Google Search Console

I have been doing SEO for quite some time, in fact long enough to remember when Search Console was called Google Webmaster tools. If someone was to tell me that I could only use one SEO tool then it would have to be Google Search Console.

I use it each and every day to help optimise customers websites.

Why use Google Search Console

Firstly it is free !

Seriously though it is a web service offered by Google that helps website owners monitor, maintain and optimise their site’s presence in Google search results. Here are some reasons why you should consider using Google Search Console:

Search Console provides valuable insights into how your website is performing in Google search results. You can see how many clicks and impressions your website is getting, and which pages are the most popular.

Search Console can help you identify technical issues on your website that might be affecting its performance in search results.

By using Google Search Console, you can see which keywords and phrases people are using to find your website, and which pages are ranking well for those keywords. This information can help you optimise your content to better match the intent of your audience.

Search Console allows you to submit sitemaps and individual URLs for Google to crawl and index. This can help ensure that your content is discovered by Google and shown in search results.

Overall, Google Search Console is an essential tool for anyone who wants to improve their website’s performance in Google search results.

How to Set up Search Console

Firstly go to the search console start page https://search.google.com/search-console/about

Click on Start now.

Sign in with your Google Account.

Then in the search property in the top left and select Add Property.

I personally prefer to use the add URL Prefix rather than the domain one. The main reason for this is that one of our customers got their development site hacked and this had a negative affect on the live site because they were both under the same domain property.

Enter your domain URL in to the property type you want to setup i.e. https://lojix.co.uk/

Click Continue.

You will then need to verify that you actually own this website.

Search Console supports several different verification methods including uploading an html file, adding a meta tag to your header section, using the Google analytics code or tag manager snippet. I prefer to use the meta tag option as I find it fairly easy to do. If you use WordPress then Yoast SEO makes this very easy. All you have to do is login to your WordPress admin, go to Yoast SEO then select Settings, General and Site Connections and paste in the code from Search Console. You might get a warning saying this is trying to insert some code but click that this is ok and retry.

Once verified it does take a few days to start populating the data.

Now we can start looking into the features of Search Console.

Overview

As you would expect the overview is a very brief snippet of some of the more important sections including the performance of the site, indexing of the pages as well as showing the experience and enhancements.

Performance

I think that the performance section is the most important part of Search Console. It is here where you will see which keywords people are finding your site with. You can see how many impressions each keyword is getting, which position they are and which page ranks for that particular keyword.

google search console guide

And if you really want to dig deeper you can see which countries people are visiting from and which device they used.

You can look back at the last 16 months worth of data but tend to use the last 3 months. Once I have used this data to optimise my site I will revisit this in a few months time to see if more work is needed.

Search Console also gives you the option to export the data to Excel if you prefer to work on it in there, which obviously allows you to filter and sort the information.

URL Inspection

This is another tool that I like to use. It allows website owners to check the indexing status of a specific URL on their website. It also provides information on any issues that may prevent a page from being indexed. You can also request indexing of the page if it has changed recently.

Indexing

The indexing section of Google Search Console provides information about how Google crawls and indexes the pages of a website. It also shows the number of indexed pages, crawl errors, and provides insights into how Google sees a website’s content.

guide to Google search console

Here are some of the features of the indexing section:

Index Coverage Report: This report shows the number of indexed pages on a website and any crawl errors that may prevent certain pages from being indexed.

Sitemaps: This section allows website owners to submit sitemaps to Google, which helps Google crawl and index a website more efficiently.

Removals: This section allows website owners to request the removal of specific pages or URLs from Google’s index.

International Targeting: This section allows website owners to specify which countries and languages they want their website to target.

By using the indexing section of Google Search Console, website owners can better understand how Google crawls and indexes their website’s pages, and make any necessary changes to improve their website’s visibility in Google search results.

Experience

The Page Experience section of Google Search Console covers a set of metrics and guidelines related to the user experience of a webpage. It is probably one of the more complex sections. Core web vitals for example requires some good in depth knowledge of web development concepts such as CSS and server-side technologies.

Google search console tips

Google uses the metrics in this section to evaluate the overall experience a user may have on a webpage and how easy it is to use the website.

This section of Search Console includes the following features:

Core Web Vitals: These are a set of metrics that measure the loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability of a webpage. These metrics include Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Mobile Usability: This section provides information about how mobile-friendly a website is, and highlights any issues that could negatively impact a user’s experience on a mobile device.

Security Issues: This section shows any security issues found on the website, such as malware or harmful downloads, that could harm a user’s device or personal information.

