Making the Most out of Google Search Console: Part One
By Louise Smillie on July 9, 2018 - Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Training
Following on from our two-part article on Google Analytics, this article focuses on another free yet powerful tool all marketers and business owners should get familiar with: Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools).
There are quite a few handy reports contained within Google Search Console so again we have split the content between two posts.
What’s Google Search Console Used for?
Whereas Google Analytics (GA) provides a wealth of data on the people visiting your website, Google Search Console (GSC) takes a search engine bot’s view of your website.
Having said that, you can draw some inferences about your visitors from GSC. For example, you can find out which pages attract the highest click-through rate.
Getting Started with Google Search Console
When you sign in to GSC for the first time, you will need to hit the ‘Add a Property’ button and type in your full website URL. You will then need to follow the process of verifying your website (there are several alternative methods and Google will recommend one of them to try first).
Once verified, you can click on your website link and you’re ready for action.
On the left hand side, you should see four links with dropdown menus: Search Appearance, Search Traffic, Google Index and Crawl. This article will drill down into the first two of these…
Search Appearance: Do I Look Good in This Code?
Have you ever wondered why some website listings on Google search engine results pages (SERPs) look a cut above the rest? Perhaps they’re sitting inside a neat looking panel or there is all sorts of extra info included.
You may have assumed that these features were a form of paid advertising. On the contrary, this capability can be unlocked for free using structured data.
A special type of HTML (website markup code) has been designed to make it easy for Google to pull out and display important data in a more user-friendly way. The prominence of structured data (aka Rich Snippets) in a search engine listing makes it more likely that someone will respond to and click on the links so if you haven’t already included it in your website it is well worth considering it. Examples of the code can be found at the schema.org project.
Once you have some structured data on your site, GSC will tell you if there are any coding errors and can also display a live preview of what the results will look like.
Google’s Rich Cards look even better in Google SERPs than Rich Snippets, increasing further the likelihood of attracting clicks. The use cases are more restricted though with only a few specific categories (e.g. movies, restaurants, etc.) catered for.
If you can’t (or don’t want to) access your website’s back end, the Data Highlighter function enables you to create structured data directly from GSC. You can do this simply by highlighting text, images and other elements and choosing a relative label from a dropdown box.
Here is where Google alerts you to any duplicate content, missing title tags, poorly constructed meta descriptions and other HTML issues that are holding your website back. Here is where you will also find any pages that Google are having problems indexing. This is often due to rules set up on certain pages (e.g. .htaccess or robots.txt files.)
Accelerated Mobile Pages
To better cater for mobile devices, developers created the open source Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. This led to the founding of AMP HTML, a subset of HTML (the standard markup code for websites) designed to optimise performance on mobile devices even on slow networks.
This section of GSC detects the presence of AMP HTML and reports on any issues and recommended fixes.
Search Traffic: The Heart of SEO Performance
The Search Traffic category is where you go to monitor and adjust search-engine optimisation (SEO) factors, mainly keywords and links. It is a virtual treasure trove of information on your website’s search performance, so well worth regularly auditing.
This is one of the most insightful sections of GSC. It consists of four sets of search statistics (Impressions, Clicks, Click-through Rate and SERPs position). These can then be applied, singly or in combination, across a set of seven categories, including:
- Keyword queries
- Specific pages
These can then be further filtered for fine-grained information on what people were typing in to their search engines to arrive at your site, which pages they visited, where they were located and what device they were using. All columns can be ordered at the click of a button.
Links to your Site:
This section lists all of the inbound links to your site together with the number of links, pages linked to and anchor text used. As well as indicating the number of high authority links, this section can help you to spot low quality links and set about disavowing them to avoid harming your SEO.
Here is a list of all internal links throughout your site. The pages with the richest content should have the most links. Avoid sending a lot of traffic to thin pages.
This section is usually empty but if it contains something you need to treat it as a priority since it shows where Google have taken manual action to penalise your website.
Here is where you can dedicate area-specific sites to certain countries (geo-targeting) for better relevance. Google also checks your language tags for any problems.
Finally, this section gives valuable advice about mobile optimisation. For example, it might highlight that your text is too small on mobile devices or the content does not fit on the screen.
In Part Two, we will look at the Google Index and Crawl categories and wrap up the other features of this useful and, we’ll say it again, FREE tool.
In the meantime, if you are interested in having Vu work alongside you in monitoring and optimising your performance, using GSC and other tools, please talk to us.