Google Search Console is one of the most powerful (yet under-utilized) SEO tools at your disposal. This web service is provided directly through Google, and it gives you the power to track and optimize your website’s presence in Google search engine results.
If you have a website, you probably already know how important it is for your site to show up in search engine results. With search engine optimization, you implement strategies to help move your content up in these results and show up before competitors.
There are all kinds of ways to do this, and Google Search Console is yet another tool in your belt you don’t want to miss out on.
But like many Google products, the Search Console is subject to regular updates and changes. That means your SEO strategy often needs to be changed along with it.
Back in early 2019, a new version of Search Console was announced. Fast forward almost two years, and it’s officially out of beta. That means it’s time to discuss exactly what these changes could mean for your SEO strategy.
Before we get to exactly how the new GSC will affect SEO, let’s cover some other Search Console basics.
Google Search Console Basics
What you know as Google Search Console today was called Google Webmaster Tools until 2015.
In January 2018, it underwent substantial changes, including a new user interface. Again in 2019, it was updated, and we’ll get into that update in just a minute.
Since its conception, Google Search Console has been a free service to help website owners optimize their site for search engine results.
Organic search engine results are incredibly important, but they’re not always easy to achieve. You need to make sure search engines index and understand your content according to their algorithms.
Unfortunately, these algorithms and practices can be tough to keep up with, and they’re often kept secret.
But with Google Search Console, you get insider’s info into exactly how Google views your site. That means if something’s not quite right, you can see where there are areas to improve or adjust your content and website.
The power of Google Search Console
Now, let’s go right to the source to find out how GSC can help you optimize your content and increase organic results.
According to Google, the Search Console provides you with these tools and reports:
- Confirm that Google can find and crawl your site.
- Fix indexing problems and request re-indexing of new or updated content.
- View Google Search traffic data for your site: how often your site appears in Google Search, which search queries show your site, how often searchers click through for those queries, and more.
- Receive alerts when Google encounters indexing, spam, or other issues on your site.
- Show you which sites link to your website.
- Troubleshoot issues for AMP, mobile usability, and other Search features.
As you can probably guess, each of these tools and reports are incredibly valuable to your overall digital marketing strategy.
And it’s not only web developers who can benefit from the GSC. Business owners, SEO specialists and marketers, and site administrators can take advantage of Search Console too!
What else should I know?
If you want to try out GSC for yourself, you’ll need to have a Google account. This account is what lets you login to monitor and track results for the property (website) associated with your account.
Once your account is set up, you can copy and paste specific URLs and inspect them. This inspection provides you with an extensive report full of helpful insights.
Now that we’ve talked about some of the basics of Google Search Console, let’s explore some of its features more in-depth, as well as how recent updates might affect SEO.
Accessing the updated Google Search Console
If you’ve already been using the GSC for a while, you should have received an email introducing the new version by now. Included in this email, you’ll see a link to access the new Search Console.
Once you click that link, you’ll be taken to the user dashboard where you’ll see an option on the top left that says “Try the New Search Console.”
Once you select that button, your dashboard will be updated and look something like this:
On the left hand side, you’ll see all kinds of options for filtering your reports and accessing the information you need.
Let’s talk about using this information to your advantage and making sure the update affects SEO in the most positive way!
3 Primary Google Search Console Reports
On the new GSC dashboard, there are three primary reports we’ll talk about today: performance, coverage, and enhancements.
These reports can be broken down even further to provide the most specific information, so let’s talk about what each report can tell you.
Under the performance tab, you’ll see two options: search results and discover.
Here’s where you’ll find these reports:
- Search Type
- Search Appearance
Now, you also have additional filtering options like job postings, rich results, non-rich AMP results, news, and AMP pages. Additionally, you’ll also have 16 months of data at your disposal, unlike the 7, 28, or 90-day options on the old Google Search Console.
Based on the filters you choose, you can create all kinds of reports from the search results data.
Here are a few examples:
- Pages with high/low CTR
- Top performing pages.
