Why You Should Be Using Google Search Console, Part Two

June 21, 2016 | 6 min read
By Jordan Blair

Why Use Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a powerful tool for anyone who is involved in improving a website. It can give you unique insights into your website’s performance that you cannot get with other tools (especially free tools!). These insights include the search terms that are leading to site visits from Google’s search results and how Google bots view your site. This tool really is a ‘must-use’ for anyone working on the site, but I am often surprised by how many marketers don’t know about Google Search Console.

In the first part of this article series, I covered some site performance benefits of using Google Search Console, specifically focusing on the Search Appearance and Google Index sections. In this article, I will touch on the Search Traffic and Crawls sections, but all of Google Search Console’s sections are useful resources for improving website performance.

Search Traffic

Search Analytics

This is one of the most unique features on Google Search Console because it gives you an enormous amount of detailed information about organic traffic to your site. You can combine a handful of dimensions with a few metrics to get insight about your site in a way that Google Analytics doesn’t even provide. Search Analytics includes the following dimensions and metrics:

  • Dimensions: queries (search terms that have led to users clicking on your site), pages, countries, devices (desktop, mobile, or tablet), search type (web, image, or video), and dates
  • Metrics: clicks, impressions, click-through rate, and position

I regularly find myself checking the queries dimension to find where I can optimize current keywords and look for new opportunities. For instance, you can filter by a specific page on your site to discover which search terms people are using before clicking on your listing in Google’s search results. If you notice that a page is getting a lot of clicks from a set of similar keywords, you could optimize the page for that keyword or create a new page to focus on that topic.

using-google-search-console-1

Links to Your Site

You can see where a lot of your site’s SEO value comes from in the Links to Your Site section. This section gives a detailed look at the portfolio of backlinks that are pointing to your site, including the following:

  • Total number of links that are pointing to your site
  • Sites that link the most
  • Content or pages that are linked to most often
  • Various anchor text that is used to link to your site

To help build a framework for your internal linking strategy, view the pages that are linked to most often and the anchor text used to link to your site. Best of all, you can use this information to come up with ideas for new content on topics that people find valuable.

Internal Links

If you want to know which page on your site has the most internal links pointing to it, the Internal Links section is where you can find that information. The top pages in this report indicate to Google that they are some of the most important and authoritative pages on your site. Make sure that the pages you want to be viewed as authoritative are on top of this list. If not, then update your internal links to point Google toward the pages on your site that you believe are most important.

Manual Actions

Out of all the pages in Google Search Console, this is the one page that you really hope will be blank. Any penalties that are currently in effect against your site will show up here. If it is blank, then you do not have any active penalties against your site.

International Targeting

If your website is designed to show specific content to users from a specific country or who speak a different language, it is important to ensure that search results are displaying the correct content for each audience. In the “Language” tab of this section, you can look to make sure the hreflang tags are correctly identifying the right language and geographic location for each page. The “Country” tab can be used to set a country target for your entire site. Essentially this section does not help to boost or grow traffic, it is just a resource to ensure that Google knows which country your site should be associated.

Mobile Usability

How your website renders on mobile is becoming increasingly important from both a user-experience and search-rankings perspective. In this section, you can find mobile usability issues that are affecting your site. A graph shows when errors occur and lists out the errors on the page. If this page is blank, then your site is optimized for mobile users.

Everyone from content creators to web designers to SEO managers should be looking at this page. Web designers need know what type of content creates issues on mobile and if the page design is creating issues, such as slow load times. SEO managers need to know what current issues are holding the site back from being mobile-friendly. Since Google is more likely to show pages on mobile that render well on a phone, this is important for user experience and search engine ranking.

Crawl

Crawl Errors

Is Google having a problem getting to a certain part of your site? This is where you can find out if Googlebots are having an issue crawling certain pages of your site. If the bots are unable to crawl your pages, then the pages will not be indexed. This means that the:

  • Page may not be ranking well
  • Search results might be leading to an outdated version of the page
  • Page may not even being showing up in search results

With this tool, you can look deeper into this issue and see if this error is happening on desktop, mobile, or featured mobile.

