A Beginner’s Guide to Google Search Console (Old Version)
Before you click away, the old version overlaps with the new version in almost every area, but the new one has a few tweaks. So you can still learn a lot about the new one on here. However, if you just want to learn about the new tweaks check out my other article on that!
A Powerful Tool
Google Search Console is an incredibly useful tool for monitoring the performance of your website. On top of that it gives you the information to locate and fix problems with your site that Google has found for you. Do you know what makes it even better? It’s completely free to use.
In this article I’m going to go through each section of the Google Search Console and try to give you an understanding of what you can do with it and why it’s useful. So get your notepads ready there’s a lot to take down!
The dashboard will show you an overview of your site and notify you of anything pressing that needs to be changed. It will allow you to:
See any crawl issues related to indexing your pages.
See how often your website has shown in the search results.
From the settings (the little gear icon) you can set a preferred domain. This means whether you prefer your domain to have ‘www.’ or not or anything similar. You can also limit how often Google crawls your site as well. It’s usually good practice to just let Google decide how often they do that, but the option is there.
Search Appearance Overview – This section will show you how your website will show up in the search results.
The Title – This is where you should write a short description of a web page. You should do this by writing in the HTML title tag for each page on your website.
The Snippet – This is where you should write a summary of your pages content that is slightly longer than your title. You should do this by writing in the meta HTML tag for each page on your website. In the Search Console, you can see in HTML Improvements, the improvements to make to meta descriptions and title tags of specific pages.
Sitelinks – The little sub titles sometimes found under websites main title in the search results. Sitelinks are sub-links that direct users straight to certain parts of your website. Unfortunately sitelinks are generated by Google via an algorithm instead of the website owner deciding. This is one reason to keep your website nice and tidy and easy to navigate!
Search Within a Website – This allows the user to search the website for its content straight from the search results. Again, Google does this via an algorithm when they believe it may help the searcher refine their search.
URL – These are the pieces of text that link directly to your website when searched into the URL bar at the top of the page on Google. URLs should be structured well and logical so that they make sense to humans. Try to avoid long URLs with lots of numbers.
Event/rich snippet – This shows valuable information from yours site’s page on the search results. This is really great for visitors to get a quick idea of what you have to offer before they click on anyone else. It is easy to put event snippets on using the data highlighter tool to highlight the event information and then check the structured data dashboard to check if it has been crawled.
Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs are a great tool to make your website more readable to people and Google. They denote the hierarchy of the pages and content within your website. This allows people to easily locate where they are in your website and navigate around it. This provides great user experience which Google appreciates!
Product/rich snippet – Just like the event rich snippet, this shows valuable information about the product available on your website. However, this time it can be in the form of the price or rating instead of the dates venue of an event.
Helps Google figure out what your site is about.
Allows your site to display rich snippets in the search results which are important pieces of information relating to your business. These can be things like reviews or whether or not an item is in stock or how much it is.
Google Search Console will tell you if you have any structured data and if there are any problems with it.
These are similar to rich snippets and work in much the same way, but just provide more information and are bigger.
This panel allows you to highlight important data on your sight and tell Google what type of content it is. This allows Google to see what valuable information they can display about your website in the search results.
This is helpful because just like rich snippets and rich cards, it allows Google to display extra information about your website in the search results where the searchers can see immediately.
Will highlight duplicate descriptions, imperfect title and meta tags and other HTML problems. This is really useful because then you are able to locate the problems, go back and make the changes for good SEO practice.
Accelerated Mobile Appearance
This panel allows you to see how mobile friendly your site is and shows you any errors with mobile pages.
This will also allow you to specify to Google accelerated mobile pages that load quickly and are great for mobile.
This is a really important section now as mobile users are increasing vastly. Google favour mobile friendly websites over one’s that aren’t as a result. Therefore it’s extremely important to make sure your website is mobile friendly.
This is one of the most powerful tools on the search console. Here you can analyse many metrics related to the search traffic coming to your website.
Key Metrics will allow you to review how your website is performing for certain keywords or queries. Keywords or queries are something that is being typed into Google by a searcher. For example ‘digital marketing agencies’.
On top of that we can check how your website is performing for these metrics for specific pages, countries, devices, search types (video, image, web) and for different search appearances (web light or rich results).
The metrics are extremely accurate because Google themselves supply you with this data. This is why this tool is so useful. These key metrics include: clicks, impressions, CTR and Position.
Clicks simply measure the total number of clicks onto your website.
Impressions measures the number of times your website has shown up in the search results. This doesn’t mean that your website was necessarily clicked on and thus you should expect to see a higher number of impressions than clicks.
CTR is click through rate. This is the percentage of clicks out of impressions.
Position is the position of your website in the search results for a given keyword/query.
It would be a great idea to set up your own search console and have a play with all the different measurements for your website, but here is one way that you can really use the search console to work on your SEO strategy:
Select queries and apply the filter under ‘countries’ to only the countries that your business is relative to and then select all metrics.
This way you can look at how your website is performing for keywords relative to your business in your desired country.
The power of this is that you can see which queries or keywords are being searched for the most, which you are getting the most traffic from, how enticing your content is and what position you rank for that query.
From this you can see which keywords to put more focus on in your SEO strategy. You can see the low hanging opportunities for which your are already performing fairly well at and that are driving a decent amount of traffic.
It may also be worth seeing your filtering to mobile traffic sometimes as well to know if you should really focus on optimising your site for mobile users. You should be doing this anyway, but this way you can now if it is needed urgently.
