In May of 2015 Google rebranded “Google Webmaster Tools” as “Google Search Console.” Google Search Console is an integral and free tool for optimizing any website for search engines. This post will show you 4 ways that you can use Google Search Console to make your website more optimized. Do you need help setting up Google Search Console? Check out this post from Moz.
1) Indexing your website
In order for your website and its content to show up in a search engine like Google, it has to get crawled by Google’s robot or “Googlebot” and added to Google’s index. There are two ways that Google’s bots find knew pages to crawl: links and sitemaps. It’s best to use both methods.
Create and submit your sitemap
A sitemap is a xml file that lists all the pages on your website. If you have a WordPress site then you can use plugins like the Google Sitemaps XML plugin or Yoast’s SEO Plugin to automatically create sitemaps and submit them to Google Search Console. You can also use the XML Sitemap Generator tool. To submit a sitemap manually, go to Crawl > Sitemaps and click “Add/Test Sitemap.” Making sure that Google Search Console has an updated sitemap will help Google to crawl and index your website faster. It will also show you if there are any big technical SEO problems that need to be fixed.
For more tips on getting your website indexed by search engines check out this article.
2) Identifying website errors
The Crawl > Sitemaps section isn’t the only place where you can identify website errors. Navigate to Crawl > Crawl Errors to see a full list of your website’s 404’s, soft 404’s and any other errors with your site content.
404 errors aren’t necessarily a problem, they can simply be a result of spammers and bots, but it’s worth looking through your 404 errors to make sure there aren’t broken links on your website. If you have a WordPress website, you can use the SEO Redirection plugin or SEO Yoast Premium to identify 404’s and create redirects.
3) Understanding your keywords
To get keyword insights navigate to the Search Traffic > Search Analytics report. This report gives you a lot of information. It offers 6 different reports with 4 available metrics.
- Clicks – how many times someone typed a phrase into Google and clicked on a link to one of your pages.
- Impressions – how many times someone typed a phrase into Google and saw one of your website pages in the results (SERPs).
- CTR – This is the Click Through Rate or the percentage of times people clicked on one of your pages out of the times they saw one of your pages. This is the Clicks / Impressions.
- Position – This is the average position that your pages hold in the SERPs.
You can choose which of these metrics appear in your reports by checking or unchecking the box next to each.
- Queries – what queries is your website ranking for? This report defaults to the last 28 days, but you can look at any date range you would like or compare two. This is a great place to look for keywords that you aren’t tracking.
- Pages – This report will show how your website pages are performing in search. Take a look at what keywords your pages are ranking for. You can filter pages or compare two. Make sure to add Position and CTR to this report. Are there pages that have a high position and low CTR? If so, you should consider reworking the title and the meta description.
- Countries – Look at any metric broken down by country; what’s your click through rate for the U.S.? For Brazil? Boom. Done.
- Devices – Analyze and Compare people’s search behavior on computers, phones and tablets. Is your site optimized for different devices? If not, theres never been a better time than now.
- Search Type – There are three categories of content that people can find in search these days: “Web” “Images” and “Video.” Compare how your website is doing with these various forms of content. Do you have a lot of images that aren’t ranking very high in search? You probably need to optimize them. Take a look at this post to learn how to optimize images for search.
- Dates – How is your website performing in search over time? This defaults to the last 28 days, but you can change it to 30 days, 90 or a custom date range.
Any of the these reports can be combined using the filter drop down. For example you could look at the CTR for a few blog posts during the last 90 days in the U.S. for a certain keyword. As you can see, the possibilities are pretty much endless.
4) Optimizing your link profile
In October 2013, Google came out with their “Disavow Tool.” This tool allows website owners to take control of the links that are pointing to their site by “disavowing” or asking Google to make certain links no-follow. This is important because un-authoritative or spammy websites linking to your website can actually hurt your website’s authority and hurt you in SERPs. With Google’s Search Console and Disavow Tool you can now battle any negative SEO that might come your way.
First navigate to Search Traffic > Links to your site. Here you can see a couple of different pieces of information: who links to your website, what content is linked to on your website and how that content is being linked to.
- First, take a look at your content that is being linked to the most. Are some of these posts old? It might be worth updating them so that you don’t lose some of those links.
- Go to the “Who links the most” section. This will take to a list of domains that link to your website. Take this list of domains and run any that you haven’t heard of, or that look fishy through a website analyzer like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to see if any of them are spammy. Make a list of all the spammy domains.
- Now click on “Download Latest Links.” This will give you a spreadsheet of all the links to your website organized by when they were created. Even though this list may be long, you need to go through it every once in awhile for spammy links. Authoritative websites like WordPress or GoDaddy might be hosting extremely spammy sites that are linking to you and the only way to catch this is to check each link. Check each one with a tool like Moz’s.
**Tip: Do a Command F search for words like “sex” “coupons” or other words that are unrelated to your business and could be in a spammy link. If you have an older website and have never done this, chances are good you’ll dig up some nasty spam in no time.
Get rid of those nasty links
- Google only wants website owners to use the disavow tool as a last resort. Check and see if you can figure out a way to contact the owners of the sites that are sending spammy links. Use Whois lookup if you can’t find any contact information on the website. Contact the site owner and see if they will remove those spammy links.
- No luck? Time to disavow. But be careful, disavowing links is serious business and can hurt your website instead of helping it if not done correctly. Let some of these articles walk you through the process:
Google Search Console can do a whole lot for your website. While there are other tools out there for SEO, GSC is the only tool that helps website owners connect with Google and make sure that it’s functioning in search properly. A strong understanding of Google Search Console will put you in a better place to understand and assess other SEO tools. I hope you learned something from my post. Thanks for making it through!