have clicked on to your site after they have seen it on the results page. You will have a higher CTR if you rank on the first few pages.
If you want to improve your CTR, then there are things that you can do to achieve this. You may want to think about whether your meta description could be more appealing so that more people will click on it. Your main aim though will be to ensure that you are ranking on the first page of results to increase your CTR.
4. Average Position
Here you will be able to see what your average position was in Google over the time period that you have specified. There are questions about how reliable this information is given how Google displays results differently for different people. However, it can still be used to see if the rest of the information you have been given in the performance tab seems to fit.
This is one of the most useful tabs in Google Search Console, but it is also one of the most technical. It shows you which of your pages are in the Google index since the last update was carried out. You can also see if there are any pages which are not ranking, and whether there are any errors that are preventing your pages from being indexed correctly.
You will get a notification from Google whenever a new error has been found. If you want to check the details of the notification, then you will find them in this tab. It is also a good idea to check the tab regularly to make sure that there are no notifications which you have missed.
When you click on the link you will see more details of the error that Google has found. You can also see the specific URLs that are affected by the error. When these errors have been fixed you can ask Google to check them again to make sure that the fix has worked.
When you are looking at your coverage reports, then you need to be aware of the following things:
- The number of indexed pages should increase whenever you add new content. This means that Google is indexing the new pages that you are adding.
- If the number of indexed pages suddenly drops, then this may indicate that Google is having trouble indexing several pages on your website. This could mean that there is a problem that is blocking Google, or there may be a problem with the server.
- If the number of indexed pages spikes suddenly, then you may have a problem with pages becoming duplicated. It could also indicate that pages have been automatically generated or even that you have hacked.
If you notice any of these issues with your website then you need to rectify them as soon as possible, especially if you have received a notification from Google. They may consider you as a site with bad maintenance if there are several occasions where you have errors that are not rectified.
This allows you to compare a specific URL from the Google index to the way it is now. This will allow you to spot if there are any differences. This tab will also give you a whole host of technical information such as the date it was crawled and whether this crawl was successful. If there are errors on this page, then this could be because it wasn’t able to be crawled fully. You will also find information on the structured data that can be found on the specific URL, along with the option to request indexing and speed up the crawling of your site.
This is where you will find the information that you need to be able to improve the way that your site performs. There are several different sections in this tab and more details about these can be found below.
The speed report is a fairly new feature, but it is one that is very useful. It will show the speed of your site on both desktops and mobiles. It will also show you if there are any pages that have issues which can slow down the speed at which they load. The data that is uses to work out these speeds all come from real users.
Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) will load really quickly on mobile devices. This is something you should really have set up on your site. When it is set up you can use this section to check for warnings and errors. If you click on one of the issues you will be able to see which of the URLs are affected. Once a fix has been made, then you can get the fix validated just as you can in the index section.
3. Rich Results Enhancement Tab
All the improvements that you could make to your site in order to get rich results will be found in this tab. You will be able to find out how many current enhancements you have which make it more likely you will get a rich result.
This tab will also show you how many warnings and errors you have, and the URLs on where these can be found. The trend line lets you easily see if the number of warnings are increasing or decreasing over time. When these issues and fixed and validated then you will increase the likelihood that rich results will be returned in your search.
Every website should have a sitemap because it gives directions to the most important pages and posts on your site. It is one of the easiest ways to make sure that Google finds all your best content.
This tab allows you to enter the location of your sitemap so that Google knows exactly where to look. You will also be able to see if there are any pages which are not being indexed. You should check this section on a regular basis to make sure that your sitemap is still available to Google.
This is an important tab in the Google Search Console because links are still very important in terms of SEO. In this tab you will find information about which websites are linking to your site and what anchor text is being used.
There is also a section for internal links. This helps you to make sure that most of your internal links lead to the pages where your most important content is.
More and more people are using their mobile phone to access websites and so it is essential that your site performs well on mobile devices. Visitors are not going to stick around if the site is not user-friendly for the device that they are using. Checking this tab on a regular basis is recommended as you will be able to see if there are any issues that need fixing.
This is an important tab, but it is one that you hope you will not have to look at too often. If you get any penalties from Google, then you will find the information about this here. You should also receive a notification via email.
Examples of actions that could lead to a penalty include using unnatural links, cloaking content or posting spam. If you have been hacked, then your site may be labelled as compromised by Google. These are all situations that you will want to resolve as quickly as possible.
This is another tab that hopefully you will not have to use too often. If Google suspects that there is a security issue with your site, then you will find details of this here.