Search Engine Optimisation can be hard work and there are many different tools available. Google Search Console, formerly Webmaster Tools, is in Google’s own words for “anyone with a website!” and is a free and powerful tool. Why is it important and how can you use it?
Why Is It Important?
Google Search Console works from two different perspectives. Firstly it’s about how your site performs in Google’s search results and the analytics that will help you to understand what is and isn’t working for you. Secondly, Google Search Console shows how your site has been found in Google search and when it appears in search results. Both perspectives can give you a better understanding of how your site is working for you and to make changes where necessary so that it performs better.
How To Use It
If you haven’t already signed up to Google Search Console then it is fairly easy to set it up and verify you own the site. Once it is set up you can access a wealth of information about your site and how it performs. There are too many different parts to cover all of them here but I will concentrate on the most useful options and how you can use them.
Once set up you will have access to the Google Search Console dashboard which is split into Search Appearance, Search Traffic, Google Index and Crawl.
For both newcomers to Google Search Console and more seasoned professionals, the Search Traffic tab is one of the most useful. Keywords are an essential part of SEO and in the Search Analytics option, you can see which keywords your site is showing up for. Among other things, you can find out what your most popular queries are, what search terms are made on different devices (helping you to optimise your content for mobile), what the click-through rate (CTR) is for each page and what is your average position for keywords. This information can be helpful in several ways. Look carefully at the relevant keywords for your site. If you don’t see keywords you’re expecting then review your content to make sure that you are using them frequently enough. Equally, if you find some queries have high impressions but a low CTR analyse your content and tweak it to make it more appealing to a Google user. What will make them click on your link rather than somebody else’s?
Site links are still an important part of search engine optimisation but it isn’t just about quantity as links need to be from relevant and good quality sites. The Site Links option in Search Traffic gives you the total number of links, who links the most and your most linked content. Check this information regularly. If you have sites which are linking to you that are irrelevant or are appear to be spam then you should remove them or disavow them. On the opposite side make a note of any sites which are particularly high profile and what content they are using to link. This could be useful to identify a future opportunity with an influencer or collaborator.
The Crawl Errors option in Crawl is another particularly helpful part of Google Search Console. Search engines don’t like crawl errors i.e. server errors or links to non-existent pages. Neither do users so it is important that you check and monitor for potential problems. Highlighted errors can be clicked on for more information so that you can identify and correct any errors. In the same tab is Sitemaps which you should use to submit your sitemap to Google. This will help Google to crawl and index your site and is a must when you make any significant page changes. The Fetch as Google option will also help Google locate and index any new content quickly.
Search engine optimisation is an ongoing process. Google Search Console doesn’t provide a quick fix but it is an important tool for monitoring and analysing your site’s performance.