What does Google Search Console mean in SEO?
If you are going to do search engine optimization you are going to need Google Search Console, without it you are flying blind. Here I'll cover the key nuggets of information it will give you and at the end show you some little known techniques where Google Search Console can help you improve your rankings
What is Google Search Console?
Its a freely available online service provided by Google. You can sign up for it at https://search.google.com/search-console/about
. That's where you'll also find tutorials about how to get your website registered and how to find your way around.
In general its a pretty straightforward reporting tool. It will tell you what words and phrases you are currently ranking for and what your ranking position is (as a global average but you can filter by country). You can then see which pages of your website are ranking and for what words and phrases.
In terms of general website maintenance and reliability it will let you know if there are any pages it is having trouble crawling and if it thinks you have pages which aren't mobile friendly. All great for getting your house in order. This is information from the world's largest search engine handed to you on a plate so you can go straight in and sort out obvious issues.
There is absolutely no point saying "I want to search engine optimize and rank highly on Google but I'm not going to listen to what Google thinks about my website".
How accurate is Google's Search Console?
If you have a relatively new website or one that doesn't yet get many visitors the accuracy on visitor numbers (or rather clicks from Google Search) is not brilliant
. I recently launched a website - Google Analytics said I was getting 20 visitors a day from Google, Google Search Console said I was maybe getting one or two.
So make sure you have Google Analytics set up as well as a sort of double check but generally with low traffic websites the Search Console isn't going to give you numbers you can swear by.
Your actual ranking position, even if you filter by country to say "show me where I am ranking for that phrase in the United States", isn't something to cast in stone either. That's because Personalized Search, the way search engines take account of an Internet users browsing history and physical location, place a part in where you actually rank every time that search is carried out on Google.
They're small details but be aware of them as it'll save you a lot of head scratching.
First steps with Google Search Console
If you've only just set up your website on Google Search Console then give it a couple of weeks to go collecting data.
After that clean up any issues that the console flags such as duplicated page titles or even entire duplicated pages, issues which affect mobile users such as text size or links that are too close together for someone like me with fat fingers.
If you have been running a website for sometime this area is something you should be keeping an eye on regularly as very small defects in website design can cause hundreds of issues for Google's bot which means you're really not doing yourself any SEO favors. I find it very common that clients coming to me for help haven't been checking what Google has been trying to tell them for months via their Search Console.
How to use the Google Search Console for better rankings and more traffic
Most webmasters just settle down into checking Google Search Console to see how their SEO is panning out but its actually a far more powerful tool than that. It is a fantastic gold mine of keywords and phrases.
For example my How to SEO your Website in 10 steps page actually ranks for over 600 different keywords and phrases although I only rank high enough on about 50 of them to get any traffic.
But what I have is 550 phrases that I know people are searching and I've even got a rough idea how popular that phrase is (through the impressions column which says how many times I've appeared in Google's search results for that query).
Be careful not to misread this. Its the number of times your website has appeared in the search results for that query, not the number of times that query was carried out - which could be far higher.
Now I've got two choices here:
- I could add more content to the page and expand the information around a particular search term. I know people want to know about that particular topic so this lets me improve my content by covering it in more detail. It'll also improve the entire piece which may improve my other rankings because Google understands how comprehensive an article or post is via Natural Language Processing.
- I could create a separate article or post for that particular search term safe in the knowledge that people want it and if I make it comprehensive enough I'll rank for it - I am after all ranking for it right now according to the Search Console and that's without even trying!
The amount of really useful content you can add to your website is mind boggling when you look into it and that means the potential to bring in more visitors is huge, I mean really huge. This data is far more valuable than Google's Keyword Planner because its accurate and you know that rankings are within reach.
So that's the Google Search Console. It provides essential information so you can monitor how effective your search engine optimization is over time, it'll tell you all the buggy things and basic issues on your website and it will provide you with the best source of keywords and phrases anywhere on the web.