How to use Google Search Console

How to use Google Search Console to improve your site’s performance

The Google Search Console provides useful information about your website. It tells you if your pages have been properly indexed, about any broken website links on your page, security issues, the number of visitors, search terms visitors used to find your site, duplicate meta descriptions, duplicate meta tags, and much more. This information is invaluable if you want to improve your site’s performance. You can improve your search engine ranking, determine product trends, and consumer demands.

Email notifications are automatically enabled. Google will email you if they are unable to crawl your site, if your account is hacked, or if you have violated their terms and conditions. They will advise you on how to resolve these issues.

Google is in the process of migrating the old Google Search Console to the new one. This means that you will need to access the old version for features that have not yet been migrated across. The new version of Google Search Console has improved tools and reporting. It also provides 16 months of traffic data as opposed to the 3 months that is available in the old version.

Linking your domain to Google Search Console

I suggest that you check the Google Search Console once a week in case there are any issues you need to address.

  • Sign into your Google account
  • You will be asked to add your website URL, e.g. https://yourwebsitename.com
  • Once you have done this, click on the ADD PROPERTY button

You will then be asked to verify your account. There are a few options available.

If you have a Google Analytics account set up for your domain, this will be the easiest option for account verification.

Google recommends HTML verification. Google will generate an HTML verification file which you can then upload to the File Manager on your virtual web hosting account.

Let us go through some of the more important features and how they can help you improve your website.

Remember to link your Google Console Search account to your Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts.

Performance 

Search Traffic

This gives you a quick analytical overview of your site’s performance.

This will display your clicks, impressions, position and the click through rate for each page on your website, the search terms users input to find your website, their location, and the devices they used to access your website.

Enhancement Reports

Google Search Console enhancements
Google Search Console enhancement reports

Structured Data 

This tells Google what your website is about and helps display rich snippets. If you do not have any structured data on your website, you will see the message, “We do not detect any structured data on your site”.

Mobile Usability

This will tell you about any issues with your site as displayed on mobile devices, e.g. small fonts. Google Index

Displays how many pages they have indexed and any blocked resources. You also have the option of hiding any URLs in search results, i.e. personal information that you do not want Google to display.

AMP Status

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

This allows you to display specification pages you want to display to mobile users. You won’t rank higher if you have AMP-enabled pages on your website. However, these pages load faster and will show in Google’s search engine results. This improves usability for mobile users. You should have a mobile-friendly version of your site in place prior to getting started with AMP.

An AMP-enabled page is indicated with a lightning bolt icon on mobile devices.

Rich Results test and Rich Results reports

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets display the page URL, the page description, an image, and any reviews. Most content management systems provide Schema.org rich snippet extensions or plugins. Check with your developer or content management system provider. Ensure that you incorporate your main keyword into your rich snippet.

Rich Cards

This display can appear in Google’s Top Stories and includes a horizontal scroll. They are good for displaying recipes, events and products. You can set this up in the Search Console.

Rich snippets and rich cards increase visibility, but not your Google ranking. They can improve your click-through rate (CTR) because they provide visitors with more information about your site, making them more likely to click on it. And of course, an enticing image helps.

Data Highlighting

If your website contains reviews or events, you may get a higher click CTR if your data is highlighted even if your page has a low rank in the search engine. You can choose to tag various posts on your page. You can highlight and then label the important fields. To learn more, watch Google’s short tutorial on the topic.
new google search console

Links

Links to Your Site 

Here you can view up to 10,000 backlinks and your most popular linked pages. It’s important to check that you do not have any blacklisted or spam sites linking back to you.

International Targeting* 

This section allows you to target your visitors based on location and country. If you have a multiple language website, you should have hreflangs in place.

Index Coverage report and URL Inspection tool

Crawl Errors

You can see how many times your page has been crawled; the more the better. This number should be going up. Check your sitemap. Note that if you have slow loading pages, the Googlebots will take a long time to crawl your site.

  • 404 Errors mean that the web page could not be found. You may have removed the web page or typed an incorrect URL.
  • 500 Internal Server Errors indicate that you have a problem with your internal server. These types of errors are difficult to trace. You will need to check the error log files on your virtual hosting account. Typical causes of 500 internal server errors can be:
    • reduced disk space
    • viruses
    • incompatible plugins
    • errors in permission settings.

How to change an existing URL using a 301 redirect

You may decide to change a URL to optimize for search engines and/or because you have made significant changes to the content. If you fail to set a 301 redirect, you will not only have internal broken links on your site in the form of 404 error, but you are also in danger of losing valuable backlinks as no one wants a broken link on their site! Failing to set a redirect will negatively impact SEO.

The great thing about WordPress and other good content management systems is that they automatically set the 301 redirects for you when you change the URLs. However, some content management systems will require you to install a “redirect” plugin.

URL Inspection Tool 

Fetch Google

Use Fetch to ask Google to re-index pages for desktop and/or mobile. You will want to do this if you have made changes to the web page, or URL, or you have pages that Google had previously flagged in your crawl error report but have since been corrected. It’s a quick way to get pages that you have recently optimized showing in Google’s search results. However, there is no guarantee that Google will reindex your pages via this method.

Blocked Resources

To check if a web page is blocked, visit robots.txt Tester

Sitemap

A sitemap helps Google’s site crawlers find all the pages on your website and can provide important metadata related to your website pages.

Your content management system should generate a sitemap listing all your pages or provide a plugin for you to do so.

If you do not have a sitemap, there are plenty of websites where you can generate one for free, if you have less than 500 pages on your website. Try XML Sitemaps. If you are using WordPress, you can install a free Google sitemap generator plugin.

Security Issues report

This will detect cross-site malware and if your website has been hacked. Again, Google provides advice about how to resolve these issues.

HTML Improvements*

This will draw your attention to any duplicate meta descriptions, meta descriptions that are too long or too short, and non-indexable content.

*HTML Improvements is only available in the old version of Google Search Console. There is no equivalent in the new one.  

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