What is Google Search Console?
Search Console is a free tool offered by Google for developers or website owners to analyze their web traffic and improve their search engine optimization (SEO). The data this tool provides helps you make more informed decisions, increase organic traffic to your site, and improve your click-through rate and overall sales.
To access Google Search Console, use either of the following links:
Once you sign up, Google will give you a tracking code that you will put on your website, which is necessary to verify that you are the owner of the web domain. This code protects your privacy by ensuring that only the webmaster of a particular domain can access this data, not the general public.
Having access to this data allows you to make data-backed decisions, rather than simply educated guesses. This date is the most valuable resource you have when it comes to refining your SEO strategies and techniques.
Not only is this data valuable and accurate, but this tool is free, so every online business owner should be utilizing this resource. If you’re having trouble initializing the code or getting Search Console to run, try searching for “How to install Google Search Console for [insert your platform here]”, and you should come up with plenty of results. If you are still having trouble, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
However, most people should be able to get this up and running quickly and easily, as the process is straightforward and doesn’t have very many steps.
Why You Should Use Search Console
Online data, especially “big data” from wide and varied sets of users, is extremely valuable. Simply search for “data breach”, and you will find that hackers commonly target the exact same information you get from Google Search Console. That’s because this data is worth thousands of dollars or more, and you can put that value to work for your business by simply following the steps outlined here.
Advertisers consider this type of tracking data to be priceless, as it conveys powerful information about people’s shopping, viewing, and clicking habits. In turn, this allows you to target ads and website content more precisely and reach a more targeted and receptive demographic for your product or service.
Search Console is one of the best tools the average developer can use to study, improve, and implement their SEO. It’s important to glean as much information from Google as possible, as they tend to be reticent with their data because a significant portion of their revenue is from people who are forced to buy ads rather than organically improve their SEO.
Search Console still has limitations, but shows you very useful information about keywords, links, and other critical information. For example, it shows you which keywords you rank for, allowing you to streamline keywords on your site, how many people saw those keywords, how many clicks you get, how much traffic each keyword brought in, and other important SEO data.
Search Console also informs you about issues or technical problems with your website. Getting the information straight from Google rather than a third party greatly improves its accuracy and reliability.
Search Console Walkthrough
You will first land on the Google Search Console homepage. While it may look complicated, don’t be afraid to click around and explore the page, as you can’t harm your website from here. Let’s go over some of the key parts of the console overview.
The performance section first shows you a graph of clicks you received through Google mapped over time. You can use this to look for spikes in the number of people clicking on your site, and from there recognize which advertising techniques or other SEO implementations you used that were successful.
For example, let’s say you have a spike on one day in particular – did you do a promotion, press release, or some other form of advertising? Now you know that was a good idea and worked well. Analyzing trends this way is one of the keys to SEO.
Let’s dig deeper into the Performance section. There’s a lot of information contained within this section. If you click on it, it will land you on a different page with more options and data.
You can start by changing the date ranges of the graph, which allows you to analyze different time periods historically. You will also be able to see:
- Total clicks on your links in the search results.
- Total impressions (an impression means your link appeared in someone’s search results).
- Average click-through rate (how many people saw your link vs. actually clicking on it).
- Average position or ranking in Google’s search results.
Within the Performance section is a critical piece of the puzzle, found directly below the clicks, impressions, and rankings graph. It’s under the tab labeled “Queries”, which gives you information on keywords.
This section will display up to a thousand keywords and is one of the most important areas to study. It will show you, based on which keyword people queried (searched):
- Click-through rate
You can sort by any of these categories, and from there take the most popular or effective keywords and try to implement them in your site more. A good way to do so is to make sure you use the right keywords in the titles of your web pages, which Google’s algorithms find very important.
The performance section is, overall, the most valuable part of Search Console, and is well worth looking through for any developer or site owner.
The coverage section acts roughly as a “roadmap” for search engines to know which pages to show in their results. This section also shows you if there are any errors in “crawling” your pages, which is how the search engines access the page. If you do have any errors, it will give you the specific URL they are at, which will allow you to go in and either fix it or remove the page.
You might want to consider “excluding” certain pages from coverage, so as to not produce duplicate search results. Only the most important pages should show in Google’s results.
Below where it says “Coverage”, you will find a button labeled “Sitemaps”, which conveys similar information. Creating a sitemap is, usually, something you can do just once and then not worry about it anymore. Sitemaps can update themselves when you add new pages, but it’s still a good idea to check this section and make sure that Google is still recognizing them now and then.
It’s important to do this to make sure that Google has found all of your pages, otherwise certain ones will be excluded from the search results. Creating a sitemap is a fairly simple process. To see if you have one, go to your URL, and add “/sitemap.xml” As long as you have a page that shows up, you have a sitemap, and can submit it through Search Console to Google.
The next section we will look at is the one labeled “enhancements”. This section provides technical information about how your site runs and allows you to make sure it is streamlined and working properly.
Core Web Vitals
The first area in this section is called “core web vitals”. This will primarily show you how fast or slow your website pages load. Faster is better, and slower will cause SEO issues for you.