- Number of clicks per keyword
- Number of impressions per keyword
In April 2019, Google added the Discover Report to GSC. It’s useful for telling you not only how people discover your content, but how they interact with it.
It includes data on AMP stories, what content performs well, how it performs compared to other results, and how frequently your content is accessed.
What was once known as Index Status and Crawl Errors is now the Coverage Report.
This report shows you your indexed pages as well as pages not included in your sitemap.
You’ll find a list of errors here too, including Crawl Errors. That means pages are unable to be indexed.
This is something to keep an eye on, because your content needs to be indexed if you want it to show up in search engine results! A sudden change in this number is a big red flag.
Here are some of the most common Crawl Errors to look out for:
- DNS (Domain Name System) error: It’s time to contact your server host!
- Server errors: This could be related to your connection or timeout, and it often happens if you’re getting too much traffic.
- Soft 404 errors: You’ll need to add a 301 redirect if your page is dead or check for thin or duplicate content.
- 404 errors: We’re all familiar with this error, aren’t we? It’s seen for a number of reasons, including if a page is unpublished or deleted. Do you have more than 20 links pointing to that page? Then it’s time to add a 301 redirect right away.
Just below coverage, you’ll see Sitemaps. Keep an eye out for these reports too, because they can include important information about other errors on your site that need to be addressed.
New to sitemaps? Take a look at this guide.
Next, we see the Enhancements tab.
Here, you’ll find not only your core web vitals, but other reports like mobile usability, breadcrumbs, and review snippets.
Each of the reports we’ve touched on could call for their own blog post! There’s so much to discover with GSC.
But with these basics under your belt, you can start using the more detailed reporting to your SEO advantage.
Here are some great ways to get started.
Start using the new Google Search Console to your SEO advantage
1. Improve your CTR
A high click-through-rate (CTR) is great! But getting there isn’t always easy. Luckily, the insights provider from GSC can help.
To see your average CTR, navigate to Performance, and the Search Results. You’ll see four boxes, including one that says Average CTR. Make sure it’s selected, and select the Average Position tab too.
This gives you the ability to see pages with a good average position but low CTR. This information is incredibly useful because you can now figure out why the CTR is low if the position is high!
A few ways to improve your content are re-examining title tags and updating (or adding) meta descriptions.
These 9 On-Page SEO Factors You Need to Know to Rank Higher will also help!
2. Look for new keyword opportunities
When you browse this report, take a look at the position column and make note of any pages that fall between 10-20. This means they show up on the second page of search results.
This is yet another opportunity to boost your organic traffic! It’s time to take a look at what you can optimize on these pages to move them from the second page to the first.
3. Link checking
A huge part of SEO success has to do with linking, both internal and external. (PS. We’ve got a great post on sitelink extensions here).
Internal links help structure your content and also give Google important signals about your content. Backlinks also tell Google important information, like how important and high-quality your content is!
Utilize Google Search Console to discover which pages have internal and external links.
To access your links report, you’ll navigate to the bottom left of the user interface and select Links.
Then, a report will come up that shows your internal and external links, top linking sites, and top linking text. You can also export your external linking information here too.
Expand each report and switch sorting by the highest number to the lowest number of links.
Do you have pages with zero internal links? It’s time to add a few relevant links to the content on these pages!
As far as external links, you can spot your best performing pages and simply interlink them on other pages you want to perform better. This is a great strategy because pages with more external links are considered higher quality by Google!
Linking to these high-quality pages on lower performing pages signifies to Google that that content is important too.
Do you want help with your SEO strategy?
Exploring Google Search Console, even at its most basic form can be completely overwhelming. It’s just one part of a successful SEO strategy, and making the most of all the tools at your disposal on your own is almost impossible!
Let us help. We’ve got years of proven SEO and digital marketing success that we want to put to work for you.
Ready to learn more about how we do it? Get in touch with Blue Water Marketing in Stuart, Florida, today so we can get started!