Basic Guide to the Google Search Console

Have you heard the term before, but aren’t quite sure how to use Google search console? Not to be too blunt, but you need to know.  But don’t worry, we’ve put together a basic guide to get you started.

Because that’s what we do. 

In short, Google Search Console is your answer for pretty much everything when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). While it’s nice to have one tool that is so robust with features, it’s important to understand that it also comes with an entirely new set of analytics and data that must now be interpreted. Let us tell you though, if you can master the Search Console from Google, you’ll be killing this running an SEO Agency thing.

To help you get started, we’re breaking down the steps and offering a basic introduction on how to use Google search console including action steps and our most favorite screenshots. Here’s a quick list of the items we’re going to cover:

  • Search appearance
  • Search traffic
  • Google index
  • Crawling

Search Appearance

how to use google search guide

Search Appearance is a major deal for SEO pros. Major. Why? Because it gives us the most insight on how the site is functioning, maximizing on-page optimization strategies to improve overall ranking. Here are the terms that you’ll need to be familiar with in this area.

Structured Data

structured data and google search console explination

What on earth is this structured data Google Search Console is talking about and how can we use it? Don’t panic, we’re getting there. 

If you’ve taken the time to invest in your site (you know, those hours and hours spent sorting through how to guides and YouTube videos), then you expect it to rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs), right? But doesn’t. Now what?  

Enter Google Search Console’s structured data, here to save the day.

When your website content is complete, head over to Google Search Console and click on Search Appearance, then Structured Data and check for any errors. If you end up seeing red (getting some errors), do not be alarmed. Everything is fixable!

You will need to go through every error individually to find out what the problem was and fix it. The Structured Data Testing Tool is an incredibly helpful resource if you need a little assistance. If you’re getting more than a handful of errors and need to find a batch fix to save time and money, it may be in your best interest to connect with a web developer who can help you come up with a solution. We’ve done both when it’s made the most sense, and not regretted either choice.  

Here’s the thing though- get those errors fixed and make it a priority. Trust us on this.

Rich Cards

Kid explaining Rich Cards and Google Search Console

No, these search cards won’t make you rich- atleast, not directly.

These Rich Cards, however, might just help drive traffic to your site which increases traffic, and if your copy and content are on point, that leads to conversations to sales.  And that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?

Rich Cards use schema data in a way that engages your audience and improves the mobile experience. The Rich Cards report will tell you if your snippets, schema, AMP, and App indexing are on point. If you have any errors, this is how you’ll find out. We’re going to say this again, don’t just glance over these- pay attention and fix anything you can. 

Simply put: Fix your errors here, or risk not having your Rich Cards displayed within the SERPs.

Data Highlighter

No, not that kind of highlighter.  Keep reading. 

The Google Search Console Data Highlighter is a hidden gem when it comes to SEO tools. It allows you to do crazy cool things like adding structured data to your site right within the tool (and not having to hire a web developer to do it for you). If you’re tight on budget for any reason, this is something you need to get familiar with and use it often.

If you’re ready to get started highlighting, here’s how you do it:

  1. Open Google Search Console, click on Appearance, then Structured Data, and select ‘Start highlighting.’
  2. Choose what type of content you are going to highlight and then use your mouse to pick the elements and pair them with the corresponding elements.

Note that certain elements are required to complete the highlighting process. For example, if you’re highlighting for a local business you’ll have to enter the business name, address, and phone number.

If that made your eyes go crossed, watch this video for help.

HTML Improvements

HTML tricks

Improve your click-through rates from organic traffic, consider the HTML Improvement report your new best sidekick. It will tell you if your meta-data has any errors—including duplicate titles, super long meta descriptions, etc.  It will also give you a little insight as to how Google sees your content. If you’re still learning the world of SEO, this invaluable. 

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages are an incredible way to help you increase page speeds, improve your mobile ranking, and improve your overall server performance. Utilize the AMP reports to check for any errors and get them fixed so that it’s smooth sailing when it comes to the mobile experience.

Search Traffic

Get ready for the SEO gold, folks. The search traffic analytics provided by Google Search Console are incredibly insightful and will help you identify search engine optimization opportunities (and fails). Let’s talk about the data you’ll find here.

Search Analytics

The information provided within this report is based on a default timeframe. Make sure that you keep an eye on this area and customize it as needed to get accurate results.

The results you are going to see on this page are more than general traffic and keyword position. They give you the gruesome details about your site traffic including; queries, pages, countries, devices, search type, search appearance, and date.

