For those of you not in the know, Google Webmaster Tools is now called Google Search Console. It is basically the same thing, but now it has a larger emphasis on search engine traffic to better inform you about search engine information such as the keywords that are bringing you traffic and your rank for them.
You may ask yourself, “Do I need Google Search console?” You don’t necessarily need to use it, but if you want to make a better site you should.
Along with giving you search engine information in relation to your site, crawling alerts/errors are received so you can fix them and make your site more functional for users and crawling bot spiders. A sitemap can be uploaded to Google Search Console to give it a more thorough understanding of your site.
With information and tips Google Search Console will tell show you what you can do to improve the user experience for your site and in turn will help improve your search engine presence.
Using Google Search Console in conjunction with Google Analytics will help you learn a lot about your site, but the easiest way to learn how to use Google Search Console is by explaining how to use it.
How To Use Google Search Console
To properly understand what Google Search Console you’ll have to understand how to use it, and I’m here to show you how.
Adding A Property To Google Search Console
The very first thing you’ll want to do is link your site to your Google Search Console account; you can use the same login for this that you do for your Google Analytics Account and other Google properties.
Once you are signed in to your account all you have to do is click on “add property” on the top right. You’ll be asked to add a URL of the site you want to add, then they’ll give you a downloadable file to upload to the root directory of your site. Once you have uploaded this file you will have to click “verify;” this gives Google the opportunity to go to the site and verify that you have access to the site to upload the said file.
You will now be on the Google Search Console dashboard for that particular site. If you have multiple sites or have navigated back to the home page for your search console profile, you simply have to click on the URL of the site you want to know more about to get back to the dashboard.
When a new property is added there will not be any data immediately available because Google has not yet had the chance to process your traffic and it hasn’t crawled your site in the context of the search console.
Like Google Analytics, it will take about a couple of days to collect enough data.
Search Console Search Appearance Tab
The appearance tab in Google Search Console lets you change how information is presented to Google’s users in SERPs when your site is shown. To make your site stand out among the crowd you can add more information while better-informing visitors and possible customers, and you’ll have the added benefit of higher visibility in SERPs.
The sub-tab “Data Highlighter” allows you to tag content on your own and teaches Google how to understand new content the same way in SERPs as it’s created. You may get a little or a lot out of this, it is all dependent on what your site is offering.
This feature is used by clicking “start highlighting” from the sub-tab, selecting a specific URL and deciding if it’s representative of many similar pages of your site so Google can be taught a number of similar pages, or you can just tag one.
After this, you’ll choose the type of information you want to highlight. Google will use this to decide how to show your information to the online world when a person searches for something your site has the answer for.
If you have a local business such as a restaurant, clothing store, gas station, etc. you can go to the section of your site that shows the days of the week you are open and your business hours and highlight them as part of the “local business” option. This is done so that the days and hours you are open are listed with the other relevant information about your business.
This is handy because people can find the information they need in SERPs without having to interact with your site. This does mean there will be less traffic coming to your site, so you’ll have to decide whether or not this is worth doing. If you want your potential customers to find you very easily you’ll want to use the data highlighter feature.
The “sitelink” sub-tab can also be utilized to discourage Google from creating sitelinks, meaning that different pages of your site show up as live links in SERPs underneath your top URL as part of your search engine listing. If you happen to irrelevant pages of your site showing up as part of the sitelink section you can downgrade with the sitelink subtab.
Along with everything listed above, you can also better optimize your site for mobile use and find HTML and structured data errors found by Google.
The Search Traffic tab is the tab that tells you what keywords you are ranking for, the volume of traffic they’re bringing in, and how you’re ranking for them.
A click on the Search Analytics sub-tab will show you the total of organic clicks on Google Search for a specific date range of your choosing along with the top search queries get people to come to your site.
Ticking other boxes such as CTR, impressions, and position will show you relevant data that you can gain helpful information which you can get insight from.
