Google Search Console is a free tool that works along with Google Analytics to help your understand how Google sees your website and improve your SEO. However a lot of website owners may not use it or know how to get the most out of it to increase their organic traffic.
Search Console allows you to “measure your site’s Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site shine in Google Search results.” Here’s a little peek at a key report from my own site…
Set Up Google Search Console
- Add your website to Google Search Console
- Remember to add all the versions of your URL since Google considers them separate (e.g. http://www.example.com, https://www.example.com, http://example.com, https://example.com) and verify them all
- Feb 2019 update! Google has started to streamline this process by showing all the version data in one domain. Read about Domain-Wide data
- Set your target country if necessary. For example I set Hong Kong as my target as that’s my primary business location. It may help a little when Google optimizes for your audience.
- Add your XML Sitemap so that Google knows what pages you have on your site.
- Connect Google Search Console to Google Analytics – this will allow you to see search data in Google Analytics that you couldn’t before such as number of times you appeared in search results, CTRs, average position and even actual keywords that brought users to a particular page.
Fix Crawling Issues
- Search indexing issues – these errors can effect your search ranking so it’s important to sort them out. They can be from old pages you’ve removed and didn’t redirect, old resources like Flash that Google can’t follow, or maybe even a server downtime error! Here are some comment types:
- 404 errors – page no longer exists
- soft 404 errors – crawler sees a 404 error page but the page’s status code is sending a 200 (success) message to the browser
- server errors – heavy traffic, was under maintenance, or unavailable for any other reason
- Security issues – This is serious! It will stop Google from crawling your website and they may even remove effected pages. The most common reason is hacks from malware or trojans. Read my article on making you site more secure!
- Manual actions and requesting review – Also very serious and usually occurs when a website is involved in illegal activities, spamming, and other fraudulent or fishy activities.
Grow Your Website Traffic
- Mining keyword data in Google Search Console – This gives you a full view of the keywords your website is ranking for, average position, and impressions (number of times your site appears for that keyword).
- Find low-hanging keywords where you can easily rank
- Use keyword data in your website for higher rankings
- Improve the content by adding more useful information
- Evaluate on-page SEO
- Increase time users spend on that page
- Use link reports to see who is linking to you already
- Request more backlinks from third-party websites as Google thinks more highly of your content when more high value sites link to your content
- Improve your own internal linking to boost rankings
Google Search Console Tools I Like
- Data Highlighter – This let’s you tell Google about your website’s data (such as an Article) by simply tagging each data field with your mouse (e.g. title, image, author, date, categories, etc). This can result in a better look in search results and therefore more clicks;)
- Structured Data – aka Schema.org mark up is a set of microdata that you can add to your HTML to help search engines better understand your content. Google uses this data to display rich snippets in search results such as recipes, reviews, shop products.
- Mobile Usability test
- Fetch as Google – tell Google bot to go fetch a copy of that page and show the HTML code it sees on that page and once successful request indexing
- Remove URLs from Google Search – sometimes you really want to get rid of something quickly…it’s happened to us all!
- Note: The Remove URL tool will only hide a page from search results for 90 days. To make it permanent you need to delete the content from your website, so that it gives a 404 error.