Most marketers believe that data should drive each marketing decision — they understand that analytics is essential to obtaining the data they need to make informed website decisions. What often surprises me is that many marketers don’t realize how helpful Google Search Console can be by providing technical data about websites.
Google Search Console is a compilation of tools, resources and metrics that help you monitor your site’s performance in Google Search results and view how Google Search and users see your site. This information can be used by website owners, SEO professionals, site administrators, or web developers who are looking to keep track of a website’s performance. It has many features that provide information about search appearance, search traffic, Google Index, bot crawling data, security issues and other educational resources.
Because there are a large number of resources in Google Search Console, I will cover two resources in this blog post and the rest in a future post.
The search appearance resources do exactly what you would expect them to do: show you how your site appears in search results. While there are many factors that could influence how your search appears, Google Search Console provides you with a handful of tools that you can use to influence your appearance on a search engine results page (SERP).
This resource shows you all of the structured data markup that is found on your page. Structured data, or schema, is extra code placed on your website that provides search engines with a better understanding of what a page is about and additional information that can be included in an SERP listing.
The Structured Data section shows a graph at the top with the number of structured data items and the number items with errors. By looking at this, you can see historical trends of when there was structured data on your site and errors in the structured data began to occur. Additionally, this page also lists out all the different data types on your site and which have errors. This section is extremely helpful if you’ve recently implemented structured data on your site and want to ensure it is all correct.
The Data Highlighter page provides you with a tool that you can use to easily add structured data to your site. You can put in a URL, choose a type of information that you want to highlight, such as an event review or product, and then start tagging the page with the markup. You can also see which pages you have already tagged with the Data Highlighter tool and make changes to those markups.
This section of the site shows improvements you can make that would help both site performance and user experience. It shows where you have issues with the meta descriptions (such as meta descriptions that are too long), title tags (such as pages that are missing title tags) and any issues with non-indexable content.
Sitelinks are links that Google automatically generates below you site’s search results. You don’t have control over which ones Google decides to create. However, if there is a sitelink that is showing up under your page that you do not want to be a part of your search result, you can demote it here and, hypothetically, it will not show anymore. Make sure to monitor this because it often does not take effect immediately.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are pages that are considered “lightweight” because they use a subset of HTML with just a few extensions and therefore load quickly on mobile devices. Similar to the structured data page, the AMP pages shows a graph of the number of indexed AMP pages and the number of AMP pages with errors. This page also lists exactly what those errors are and how many pages have those errors.
This section provides you with information and tools to see how Google is indexing your site.
This page displays an annual graph of the number of pages on your site that Google has indexed and the number of pages that were blocked by your robots.txt file (meaning Google was not able to index the pages). It is a good idea to know about how many URLs should be in each of these categories and then make it a habit to regularly check how many are indexed and how many are blocked.
The Content Keywords page is perhaps one of my favorite SEO tools in Google Search Console. It provides you with a glimpse of what Google thinks your site is all about. This page ranks all the keywords on your site by significance to the site. By looking at the top keywords, you can begin to tell how Google reads your site. If there is a keyword that ranks low that you feel like should be more significant, create more content around it. By clicking on the keyword, you can view more detailed information about it, such as the number of occurrences, the variants of the keyword, and the top URLs that include it.
Googlebots need to have access to crawl throughout your site in order to read it and figure out what it’s all about. On this page, you can view what resources are preventing the Googlebot from crawling to different sections of the site. Sometimes this is unintentional, sometimes intentional. If you find that you have a lot of pages that were blocked by the robots.txt file on the Index Status page, then look to the Blocked Resources page to see where the potential problem might be.
If you are ever in a scenario where you need to temporarily hide a URL from search results that has already been indexed by Google, this is the place to go. On this page, you can request that a page be temporarily removed from search results so that users cannot access it from the SERP. However, this is not a long-term solution. If you want to prevent people from getting to it all, it is an SEO best practice to 301 redirect it.
See the value in Google Search Console yet? That’s not even half of it. Stay tuned for the second part of my post to see why you should be using Search Console.
Join over 4,000 marketers who receive actionable digital marketing insights.