Is your website getting enough traffic?
Chances are that you could do with more visitors, and your answer is a resounding NO. Many website owner’s and marketers have the same dilemma because they don’t take a data-driven approach to traffic management.
There is no denying the importance of research and data analytics for website performance, marketing success, and better profitability. So it comes as a surprise that 74% of marketers and website owner’s can’t measure or report how their marketing efforts impact a business. As a result, this causes loss of customers and a decrease in traffic, which ultimately lowers ROI and leaves unfinished KPIs.
On the other hand, only 22% of marketers in a survey divulged that quality data empowers them to analyze the website’s performance on the SERPs, increase ROI, and significantly improve their organic traffic.
This clearly emphasizes the need for tracking and analyzing:
- how your website performs in the SERPs
- the kind of customer experience it provides
- the ROI, it offers,
- what might be wrong with your site and how to fix it.
The most important thing for a business is a website, as it solidifies its digital presence and gives prospective buyers a chance to learn more about its offerings. And to track all these things, Google offers the Search Console, which is a powerhouse of data that lets you track, analyze, maintain, and fix your website in many ways.
Table of Contents
What Is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console is one of the most useful services on the web for any webmaster, and it’s completely free to use and access. The problem is, many inexperienced users are unfamiliar with the service, and are intimidated by the options and tools available.
Fortunately, the basics of Google Search Console (GSC) –formerly old Google webmaster tools–are more approachable than you might think, and throughout this “SEO Beginner’s Guide,” we’ll introduce you to the highlights of the service for website owners and digital marketers.
This tool helps businesses and marketers know how their website performs on their search engine and how visitors perceive it. The data retrieved help you understand how Google Search Engine sees your website and how you can make it credible to gain authority in the Google search results. Properly using the tool helps website owner’s make their website Google-friendly.
GSC Terms To Know Before Getting Started
Before getting started with Google Search Console data, there are a few things you need to get familiar with.
- Google Search Console Query
- Average Position
- CTR (Click Through Rate)
Other Options To Filter Data In Google Search Console
- By search type
- By date range
- By queries
- By page
- By country
- By device
- By search appearance
- Index coverage reports
- Submitted sitemaps
What Makes Google Search Console So Efficient?
Google is the world’s most powerful search engine as it gathers data from global and local users and uses it to your advantage. It also ranked first among the most visited multi-platform web properties in the US.
It has over 267 million unique visitors, making up 61% of the total market share.
All in all, it’s the user base that strengthens Google; it can capture and gather data from a million different resources and users. This data is the most powerful and valuable tool for businesses to understand consumer behavior. Use it correctly, and you can improve your marketing and ads strategy for total WWW domination.
But the data you find in Google Search Console is meant to be used to understand your business platform, its strengths, and weaknesses. Also, this information can be combined with other Google Tools to render even better reports.
Google Search Console Offerings For Businesses, Marketers, & Entrepreneurs
When it comes to satisfying the Google Search Engine, you can’t find anything better than Google Tools. Whether you are an influencer, SMG, global business enterprise, SEO expert, web developer, webmaster, content developer, or marketer, GSC will work for you the same outstanding way.
According to Google, Search Console offers reports and tools to help website owner in several ways, which are not limited to but include:
- Extracting core web vitals report including LCP, CLS, FID
- Monitoring the website’s impressions over time
- Monitoring the average ranking over time
- Identifying your highest-traffic pages
- Identifying your highest CTR, average CTR, CTR over time
- Identifying the highest and lowest ranking pages on your site
- Detecting the fluctuating ranking (tracking increasing and decreasing ratio)
- Categorizing the highest-traffic inquiries
- Comparing your site’s search performance across all devices (desktop, mobile, and tablet)
- Evaluating the website’s search performance across different countries
- Identifying the pages indexed and non-indexed pages
- Discovering the reasons behind non-indexed pages
- Tracking the number of indexed pages and the underlying errors.
- Tracking all the backlinks of your website
- Identifying usability issues on different devices
- Identifying URLs and web sites link with the most backlinks
- Identifying the most used external linking anchor text
- Identify pages with the most internal links
- Knowing the number of internal links on your website
- Finding and fixing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) errors
- Understanding how Google views a URL from your website
Now that you know what’s on offer with Google Search Console, let’s dive deeper. Here is how you can start using it to enhance and optimize your website for better performance.
