So, what is Google Search Console?
Previously known as Google Webmaster tools it became Google Search Console in May of 2015.
Why do you need GSC (Google Search Console) for your SEO projects?
You’re not really going to get the results you want without using this tool. Yes, there is a host of other software providers who can provide information on how your site ranks, an audit of your site’s health, missing keywords, backlink information for you, but they aren’t Google!
But, back to the reason, you’re here! GSC for SEO. The information I use most out of GSC is below, although I’ll be going into detail about all of the tools further into the article.
1. Search analytics report
The Search analytics report is where you will find the keyword information that Google is ranking your site for in the SERP (Search engine results page). This is really important as finding the ‘low hanging fruit’ is really easy when you have the information to hand.
Plus, although it is not all of the data that they are ranking you for, they don’t give you the keys to the castle sadly, but it is a great indicator of what they see you as being the authority on or not.
Example: Let’s say you had a blog, which I do, that reviews Dashboard Cameras. When looking in the search engine results report you can see that you rank and are gaining traffic from Google for one of your target keywords.
Such as Nextbase 412GW review which is one of our primary keywords for one of our reviews. The report will show you, what the average position in the results are, how many clicks for this keyword/phrase and also the number of times your site has been shown in the search results.
N.b it’s not a site we’ve done too much with just in case you do search it! 😉
2. Crawl stats
As SEO’s we know that page speed is massively important to where Google ranks us in the search results.
Within the GSC console, it tells you how long it took for Google to download the website and shows you a great graph from the last 3 months to see if there have been any issues server-side or anything to worry about.
We had a client recently, we moved the website to our dedicated server and they went from page 2 to page one for their main keyword within a month.
3. Fetch as Google
If like us and most of our clients, you’re not a news publication or a site which is constantly being updated by the minute, it might be some time before Googlebot crawls your site and finds the new content you spent hours producing and writing.
Fetch as Google allows you to ask Googlebot to come and crawl your site again. Even ask them to index the site too. There is a limit of doing this and crawling all URL’s of 10 per month so be smart.
The other tools provided by GSC are below.
I have added my thoughts on why these are critical to your website SEO too.
Submit and check a sitemap.
Well, how does Google know about your site without submitting it? Don’t wait till Google finds your site! Tell them using this tool!
This tool basically tells you what pages are blocked to the search bots. By writing a robots.txt file you can help make sure Google knows exactly what pages you don’t want them to index on your site. Example being the wp-admin area of a WordPress website.
Links to your site
Google gives you information on the websites that link to your site. They list both internal and external pages that link to the pages on your site. You can use this information to complete a link audit and disavow any links that are potentially harming your rankings.
One of the most important ranking factors for Google is still Pagerank. Although they don’t give you this information anymore you need to make sure that the sites linking to you are Authoritative, Relevant and not Spammy.
Crawl Errors report
Ever wondered why that page you wrote which contains so much information Google should have it in position 0 on the SERP? Well, Google will tell you if they’re having difficulty crawling a page on your site and list any links that they can’t get to properly.
This information is gold dust if you are trying to rank a page but not having much look. They tell you what the potential issue is so you can just go a fix it!
Set a preferred domain
When you look at the SERP you might have noticed that there are sites listed that start with www. and others that start with non-www. This is due to the webmaster of the site setting this within Google.
This can be really important as if you don’t set this, Google find it harder to decide which version to rank in the SERP. Believe it or not www. And non.www are classed as 2 separate sites and can therefore potentially look like duplicated content on your site.
Make sure you set the right version in GSC.
Structured data report
The structured data section of GSC allows you to see what Schema.org markup your website has on it. And whether there are any errors with how your markup is configured.
The data highlighter tool also provides a really easy way of telling Google what you want them to use as your structured data.
We’ve used this to great effect for a client who provides bid writing courses. By highlighting the area of the site for each course Google can now show the course dates, times, locations etc. within the search results if anyone searches specifically for a bid writing training course in a location they have one booked in.
Disavow links tool
If for any reason you have links that you really don’t want Google to take into account when determining your site relevancy for a search term you can upload a list of them to Google and ask them to Disavow them using this tool.
Manual Penalty notifications
The one thing no webmaster wants to ever see in GSC. A manual action notification. If Google deems you have broken the guidelines for any reason they will let you know through this tool of any manual actions they have given you. Enough said on that one!!
With the ever-increasing use of Mobile to browse the internet and search Google with, they have given you the option to highlight any important information on your site to help build ‘rich cards’ on the SERP for mobile devices. They do also show sometimes on the Desktop SERP so well worth investing the time in these.
One of the main things to consider when using GSC for SEO is how much information Google will give you for free! SEO is simple in reality, make sure your page is optimised to the best possible level in the eyes of the search engines and then get people shouting about you all over the internet in the form of backlinks, social mentions, social shares etc.
Now, we’re not the only ones who think using GSC for SEO is a great idea! Below are a number of resources that I’ve learned from over the years as a search engine optimiser.
Do let us know if we’ve missed any out and if you think I’ve missed something vital from the above article.