Crawl Stats

This is a useful page for actually seeing how often and at what pace Googlebots are crawling your site. It provides three 90-day graphs that display pages crawled per day, kilobytes downloaded per day, and time spent downloading pages per day. It is a good idea to monitor these three graphs for performance. Ideally, your goal should be to increase the number of pages crawled per day while decreasing the time spent downloading and the amount downloaded since page speed is such an important ranking factor.

Capture2.1

Fetch as Google

This tool allows you to see if Google is able to crawl a page and, if so, how it renders. “Fetch” allows you to quickly see the HTTP response code for a page. From there, you can submit it to be indexed. The “fetch and render” allows you to see how Googlebots view the page (including the images and scripts) on either mobile or desktop.

Robots.txt Tester

The robots.txt file is the file that tells Google all of the parts of your site that you do not want Google to access. This tool allows you to see if your robots.txt file is implemented correctly or if there are errors.

For instance, if you have a piece of content that is behind a form, you would put the page URL in this file so that it does not show up in search results. You might have other reasons for not wanting Google to access certain information on your site, such as proprietary information, transaction data, monetized content, etc.

Sitemaps

By implementing a sitemap, you are informing Google that the pages listed are eligible to be crawled. Ultimately, this will help the pages be indexed. With this resource, you can see sitemaps that have been submitted and, with the graph, the number of submitted pages and indexed pages.

using-google-search-console-3

URL Parameters

This is where you can see if Google understands all of the URL parameters on your site. If there is a page on your site where content is displayed differently depending on how a user interacts with the page, you can add a parameter to indicate that there is a difference in page content between the different views of the page.

For example, if you are looking for cars on Cars.com, a page with the same exact content could appear differently if you sort the page by price, mileage, or distance from you. This page may have the same exact car listings on it, but, depending on how you interacted with the page by sorting it, it could display differently. In this scenario, you may want to add parameters to help Google distinguish between the different views of the page and so that the sort settings are retained when someone shares a link. However, use caution when editing these URLs. If you incorrectly exclude or change a URL, that page may disappear from search.

Google Search Console provides marketers, SEOs and webmasters with valuable insights into the performance of their sites. If you aren’t using Google Search Console by now, you should take advantage of these newly discovered insights and optimize your website using Google Search Console.


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Why You Should Be Using Google Search Console, Part Two

June 21, 2016 | 6 min read
By Jordan Blair

Why Use Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a powerful tool for anyone who is involved in improving a website. It can give you unique insights into your website’s performance that you cannot get with other tools (especially free tools!). These insights include the search terms that are leading to site visits from Google’s search results and how Google bots view your site. This tool really is a ‘must-use’ for anyone working on the site, but I am often surprised by how many marketers don’t know about Google Search Console.

In the first part of this article series, I covered some site performance benefits of using Google Search Console, specifically focusing on the Search Appearance and Google Index sections. In this article, I will touch on the Search Traffic and Crawls sections, but all of Google Search Console’s sections are useful resources for improving website performance.

Search Traffic

Search Analytics

This is one of the most unique features on Google Search Console because it gives you an enormous amount of detailed information about organic traffic to your site. You can combine a handful of dimensions with a few metrics to get insight about your site in a way that Google Analytics doesn’t even provide. Search Analytics includes the following dimensions and metrics:

  • Dimensions: queries (search terms that have led to users clicking on your site), pages, countries, devices (desktop, mobile, or tablet), search type (web, image, or video), and dates
  • Metrics: clicks, impressions, click-through rate, and position

I regularly find myself checking the queries dimension to find where I can optimize current keywords and look for new opportunities. For instance, you can filter by a specific page on your site to discover which search terms people are using before clicking on your listing in Google’s search results. If you notice that a page is getting a lot of clicks from a set of similar keywords, you could optimize the page for that keyword or create a new page to focus on that topic.

using-google-search-console-1

Links to Your Site

You can see where a lot of your site’s SEO value comes from in the Links to Your Site section. This section gives a detailed look at the portfolio of backlinks that are pointing to your site, including the following:

  • Total number of links that are pointing to your site
  • Sites that link the most
  • Content or pages that are linked to most often
  • Various anchor text that is used to link to your site

To help build a framework for your internal linking strategy, view the pages that are linked to most often and the anchor text used to link to your site. Best of all, you can use this information to come up with ideas for new content on topics that people find valuable.

