When working on search engine optimization for a website, there is a no-cost tool that helps you better understand how the website is performing on Google Search.
Introduction to Google Search Console
The tool is called Google Search Console. Search Console provides information on a range of different website metrics and reports. For example, you can learn how many people visit the website by searching on Google, or you can confirm Google is crawling your web pages. You can also learn if there are any technical errors on the site.
There are a lot of features on Search Console. Some are more advanced than others. Let’s discuss the first steps a beginner should do. First, add and verify website ownership. Verification is the process of proving that you own the website. And once you finish the verification, Search Console will start to collect data, and you’ll gain full access to the tool.
And after a few days, once the Search Console collects sufficient website data, the second step you should take is to ensure Google can find and read your pages. The index coverage report provides an overview of all the pages Google indexed or tried to index on the website. Review the rest available, and try to fix page errors and warnings.
For the third step, you should review another report called the mobile usability report. This report shows issues that might affect your user’s experience while browsing the site on a mobile device. The report includes information about specific issues, a sample list of the pages affected, and how to fix an issue.
The next step is to consider submitting a sitemap to Search Console. A sitemap is a file that provides information about the pages, videos, and other files on the site and the relationship between them. Search engines like Google read this file to crawl the site more efficiently.
You don’t have to have a sitemap because Google is still likely to crawl the website. However, it’s a best practice to submit the sitemap to improve the crawling, particularly if your website is larger and has over 500 pages. You should also include a sitemap in case Google has difficulty crawling your site and cannot discover important pages. Many website platforms such as WordPress, Wix, or Blogger automatically create and make a sitemap available for search engines. You only need to confirm it is doing it for you.
The fifth step is to monitor your site’s performance. The search performance report shows how much traffic you’re getting from Google Search. The report breaks down the traffic by queries, pages, and countries. For each of these breakdowns, you can get trends for impressions, clicks, and other metrics.
The day-to-day usage will be minimal. You’ll receive an email when unusual events occur, such as if the website is hacked or if Google has any issues crawling the website. Every month or so, review the Search Console dashboard. Get a quick health check to check on the website. Make sure there aren’t any errors on the site. Also, check that there aren’t any unusual dips in click count to the website. You should also review Search Console whenever you add new content to websites. This is a great way to get feedback to see what works and what doesn’t.
Google Search Console reports and metrics
Let’s go over popular Search Console reports.
Overview page – as the name suggested. It gives you a summary of the site’s health, including any security issues, graphs of metrics, and summaries of enhancements for the site, such as structured data. You should check on this page periodically to ensure that there are no security issues or enhancement errors. Also, confirm there aren’t any dips in the click count to the website.
Web Search Performance report focuses on several SEO-related metrics. Let’s quickly cover some of those.
- Impressions are how many times your site has been seen by someone in Google Search.
- Clicks are how many times a searcher clicked on your website’s results in the SERPs.
- The click-through rate is the percentage of people who saw your listing and then clicked on it.
- The average position is where your site ranks in the search results. Position one is the top position.
All these metrics are connected. For example, if your website receives a lot of impressions but its average position in the SERPs is low, it won’t receive many clicks. If the website isn’t receiving many clicks, then its click-through rate will be low as well.
Links report – this shows which website link to yours, what the link text is, and what your top-linked pages are. Use this report to better understand which webpages are receiving the most links from other websites. Why is this page receiving more links than other pages?
Coverage report shows the index status for all pages on your site. Pages are grouped according to whether they are or can be indexed. Also included is a description of why the pages could or could not be indexed. Use the Coverage report to periodically scan for spikes in errors or drops in index counts to identify crawling problems on your site.
Manual actions report is Google’s way to demote or remove webpages that are not compliant with its webmaster quality guidelines. typically, manual actions are for websites or webpages that tried to manipulate the search index. An example of why a manual action is placed against a website is if it has been keyword stuffing.
Security issues report lists indications that your site was hacked or behavior on your site that could potentially harm a visitor or their computer. An example of this is installing unwanted software on a visitor’s computer. If you do see a security issue in this report, Google will provide details about the issue and how to fix it.
While there are several more reports in Search Console, those are some of the more popular and important ones. These reports will help you to better understand how a webpage is performing in Google Search. Google Search Console is a really helpful tool to learn and implement SEO.
Learn more about Google Search Console – Google Search Central: Google Search Console Training.
More tools and reports in Google Search Console
Google Search Console allows you to submit or update the sitemap, which is a file that provides information about pages, videos, and other files on a site and the relationships between them.
URL inspection tool
Another tool that Google Search Console offers is the URL inspection tool, which provides detailed crawl, index, and serving information about your pages, directly from the Google index about a specific URL on your website. It also allows you to test a live page on your website.
Change of address
If you move your website from one domain to another, you’ll need to let Google know by using the change of address tool. For example, if your website address was example.com and you later changed it to example.org, you would use this tool to let Google know about the change. Then Google can migrate your Google Search results from your old website to the new one.
In some cases, you may want to prevent a webpage on your site from appearing in Google Search. A temporary fix is to use the removals tool, which allows you to temporarily block pages from Google Search results and manage Safe Search filtering.
The temporary block will only last about 6 months. To permanently remove the page from Google Search results, you will need to do one of the following:
- Remove or update the page
- Block access to the content by requiring a password or using another method to restrict access
- Add code to the page that tells search engines not to index it (this method is less secure than the other two methods)
Learn more about Google Search Console.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Let’s explore an alternative resource to Google Search Console – Bing Webmaster Tools (Bing WMT). It is a free service developed by Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which allows digital marketers and web developers to add their websites to the Bing index crawler and see their site’s performance in Bing. Bing Webmaster Tools is to the Bing search engine, as Google Search Console is to Google Search.
Why use Bing Webmaster Tools?
Digital marketers need to stay knowledgeable about other search engines and their available resources. While Google and Google Search Console are incredibly popular, digital marketers should also pay attention to additional opportunities to market their brand. It has more than one billion visits each month.
Bing Webmaster Tools features
Bing Webmaster Tools offers similar features to Google Search Console, like site verification, crawl control, sitemaps reports, URL inspection tool, change of address tool, and a removals tool.
Bing Webmaster Tools also offers other features, including:
- Backlinks: users can access and analyze data about their referring pages, domains, and anchor texts.
- Keyword Research: users can check the phrases and keywords that searchers are querying for and their corresponding search volumes.
- SEO Report: this feature collects all the errors found across an entire website.
- Site Scan: this on-demand site audit tool crawls a site and checks for common technical SEO issues.
Exploring additional tools and resources outside of the Google community is critical to becoming a well-rounded digital marketer. Using Bing Webmaster Tools can help people find your website.
More on Bing Webmaster Tools.
Happy learning and good luck!