How to Add & Verify Your Website In Google Search Console
To get started with the Google search console, you need to add and verify your website to the tool. It will tell Google that you are the original owner, admin, or authorized user of the website. Once your site is added to the tool and verified, the GSC will provide you with an incredibly in-depth website performance report for the entered URL. This step ensures the information doesn’t land in the wrong hands.
Here is how you add your site to GSC:
- Open Google Search Console
- Log into your GSC Or Google search console account
- Find a red box on the page that says “Add Property.”
- Enter your website URL in the query box beside it, and click on “Add Property.”
Once you’re done with it, you need to verify the URL. If you are a new web administrator with zero knowledge of HTML codes, here’s how you can go about it in a few different ways:
An HTML File: Upload the verification HTML file to some specific location on your website
Domain Name Provider: Sign in to your domain name provider and then open the google search console to verify your site by adding a DNS TXT or CNAME record.
An HTML Tag: Add a “meta” tag to the “HEAD” segment of a specific page’s HTML code.
Google Analytics Tracking Code: Copy-paste the GA (Google search analytics) tracking code you use on your side.
Google Tag Manager Container Snippet Code: Copy the GTM (Google Tag Manager) container snippet code linked with your site.
Now that your website is verified, here are a few things about using the Google Search Console
All You Need To Know About GSC Users & Owners
Google search console can be used in two ways that are typically two roles granted by the originally verified website owner:
The Owner: The owner is the primary authority with total control over the website’s properties in GSC. They can grant user authority to others by adding or removing them or by changing the settings. Once the permission is granted, the users can see and access all the data and tools available on GSC.
A verified owner can add a delegated owner and the delegated owner who can see the data, uses the tools, and add users.
A User: When authorized by the delegated owner, a user can see the data and perform a few tasks with GSC. Users can’t add another user. However, when users are given full access, they can see most of the data and take additional actions, while restricted users are limited to only a few things.
When it comes to your business platform, it can’t be shared with unreliable people. Thus, the verified owner must make a mindful decision when making designated owners and users. Full authority for more unreliable people would lead to a disastrous situation for you, risking your entire capital and assets – which would be the last thing you would want.
Managing your business, you would know who needs more permissions and who needs less. For example, people who need to adjust the setting to tweak the results should be given more authority, while those who need the data but have no concerns with the setting must be given less authority.
For example, SEO Specialist should get the ownership, but a content strategist shouldn’t until he or she manages the SEO.
Furthermore, there’s a third role as well:
An associate: this is not a person indeed. Here, the associate refers to the GSC’s association With GA (Google Analytics). You can link a GA property with GSC to see all the GSC reports without using the Google search console.
In addition, you can also access Google search analytics reports from two of the GSC’s sections that are site internal links and links to your site
Signing up for Webmaster Tools is a snap—all you’ll need is a functioning Google account. Hopefully, you’ve already got a Google Analytics login. You can use this account for Webmaster Tools as well.
Verifying Your Site
Once you’ve got your login setup, you can add your site (or your first site, if you’re managing multiple domains). To verify a site, you’ll need to enter the URL of your chosen domain. From here, there are a few different ways you can verify your ownership over that domain—the easiest way is to upload the custom HTML file that Google generates for you. Once your domain is verified, you’ll be able to start pulling information and making positive changes.
Viewing the Dashboard
Your Dashboard is going to provide a great snapshot of where things stand with your selected domain. The default selections for your introductory dashboard are:
- New notifications, which will appear if there are any new or attention-worthy developments on your site
- Crawl error, which can occur from time to time and interfere with your site’s visibility and presence on SERPs
- A graph of inbound search querie, including how many impressions and clicks those queries generated, and
- A list of your current sitemaps, which you can manage
You can view all of these pieces of information in more detail on other areas of GSC. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be introducing you only to the basics of each section.
The Site Messages section, which you can find on the left-hand index of GSC, is essentially an inbox that Google will use to communicate with you. Generally, these messages are few and far between, but you’ll want to check back periodically to see if there have been any significant developments that warrant your attention. For example, Google may send you a message if it detects that your site has been the victim of a hack attempt.
The Search Appearance section is your gateway to understanding and customizing how your site appears in the context of external searches. If you’re currently using structured data on your site (which you should be), you’ll be able to test and see how Google views this structured data, and how that translates to live search results. If you aren’t happy with how your site or site links appear, you’ll be able to control those qualities by adjusting the structured data on your site. In order to do this, you’ll need a bit of HTML knowledge.
The Data Highlighter is a tool anyone can use to help Google understand the most important information on your site. Using this tool, you can explore, tag, and categorize certain pieces of information as they appear on your site and customize how that data appears in searches. For example, you can highlight a series of upcoming events to have them stand out under specific search querie’s.
