Google Search Console is an indispensable tool for anyone concerned about a website’s ranking, and, importantly, it’s free. Whether you are a business owner, SEO/digital marketer, webmaster, or just someone interested in improving website performance, you have basically no excuse to not become familiar with the Google Search console toolset and all of the features it offers.
To help ensure that you are getting everything out of Google Search Console that you could be, we’ve provided 6 critical functions below and tips on how to fully take advantage of them.
(This guide assumes you are somewhat familiar with the Search Console — or you are at very least not intimidated about learning to use new digital tools. If you haven’t installed Google Search console yet and don’t even know where to begin, check out Google’s helpful guide to getting started with Search Console first.)
Manually Crawl and Audit Web Pages
Google automatically crawls, well, just about every page there is on the web. As you might imagine, this process can take quite a bit of time. There’s no telling how long the queue may be or when, exactly, you can expect a page to get indexed (meaning it can be listed on Google Search).
With Google Search Console, you can manually instruct Google to crawl new pages as soon as they are published. They may not get to it immediately, but it allows you to have more control over the process.
To do this, simply click on the “URL Inspection” tab on the left and then paste in the web address of the page you want indexed. Google will test the page and let you know if there are any errors or issues it has indexing it. If there’s no problems, then you can “Request Indexing” to have your page crawled in the near future.
The issues Google reveals during this manual test can be critically important. You might find out that your robots.txt file isn’t available or that someone accidentally flagged a page as “no-index.” Fixing these errors allows your page to make its way back to the search engine results page (SERP).
You can even mass audit your site for errors like these. Under the “Coverage” tab, click on the “Error” and “Valid with warnings” boxes to generate a report on your pages with issues.
You can also just scan for pages that are “Valid” to see the total number of pages Google has indexed. If this number doesn’t match up with your sitemap, you may have issues that need to be resolved.
Find New SEO Opportunities by Learning Which Keywords You Rank For
Arguably the most useful feature in terms of generating ongoing information, Google Search Console’s “Queries” report (found under the “Performance” tab) lists the top keywords that cause your website to rank. It also displays information on the number of SERP appearances (“impressions”) as well as the number of times search users clicked. This feature also works with individual pages.
The performance report can also help you identify where your site or specific pages rank for a priority keyword. This feature is located under the “Position” tab. It allows you to see performance for specific keywords as well as your “Average position” for all search queries in general.
As you might imagine, this information presents a treasure trove of optimization opportunities. Just to mention a few, here are some actions you can take based on this information:
- Discover new keyword opportunities you hadn’t considered
- Track your ranking for specific keywords
- View performance to discover your click-through rate (CTR) for certain pages, allowing you to optimize your title tag and meta descriptions
- Point lower-ranking pages to higher-ranking ones with internal links
- Use keyword reports to provide data for any paid search strategies
- Generate content ideas from top-performing pages and keywords
- Re-optimize pages to better fit search user behaviors, AKA switch keyword strategies for a specific content piece
- Identify poorly performing pages to delete them, 301 redirect, or refresh them to improve site metrics overall
Inventory Your Backlinks
Another ultra-handy feature offered by Google Search Console generates a report of all of the websites that link to pages on your domain. Backlinks serve as an incredibly powerful ranking signal to Google, meaning that if you can earn backlinks from sites that have high traffic or an appearance of authority, your ranking can improve rapidly.
To generate this report, look under the “Links” tab. You will have a list of the sites that have the most links pointing towards you. You can also click “More” to see all of your inbound links, total.
You may be surprised to find out who is linking to your site. This information could reveal opportunities for you to focus on certain niches or write content that has similar qualities to the pages that earn inbound links. You may even find out that a site you don’t want to be associated with is linking to you, giving you the opportunity to track them down and request they remove the link.
Cross-referencing your backlink report with the linked pages’ keyword performance also allows you to understand what type of keywords or content tends to generate traffic, even if those keywords are bringing people to another site before they see a link to yours.
In a similar vein, you can generate a report of links on your site that are broken — both internal and outbound. Having a bunch of these can hurt your ranking, so scanning for them and fixing them is vital. You can generate a report of “not found” links under Diagnostics > Crawl Errors.
See How Mobile Friendly Your Site Is (Or Isn’t)
Mobile devices source over half of the traffic online these days. Knowing this, Google penalizes websites that offer a poor experience to mobile users.
Chances are good that you already have mobile usability on your radar, but even still it never hurts to get a quick report card from Google itself. The “Mobile Usability” report will identify issues and frequently offer helpful suggestions on how to fix them.
A “Devices” report can also be generated to tell you what device categories are accessing your site, potentially informing your website design and interface strategy overall.
Verify Your Schema Markup Works
Structured data, such as Schema Markup, can allow your website to take advantage of new features Google uses that can make certain web results stand out. The right schema markup is also necessary to make sure that Google has no problem fetching crucial data for tools like Google My Business, such as your preferred contact number and service hours.
If you’ve gone through the trouble of implementing structured data on your site, you may be anxious to know whether or not it works. Under the “Enhancements” tab, you can generate reports to see if Google has any trouble reading specific categories of structured data. It will generate an errors report along with suggestions on how to fix the problems.
Google recently launched the Unparsable Structured Data report that provides even more-specific feedback, allowing you to hone your use of structured data to a fine razor’s edge.
See if You Have Any Penalties
The last GSC feature worth mentioning is a doozy. Simply put: It lets you know if you’ve incurred the wrath of Google for one reason or another. Any violation of major issues can penalize your site all-around and make recovering your performance later difficult. It is best to stay on top of these issues and correct them as soon as possible.
You can generate a report of all such major issues under the “Manual Actions” feature.
Identify New Opportunities Through Your Own Data with Help from an Experienced SEO Consultant
Google Search Console offers deep functionality that can easily help drive strategy for your SEO and website performance goals. Combining its information with other services, such as extensive keyword research and performance audits, can reveal the exact steps you need to take to boost performance for all of your marketing and sales goals.
If you feel like you’re in over your head or want help from someone with experience, you can always reach out to us for assistance. Contact us today to learn about audits, SEO consulting, and other services we offer to give your business the chance at success it deserves.