Google Search Console is a powerful, free collection of tools from Google for monitoring and improving your website health and performance.
Most people who own, build, or maintain a website, or do digital marketing, are familiar with Google Analytics and the wealth of information it provides.
Fewer people are familiar with the Google Search Console service.
Both can be very effective in growing your website traffic and visibility.
And both are free!
Google Search Console is made up of a number of different tools and reports that are useful for identifying and fixing website errors and problems, enhancing website performance, identifying keywords that brought visitors to your site, and strengthening SEO efforts.
Who should use Google Search Console?
Basically, anyone with a website. This is especially true for any business website.
This article will cover:
- What is Google Search Console
- Why use Google Search Console
- What Features Are Included in Google Search Console
- Recommendations and Resources
What is Google Search Console?
Let’s start at the beginning and explore Google Search Console.
Originally known as Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console provides data on a range of website health, marketing, and performance elements based on how Google sees your website.
Here at Web Presence Solutions we have been using Google Search Console (and Google Webmaster tools before it) for over 10 years.
We have found it to be one of the most effective free tools available for website owners, developers, and SEOs.
Setting up a Google Search Console account requires verification of site ownership. Once that is done data collection will begin. Normally within 24 hours.
Adding your website to Google Search Console is just the beginning. It contains a wide range of information on website’s performance and health directly from Google.
If you aren’t familiar with Google Search Console here are some of the useful tools and reports that you can access inside:
- URL Inspection Tool – a detailed look at what Google knows about a specific web page on your site.
- Indexing – Confirm that Google can find and crawl the pages on your site and learn about any errors or problems with having your pages indexed in Google.
- Search Performance – View detailed reports on search results including clicks, impressions, click through rate and more. Download data for further analysis.
- Page Performance – Understand how Google rates your pages based on Google’s Page Experience rating, Core Web Vitals, and Mobile Usability rating.
- Sitemaps – Learn when Google last read your sitemap and submit a new sitemap when necessary.
- Security Issues and Manual Actions — See if Google has found anything suspicious with your site and issued a penalty or if Google has found any security issues with your site.
- Links – View detailed linking information including who links to your site and your internal links.
The data from search console can be used as a standard part of your SEO strategy for growing website traffic and visibility within search engines.
Related Article: “SEO Titles, SEO Descriptions, Meta Tags Explained“
Why Use Google Search Console?
Do you wonder why your website, webpages, and keywords, aren’t performing better in Google’s search engine?
If you aren’t using Google Search Console you are missing out on real opportunities to answer some of those questions.
There are a wide range of reasons to use Google Search Console. Below are some of the most significant benefits from using the tools and reports it contains:
- Receive A Broad Overview of Your Search Performance – Search Console provides both high level overviews and a wealth of detailed data on how your site is performing in Google Search. It also provides detailed insights into what may be holding your site back from performing better.
- Develop a better understanding of how Google perceives your website through a collection of tools such as Page Experience, Core Web Vitals, and Mobile Usability.
- Generate More Website Traffic by using the information contained in Google Search Console to improve website performance and fix errors and problems.These website health issues could be impacting your website and webpage rankings and visibility in Google search.
- Gain More Insights of your Website Performance in Search Results – through reports such as Search Results and Page Experience. All containing data direct from Google.
- Confirm that your website and web pages are indexed and that Google’s web crawlers can access and index all the pages on your site.
- Get Information Directly From Google – A key element of using Google Search Console is that the data displayed is coming directly from Google. It provides direct feedback on how Google views the health and performance of your web property.
- See Information Not Available Other Places – Some of the information and insights found in the Search Console can’t be easily found in other places. This includes information like why pages are not indexed by Google, mobile usability of the pages on your site, and webpage performance within Google’s Core Web Vitals.
- Understand Your Website Linking Structure – Search Console shows which websites and web pages are linking to yours (external links). It also shows which pages on your site link to other pages on your site (internal links).
- Monitor Your Site’s Health and Receive Alerts from Google – Search Console can be configured so it will send email alerts when there are issues with your site, such as spam or indexing problems.
Dig in. The best way to understand all the potential benefits of Google Search Console is by exploring the different reports, tools, options, and functionality in depth within your Search Console account.
