I remember the times that I would go to Google Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools) and try to figure out what’s the whole point of this tool. Thank god those times are in the past, and here I am writing you an article on how to use Google’s search console.
Well, I have improved my overall digital marketing skills and started to have a great understanding of blogs and websites. But more importantly, Google did an outstanding job developing an easy to understand webmaster tool for everyday users and digital teams.
Today Google Search Console has an excellent UI/UX. This allows us to use this tool more often and efficiently or explain how it can be used. Look below how clean and slick design it has! Back in the day, Google Webmaster Tools looked rather technical and demotivating.
What is Google Search Console?
Google search console is a free service that allows website owners, SEO professionals, and website developers to monitor and optimize their site’s visibility for Google Search. We used to call this Google WebMaster tools until Google re-branded the software and called it Google Search Console in 2015.
In my article, What is SEO & Why Is It Important? I explained how the “crawl, index, and rank” mechanism works. In brief, Google developed a sophisticated algorithm and crawls your site on a regular base, indexes, and finally ranks your website or pages. The search console comes into place precisely at this point.
Now, let’s check out the main functions and uses of Google Search Console, and we will explain the most important ones in detail. Search Console offers tools and reports for the following actions:
- Make sure Google can find and crawl your site.
- Send indexing requests for new or updated content & fix indexing problems.
- Monitor Google Search traffic data for your site: how often your website appears in Google Search, which search queries show your site, how often searchers click through for those queries, and more.
- Receive alerts when Google encounters indexing, spam, or other issues on your site.
- Show you which sites link to your website, which is vital for SEO.
- Troubleshoot issues for AMP, mobile usability, and other search features.
Google Search Console : 5 Main Functions & Uses
The actions list above is great for the theory from Google’s perspective. Now let’s move on to practice. As digital marketing experts in our daily lives, we are more interested in the following five main functions and uses of Google Search Console.
1- Monitor & Analyse Google Search Results
When you go to the Performance Tab in GSC, you have four metrics that you can look into; clicks, impressions, CTR, and average positions. I won’t be explaining what these four metrics mean as they are quite straight forward. What’s essential in this section is that the filtering function on top of the page and using the parts below the chart: queries, pages, countries, devices, search appearance, and dates.
By using the date filter, you can show & compare results for different periods. I use this kind of comparison a lot as I continually run SEO, digital advertising, or social media campaigns. The comparison allows us to track, for instance, our brand keyword rankings before and after a campaign or how our PPC efforts reflected in the organic rankings.
Another great function is to add a new filter. By doing that, you can narrow down your results by a range of variables. There is another filter functionality that says “filter rows” just at the right top of your results tabs. This also makes life easier for you, and if you haven’t discovered it yet, I encourage you to check that out.
2- URL Inspection & Submitting an Indexing Request
In the search console, go to the URL inspection tab and in the top search bar type in a URL that belongs to your site. This way, you can check whether that page is indexed or not. It’s a good practice to do this for your pages, posts, tags, and category URLs.
Once you searched for the URL, you can “Request Indexing” right after you publish a new piece of content on your site or blog. I recommend you do this for pages that you updated recently as well. When you do that, Google puts your content into its priority indexing cue. In other words, by using Google Search Console, you can speed up your page’s indexing and therefore accelerate the ranking process.
If you don’t make indexing requests, depending on your content publishing frequency, your content might still get indexed reasonably fast. If you are not publishing often, I would suggest you go through this process after you hit the publish button.
This is also the proper way to prevent & protect your content’s copyrights. If you don’t officially let Google know about your new content, rare case scenarios, but people can steal your content, publish it, and even send an indexing request before you know it. So take the time to do this small work after you post your content.
3- Index Coverage, Sitemaps, and Removals
Index tab in GSC has three main functions: check your site’s coverage, submit your sitemaps and removals. The coverage section shows your site’s coverage on Google search results. You can see errors, valid pages, and excluded pages. In practice, we use this function for troubleshooting and see if our pages are healthy or not.
Checking my GSC while writing this article, I realized I got a page with a 404 error, which refers to a URL not found! I went back to my site and quickly realized that I got a page marked as a draft, but it was once published. So Google Search Console was asking me where the content was? I can post this again and make a 301 re-direction to a new page or mark it as a no-index to sort this out. But you get the idea.
Google can crawl and index your pages even without a sitemap. Nevertheless, sitemaps are a great way to help Google. If you side with Google, trust me, Google will side with you too. If you have any issues with your sitemap, the search console will notify you, as this is vital for site health.
The removals tab is a rather new add-on to GSC functionality; in fact, I recall seeing it the first time in 2020. Let’s say that you have an old page that still shows up in Google Search with a misspelled page title! Now by using this section, you can immediately take that page out of the search results. Fancy right?
4- Optimize Site Speed, Mobile Usability and AMP
You probably heard that Google has more than 200 ranking factors. As you can imagine, some of these factors have more weight than others. So there is definitely like a top 10 ranking factors for Google kind of list. Site Speed, Mobile Usability, and AMP all together would make it to that top10 ranking factors list. Got your attention?
So these sections mainly allow you to monitor and troubleshoot your site’s speed and mobile issues. Make sure to get your site’s mobile experience up to Google’s expectations. Also, try implementing the AMP technology to your site. After doing that, you can check the performance and errors of that implementation from GSC.
5- Check Your Backlinks (Sites That Link To You)
From an SEO perspective, links you get from high-authority and niche-relevant sites are a great attribute to your site’s domain authority and, therefore, to your Google rankings. Links section in Google Search Console shows you which sites link back to your website and specific pages. Of course, when it comes to backlinks, there are a bunch of advanced backlink tools, but for an everyday user, GSC is more than enough.
This section also shows you internal links, which I believe as equally crucial to backlinks from other domains. You can almost make a self-check and see for yourself which pages you tend to link more and which pages are not linked at all. This is a great way to improve your site’s internal linking, and I can’t stress out how important that can be to your site’s rankings.
Google Search Console is a great tool to monitor, maintain, and optimize your website’s Google Search performance. The interface is not overwhelming at all, and it’s free just like Google Analytics. So if you are a blogger or a website owner, I strongly recommend starting using this tool. You can at least send index requests after posting new content. I continuously use this function myself and even do that for tags and category pages to make sure they are indexed.
Besides, I track my keyword rankings and all my SEO campaign performances, mainly in Google Search Console. I know there are great tools out there, and I use them too. However, be aware that they mostly use Google Search Console API to pull Google’s data and show it to you in a different way. And even with their own crawlers, can they outrank Google bot? The answer is NO in my experience!