Ad Experience: This section provides information about any ad-related issues on the website that could negatively impact the user experience, such as pop-ups or autoplay videos with sound.

Page Experience Guide: This guide provides additional information and recommendations on how to improve the overall user experience of a webpage, including tips on improving page speed, usability, and accessibility.

By using the Page Experience section of Google Search Console, website owners can monitor and improve the user experience of their website, which can lead to better search rankings and increased traffic.

Enhancements

The Enhancements section of Google Search Console covers features that help website owners identify and fix technical issues related to structured data and rich media content. Here are some of the features included in the Enhancements section:

Rich Results: This feature allows website owners to check if their pages are eligible for rich results, such as rich snippets, recipe cards, and other visual enhancements in Google search results.

Breadcrumbs: This feature helps website owners ensure that their breadcrumb trails are correctly structured and displayed in Google search results.

Sitelinks Searchbox: This feature allows website owners to add a search box to their search results, making it easier for users to find specific content on their website.

Logo: This feature allows website owners to specify their website’s logo and ensure that it is displayed correctly in Google search results.

Data Highlighter: This feature allows website owners to tag specific types of content on their pages with structured data, making it easier for Google to understand and display in search results.

HTML Improvements: This feature provides information about any HTML issues on the website that could impact search engine optimisation, such as missing or duplicate meta descriptions, title tags, or header tags.

By using the Enhancements section of Google Search Console, website owners can identify and fix technical issues related to structured data and rich media content. This can help improve the appearance and visibility of a website in search results, leading to increased traffic and engagement from users.

Security and Manual Actions

This section of Search Console helps to identify if your site has any security issues.

There are two parts to this section; Manual Actions and Security Issues. Manual actions show  and Security Issues show up things such as whether your site has been hacked or has any malicious software running on it.

You can see full details of security issues here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9044101?hl=en

Legacy Tools and Reports

I don’t tend to use these any more. They are getting less and less as time goes on. In fact the only one left now is “Web Tools”. This includes things such as the ad experience report which can let you know if you are violating any advertising rules by using ads that annoy users.

These are just some of the legacy tools that no longer exist or have been moved in to the main search console area:

Crawl Errors: This feature provided information about any crawl errors Google encountered while indexing a website, such as broken links or server errors.

Sitemaps: This feature allowed website owners to submit sitemaps to Google, which helped Google index the website more efficiently.

URL Parameters: This feature allowed website owners to specify how Google should handle certain URL parameters, such as those used in faceted navigation or sorting.

Fetch as Google: This feature allowed website owners to see how Googlebot crawls and renders a specific page on their website, helping them identify any issues with crawling or indexing.

HTML Suggestions: This feature provided suggestions for improving the HTML of a website to improve its visibility in search results, such as optimising meta descriptions and title tags.

Labs: This feature included experimental tools and reports that were not yet fully integrated into Google Search Console, such as Page Speed and Instant Previews.

Links

Links is another important section of Search Console and is split into 2 sections; external links and internal links. You can use the internal links section to check that your most important pages are getting enough internal links.

The external links part shows the number of external links coming into each of your pages. It also shows the actual page that the link is on. This section is useful to check if you have any bad or spammy backlinks coming into your site. Things to look out for are pages that have an unusually high number of backlinks and look at the top linking sites to see why a site has multiple links to your site.

Settings

The settings section shows you things such as who is the verified owner of the site, which other users have access to your search console account. You can view crawl stats. If you ever move your site to a different domain name you can use the Change of Address to tell Google that is has moved. This should help to protect your search rankings.

Here’s how to use the Change of Address tool:

Verify both the old and new domains in Google Search Console. This is required to ensure that you have ownership of both domains.

Click on the old domain in Google Search Console and select the “Change of Address” tool under the “Settings” menu.

Follow the instructions provided by Google, which will guide you through the process of verifying the new domain and submitting a change of address request.

Verify the change of address by confirming ownership of the old and new domains.

Monitor the progress of the change of address by checking the “Site move” section of Google Search Console. This section will provide updates on the status of the move and any issues that may arise.

It’s important to note that the Change of Address tool only applies to moving a website to a new domain. If you’re moving a website to a new URL structure or redesigning the website, different tools and techniques should be used to maintain search engine rankings and traffic. If you have any questions or concerns about using the Change of Address tool or moving your website, it’s recommended to consult with a knowledgeable SEO professional.

Summary

So in summary if you are serious about getting more visits to your website Search Console is the tool that you should be using. It allows you to optimise your website and improve your Google rankings.