What reports do you look at in Google Search Console?
- Is it the backlinks to your site?
- Or, your crawl errors to see if you need to implement any 301 redirects?
- Do you think of adjusting your URL parameters at all?
- You can use Google Search Console for pretty much everything.
Known as Google Webmaster Tools for nearly a decade, Google rebranded its suite of tools as Google Search Console in 2015. With every New Year, Google has given us new tools, analytics, and data to track in Google Search Console. The new version of Search Console, announced in January, is now officially out of beta. So that meant it was time for a refresh of our complete guide to the Google Search Console. Let’s face it, between the excess of AMP errors and the fear of Google algorithm updates; Google Search Console can become a system of copy/paste without any actions. To offer a helping hand, below I break down the basics of Google Search Console. From Fetch as Google to the Index Coverage report, you’ll be giving your SEO reports a mini upgrade on the regular. Plus, I share my monthly SEO health checklist.
What you’ll learn about Google Search Console
To make reading easier, this article is divided into four sections; each is a central area within Google Search Console:
- Search Appearance
- Search Traffic
- Google Index
Also, by now, you should have received a notice in your Messages in Google Search Console or an email from Google. It should look something like this:
To find the new Google Search Console, log in the same way you previously did. In the upper left corner, you will see “Try the new Search Console.”
And, if you’re interested in how both the old Google Search Console and the new Google Search Console compare, I walk you through that in this video.
As an SEO professional, I use the Search Appearance section in Google Search Console to do a lot. You want it to tell you the secrets to getting your structured data working and if your AMP pages are active. You love it when they say you have no error codes. Just tap the Search Appearance tab in the left menu bar to view the all the reports and tools. Let the nerding out begins!
What does Structured Data in Google Search Console tell us?
Any website owner, local business, or organization can understand the woes of implementing structured data. You add the code to your site, but it’s still not showing in the SERPs. Luckily, Google has done all the hard work for us. After you’ve added the code to your website, pop into Google Search Console > Search Appearance > Structured Data to check for errors. You might see something like this:
How do I fix Structured Data in Google Search Console?
No matter what structured data you’ve used (local business, blog posts, author, organization, etc.), there’s something in this report for you. If you use this report, you may even begin to see increased CTRs, and pages indexed in your future. Even though structured data isn’t a ranking factor and your site won’t lose rankings if you leave these errors, it is better for the user experience if you fix these errors.
To fix structured data in Google Search Console, you’ll want to analyze each error individually. You can use the Structured Data Testing Tool to help work through these errors. Let’s use the example above. This site has 899 pages with 1,772 hentry errors.
I know that hentry structured data must contain a title and author to avoid errors. These 899 pages with the 1,772 hentry errors are all from the category pages on the blog. These category pages that host the blogs should not be marked with the entry structured data, so I need to remove the code from these category pages.
If you work with a developer, I’d suggest collaborating with them on a fast solution if you have a large number of pages like this.
What are Rich Cards in Google Search Console?
When was the last time you searched for [bourbon maple jam recipe] on your smartphone? Or scanned Google search results for movie times?
There is a time and place for Rich Cards in the SERPs – if you’re a recipe, course, movie (television not reported), or job. And, if you’re the kind of SEO professional who likes to track errors and performance of your hard-earned Rich Cards, then Google Search Console is the place to go. The report will show you how many Rich Cards are indexed and if there are any critical errors.
How do I get Rich Cards to show up in Google Search Console?
Now, you can’t create Rich Cards for everything — recipes, courses, movies, and jobs are only fair game for now.
Rich Cards in Google Search Console use schema data to display content in a more engaging format, which can improve the mobile experience. The Rich Cards report monitors rich snippets, schema, AMP, and App Indexing.
Once you’ve created your Rich Cards, you can use this report to see what cards are being indexed and if there are any errors. If you see errors in Google Search Console, most likely your Rich Cards are not being displayed in the SERPs.
What is the Data Highlighter tool?
If you’re a Google Search Console loyalist, then we have something in common. Although the Data Highlighter tool may not be all that hidden, it’s one of my favorite tools in Google Search Console.
For example: Did you know that you could write your structured data right in GSC? Or, that you don’t need a web developer to add structured data to your site?
How to use the Data Highlighter?
Rich snippets have proven to boost click-through rates in search results, so it’s essential to websites with articles, book reviews, events, local businesses, and products to use the data highlighter.