Related Article: “Measuring SEO ROI For Your Business“
Other Website Performance Tool Options
There are many options available for website analysis, monitoring, technical SEO analysis, keyword tracking, performance analysis and collecting marketing data and insights besides Search Console.
Many of these tools can costs hundreds to thousands of dollars per year.
Many high quality SEO tools are priced at $100 per month at the entry level and increase in price from there.
Google’s Search Console tool is free and there are a wide range of reasons to use it beyond just price.
What Features Are Included in Google Search Console?
Google Search Console contains a wide range of features, reports, charts, tables, and data to help you achieve your search engine optimization objectives.
The Key: A healthy, well performing website that has all necessary pages indexed within Google is more visible and will rank better in search results. Leading to growing website visitors and encouraging those visitors to return in the future.
Eliminating errors and website problems identified in Google Search Console will also have a positive impact on your website performance in other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo.
Exporting Data: An added feature is that you can easily export data from reports in Google Search Console to Google Sheets or download it to Microsoft Excel or as CSV.
Search Console tools and reports are accessible within the different sections of the Search Console navigation menu. These sections include:
- Overview and URL inspection
- Security and Manual Action
Below are more details on specific tools and reports included within Google Search Console. There are other aspects, functionality, and details that can be explored in depth through your own account.
1. Website Performance Overview and URL Inspection
Overview – a top level series of tables and charts that provide a quick snapshot of website performance, indexing, and health
URL Inspection – located at the top of the page this provides a powerful tool to analyze a specific web page. Includes information on if the URL is on Google, if it is indexed, how to request indexing if it is not, whether the page is usable on mobile, if the page is served over HTTPS, plus other details.
2. Website Performance and Google Search Results
This section contains some of the most useful and actionable data for gaining a better understanding of how your website performs within Google search.
The Search Results Report displays both charts and data tables for:
- Queries – detailed data on the specific text strings and keywords used for the search queries.
- Pages – website pages receiving traffic from Google.
- Countries – the country where the visitors were located.
- Devices – type of device used – desktop, mobile, or tablet.
Data elements that can be displayed include:
- Average Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
- Average Position within Google Search
These can be shown for your entire website or for a specific webpage over a given date range.
3. Index – Current Indexed Pages, Sitemaps, URL Removals
Pages – Displays which website pages are indexed and not indexed by Google. This also shows specific reasons why pages are not indexed.
This is important since pages that are not indexed will not be found through a search in Google and will not receive any visitors from the Google search engine.
Reasons that Google may give for why a page isn’t indexed include (but not limited to):
- Not found (404)
- Page with redirect
- Alternate page with proper canonical tag
- Excluded by ‘noindex’ tag
- Soft 404
- Crawled – not currently indexed
- Blocked by robots.txt
- Server error (5xx)
- Duplicate without user-selected canonical
Sitemaps – Displays the most recent dates that Google has reviewed the sitemap for your website and where that sitemap is located. It also allows you to submit a new sitemap for your site.
Removals – this option can be useful if you want to remove or block a URL from appearing in Google Search Console. There is also a section to see any URLs from your website have been reported as containing explicit content.
4. Experience – Page Experience, Core Web Vitals, Mobile Usability
All three elements in the Experience section are used by Google as factors for displaying and ranking pages in the search results. As of June 2021 page experience had been identified as an official ranking factor by Google.
Page Experience – Google evaluates Page Experience for each URL on your site. This is a composite score including data from Core Web Vitals, Mobile Usability, and HTTPS Usage.
This report will show the number of Good URLs, Percentage of website URLs that are Good, and the Total Impression of good URLs. Charts and data are shown for both Mobile and Desktop.
Core Web Vitals – This section displays charts for both mobile and desktop visitors and how your website URLs are performing in Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics. These metric are based on real world usage data that Google collects on the performance of your website pages.
URLs will be rated as Good, Needs Improvement, or Poor. The Core Web Vitals rating is a component of the overall Page Experience rating.
Mobile Usability – The Mobile Usability report identifies pages on your website that have usability problems when displayed on mobile devices.
If your pages are not user-friendly on mobile devices your visitors will leave. Quickly.