Internal Links

If you want to know which page on your site has the most internal links pointing to it, the Internal Links section is where you can find that information. The top pages in this report indicate to Google that they are some of the most important and authoritative pages on your site. Make sure that the pages you want to be viewed as authoritative are on top of this list. If not, then update your internal links to point Google toward the pages on your site that you believe are most important.

Manual Actions

Out of all the pages in Google Search Console, this is the one page that you really hope will be blank. Any penalties that are currently in effect against your site will show up here. If it is blank, then you do not have any active penalties against your site.

International Targeting

If your website is designed to show specific content to users from a specific country or who speak a different language, it is important to ensure that search results are displaying the correct content for each audience. In the “Language” tab of this section, you can look to make sure the hreflang tags are correctly identifying the right language and geographic location for each page. The “Country” tab can be used to set a country target for your entire site. Essentially this section does not help to boost or grow traffic, it is just a resource to ensure that Google knows which country your site should be associated.

Mobile Usability

How your website renders on mobile is becoming increasingly important from both a user-experience and search-rankings perspective. In this section, you can find mobile usability issues that are affecting your site. A graph shows when errors occur and lists out the errors on the page. If this page is blank, then your site is optimized for mobile users.

Everyone from content creators to web designers to SEO managers should be looking at this page. Web designers need know what type of content creates issues on mobile and if the page design is creating issues, such as slow load times. SEO managers need to know what current issues are holding the site back from being mobile-friendly. Since Google is more likely to show pages on mobile that render well on a phone, this is important for user experience and search engine ranking.

Crawl

Crawl Errors

Is Google having a problem getting to a certain part of your site? This is where you can find out if Googlebots are having an issue crawling certain pages of your site. If the bots are unable to crawl your pages, then the pages will not be indexed. This means that the:

  • Page may not be ranking well
  • Search results might be leading to an outdated version of the page
  • Page may not even being showing up in search results

With this tool, you can look deeper into this issue and see if this error is happening on desktop, mobile, or featured mobile.

Crawl Stats

This is a useful page for actually seeing how often and at what pace Googlebots are crawling your site. It provides three 90-day graphs that display pages crawled per day, kilobytes downloaded per day, and time spent downloading pages per day. It is a good idea to monitor these three graphs for performance. Ideally, your goal should be to increase the number of pages crawled per day while decreasing the time spent downloading and the amount downloaded since page speed is such an important ranking factor.

Capture2.1

Fetch as Google

This tool allows you to see if Google is able to crawl a page and, if so, how it renders. “Fetch” allows you to quickly see the HTTP response code for a page. From there, you can submit it to be indexed. The “fetch and render” allows you to see how Googlebots view the page (including the images and scripts) on either mobile or desktop.

Robots.txt Tester

The robots.txt file is the file that tells Google all of the parts of your site that you do not want Google to access. This tool allows you to see if your robots.txt file is implemented correctly or if there are errors.

For instance, if you have a piece of content that is behind a form, you would put the page URL in this file so that it does not show up in search results. You might have other reasons for not wanting Google to access certain information on your site, such as proprietary information, transaction data, monetized content, etc.

Sitemaps

By implementing a sitemap, you are informing Google that the pages listed are eligible to be crawled. Ultimately, this will help the pages be indexed. With this resource, you can see sitemaps that have been submitted and, with the graph, the number of submitted pages and indexed pages.

using-google-search-console-3

URL Parameters

This is where you can see if Google understands all of the URL parameters on your site. If there is a page on your site where content is displayed differently depending on how a user interacts with the page, you can add a parameter to indicate that there is a difference in page content between the different views of the page.

For example, if you are looking for cars on Cars.com, a page with the same exact content could appear differently if you sort the page by price, mileage, or distance from you. This page may have the same exact car listings on it, but, depending on how you interacted with the page by sorting it, it could display differently. In this scenario, you may want to add parameters to help Google distinguish between the different views of the page and so that the sort settings are retained when someone shares a link. However, use caution when editing these URLs. If you incorrectly exclude or change a URL, that page may disappear from search.

Google Search Console provides marketers, SEOs and webmasters with valuable insights into the performance of their sites. If you aren’t using Google Search Console by now, you should take advantage of these newly discovered insights and optimize your website using Google Search Console.

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