Below you can see that I have done it for our website and that we are making a decent amount of impressions for the query ‘Google Analytics Agency’. This means that there is probably a lot of traffic for this query. However our click through rate is quite low because we are 7th position in the UK. Therefore it would be a sound idea to work on our SEO strategy for the keyword ‘Google Analytics Agency’.
So in summary, the analytics panel is extremely powerful and can give you a lot of information about how you can improve your website’s SEO strategy by looking at precise and important metrics. Check it out for yourself and focus on the metrics relative to your business! There are so many permutations of different ways to look at the data it would be too time consuming to explain all of them.
Links to Your Site
This panel looks at the number of backlinks to your website.
Find out who is backlinking you.
Find your most commonly linked content. This is really helpful to know which content methods work so you can produce similar successful content.
See the anchor text (text used to link back to your site).
Shows you links on your site to other pages on your domain.
Internal links are helpful to Google in order to crawl your website easily.
Internal links also pass ‘link juice’ on to your other web pages which is what SEO is all about! Bonus Tip: internal links are not as powerful as external links, but they still hold some weight. It’s wasted power if you don’t utilise this!
You always want to see the message ‘no manual web-spam actions found’.
If Google have given you a manual action they will tell you about it here and why they did it.
If you have manual actions they will usually be due to having bad or unnatural backlinks to your website which you need to manually remove.
This can also happen if your site has been hacked and it hasn’t been resolved or if you have a lot of thin or spammy content. Thin content is a low quality web page that adds little to no value to the reader.
This is your way of telling Google that you want to target audiences that speak a certain language.
Here you can tell Google which pages are optimised for people that speak that language and point them towards that area of your website.
You can also target specific countries.
This panel will tell you if there are any issues with your site when being shown to mobile users.
If there any issues found you should aim to fix these ASAP. Google prefer mobile friendly sites to one’s that aren’t!
This section will show you how many pages have been indexed and any increases or decreases in the number of pages being indexed.
If you are seeing a lower number of pages being indexed than you had expected, then you can click on the advanced tab to show if you have blocked certain pages from being indexed. Robots.txt files tells bots not to index or access your site and this may be blocking Google.
You can also try submitting an updated sitemap if the number of pages indexed is lower than normal.
If you have code that you have blocked search engines from looking at, Google won’t be able to see how you are displaying your content to visitors and will thus block your content and list an error here.
Make sure you have no errors, because you need people to be viewing your content!
Don’t use this panel unless absolutely necessary
This panel will allow you to remove URLs from Google so that they can’t be seen.
An example of when you might want to use this is if credentials have been leaked on a web page and you need to remove the page so that they can’t be viewed.
Will display any errors found on the crawl.
These errors can be:
Any redirects or missing pages.
Here you can view the total pages crawled and the time it took to do so.
You should see the number of pages being crawled increasing as your website grows.
If Google is taking a long time to crawl your website it may mean that your website is too slow which Google really doesn’t like!
Fetch as Google
Fetch as Google is one of the most powerful and important tools on the Google Search Console. It will allow you to quickly ask Google to index pages. This is really helpful when you are making new content and you want it to be indexed immediately, rather than it be indexed when Google crawl your website in a few weeks time. This is great if you update anything on your site.
Will allow you to fetch your web pages to see how Google see your website. Then you can compare it to how people actually see your site instead of bots.
This section will show you what is actually seen by search bots on your site.
You can see what you have asked bots to not look at on your site.
You can also enter a URL to check if it’s blocked and you can test if it blocks specific bots as well.
If you find any problems here, you can make changes to your robots.txt file to allow your page to be indexed.
Sitemaps *Probably the most important and most used section*
Here you can upload and submit sitemaps and check if Google can see it.
You can see how much of your content that you have submitted and how much of that has been indexed.
You can use tools online to create a sitemap by inputting your URL and how frequently you want your sitemap updated.
If your site is growing fast and lots of pages are always being added to it then you probably want to update it frequently. Then when it’s updated keep on submitting it to Google.
This is really important to do so you can keep on getting your new content indexed.
However, you should be honest with how frequently it needs updating. Don’t keep bringing Google back to do more crawls if there is no extra content being produced.
Using this panel incorrectly can really damage how your site appears in the search results so only use this if you really know what you are doing.
It can be used to show Google when you have the same content on your website but it has been tagged differently and has a different page name.
It helps Google to know which content to display. Especially when you have set specific parameters like the ‘country’ tag to distinguish between pages dedicated to people from different countries.
This panel lists security issues found on a crawl.
If any issues on this panel are found, take immediate action as this can be very serious.
Google will help you resolve the security issue on this panel if one is found.
Google Search Console is heavily related to how your website appears in Google. Another thing that is related to how your website and products appear on Google is the Google reviewing system. I’ve made a complete guide on how to deal with bad reviews. I think it will be really useful for you if you have have an online business. You will be surprised by how greatly public opinion can affect a business’ performance. If you look good to prospective clients, you are much more likely to come away with a sale.
I hope this guide has been helpful to you and has given you a basic understanding of the features available to you in Google Search Console. Now, although I have given you a guide, Google Search Console can still be a tricky tool to master and it can take some time to master. At Accelerate Agency we have a team of experts that have spent a lot of time mastering this tool and many others to boost online presence and SEO. If you would like to ask about how we can help your business grow then click here to contact us.