How to Use Google Search Console

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You’ve built your website, and you’ve incorporated SEO best practices. But you’re just not seeing the traffic rolling in. Fortunately, Google has created a variety of free tools that provide you with insights and analytics to help you reach your goals. Search Console is one of those many services. It’s fantastic for website owners that want to know where their website stands in Google search rankings.

From indexing statuses to keywords your website is ranking for, Search Console provides you with a ton of information. While it may be daunting to learn how to use another digital service, we’re breaking it down for you! Find out everything you need to know about Google Search Console and how it works.

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free tool to help website owners identify and fix errors on their website, submit updated content to be indexed on Google, and monitor and optimize their website’s organic search presence and performance.

A web page is considered “indexed” when it has been successfully crawled by Google’s automated bot (known as Googlebot) and added to Google’s index, or catalog of all web pages available to be found in search results. Sites are crawled regularly by Googlebot, but you may find that it takes time to index all pages due to a low crawl budget. Googlebot dedicates a certain amount of time crawling each website based on things like the frequency of new content being published and the domain authority of the website. The more frequently you publish new content and the more authoritative that content is, the more likely Google will recognize these factors and increase your crawl budget accordingly.

Rather than waiting for Googlebot to find new pages on their site, website owners can request that specific pages be crawled by Google in Search Console. This action will bump these pages to the top of the queue and helping Google to know when new content has been added to the site. This process does not guarantee that the pages will be crawled right away or be indexed at all (depending on whether or not there are errors on the pages), but it can significantly improve Google’s understanding of your website and your content.

Overview

The Overview section breaks down the entirety of your website. It displays quick snippets that can be expanded into more detailed, full reports. There’s also Search Console Insights, which gives you an idea of how your website is performing in Google search.

  • Performance: Shows how often your site has been clicked in search results over the last three months
  • Coverage: Shows how many of the total pages that make up your site have been indexed by Google over the last three months
  • Experience: Shows trends in user experience metrics which Google factors into its rankings like on-page experience, core web vitals, and mobile usability
  • Shopping: If listing your products in Google’s Shopping feed (paid or free), this section shows how many of your products have valid vs. invalid listings and where they’re being displayed
  • Enhancements: If using any site enhancements (like product reviews), this section shows how many of those enhancements are valid vs. invalid.

Performance

When you click on the Performance tab in the left hand menu, you want to make sure that Search type: Web is selected.

The Date button, located next to Search type, allows you to choose the date range you want to see. There are several to choose from (like 7 days, 28 days, 3 months, etc), or you can create a custom date range. Within the Date Range menu, you will see a secondary menu called Compare. This allows you to compare results from one time period to another. It’s typical to compare results to the previous period or previous year.

Once your selections have been made, you will see Total Clicks, Total Impressions, Average CTR, and Average Position. To see any of these displayed in the graph below, you can select the box next to the name. By default, clicks and impressions will often be displayed.

  • Total Clicks is the number of times a link to your website was clicked.
  • Total Impressions is how many people have seen your website in a Google Search but did not necessarily click on the website.
  • Average CTR is calculated by taking the total number of impressions and dividing it by the total number of clicks.
  • Average Position is the average spot where your web pages appear in Google search results.

When you hover over the graph, you can click on a specific day for more detailed information.

When you scroll down, you’ll notice more metrics that include Queries, Pages, Countries, etc. Whatever metric you select shows a breakdown of how many clicks, impressions, CTR percentage, and position.

  • Queries: The keywords people are typing into the search bar and seeing your website appear in the results
  • Pages: The top pages people are clicking through to from those queries
  • Countries: The countries the top number of clicks are coming from
  • Devices: What devices are used the most to view your website
  • Search Appearance: Where on the search engine results page your website is appearing in addition to the main web page listings (product results, merchant listings, review snippets, etc.)
  • Dates: Your website’s performance (clicks and impressions) in search results broken down by date

Implementing the Information

Most of your time will be spent looking at Queries in the Performance section. The goal for this information is to incorporate certain keywords on specific pages to increase rankings and drive more traffic to your site.

For example, say there’s a keyword that has a fair number of clicks and the number of impressions are high. Click on that keyword, and once you only see that keyword shown, click on pages. These are all of the pages that keyword is ranking on. You will want to optimize this page with that specific keyword by including it in the content, image alt text, etc. (Be aware that if the same page is currently ranking for another keyword, you do NOT want to remove those keywords, because the ranking will be affected).

Filtering Queries Based on Rank Position

Searchers are more likely to click within the top 10 search results and typically won’t go past the first page. Your first goal should be to get on the first page of Google search results. You can actually filter the queries in Search Console based on where you rank. When you’re in Performance and have Queries selected, click the 3 lines in an upside down triangle on the right hand side. A drop down menu will appear, and you’ll want to check the box labeled Position.

Other filtering options will appear on the left, right above the list of keywords. It should say Equals, and when you click on it, choose Greater Than. When that drop down menu disappears, click on Filter by Position and type in 10. This will give you the queries your website is ranking for that aren’t showing up on the first page of Google. This pool of keyword queries should be viewed as your best opportunities for improvements and optimization.

URL Inspection

This section of Search Console allows you to search specific URLs on your site to see if they are currently indexed. It can be accessed by clicking “URL Inspection” in the left sidebar or by using the search bar at the top of the page. Just copy and paste the URL you want to check, click enter, and a report will appear.

