Google Search Console is a tool developed by Google to help users understand the performance of their website in Google search results. It helps them and identify ways to improve their content and to add relevance to each page of their website.
Google Search Console (GSC) is arguably the most valuable tool that can be used when working in the field of SEO. This tool provides users with information regarding the search performance of specific pages and keywords over a user-determined time period. Using the tool, you can easily keep track of key search metrics like clicks, impressions, click-through rates, and position in search results.
In addition to allowing you to keep track of your website’s performance in search results, Google Search Console also allows you to request pages to be indexed, submit sitemaps, request pages be removed from search results, audit user page experiences, breakdown core web vitals, inform you about security issues on your website, and let you know about mobile usability issues across your website.
This tool gives plenty of information you can use every day while working in SEO, and depending on the scope of your SEO goals.
This article will cover how to set up Google Search Console, how to use the tool, and how to interpret the data available to you through Google Search Console.
Tutorial: How To Use Google Search Console
How To Set Up Google Search Console
To start using Google Search Console, you must first verify ownership of your website. You can begin by adding your website as a Google Search Console property. From there, you will have two choices, either verify the property at the domain level or the URL prefix. Verifying the property at the domain level will include all data from each subdomain or protocol, while the URL prefix will only track data for the specified addresses and protocols.
When verifying a URL prefix, you can either add an HTML tag to the homepage of your website, upload a file to the public HTML of your website, set up your website in Google Analytics or Tag Manager, or set up a DNS record.
While there are many ways to verify ownership of a domain through the URL prefix level, you need to edit the DNS of your website to verify ownership over the entire domain.
How Google Search Console Can Help You
Once you have successfully verified ownership of your domain, it will take a few days for Google to gather data on your website’s search performance. During this waiting period, there is very little you can do to speed up the process, so you can use the time to work on something else.
After a few days, your website’s search performance will be visible on Google Search Console, and you will have access to plenty of data about specific keywords your visitors are searching and what pages of your website they are landing on.
Submitting An XML Sitemap To Google Search Console
While this is a good starting point for using Google Search Console, the next thing you should do is submit an XML sitemap for your website. This gives Google a list of every page on your website that you want to be indexed in their search engine and can help crawl bots understand the content and relevance of pages on your site.
Google can find and index new pages of your website without submitting a sitemap, but submitting one can significantly speed up the initial ranking process. Plenty of free and premium tools are available to help you create a sitemap to submit to Google Search Console. Once you have submitted your sitemap, remember to update it every time you add new pages to your website. Google will periodically read your sitemap, so it is good practice to keep it up to date. Some WordPress plugins like Yoast automatically update your XML sitemap for you.
Understanding Search Performance Data In Google Search Console
When you first take a look at the performance tab in Google Search Console, you will be shown four metrics: total clicks, total impressions, average CTR, and average position. Above these metrics, you will see a search type and a date range.
The search type lets you specify data to Google Image searches, video searches, news, or standard web search results. You can also choose to compare different types of searches against each other, and make the same data comparison for two different date ranges.
Understanding Clicks In Google Search Console
When looking at the total clicks in Google Search Console’s performance tab, clicks indicate the number of people that clicked on your website as a result of a search. Every time someone clicks your website from search results, it is counted as a click in Google Search Console.
By setting your date range to show click data over a long period of time, you can identify seasonal click trends on pages of your website or track the performance of title tags and meta description changes, as these are what users will first see in search results.
By tracking an increase in clicks to specific pages, you can attribute the growth to specific actions in your search engine marketing campaign.
Understanding Total Impressions In Google Search Console
The total impressions metric measures the number of times your website has appeared in search results for the specified date range, regardless of whether or not your website was clicked. Total impressions count the number of eyes seeing your website in Google organic search results.
A great way to use the impressions metric in Google Search Console is to identify your most searched keywords and look for opportunities to optimize those keywords further. Tracking total impressions over a long period of time can directly show the success of some SEO efforts. As impressions rise, so does the average position in search results. An increase in impressions can generally be seen as an increase in awareness.
Understanding CTR In Google Search Console
Click-through-rate (CTR), is the percentage of impressions that lead to clicks to your website. Tracking the CTR of different keywords across your website can help you determine the top-performing keywords that are leading to clicks. By optimizing for these keywords, you can drive sales and generate more leads by focusing on potential website visitors that already have an interest in the content on your website.
CTR is a good metric for deciding if a keyword is worth focusing on. A page with a lot of impressions doesn’t always translate to a lot of clicks. By looking at the average CTR for different keywords or pages of your website over a long period of time, you can attribute the growth to changes made during that time period.
Understanding Average Position In Google Search Console
Like in golf, a lower number is better regarding your average position in Google Search. Ideally, your website will rank 1 for as many focus keywords as possible.
The average position metric in Google Search Console is calculated based on the highest position it appeared in search results each day over the specified time period. As your position in search results is always changing and there are local search variables to consider. The average position in Google Search Console may differ from what you see if you conduct your own search. A decrease in your average position can be interpreted as climbing the ranks of the organic search ladder and getting closer to the number one position.
How To Use URL Inspection In Google Search Console
The URL inspection tool in Google Search Console is a very underrated tool in the world of SEO. Not only does it allow you to input a URL and see if it is indexed in search results, but it can also be used to request indexing on new pages of your website to further speed up the initial indexing process. When coupled with uploading an XML sitemap, you can expect new pages to be indexed within 48 hours.
If you decide to use this tool to inspect a URL on your website that is already indexed on Google’s search results, it will give you additional information about when the last crawl was, if the page is included on your sitemap, what type of crawl was conducted, if indexing is allowed, if the page is mobile-friendly, and if it is eligible for a featured snippet.
Requesting URLs To Be Removed From Search Results
Through Google Search Console, you can request for Google to remove certain pages of your website from indexing. To do this, go to the removals tab and click the big red button with the text “new request.” From here, you will see a pop-up with a field to enter the URL you want to be removed from search results.
You can also use this section of Google Search Console to remove all URLs with the same prefix.
Understanding Page User Experience With Google Search Console
If your website has a lot of traffic, it may be eligible to track page user experience data. This data is separated between mobile and desktop users. It gives you a percentage of your URLs that have a positive user experience, tells you how many of your URLs fail core web vital checks if your pages are secure, and rates your mobile usability.
Under the same user experience tab is data about your website’s core web vitals. Once again, this data is separated into two graphs, one for desktop users and one for mobile. Both graphs indicate how many URLs can be improved to provide a better user experience and how many URLs provide a good user experience. It also tells you the problem and allows you to validate your attempts to fix those URLs in real-time.
If you want to learn more about how to use Google Search Console or ways to improve your own SEO, check out the rest of our blog!