What is Google Search Console?16 Jul 2020
Google Search Console (GSC) is one of those tools that every website should have set up, no matter the size or type of website.
Quite often, on our SEO essentials course, we find that many delegates have either never heard of GSC or have it set up but have never used it/don’t know what it does.
So in this article, we will go introduce you to Search Console and some of its most useful features.
But first of all…
Google Search Console, or GSC, is a completely free tool provided by Google that allows webmasters to “monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site's presence in Google Search results”.
Sound too technical? It isn’t. Search Console is for Webmasters, SEO’s, Business Owners, Musicians, Freelancers...anyone with a website.
It is a user-friendly platform providing reports and tools for everyone to use, ok admittedly some of the more detailed report information can get a bit technical, but there is still plenty of useful information available for non-techy folk.
Google Search Console has lots of great reports which will help you get a better idea of how Google is finding and seeing your website.
It is also the place where you’ll find any messages related to issues Google discovered when crawling your site or if you have been penalised for breaking Google’s Search Guidelines.
There are many different reports and tools available in GSC, lets take a look at some of the more useful ones:
GSC shows you organic traffic performance for your site (through Google only, obviously). Unlike Google Analytics, Search Console shows you Search Terms and Search Impressions (the number of times your page has appeared in Google Search Results) along with Clicks and Ranking Position. You can go back up to 16 months and even get data for the current day.
With lots of filtering options, you can get a good picture of your more popular pages, by device, country and search terms users are using to find your site.
You can also connect GSC with your Google Analytics and pull in this data to Analytics.
Your XML sitemap is used by search engines to help them discover all the pages in your website. When they hit your website they will try to find the XML sitemap.
In GSC you can submit your XML Sitemap by entering the URL, ensuring that Google can easily find it, and therefore, your pages within your website.
If you find you have pages appearing in Google Search results that you don’t want there, you can use the tool in GSC to quickly remove them. Although this only a temporary fix and will stay in place for just 6 months.
Core Web Vitals is a relatively new report, but one that is going to become increasingly important as Google shifts its ranking algorithms next year.
This report scores your website pages based on a mix of page speed and user experience elements on desktop and mobile. It also offers suggestions on how to improve your score. These statistics, and more, can also be manually checked through the Pagespeed Insights tool.
If Google detects any structured mark-up on your pages GSC will display the different types of structured mark found such as Events, FAQs, Logos, Products etc.
If there are any errors with any of the mark-up it will display warnings or errors by the page and give specific details to the part of the code which is incorrect.
It will also display if Google found any issues with your site when displayed on mobile, for example, if it doesn't size down correctly or the links are too small.
GSC provides you with data about internal links and external links, that is links from other websites pointing to your pages.
GSC provides reports for the domains that link to you the most, the pages they link to and the anchor text used (unfortunately they are separate reports and not married up.) Each of these can be downloaded as a CSV file.
Whilst this report doesn’t go into as much depth as other backlink tools out there, it is still interesting to see Googles’ view of which of your pages are gaining the most links and where they are coming from.
If Google has identified that your website has broken their user guidelines you will find a notification here, with further details.
Similarly, if Google believes that your website has been hacked or has discovered other security issues you will be notified here.
Setting up Google Search Console is relatively easy.
If you have Analytics or Tag Manager already set up you can verify your site through these.
Otherwise, it’s just a case of copying a small bit of code provided by Google and dropping it into the HTML of your site.
Not comfortable editing HTML? Most CMS’s will have an area, or plugin, available for you to enter such tags otherwise it is best to speak to a developer.
And the third option is uploading a file to the server where you are hosting the site.
We’ve only touched upon some of the features of Search Console in this post, it is a very useful tool and its completely FREE, so there isn’t really any reason not to set it up.
Want to know more about Search Console or SEO in general? Take a look at our SEO course.
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