How to Use Google Search Console’s Performance Report Like a Pro
Like a Swiss army knife, Google Search Console (GSC) is packed with useful tools. But where do you start? Here are some simple but powerful tips for using the GSC Performance Report to boost engagement and spot opportunities.
Some other relevant articles...
Here's what we will cover...
- Getting started with GSC
- So, what’s working?
- Spotting missed opportunities
- Generate content ideas
- Refining your audience personas
- How to work smarter with filters
Getting started with GSC
GSC, formerly Google Webmaster Tools, is a free service provided by Google. We recommend you sign up for both GSC and Google Analytics and link them together. This will give you a 360 degree oversight into how people find (or don’t find) your website and what they do when they get there.
Vu Online have provided full instructions on setting up and finding your way around Google Search Console.
In that article, we introduced you to the Performance section and explained how it can help you to optimise your content and advertising. This article takes a deeper dive into this feature
So, what’s working?
If you’ve been performing your two second website check, you will have an idea of how many clicks you are getting and whether you are gaining traction, ticking along nicely or slipping off the pace.
But that doesn’t tell you which keywords are prompting engagement and which pages are visited most. To find out which parts of your website are ‘moving the dial’ you will need to access the full Performance Report. You can do this by either clicking the ‘Performance’ link on the main menu or the ‘Open Report’ link on the Performance card itself.
Underneath the clicks and impressions graph, you will see a table with the following headings, from left to right: Queries, Pages, Countries, Devices, Search Appearance and Date.
By default, the table is ordered by the number of clicks so by flicking from the Queries to the Pages tab, you can quickly see which queries (i.e. keywords) and which web pages are prompting the most engagement (in terms of clicks).
By clicking on the row containing a specific keyword or page, the graph above will refresh and display further details such as the average click-through rate (CTR) and the page’s average position on Google search engine results pages (SERPS).
Now you have a quick and easy way to see what keywords and pages are pushing you in the right direction, it’s time to change tack and focus on what’s holding you back.
Spotting missed opportunities
While it’s instantly clear what elements of your website are working well, it takes a little more thought and effort to identify where you are missing out on potential visitors.
Having said that, the well-designed GSC interface makes this task wonderfully intuitive and even, dare I say it, fun (especially for the detectives out there!)
A good place to start is by ordering your queries/keywords by number of impressions (simply click the heading on the table). Think of impressions as ‘eyeballs’ on your search listing. Now look for keywords where you had a lot of eyeballs but very few clicks. This suggests a missed opportunity but you need to do a bit more thinking before you can act.
There are three main reasons why people might be seeing your search listing and saying, ‘nah, not for me!’ These are:
- Your listing title and description are ‘meh’ or confusing
- A competitor’s web page (or brand) is more attractive to the searcher
- Your web page is irrelevant to the searcher’s needs
Let’s say you run an online greengrocer and you find that lots of people are eyeballing the listing for your specialist organic, locally sourced apples page but there is a big gap between impressions and clicks (i.e. you have a low CTR).
One reason for this could be a lacklustre or confusing title and description on your listing (e.g. ‘Apples For Sale. We Sell Apples’ or ‘Do Bananas Keep the Dentist Away? No. You Need Apples for That’)
Another reason could be that you are up against some stiff competition. Did you know that you can get fresh, hand-picked apples via Amazon? How would you compete with that? (hint: focus on what makes your apples different).
However, if ‘Apple iPhone 11’ is on your keyword list, you can ignore the low CTR. Your product is clearly irrelevant to the needs of the people typing in those search terms. However, you might want to look at the title, description and content of your webpage to make sure you are being clear that you are selling fruit, not phones.
Generate content ideas
Checking your GSC Performance Report before creating a content plan can help you to pick up on rich veins of interest that you may have been blind to.
For example, say a celebrity endorses gooseberries as the next must-eat superfood, you might find that this keyword is attracting huge numbers of impressions.
By adding a blog post on the power of gooseberries and creating a separate gooseberry landing page, you can tap into that trend and maximise conversions.
Refining your audience personas
Every piece of data helps you to understand your target audience that little bit better.
If you have created an audience persona, you can use your discoveries to refine the portrait you have painted. Using the previous example, you can now jot down that your target buyer has a keen interest in superfoods, particularly those that have been celebrity-endorsed.
How to work smarter with filters
As you get used to working with the GSC Performance Report, you will find yourself speeding up your analysis. Using the filter row function can really help with this.
It is easy to miss this function as the icon is an unlabeled, downward facing triangle made from three lines. Clicking this will bring up a list of parameters with checkboxes alongside them: Query, Clicks, Impressions, CTR and Position.
In the earlier example, if you want to quickly see how your apple-related keywords are performing, you can check the Query box, select ‘Contains’ from the dropdown menu and type in the word ‘apple’. You can also select ‘Does not contain’ to eliminate specific search terms.
The other parameters enable you to specify whether a value is greater than, smaller than, equal to or not equal to a certain number. For example, you could isolate your poor-performing web pages by filtering by CTR and specifying a value below, say, 2%.
Even better, filters can be combined for super fast analysis.