While Google usually fights back against search engine optimizers, the HTML Improvements section is designed almost exclusively to help webmasters rank better for search querie. Here, you’ll be able to view any recommendations Google has about the HTML of your site. For example, it may list any missing or duplicate title tags, and any meta descriptions that are too long or too short. This is an extremely useful tool for search engines optimizers trying to maximize the visibility of their site.
The Site internal links section is designed to help you customize the sub-links that appear under your homepage link for some queries. Google generally selects these sub-links for you, but if you have a different preference, you can change them up here.
The Search Traffic section of GSC is one of the most useful for white label SEO:
- Under Search Queries, you’ll be able to view a list of specific user search queries that led to your site. You’ll find information such as impressions, clicks, CTR, and average position for each query over a given period of time.
- Under Links to Your Site, you’ll be able to take a look at all your backlinks and determine whether there are any problems or improvements to be made in your backlink building strategy.
- Under Internal Links, you can explore your onsite navigation and find areas for potential improvement.
- Under Manual Actions, you can review any potential penalties that Google might have given you. Fortunately, these types of penalties are quite rare, but keep an eye out for them, just in case. Many can be appealed.
- Under International Targeting, you can explore how your site appears in international searches.
- Under Mobile Usability, you can review and analyze any potential errors your site contains when displaying on a mobile device.
The Google Index section helps you understand how your site appears in Google’s massive search index:
- Under Index Status, you’ll see the total number of URLs under your domain that are being indexed. If you see any major spikes or drops, it could be an indication of a problem.
- Under Content Keywords, you’ll be able to view a list of what Google interprets are the most important keywords used throughout your site.
- Under Remove URLs, you can specifically request some of your URLs to be hidden from Google search bots—this can be extremely useful if you have duplicate pages or other irrelevant content that should not be indexed.
The google crawls section is the perfect place to see how Google is crawling your site, and proactively detect if there are any problems:
- Under Crawl Errors, you’ll see notifications for any pages of your site that cause problems for Google’s crawlers.
- Under Crawl Stats, you’ll see specific information about how these bots crawl your site.
- Under Fetch as Google and robots.txt Tester, you can view your own pages exactly how Google views them—which is useful for troubleshooting specific crawl issues.
- Under Sitemaps, you can view and manage the sitemaps you’ve submitted for your site.
- Under URL Parameters, you can correct any problems with your URLs that have caused indexing issues. You generally don’t need to use this unless you’ve encountered a problem.
Security Issues is another section where Google will update you if it detects something is wrong. If, for any reason, the security of your site has been compromised, this is where you’ll hear about it first.
A sitemap is not essential if the websites are logically structured. The web crawlers usually find what they are looking for one way or another. However, sitemaps make things easier for the crawlers by providing them a simplified guide to find the required information in milliseconds.
Search results show up in a matter of seconds, so the crawlers don’t have much time to document a website. Chances are they will skip your website if it takes too much time to get to the required results. This is the last thing you would want.
Here are a few situations that make it a good idea to have a sitemap on your site:
- Huge websites with more pages (hundreds or thousands)
- A website with isolated pages (pages with very few inbound & internal links)
- New websites (that have very few backlinks)
- Websites that use rich media content
- Websites that show up in Google News
Once you have built a sitemap on your website, let Google process it. Your sitemap report will appear in Google Search Console’s “GSC Sitemaps Report” as the process completes. This is where you can see how many times Google read your sitemap when it was read last time and how many pages on the sitemap are indexed.
How to Find Errors in Google Search Console
You’ve done all the upfront work for your SEO campaign. You’ve carefully designed your navigation and internal pages so that your users have the best possible experience. You’ve fine-tuned your onsite copy and page titles to be optimized for searches. You’ve even spent the last several months updating your blog with fresh, authentic, well-written posts to attract new customers and show Google that you really know your stuff.
There’s only one problem: if Google doesn’t see what you’ve been doing, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve done. If there’s some kind of blinder preventing Google from being able to see or crawl your material, it might as well not even exist.
Fortunately, Google knows how destructive these blinders can be, and it knows that they’re sometimes undetectable (since Google’s algorithm operates invisibly in the background). In response, it’s developed a series of tools you can use to test whether there are currently any page errors interfering with the normal crawling of your site.
The first thing you’ll need to do is set up a Webmaster Tool account (if you haven’t already). Here, you’ll be able to access all these tools at any time and determine the state of your site.
