by Casey Reid
When doing research and discovery, performing site audits, or improving technical SEO for our clients, one of the tools we find useful at Clearfire is Google Search Console. Despite providing a lot of useful information it often flies under the radar with website owners.
What is it exactly, and how can it help you?
Search Console is a tool from Google that can help anyone with a website better understand how they are performing on Google Search, and what they can do to improve their appearance in search results in order to bring more relevant traffic to their websites.
Basically, it can help you measure your site’s performance on Google and fix any issues, so you can maintain good Google Search results, performance, and usability.
But what about Google Analytics?
If you’ve been around websites at all, you’ve probably used (or at least heard of) Google Analytics. Search Console is what we at Clearfire would describe as a complement to Google Analytics. Unlike Google Analytics, Search Console only provides information on traffic from web search, not direct hits, referrals or other sources.
Let’s dive into what Google Search Console is and what this powerful platform can do for your site — and ultimately your business.
Search Console gives you information about how Google crawls, indexes, and serves a website.
Google Search works in three stages:
Crawling: Google uses software known as web crawlers to regularly explore the web to find pages to add to its index. Most sites aren’t actually submitted to Google — Google finds them with its web crawlers. Google downloads text, images, and videos from the pages it finds.
Indexing: Google analyzes the text, images, and video files on a web page, and then stores the information in a large database called the Google index.
Serving search results: Google is able to use all the information it obtained by crawling and indexing to return relevant results when someone searches on Google.
Using all of this information within Search Console can help you monitor and optimize your website for improved technical SEO and better visibility in search results!
Regularly checking your Search Console dashboard is like getting vitals for your website. (But you don’t have to check too regularly; the nice thing is that Google will send you an email if there are issues with your site.)
So what will you find when you get into your Search Console?
At Clearfire, we find Google Search Console to be more simple and less complex than Google Analytics. This makes it easier to digest all of the information within the platform.
Some of our favorite tools inside Search Console include:
URL Inspection Tool: You can check to make sure your pages are functioning well by testing them with this tool.
The URL Inspection Tool gives you pertinent information about your pages, directly from the Google index. You can make sure your page is actually in the Google index – and if not, you can request that Google indexes it. This is particularly helpful if you made recent changes to your content.
Sitemaps Report: Google encourages you to submit your site’s list of total pages using a sitemap. This is typically in the format of a sitemap.xml file. This way, the web crawlers can more quickly index your site. You can see how often your sitemaps get crawled, view any errors, or tell Google about any new site maps at your domain.
Performance Report: This tool will give you metrics about all of the traffic that lands on your site pages organically — including keyword rankings, clicks, impressions and more. These details can be especially useful for SEO and marketing campaigns.
The Index Coverage Report: Another valuable SEO resource, the coverage report allows you to see how much of your site has been indexed by Google.
This report will show you four status messages:
Error — displays indexing or page errors and how to resolve the issues.
Warning — your page has been indexed but there is another issue that needs to be resolved.
Excluded — your page isn’t indexed but for a legitimate reason (i.e. you asked Google not to index it.)
Valid — your page is indexed with no errors.
Core Web Vitals Report: This tool allows you to see your site’s loading speed rankings. With a focus on user experience, Google ranks pages higher when they load faster.
Inside this tool, you can view specific metrics based on loading speed:
CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) measures how much the page layout moves while loading.
LCP (Largest Content Paint) measures how long it takes for content to appear on the page.
FID (First Input Delay) measures the time before a user can interact with the page.
Google Search Console is essentially a way to peek at your site through Google’s eyes – to learn how the search engine is seeing your site and what you can do to fix any issues. This is a valuable way to gain a better understanding of your site’s health.
While you can’t use Search Console to make changes to your site, you can use it to improve your search rankings, submit new pages to Google and discover what people are searching for to land on your site.
If you discover errors, you can fix your site and then click on the “Validate” button so Google will check to make sure the issue is resolved and re-index it.
If you rely on your website to garner new clients or generate leads, Search Console is unbelievably valuable for SEO strategy. Search Console’s data can help you with boosting your ranking opportunities. We’ve also helped clients use the keyword data to inform upcoming marketing campaigns.
For our Clearfire clients, we typically create accounts for both Google Analytics and Google Search Console. While some of our clients have their own in-house marketing team or agency who maintains this information, many of our clients rely on us to monitor and report back about site data and audits.
We strongly encourage all sites to take advantage of Google Search Console. By gaining access to your site’s metrics and performance, you’ll be poised to fix any issues that you might not have been aware of, as well as measure — and hopefully increase — your search traffic.
With a better understanding of how Google is crawling and indexing your pages, you can also optimize your content, making your site more useful to more visitors.
If you have any questions about using Google Search Console or website audits in general, get in touch.
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