There are a plethora of SEO and marketing tools out there, and it can be difficult to know which ones can truly bring something great to the table. It’s all much more difficult when you’re trying to decide if the price tag that these tools come with is worth the money.
However, there is a completely free tool on the market that has some amazing potential to improve your SEO strategy, especially if you know how to use it: the Google Search Console.
However, some marketers may be confused by this statement, and it’s true that if you just use Google Search Console to check basic metrics such as clicks or impressions, you’re not going to think this free tool is all that great. In fact, Google Analytics might seem like the better tool.
But, don’t discount the Search Console just yet!
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What Is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console is Google’s free tool designed to help businesses optimise their sites for search. Through the console, you can access a lot of essential information that can help you design or improve your SEO strategy, such as:
- What are your most valuable keywords?
- What position do you rank for particular keywords?
- How many people click on your link when you appear in the search result, and for what query?
- What other sites have linked to your site?
- Are there any crawl errors on your site?
- Has your site violated any Google guidelines and, as a result, is not getting a lot of search traffic?
- Is your site really mobile-friendly?
As you can see, these are essential questions any owner or marketer will have regarding the performance of a website on the Google search network. Because of this information that lies a few clicks away, it’s really fair to argue that any SEO strategy without utilizing Google Search Console to its full potential is a blind effort.
How to Set up the Search Console
Before we answer the “why” in the initial question, let’s quickly go through the way you can set up the Search Console for your website. Thankfully, Google has made it very easy to achieve this, allowing even those with little to no tech skills to do it.
Here are the basic steps:
- Go to Google Search Console
- Either create an account or log in with your Google Analytics credentials
- Add your website by pasting the link and verifying that you own the site (which you can do with your Google Analytics tracking ID)
That’s literally it. Now, you have access to all the incredible information that Google Search Console has to offer.
How to Leverage the Search Console to Its Full Potential
Now, let’s take a closer look at how the Google Search Console can help you in your SEO efforts.
As previously mentioned, the Search Console can unlock a lot of different metrics, but knowing what to do with them is the real trick to improving your SEO efforts and boosting search traffic.
1. Discovering Your Most Valuable Keywords
So you conduct a keyword strategy to include your audience’s search queries all through your content, from a blog post to a product description or even the about page. But how are the results looking?
Well, you can discover that in the Search Console. In the ‘Performance’ Report, you can find information about the keywords that your web pages rank for (called ‘queries). The free tool offers you information on all the keywords your links show up in search results for, across all your sites.
You can also consult the keywords for specific pages on your site, which can be useful for checking the performance of a page you’re using for a campaign, such as a product landing page.
It’s perfectly fine to rank higher for some keywords and lower for others. There are additional factors here like monthly search volume to consider. But, in terms of SEO, it really pays to see exactly the search queries your web pages rank higher in, and therefore have the potential of bridging extra search traffic.
The Search Console will also give you the average position of your web pages. The average position is the overall performance indicator of where your website link ends up on the SERP. You can have one keyword that earns you the top stop, while several others that are lower on the page. The average position is the sum of positions divided by the total number of keywords.
And the lower the number, the better the performance!
2. Discover How People Interact with Your Links
You run an SEO campaign with the hopes of having your links featured in the SERPs and get a user to click on them and visit your site. You can see how many people are coming from search in your Google Analytics, but the Google Search Console offers more insights into how consumers are interacting with your results.
You can discover things like:
- Total clicks – how many times your link was clicked during a specific date range
- Total impressions – how many times your link was displayed in a SERP during a specific date range
- Average CTR – the number of total clicks divided by the total impressions for a specific date range
If the number of impressions is really high, but the clicks don’t follow, that’s a telling sign that users aren’t compelled to click on your specific links. While you’re targeting the right keywords, it could be an issue with the copy (headline and alt text) that could be further optimised to encourage people to visit your site.
3. Tell Google to Index Your Website
Google has this bot called a ‘web crawler’ that scans the internet and retrieves information about pages. It’s how the search engine is able to compile its list of results when you type a search query.
Based on the different ranking factor it has, Google also decides on the specific order the links will appear in. But, how do you know if the web crawler has even been on your site? Or, if you have a brand new page added, how long will it take for the crawler to find it?
Well, with the Google Search Console, you don’t really have to wonder about this, since you can ask Google to index your site.
First, you should check how many pages Google has already indexed from your site in the “Index Coverage” report and see if Google has somehow missed any page. Usually, as long as your site has internal links connecting all the pages, this should be an issue. But, for bigger websites, it can happen.
If you identify a page that has not been indexed by Google, you can submit it with the URL Inspection tool. Copy-paste the URL in the bar on the page and Google will first test the page to see if there are any errors with it.
If the page is good, then you can hit ‘Request Indexing’. Note that it can take a while for Google to complete these tasks, even a few days or so, but in general once you submit this request the page is indexed and can start ranking.
4. Identify Problems with Your Links
When you ask Google to crawl and index your site, you’re also asking it to give you information about a big thing that can tank your page rank: broken links.