If the results say that the URL is on Google, you’re good to go. It will be accompanied by a green check mark and the page indexing section will display the status “Page is indexed.”

If the results say the URL is not on Google, you will want to expand the Page Indexing section. You’ll see a brief description of why the URL couldn’t be indexed. It will provide you with possible fix solutions. Common reasons that a page may not be indexed include: 404 errors, canonical tags, exclusions by “noindex” tags, page redirects, duplicate pages, and pages that have simply been crawled but not yet indexed.

For a full list of indexing issues and explanations, please see this Page Index help article from Google.

When you make changes to a page (like adding content) that could change Google’s decision, you can enter the URL in the search at the top of this section. Then click Request Indexing to bump the page to the top of Googlebot’s queue. 

PRO TIP: You can also use the “Request Indexing” function to alert Google to impactful changes you’ve made to pages that are already indexed. For example, if you updated a product description on an indexed page for SEO, you can request indexing and have Googlebot re-crawl the page and potentially increase your ranking.

In some cases, you may see a yellow warning error with your result reading “URL is on Google, but has issues.” In these cases, you’ll want to find and expand any sections that note errors (either critical or non-critical) and address them on your website. These errors may range from invalid merchant listings to missing fields on the product page that could help Google better rank your page.

Indexing

Indexing provides detailed information on the status of your website where indexing is concerned. In this section of Search Console, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of the reasons pages on your site are not indexed, access to the sitemap(s) that have been submitted to Google, and any pages that you’ve requested to have removed from Google’s index.

Pages

The Pages section shows how many pages or the total pages on your site are in Google’s index since the last update, as well as which pages aren’t indexed and errors and warnings that made it difficult for Google to index correctly.

If there is an error, you can click on the issue for more information, like the affected URLs. Some issues may be able to be fixed in bulk, while others may require work on each individual page. Be aware that this section of Search Console aggregates pages by issue, so clicking “Validate Fix” on any issue will instruct Googlebot to re-crawl all affected URLs. Depending on the number affected, it may take quite some time to see changes. If you’re working on individual pages, you’ll have better luck using the “Request Indexing” function on that particular URL through the URL Inspector.  

Sitemaps

Sitemaps simply keeps record for the sitemap(s) that have been submitted to Google and notes things like the date it was submitted, the last time it was read by Googlebot, and the number of URLs that were discovered through the sitemap. In most cases, there will be a single sitemap submitted for the entire website, although some larger websites may be broken down into multiple sitemaps (for example, they might have a separate sitemap specifically for blog posts) to simplify the crawl process.

Removals

Although rarely used, this section allows website owners to request that pages be removed from Google’s index. This might be done in cases where you want to temporarily remove content from the index while you make significant changes to it or if you have outdated content that you don’t want searchers finding still being indexed.

To request a removal, simply click the red “New Request” button and enter the intended URL in the popup that appears. 

Experience

Here, you”ll  be able to better understand the more technical aspects of your website that impact rankings and performance in search engines. This includes things like page speed, user experience, mobile usability, and other core web vitals as determined by Google.

Page Experience evaluates both mobile and desktop website experiences as seen from a user perspective. In this section, attention is called to any failing elements or detected user experience issues.

Core Web Vitals measures the most important website performance elements from a search engine perspective. These metrics include:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, strive to have LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds. Starting March 2024, Interaction to Next Paint (INP) will replace FID as a Core Web Vital.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.

In this section, your website will be evaluated on both desktop and mobile for these metrics and a report will be provided categorizing URLs on your site as good, poor, or needing improvement.

Mobile Usability details how many of your web pages are usable on mobile vs. non-usable. If you have any non-usable URLs, any errors listed should be resolved immediately. Since a significant number of searchers do so from their mobile devices, Google prioritizes sites that have an excellent mobile experience.

Shopping

For product-based businesses, Google offers space for products to be listed in a variety of areas outside the standard search results. In this section, you’ll see reports on the validity of your products to appear in product snippets, merchant listings, and shopping tab listings.

Enhancements

Similar to the Shopping section, the Enhancements section of Google Search Console allows you to monitor how many of those enhancements are valid vs. invalid and resolve any issues that are noted. Enhancements might include things like product reviews collected on your site which could be displayed in Google search’s rich snippets.

Security & Manual Actions

The Security and Manual Actions section is dedicated to security monitoring for your website. Any potential security threats or issues will be listed here for your review. In ideal circumstances both reports should read “No issues detected” with a green check mark icon.

Links

While much of your search engine optimization efforts will center around keywords and content, linking is another significant player in SEO and rankings. This includes the external sites linked on your website, internal links between pages on your website, and backlinks from other websites.

In the Links section of Google Search Console you’ll see an analysis of the top pages being linked from external websites as well as the top pages being linked internally and the external sites linking to your website most often. This information can be incredibly useful when building both internal linking strategies and building backlinks from external sites.

Settings

As expected, this section allows you to manage the underlying settings for your Google Search Console account like users and permissions. You can also access full crawl reports in this area.

Get Your Website Showing Up on Google

With our guide on how to use Google Search Console, you’re ready to start optimizing your website to reach the coveted top 10 search results. While this service is a great place to start, it’s not the only way to get your website to show up in Google SERPs. Find out why your business isn’t showing up on Google, and some of the things you can do to fix it!

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