If you have “poor” URLs that load slowly, you can click “open report” to see what the issue is. If you are able to fix the issue, click “validate fix”, and Google will redo your core web vitals designations.
Speed is important for user satisfaction, but is merely one small piece of the SEO puzzle. Google has another tool called “PageSpeed Insights” which you can use to analyze how quickly your website loads. The nice thing about this page is you can check for loading speed on both mobile and desktop, and you can plug your competitors’ sites in as well to compare your loading time to theirs.
The detailed information from this tool can be passed along to your web developer or a coder to fix certain highly-technical HTML issues, or you can look into it yourself if you are familiar with the processes.
Google separated mobile and desktop search results, meaning that it’s critically important for SEO optimization to make sure your website works well on mobile devices. Mobile devices like smartphones account for about 60% of all web traffic and this figure only rises every year.
While your site may be hosted by a “mobile friendly” provider, this tool is the best way to make absolutely sure that there are no errors when viewing or searching for your site on a mobile device.
There are four more areas in this section: breadcrumbs, products, review snippets, and sitelinks searchbox.
While these four areas are less important than the first two, together they constitute a way to “markup” your website using “schema”. All of these tools help your website stand out for search engine crawlers more prominently.
Going to schema.org will help you understand how to do this. Schema is a language that Google recognizes to enhance and mark search results in a way that you can modify and choose. For example, you can show a row of gold stars under your search results to help them stand out more using the “review snippets” link, which makes the result more appealing to those searching.
Security and Manual Actions
Hopefully, this section is empty. If you have any issues, they will appear here. If you do SEO incorrectly, it can sometimes hurt your website more than it helps.
That’s why you need to be careful and work with SEO companies that are completely transparent like SEO Optimizers. If a company tries to cheat or take shortcuts it can throw up red flags with Google, and those will appear here.
Backlinks are a major factor in SEO. Backlinks are clickable links from other websites that point back to your site. The more backlinks you have from relevant and authoritative websites, the higher your page will be ranked by Google. This system of analyzing links forms the very heart of Google’s revolutionary search techniques and is a proprietary technology that is one of the reasons they are so prominent today.
This section shows you the top 100 websites that link to your pages. Other third-party tools, like ahrefs.com can show you greater detail, but the top 100 still provides you with tons of valuable data you can use. This section will show you both external and internal links.
Up at the top left of the page, you will see your URL and a small arrow pointing down. Click on your URL, and it will change to a search bar that says “search property”. This will allow you to “add a property” to Search Console.
You will have two options, “Domain”, or “URL prefix”. Adding a domain is a good idea, but requires some technical knowledge like how to verify through DNS. If you aren’t sure how to go about doing this, start with the URL prefix.
Your website will have four URL domains, and you’ll want to make sure you register as the owner of all of them.
To do this, type your URL into the box, starting with the following four prefixes:
This is an example of the four URL domains I registered for my site:
Google sees these as four different sites, so you need to make sure that Google knows they are all owned by you and are the same site. Your primary URL should be “https://”, as this is the most secure and optimized one for SEO. The “s” signifies that you have an SSL security certificate, which adds an enhanced layer of security and tells Google that your website is more trustworthy than those without it.
Also, try not to let your ownership over the domain expire, and register it for as long as possible at a time. Small things like that add up and Google does recognize them as more trustworthy and authoritative.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the difference between Google Search Console and Google Analytics?
Google analytics shows you data specifically about your traffic, such as where viewers of your website come from and what devices they use. Google Search Console provides a wider range of SEO data.
Should I still optimize my site for mobile if my clients only use desktop computers?
Yes, you should. Mobile devices represent 60% of all online traffic, and your clients may occasionally be accessing your site on the go. In addition, it’s simply smart to prepare for the future, and it’s not very difficult to optimize for mobile compared to the SEO benefits you will gain.
Does Google personalize results if you are searching in “incognito” mode?
Google still personalizes results based on your geographical location, but signing out of Google and going into incognito mode is a good way to see the “real” Google results that an average user would see.
How do you evaluate different keywords?
Look for keywords that have a high search volume, or ones where you are on the first page of search results without being in position one. That means you can select those keywords and optimize your page to contain them more frequently or prominently, and try to move your position up the search results to be the first one people see.
What factors go into page loading speed?
Why does Google Search Console say my text is too small to read?
If you get this message, it’s important to fix it right away. Small text will be hard to read on mobile, and you want to focus on short, visible, and minimalist text that people can absorb quickly, not large paragraphs or text that is too small.
How long does Google Search Console store data for?
At this time, Google stores 18 months worth of data in the Search Console. To save data over longer periods, it’s a good idea to download it.
If you have a lot of videos is it better to have links to YouTube or upload them to your site?
The best option here is to use the embed function. Upload the videos to YouTube then embed them on your site, that way they are optimized for speed and don’t slow down your site, only YouTube’s servers.
Overall, Google Search Console is an incredibly powerful and useful tool, especially for being free. There’s no reason not to use it, and any business or website owner should be utilizing it to its fullest extent in order to optimize their SEO, sales, and user experiences.