For example, if you have a lot of impressions and have one of the higher ranks but your CTR is next to nothing, then there is something such as your title or description that’s making people say no to clicking through. Use this mistake as a learning lesson and use it to improve these entries and in turn improve your CTR which will either help you keep or improve your ranking.
Links To Your Site
The “links to your site” sub-tab show you exactly who is linking to your site and which of the pages on your site are being linked to most. That being said, Google Search Console does not display every single link to your site and should not be the only tool you use if you want a good look at your link profile; it can still give you a good idea of what kind of content in your niche gets you the most links overall and can help you when using other keywords.
The “internal links” sub-tab shows you the pages of your own site that have the most internal links. Once you go beyond the site-wide links you can see what content you link to the most on your site.
The “manual actions” sub-tab is where you’ll go to find notices on physical reviews someone from Google has performed on your site if they believe your site has violated their rules. Never ignore a notification like this on the Google Search Console if you receive it.
If there are no notifications on this sub-tab it will say “no manual webspam actions found.”
The “international targeting” sub-tab is for the different language versions of your site/pages and makes sure that the correct language displays for the correct audience on a search level.
The “mobility usability” sub-tab lets you know if you are having any issues with your site in regards to users viewing your site on a mobile device so you can fix said issues.
Mobile errors could include issues such as the content being too close to each other or the content is wide to be displayed on some mobile devices.
The “Google Index” tab shows you how many of your site’s pages are in Google’s Index. A page on your site won’t be shown in Google’s search results if isn’t indexed. Your robots.txt file will show you which are blocked as designated and you can also view what resources on your site are blocked and are possibly causing indexing issues. You are also able to temporarily remove URLs from showing up in search results if you choose to do so, but it is best to handle this task on a site level.
The Crawl tab gives you an overview of all the information in regards to Google bots crawling of your site. The sub-tabs of the Crawl tab gives you even more detail.
The “Crawl Errors” sub-tab shows any problems it has had with your site in the past 90 days while crawling your site. This can also be useful in helping your find dead links that you can correct with redirects or updated content. Quickly resolving such errors will provide your users with a better experience and shows Google that you keep track of everything related to your site.
This sub-tab shows the activity of Google bots for the past 90 days.
Fetch As Google
This shows how Google bots view your content.
This displays your robot.txt file that Google has so you can rest assured that your commands are being followed.
This displays your latest sitemap submitted to Google. You can also manually submit a sitemap on this sub-tab.
You can specify to Google how to crawl certain URLs with specific parameters you have outlined in this sub-tab.
If your site was hacked, or Google believes it was hacked, you will probably get a notification on the security issues tab along with ways to deal with an attack if your site has been targeted by hackers.
The “Other Resources” tab gives you links to other resources that provides deeper insight helps your site rank better.
Structured Data Testing Tool
If your site has structured data you can test it here to make sure it is working as intended and displaying the way you want it to in SERPs.
Structured Data Markup Helper
Structured/schema markup data can help the search results for your site to appear more powerfully in SERPs which equates to more attention, more clicks, and more targeted traffic to your site.
E-mail Markup Tester
Structured data in an HTML e-mail can be tested here if you are using it.
Google My Business
View how your business looks in Google and make changes if needed, and make sure you look your best for potential clients.
Google Merchant Center
Any products you may be selling can be configured for display and you can change how it is displayed in Google/Google product search.
Page Speed Insights
This will show you the improvements you can make to your site that are speed-related and what you can do to make sure your content loads quickly across all devices and browsers.
Using this you can create a customized Google search bar for your site.
This is Google’s equivalent to GoDaddy or NameCheap.
A Google webinar used to educate webmasters on how to make improvements to their sites and how to use Google Search Console.
Along with being a helpful resource for improving your site and providing a better user experience, Google Search Console is important in regard to SEO because it keeps you aware of anything that negatively effects your SEO. With this in mind, make sure to routinely check in with your console account to ensure that your site is free of errors detected by Google.