Broken links are the ones that don’t lead to anything, for various reasons. Perhaps the page name has changed, or you’ve merged two pages and forgot about it. Either way, it can be very frustrating as a consumer to click on a link and be greeted by a 404 type of error.
The problem is, it’s really easy to get broken links, especially for bigger websites that have a difficult time managing their structure. Luckily, the crawl report will provide you with information on the links that tank your rankings.
But, what do you do with them?
The simplest solution is to simply place a 301 redirect. You likely have that link somewhere on the web, and by placing a 301 redirect you’re effectively ensuring that anyone who clicks on that link is taken to the functional page. This can also work for pages that might not necessarily have a ‘broken link’, but that are no longer relevant or useful. Users are taken to your new web pages where they can access content, product information, or more, instead of being greeted with nothingness.
5. Submit a Sitemap
Sitemaps are a great way to help Google understand the content and hierarchy of your website even better. In fact, adding a public link to a sitemap on your website can even help users get their way around your different pages, especially if you have a large site with a complex structure.
But for SEO purposes, submitted sitemaps help Google crawl and index your website better, which is especially useful if you’ve had a revamp and added a lot of new pages.
To submit a sitemap, simply:
- Select Sitemaps
- Copy-paste the link of the sitemap or upload the file
- Click submit
Google will periodically re-check your sitemap to spot any changes, making sure its indexing of your site is up to date.
6. Check Mobile Usability
Since the mobile-first indexing, Google now takes into account the mobile page of new sites when creating the indexing. Even if your website is older, if it is not mobile-friendly, it will be really difficult to improve your SEO ranking.
That’s because mobile-friendliness is an important ranking factor – mobile traffic accounts for nearly half of all traffic worldwide, so Google doesn’t really want half of their users to have a bad experience with websites they add to their SERPs.
In your Google Search Console, check the ‘Mobile Usability’ report to let the free tool test your site and spot any issues with its mobile pages. Google will let you know exactly what pages are problematic, as well as the specific issues they are dealing with, such as slow loading time, or unresponsive design.
Of course, there are lots of other ways to check if your mobile pages are working, but the Google Search Console presents a faster, easier way to do it. It’s a good idea to re-check the mobile friendliness from time to time, especially if you’re redesigning the website or adding new content.
7. Identify Any Penalties
If your web pages violate any Google guidelines, that could result in a penalty, which can sometimes even mean getting your entire website removed from the index.
But, if you don’t take part in black hat practices like keyword stuffing, buying backlinks, or have misleading redirects, you don’t have to worry about that sort of thing. But, it’s worth looking into these things if you suspect, for instance, that your website has been hacked, or have a lot of questionable links. Some bots can scour the internet and leave these links on different comments. While Google can’t know those comments aren’t real, it does issue a manual penalty if there are a lot of such links on the website
8. Monitor Structured Data Performance
Google does its best to understand the content of your web pages, but it can only do so much. Through structured data, you can provide it with additional information that can even help Google create a preview of your content in the form of rich snippets.
For instance, if you Google ‘easy brownie recipe’, the SERP can feature a box with a recipe preview from one of the links in the results. That’s because one of the sites included this structured data on the page, allowing Google to know what portion of the content is the actual recipe.
These rich results help a lot in terms of boosting brand awareness, and can even encourage people to click on your link to find out even more, resulting in extra search traffic.
Through the Google Search Console, you can test your rich results and see if your structured data is doing its job. It can give you a sense of which rich results your public web pages can generate, as well as signal any errors that are getting in the way.
9. See Who Linked to Your Website
Backlinking is a huge priority for SEO. These are the types of links that are hosted on other websites. Google views them each as a sort of vote that your website is relevant and has good quality, and it uses backlinks as a ranking factor.
However, when it comes to backlinks you really need quality over quantity. You see, any website that links to yours becomes a sort of associate. If the website you’re associated with is ‘bad’, meaning it has poor-quality content, sneaky redirects, and is guilty of other practices Google frowns upon, these ‘bad’ qualities transfer to your site because of the links.
It’s much more beneficial to have 2-3 really good backlinks on reputable websites than 20 links coming from low-quality ones. Through the Google Search Console, you can check out who are the websites that have offered you a backlink right in the Link Tab.
Leverage Google Search Console in Your SEO Strategy
Google Search Console is an amazing tool – an amazing free tool, actually – that gives you a lot more guidance in your search engine optimisation efforts. It specifically targets SEO ‘pain points’ and allows you to track metrics that are truly telling for your SEO performance and, together with other data from Google Analytics, it can really help brands and businesses optimise your online efforts.
However, discovering such data is only part of the process. A good SEO strategy focuses on the particularities of your business and tries to increase search traffic through key methods of digital optimisation.
And we are happy to help Australian businesses generate real results, reach the right people, and gain a competitive edge through their SEO strategies.
Reach out to Australian Internet Advertising today and discover our SEO packages that will help your business grow and make more money through efficient SEO methods and our full, expert support.