Let me walk you through the process for Articles:
- Head to Google Search Console > Search Appearance > Structured Data
- Select “Start highlighting”
- Select which option you’d like to start highlighting
- Use your mouse to highlight elements on the page and pairing them with the required elements
- When you’re complete, you should see this listed in your Data Highlighter section
This section tells you about the two-page elements that show up directly in search – page titles and Meta descriptions. Google will tell which ones need improvement.
You can also use this tool to identify related issues such as duplicate content. Be sure to click the links to each problem to get details, then work to fix them.
For some search queries (usually brand terms), Google will show sub-pages directly in the search results. You cannot determine what Google shows, but you can tell it not to include certain pages.
Use this tool to demote a page (such as an admin page, low-content page, etc) from the SERPs.
The Search Traffic section is the most relevant day to day section of Search Console. It’s where you’ll get the most useful data for optimizing for search & increasing organic traffic.
The Search Analytics is a recent addition to Search Console. It replaced the old (and much derided) “search queries” report. Search Analytics will tell you a lot of useful data about how your website performs in Google Search. Before we break down how to manipulate and use the data, there are a few definitions to look at – directly from Google.
Queries – The keywords that users searched for in Google Search.
Clicks – Count of clicks from a Google search results page that landed the user on your property. Note that clicks do not equal organic sessions in Google Analytics.
Impressions – How many links to your site a user saw on Google search results, even if the link was not scrolled into view. However, if a user views only page 1 and the link is on page 2, the impression is not counted.
CTR – Click-through rate: the click count divided by the impression count. If a row of data has no impressions, the CTR will be shown as a dash (-) because CTR would be division by zero.
Position – The average position of the topmost result from your site. So, for example, if your site has three results at positions 2, 4, and 6, the position is reported as 2. If a second query returned results at positions 3, 5, and 9, your average position would be (2 + 3)/2 = 2.5. If a row of data has no impressions, the position will be shown as a dash (-), because the position doesn’t exist.
To effectively use the Search Console report, you need to change the groupings to find data that you are looking for. Remember that you can change groupings after you apply a filter (ie, you can look at Queries after you have filtered for a page).
Here are my 2 favorite pieces of data to pull.
Diagnose Why a Page Is Losing Traffic
- Check all metrics boxes
- Filter by page, select a date range
- Click to Queries, Countries, Devices looking for a culprit
Look For New / Revised Content Ideas
- Check all metrics boxes
- Filter by page
- Click to Queries
- Sort by Impressions
- Look for queries that are not directly related to the page, but where the page is still ranking
- Use this data to either revise the content to address that query OR create a new page targeting that query
Here’s a brief video showing how I think through the different tabs.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (both old and new version)
What is the AMP report?
Whenever I have the opportunity to increase page speed with one stone, I take it. And, it turns out Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are like little SEO burritos, with all of the mobile search result benefits I’m loving bundled into one easy-to-implement tactic.
Increases page load time? Increases in mobile ranking? Improves server performance? Check, check, check.
So when you’re ready to check for any errors in your AMP markup, the AMP report in Google Search Console is your best friend.
You can find the AMP report in both the old and new version of Google Search Console. Here is a look at the AMP report in the new version of Google Search Console.
How do I use the AMP report?
The AMP report in Google Search Console allows you to monitor your AMP pages. You can watch for site templating and any other implementation issues that affect your AMP pages. You can also the AMP Test Tool if you’re making any big changes.
If you’re using Rich Cards, you’ll also see issues with your AMP pages listed in that section. And, as we mentioned above, you can filter AMP results in the Performance report. Pretty cool, huh?
And, Google has been notifying site owners about issues related to their AMP report.
Links to Your Site
It gives more detail on the sites linking in, the top content linked to and the main phrases used to link to your content.
You can click on any link to get more detail on the link profile. In the screenshot below, I can see which of my pages have been shared on Pinterest. This is useful data for marketing, as it’s one way to identify gaps in your strategy.
This section allows you to examine your internal linking profile. Again, click on a link to get details on which internal pages link to it.
The Manual Actions section tells you about any penalties imposed by Google for potential web spam.
You will usually get an email warning as well. It’s very useful: when one of my sites has been compromised a code injection. I first found out about it via my Search Console account.
Is useful for international SEO. If you are using hreflang meta tags to indicate a particular language, data on this will appear here.
You can also set the country you want to target with your site. For example, although I don’t live in the US, most of my clients are there, so I set the US as my target country in this section.