What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console is a free tool where you can check the status of your web pages indexed by Google (Did Google find my pages?) and allows you to identify if there are any crawl errors preventing your content from appearing in search results. Google Search Console also provides search traffic analytics across all your pages, queries, devices and geographies.
On May 20, 2015, Google rebranded its Google Webmaster Tools, which is now known as Google Search Console. Then in January 2018, Google introduced a new version of the Search Console, which included a refreshed user interface and improvements (screenshots shared in this post are from the latest version as of February 2019).
While Google Analytics is the most widely adopted tool for understanding how users engage with websites (including metrics such as user visits, bounce rate, and time spent), Google Search Console provides powerful search analytics that should be leveraged for SEO purposes.
Key Google Search Console features:
- Google Crawler/Googlebot: check and set the crawl rate, and view statistics about when Googlebot accesses a particular site. Get a list of links that Googlebot had difficulty crawling, including the error that Googlebot received when accessing the URLs in question.
- Search Analytics: see what specific keywords on Google led to your site as organic traffic, click-through rates and a variety of analytics that we will discuss further when discussing the SEO implications of such data.
- Mobile usability: report with user experience issues related to your site’s performance in mobile devices.
- Links: list of external and internal links to your site.
- Search appearance: various tools to help you inform Google about Structured Data And Rich Snippets present in your content. This is particularly relevant for certain content types, such as reviews or listings that may follow a particular markup. Accelerated Mobile Pages is also a sub-feature within the Search Appearance tools.
- Sitemaps: submit and check a sitemap and also helps the webmasters to check if there are any errors with their sitemap.
How to Setup and Verify your Google Search Console
1. Sign in to Google
If you don’t have a Google account, you must set one up. Go to Google.com and click Sign in. Then choose Create an account and complete the form.
2. Add website property
While signed in to your Google account, navigate to this page in any browser: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/. Type in your domain name (the domain URL, such as http://www.example.com/) and then click Add Property.
3. Verification process
There are various ways to verify your site; these are the 2 easiest methods:
Method #1: Verification through Google Analytics
If you’ve set up Google Analytics for your website AND you have “administrator” permissions, you can verify your site ownership instantly. Choose the “Google Analytics” option and lick the “Verify” button to complete your verification procedure.
Method #2: Verification through HTML tag
If you have access to edit your site’s HTML code, choose the “HTML tag” option. Copy the code snippet provided by Google and paste it into the Head section of your home page. This creates a new meta tag. Save your changes in the editor program. Next, back in the google search Console setup page, click the “Verify” button. That’s it!
Once Google verifies your site or app ownership, you can login and start using your newly set up google search Console. Keep in mind that data takes time to collect, so it may be a few days before your new account has data worth looking at. This is an excellent time to take care of a basic but important search engine optimization task: creating a sitemap that will help Google find and index your pages faster.
Once verified, your list of sites will look like this:
Google Search Console for Technical SEO
In the Overview section, there is a sub-section named “Coverage”. There you can see how many pages have been crawled by Google. If you want to check the status of an specific URL (for example, an article you’ve recently published), you can input the URL directly in the top menu input box.
Identify broken pages and server errors
Within the Coverage section, you can click “Open Report” to see a breakdown of errors (when they exist).
In the left menu there is an option to explore Mobile Usability. Google has published a list of possible mobile issues your site should be optimized for. Considering the growth in mobile search, you definitely want to make sure no errors are reported.
Google Search Console for On-page SEO
The “Performance” feature offers detailed metrics regarding search queries your pages rank for. The 4 key metrics to look at are (as described by Google):
- Impressions: The number of times any URL from your site appeared in search results viewed by a user, not including paid Google Ads search impressions.
- Clicks: The number of clicks on your website URLs from a google search results page, not including clicks on paid Google Ads search results.
- Average Position: The average ranking of your website URLs for the query or queries. For example, if your site’s URL appeared at position 3 for one query and position 7 for another query, the average position would be 5 ((3+7)/2).
- CTR: Click-through rate, calculated as Clicks / Impressions * 100.
You are able to analyze those metrics in a given date range for various “Dimensions”, including Queries, Pages, Countries, and Devices.
These are some actionable strategies to leverage Google Search Console for SEO purposes:
- Continuously optimize your top performing pages: sort your pages by clicks to find out what pages are bringing more traffic to your site. These are pages you have to make sure they stay relevant and up to date in the eyes of Google. You should use content optimization techniques for this purpose.
- Remove pages with low rankings and low impressions: these pages essentially represent waste and should be removed. You should always strive to maximize the average rankings of your website. Having many pages with low rankings can detrimental to your overall SEO efforts. Similarly, if your pages are ranking for irrelevant search terms, you should consider removing them.
- Create new content for opportunity queries: queries with high impressions where you rank low present opportunity. Why? These queries are generating traffic but your content is not competitive enough to get exposure.
- Optimize headlines for CTR: you may have pages with high rankings and low CTR. This pattern can be indicative of a weak headline and you should a/b test changes to your page metadata, including title tags and meta descriptions.
- Monitor ranking improvements after content refreshes: at its core, Google Search Console is a great tool to measure ranking improvements over time.
Integrating Google Search Console with Frase
Frase is an end-to-end content creation platform for SEO. By integrating Frase with the Google Search Console you can connect the dots between SEO performance and your content creation process. More specifically, Frase helps accelerate the following workflows:
- Create content for opportunity queries: Frase automatically pulls up those queries that represent an opportunity (high impressions / low rankings) and lets you create quality content by analyzing your competitors for a given SERP.
- Optimize contents that are decreasing in rankings: you want to make sure your top articles and landing pages remain competitive in the long run. Frase makes it easy to identify pages that require attention and helps you turn them into high authority pages by proposing specific topics your page should cover.
- Google Search Console is a powerful tool that can be easily installed along with Google Analytics.
- You are already investing resources in creating authentic content…so you better make sure search engines can find it. Google Search Console lets you know about any indexing issues that would prevent you from ranking in the SERP.
- Data derived from Google Search Console can directly inform SEO decisions and content strategy.
- When it comes to monitoring site performance and content ROI, Google Search Console provides the most reliable live data about your organic traffic.
- Using Frase in tandem with Google Search Console provides an efficient workflow to bridge SEO opportunities with content creation and optimization.