The mobile usability rating is another component of the overall Page Experience rating.
Errors that can appear in the Mobile Usability Report include:
- Uses incompatible Plugins
- Viewport not set
- Viewport not set to “device-width”
- Content wider than the screen
- Text too small to read
- Clickable elements too close together.
5. Website Security & Google Manual Actions
Manual Actions – This is one section within Google Search Console that you want to see the message of “No issues detected” displayed. A manual action by Google generally indicates that a website is being penalized.
When Google applies a Manual Action it indicates that they have found something suspicious within your website that can be used to somehow fool Google or manipulate your rankings with Google’s search engine results.
According to Google: “Most issues reported here will result in pages or sites being ranked lower or omitted from search results without any visual indication to the user.” This is also commonly known as a penalty.
Manual actions can indicate that you have violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Common reasons for a penalty include:
- Unnatural or bought links
- Spammy content on your pages
- Hiding or “cloaking” content or links
- Your site has been hacked
Security Issues – Entries here indicates that Google has located a security issue with your site. This could include a page(s) infected with a virus or spyware or some other issue that could compromise the security of visitors to your site.
6. Internal and External Website Links
Links are an important factor for ranking in the Google Search Engine. This has been true since the earliest days of Google Search.
These links can include other websites that link to a page on your site (external links), other web pages that link to a page on your site (external links), and pages within your own site that link to other pages on your site (internal links).
This section of Google Search Console provides detailed lists of the links Google has found along with the total number of external links and total number of internal links. Data includes:
External Links with Top Linked Pages, Top Linking Sites, Top Linking Text, and which pages from another website links to a specific page on your website.
Internal links with Top Linked Pages, total number of internal links to that page and a list of the pages on your website that links to that page.
Link data can be exported to a spreadsheet like most other data in Search Console.
7. Google Search Console Settings
General Settings – Displays information about the Google Search Console account including Ownership Verification, Users and Permissions, Associations, and Change of Address.
Crawling – Provides access to the Crawl stats report. This report provides detailed information about Google’s crawling of your website. Data points include Total crawl requests, Total download size (bytes), Average response time (ms), Host status (general availability), and additional crawl data.
Learning Google Search Console
Some reports and data require more effort to locate as the Search Console interface does have a bit of a learning curve.
Repeated clicking on an element will allow you to drill down to find additional detail and information. Don’t be afraid to click.
As noted earlier in this post, the best way to understand all the potential benefits of Google Search Console is by exploring the different reports, tools, options, and functionality in depth within your Search Console account.
Reminder: Is Google Search Console free to use – yes, there is no charge for using Google Search Console.
Related Article: “Keywords – 5 Things Every Business Should Know“
Search Console Conclusion and Recommendations
Google Search Console has come a long ways from the days when it was known as Google Webmaster Tools.
Here are five recommendations based on our lengthy experience using Google Search Console and Webmaster Tools here at Web Presence Solutions.
A. Take the time to learn Google Search Console. There is a wealth of tools and reports available, but it may take some work to find the information you want. Location of information is not always intuitive.
B. Use it. The information and insights that Google Search Console provides will be valuable to business owners and digital professionals on a continuing basis.
C. Leverage this powerful and valuable free tool for monitoring and improving your website health and performance.
D. Take advantage of the information coming directly from Google, including some information that is challenging to get other places.
E. You’ve spent time, energy, and money on developing and enhancing your website – this is another way to maximize its benefits and ROI.
Need Assistance With Google Search Console?
The volume and complexity of the information within Search Console can feel a bit intimidating.
We can help!
Contact Web Presence Solutions to discuss how you can get the greatest benefits from Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
A Few Other Search Console Resources
If you’ve read this far you have likely realized that this post is not a “how to” article. Ready to dive deeper into Google Search Console? Here are a few resources to help you learn more about the power in this tool.
SEOSherpa – “The Ultimate Quick-Start Guide to Google Search Console”
Yoast – “How to use Google Search Console: a beginner’s guide”
WPBeginner – “21 Tips for Using Google Search Console to Effectively Grow Your Website Traffic”
Want to learn directly from Google? You can start here:
YouTube: “Intro to Search Console Training”
and here: Google Search Console Help