Types of Page Errors to Look For
There are many different factors that could lead to Google being unable to see or index your site, and all of them are equally bad. However, some of them are more complex to fix than others. Knowing where to look for these errors is half the battle; the other half is simply a matter of correcting them once they arise.
Overall Site Errors
If you’re paying attention, you should be able to catch broad site errors on your own. Still, sometimes your entire site can go down and it’s a matter of days before you notice. This is bad news. In Webmaster Tool, head to the “Crawl” tab and check out “Crawl Errors.” At the top, you’ll see a short row of different statuses, including “DNS,” “Server Connectivity,” and “Robots.txt Fetch.” A little green checkmark next to each of these will let you know that your site is up and running.
If your site is down, one of these will likely be responsible for the issue. You can use this diagnostic report to determine how to take corrective action.
Individual Page Errors
You’re going to stay in the same place for these type of errors, which are far more common and less noticeable. Scroll down to where you see the phrase “URL Errors.” Here, you’ll find data from the past 90 days on all the individual pages of your site that are returning errors. Sometimes, this is due to loading issues or other minor forms of interference, but for the most part, these will be the all-too-common “404 error” or “Not found” error.
Even if you’re generally on top of your work, you’re bound to have at least a handful of your internal pages showing up here as 404 errors. This can be due to changing your page navigation without updating your sitemap, changing the URL inspection tool or URL name of a page without setting up a redirect, or just taking a page down and forgetting to make the necessary updates afterward. In any case, this report will show you exactly which pages on your site are returning the error and when the initial instance of the error was detected.
The best way to fix these is to either restore the pages in question or set up a 301 redirect, which will direct Google’s bots to head to a new URL or URL inspection tool instead of the old, problematic one.
Meta Data Errors
These aren’t actually errors, per say, but they can get in the way of your site’s ranking and are notoriously hard to detect without the proper toolset.
In Webmaster Tool, head to the “Search Appearance” tab and click on “HTML Improvements.” Here, you’ll find a list of different discrepancies with your site’s meta data—namely, the title tags and meta descriptions of your individual pages. This list will be conveniently broken out into which are duplicates, which are too long, which are too short, and which are non-informative.
There’s no easy way to fix all of these errors at once. Instead, you’ll have to take a look at an individual page level and rewrite the titles and descriptions under scrutiny. With duplicate meta data issues, sometimes the problem is fixed as easily as changing a couple of words.
Finally, you’ll want to check that Google is properly indexing all your pages. In this process, you’re going to be comparing two things: the first is your own sitemap and the second is the “index statuses” you’ll find in Webmaster Tool. You can find this under “Google Index” and “Index Statuses.” Under the Basic view, you’ll be able to see how many pages Google is currently indexing—if this number doesn’t match the number of pages on your sitemap, you have an indexing problem. Check to see that your sitemap is up to date, and that none of your pages are currently being blocked by robots.txt. If you have any recently added pages, remember it may take a few days before Google indexes those pages.
Page errors can seriously slow down your SEO efforts, but they’re only temporary setbacks. Figure out where the problematic areas are, take corrective action, and it won’t be long before your search rankings are back to normal.
Google has a variety of other resources available in GSC, including a Structured Data Testing Tool that can help you test your structured data, a Google Places integration which is extremely valuable for local businesses, and PageSpeed or site speed Insights, which can help you make all your pages load faster on all browsers and devices. Most of these are advanced features that may not be helpful for all users, but definitely feel free to explore them once you’ve mastered the basics.
It will take some time before you’re formally acquainted with GSC, especially if you’re a newbie in SEO. But Google Search Console is a critical piece in determining your performance and is one of the first places we visit with new website audits. Google has gone to great lengths to make such a useful, massive tool available for webmasters around the world—you might as well take advantage of it. As you become more seasoned, you’ll learn more tips and tricks on how to make GSC work for you, but for now, focus on becoming familiar with the basic layout.
Research and Beat Competitors with Google Search Console
Most businesses invest their time and money in content, but they often ignore their strategy and studying the results of their previous plans. Unfortunately, this is where it all goes wrong for them.
Google Search Console helps businesses study their earlier efforts and results through one window. This makes it possible for them to create their future strategy and fix broken pathways.
This free tool will get provide information related to your website at your fingertips. Whether you are an SEO specialist, a digital marketer, a website owner, or anyone else with a digital presence, it’s possible to control how your website performs and make it Google-friendly without missing anything that might help you rank on the SERPs.