How To Use Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a collection of tools that allows website owners and SEO professionals to monitor a website’s performance in Google’s search results. Checking Google Search Console (GSC) regularly can help you identify any issues that could be affecting your site’s rankings.
Heads up, you’re most likely to enjoy this article if:
- You want to understand how your SEO Manager uses GSC
- You do your own SEO work and want to learn how to use Google Search Console
- You’re a total SEO nerd and you just love reading this sort of thing, you crazy cat.
First, Let’s Get Set Up
If this is your first time using GSC, you’ll need to log into Search Console using your Google account. Once you’ve logged in, add your website by entering the URL and clicking ‘Add A Property’.
From here, verify the website by doing ANY (not all) of the following:
- Upload a file to your server.
- Add a meta tag to your website’s HTML.
- Add a new DNS record.
- Use your Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager account.
(Depending on your preferred option, GSC will explain how to do this.)
Once you’ve verified your account, you’ll be able to monitor the health of your website via the tabs on the left.
Now we’re ready to look at how to use Google Search Console.
This section highlights any issues your website might have in the way it appears in the Google Search results. Resolving these can improve your website’s click-through rate.
Structured data helps Google understand the content on your website. You can take advantage of structured data by adding HTML markup to your website’s pages. This way, you’ll be able to create rich snippets to appear in the search results. However, if an issue arises from your structured data, this can prevent the rich snippets from appearing, so should resolve the issue quickly.
Rich cards are a search result format that Google uses to present information from your website in a more interesting way, potentially driving more traffic to your website. These are similar to rich snippets as they also use schema.org markup.
Data Highlighter is a tool for marking up the data on your website without having to change any HTML. Instead, you just highlight the data you want to include and select the data type. This then allows information to appear in the search results page in more interesting ways than your standard results.
Data Highlighter can be used to show Google many types of data on your website including:
- Local branches
The HTML Improvements page will highlight any potential issues that Google found when crawling and indexing your website. As title and meta descriptions appear in the search results, it’s important to resolve these issues as soon as possible. Doing so will not only aid user experience, but it can also help drive traffic to your website.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are web pages with a simplistic form of HTML that allows them to load faster on smartphones and tablets. Pages that adhere to the strict HTML guidelines for AMPs are then validated and cached in Google’s AMP cache. AMPs don’t just benefit on-the-go users – they can also improve your page rankings because mobile friendliness and fast load times are known ranking factors.
As the name suggests, the Search Traffic section of your Search Console highlights where your website’s traffic is coming from. It reveals a range of statistics including the search queries that are getting you the most clicks and how well your mobile pages are working.
This tab shows you how often your website appeared in the search results. You can filter the report by clicks, impressions, CTR, and your website’s position. You can also break things down further by query, pages, country, devices, search appearance, and even dates.
Links to Your Site
This will show you the domains Google has found linking to your website, your most linked-to content, and the anchor text being used to link to your website. But keep in mind: this won’t always show all the backlinks your website has. If you want to check these more thoroughly, you can cross reference using tools like Majestic SEO or Ahrefs.
This page allows you to see the number of internal links pointing to a page. Google then uses this to interpret the importance of the pages on your website. Pages with a high number of internal links are considered more important, so you can use this section of Search Console to determine if any pages need more or less internal links.
Google has a team of reviewers who help to determine whether all the pages on a website meet their webmaster quality guidelines. Any pages that are found in breach of these can get moved down in the search results or taken out completely until the issue is resolved. Your Manual Actions section will inform you of any issues your website might have and what you can do to remedy them.
Setting up international targeting through Search Console helps Google return the most relevant results to a user’s search query. This is especially important if your site has a generic top-level domain such as .com or .org rather than one that is country coded like .com.au.
Having a site that functions well on mobile is becoming more and more important. This means the Mobile Usability section of your Search Console is extremely important. This highlights any pages on your website that aren’t working well on mobile. Any issues your website has on mobile should be resolved quickly as mobile users are more likely to return to websites that are mobile-friendly.
Google’s Index is made of pages that are ready to be displayed in the search results. This section of Search Console lets you see how many of your pages have been indexed by Google as well as any issues that might be preventing your pages from being indexed.
Your index status will tell you how many of your website’s pages have been indexed by Google. Keep in mind that some discrepancy between the amount of content you have submitted and the amount that has been indexed is normal; you should only be concerned if you see a massive increase or decrease of pages, as this can mean there are other issues with your site.
This section highlights any pages on your website that Google does not have access to. If you have any, these should be reviewed as Google may index them incorrectly.
Using this section of Search Console, you can temporarily block pages from the search results. This block only lasts 90 days, however, and it is not intended for everyday use. Try to avoid using it unless absolutely necessary.
Googlebot crawls the pages on your website collecting data so that your pages can be indexed and appear in search results. This section of Search Console:
- Lets you know if Google has encountered any issues in crawling your website
- Updates you on Googlebot’s activity
- Shows you how Googlebot sees the pages on your website.
If Googlebot has had trouble crawling a page on your website, it will appear in this section under its device and then its relevant HTTP status code. Any crawl errors your website has should be reviewed to determine what is causing them and how you can fix them.
This section outlines Googlebot’s activity on your website in the last 90 days. You should monitor this for any sudden shifts up or down, as this could indicate issues with your website.
Fetch as Google
This section allows you to see how the URLs on your website are seen by Google. You can also see if there are any resources on a particular page that Googlebot can’t access. This will allow you to make changes so that Google can see your pages the way you intended and help it to be indexed correctly.
A robots.txt file is a file on your website that gives information to crawlers about which sections on your website you don’t want to be crawled. The robots.txt Tester in Search Console allows you to make changes to your robots.txt file and check for errors. It’s important to remember your robots.txt file is only a directive; crawlers may still crawl pages you are trying to block.
A sitemap is a file you create to let web crawlers know which pages on your website they should crawl. It can also help provide metadata to the crawler as well as data for content that is hard for crawlers to understand (such as image files and videos). In this tab, you can view your sitemap, test or add a sitemap, and receive notifications about any issues in your sitemap.
URL parameters let webmasters instruct Google on which URL they would prefer to be crawled to prevent any duplication errors. Using URL parameters shouldn’t be taken lightly as a mistake could mean your pages disappear from the index and search results entirely.
This section of Search Console lets you know if Google has detected any security issues with your site. It also provides steps for resolving any existing issues.
This tab gives you access to some handy tools that can help you set up and maintain your website. For example, this is where GSC might alert you to a suspected hack of your site or content on your site that Google thinks will be harmful to your website’s visitors (such as malware).
Overall, knowing how to use Google Search Console allows you to monitor the performance of your website and identify any issues. As a webmaster, you should review your Search Console at least once a month so that areas where your website is doing well can be strengthened and any problems can be resolved quickly.