If you’re looking for a quick overview of your search analytics within Google Search Console, we recommend that you start with a 28-day summary. This report will give you a snapshot of the website performance over the last month, identifying your pages that perform the best, which pages have the lowest click-through-rate, how many clicks your keywords are getting, and the number of impressions that your keywords receive.

Links to Your Site

Buzz explaining links and google search console

This tool is going to tell you all about the websites that link to your site, aka backlinks. These backlinks validate your website and build a sense of authority. The more, the merrier when it comes to links but quality matters too! Use this Google Search Console tool to get a better understanding of where your site currently stands and use it to make improvements.

To pull this report, you’ll want to click on ‘Links to Your Site’ dashboard, then ‘Who links the most’, followed by ‘Download the latest links.’ Go through this report with a fine-toothed comb and check for any weird patterns that could be possible spam issues (major bummer).

If you happen to find issues here, be sure to do a little Nancy Drewing and once you confirm that there are spam issues – go ahead and disavow these backlinks using the Google Search Console Disavow Tool.

Internal Links

Internal linking is your opportunity to tell Google what your website is all about. The page you link to most often will be viewed as what you consider to be the most important. With that in mind, link wisely and use the Google Search Console Internal Links report to help guide you along the way. 

International Targeting

For websites that target a number of different countries and utilize more than one language, you need HREFlang tags. They’re tough to use, and the International Targeting tool will tell you if you’ve done it right. To set up your country preferences, you’ll need to click on Google Search Console, Search Traffic, International Targeting, and the Country. From there you’ll have the option to choose which country you want to target.  

If you do not identify your desired target country, Google will default to an assumed location based on your IP address, website domain, links, and Google My Business page.

Mobile Usability

Similar to the other tools, the Google Search Console tool that Google launched in 2016 will help you identify any design or development issues with your mobile performance. Fix the errors and watch your rankings (and overall user experience) improve.

Google Index

The reports contained within Google Index will allow you to understand how your content is performing on their search engine. Plain and simple.

Blocked Resources

Super important here folks. If you’ve ever seen a meta description with a robots.txt error, that means that Google is unable to render the pages and it will have an effect on your rankings.

If you use the Blocked Resources report and find that you have unintentionally set up blocking settings, you’ll want to remove them from the disallow section of your robots.txt. Once complete, test the updated file using the robots.txt tester tool that can be found in Google Search Console. Be sure to check the pages to make sure there are no noindex or nofollow tags set up.

 

Finally, wrap things up by running the now fixed URLs through the Fetch as Google tool. This will ensure that they are rendered properly.

Crawl

How to use the crawl on google search console

Crawl Errors reports tell you if something on your site is broken. It includes all kinds of errors: 404, access denied, domain name system, server, anything. If Google detects an error, it’s going to show up here.

Does the crawl rate matter?

The answer to everything search engine optimization related, yes. Everything matters.

Everything.

Man explaining the google search console

 

 

The more that Google crawls your site, the more likely your site is going to improve in search result rankings. If you see any major ups or downs on the crawl rates report, it may mean that there’s an unresolved error that needs to be addressed.

Fetch as Google

girl explaining fetch as google

This tool is the absolute best because it shows you exactly how Google views your site and using it is pretty simple. Enter a URL extension and then on ‘Fetch.’ The results will show you what info Google receives. From there, you can click on ‘Fetch and Render’ to see exactly how your site will appear in a specific browser.

You can also use Fetch as Google to update an old site, launch a new section of your site, tell Google about your new mobile design, update your robots.txt file, help you transition to HTTPS from HTTP, and more.

Fetch as Google is almost like sending them a direct message about the recent progress on your site. Use it to your advantage!

Sitemaps

The Sitemaps report will tell you if there are any errors in the sitemap you’ve submitted to Google Search Console. Please pay attention to what the report entails, as it provides yet another level of insight as to how your site is working, where the errors can be found, and how you can improve it to have the best SEO and ranking results.

Google Search Console is a great tool for ANY Agency to use, new or old.  

But it is constantly changing. What should I expect next?

The honest answer is anyone’s best guess, but we’ve seen a few incredible factors introduced in the beta tests. We’re watching for updated AMP tools, a focus on mobile performance, insight into website errors, improved communication when it comes to errors, and more.

We love researching, talking about, and working on search engine optimization. If you need to pick an SEO pro’s brain or want a little assistance on how to use Google Search Console, get in touch with us! We’d be happy to connect with you and work through this Google search guide to get your website optimized. We look forward to hearing from you!

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