What Is Google Search Console (GSC)?
As a free web analytics tool, Google Search Console helps webmasters, marketers, and website owners:
- Measure a site’s search traffic from Google
- Identify and fix problems of websites
- Track performance of search engine optimization on Google
- Make sure Google indexes your website the way you want it to
- And understand how Google sees your pages on your websites
Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools (rebranded to Google Search Console on 24 May 2015) is one of the essential tools any business, marketer, or anyone with a website, should have in their toolkit.
Whatever your end goal might be, whether increased sales, a better performing website or measuring marketing results, GSC should be a tool you use regularly.
But you might be wondering, should I use it?
Yes. And we will go through why you should use it in more detail through the benefits and features.
But What Does it Do in A Nutshell?
By submitting your web property, you will see the exact performance of said property gets from Google Search as it’s for understanding how your web property performs on Google.
If you’re interested in alternative search engines, for example, seeing your performance on Bing, learn everything you need to about the Bing Webmaster Tools from here.
Google Search Console Benefits And Why Should Use It
There are many reasons and benefits why the data you can get from Google Search Console is crucial to anyone with a website.
First of all, it’s completely free and simple to set up, the additional data and understanding of how your website performs on Google. Makes using the tool worth the time investment it would take to understand everything the tool can offer.
Let’s take a look at the Google Search Console benefits it offers:
- Easy to install and setup
- Track your SEO performance
- Clicks and Impressions from Google
- Clickthrough rates from Results pages
- Average positions of individual pages on Google
- Improve SEO
- Learn what keywords need optimizing
- Learn new keywords to improve your content marketing strategy
- Discover new countries you’re pages see clicks and impressions from
- Optimize any SEO issues due to website performance
- Improve your backlink profile by understanding which websites link to you
- Track performance from other content and Google properties:
- Google Images
- Manage sitemaps
- Manage website coverage on Google
- Remove pages from indexing
- Track website performance
- Loading speeds
- Mobile usability
- Export data to CSV for more in-depth analysis
We’ll introduce you to these benefits one-by-one later in this article if you want to learn more about them.
But first, let’s understand the real impact of Google Search Console for SEO as a tool.
Google Search Console for SEO
If you’re trying to grow your website’s traffic through SEO, then GSC is a crucial tool to track and record your strategies’ performance and learn through data to improve the results.
As Google is the dominant search engine, you always want to know how your sites perform on Google more deeply than just by the numbers you might see on Google Analytics or equivalent web analytics tools.
As you can track through Google Analytics how much traffic, in general, you’re getting from organic results, you will see the full picture through the Search Console.
Analyzing SEO data in the Search Console helps you understand how your SEO develops over time. Realized clicks aren’t the only thing you should measure.
For example, understanding how impressions grow overtime with rising average positions will see the correlations between these two metrics against the total traffic.
Especially if you’re beginning to implement SEO in a meaningful way, you need more data to optimize it at the beginning of the SEO journey.
Not to mention, the new keyword ideas you can get from the data to help you target keywords you probably never realized before, and it might give you new opportunities to try.
For example, you initially started optimizing for keyword “X” to realize that a relevant, but adjacent keyword “Y” brings you more traffic. If you optimize for the “Y” keywords instead, you can rank higher on that keyword, increasing traffic.
And that’s one example of how SEO data from Google Search Console helps you improve SEO as a whole.
How To Setup Google Search Console
You can either verify your domain or a URL prefix, but verifying a domain would be better.
With a domain verification, you won’t need to add any other version of your website (think of subdomains and https / Http)
But domain verification requires DNS verification, for which you need access to your domain settings.
Through a domain verification, you make sure that you’ll see all the data available for your domain.
First, we will see how to set it up for, no matter what platforms you use for your website.
We will then set up Google Search Console with common platforms such as WordPress, Shopify, and Wix.
But let’s start installing the tool with the preferred method, DNS.
- Click on the Add Property button
- Enter your domain name under the Domain section
- Click continue
- Go to your domain provider and access your domain settings
- Copy the provided TXT record from Google Search Console and add it to the DNS settings of your domain
- When ready Verify
- Remember that DNS changes can take a while (a few hours).
URL Prefix Installation
- Click on the Add Property button.
- Enter your full domain under the URL Prefix (e.g., HTTPS://YOURDOMAIN.COM)
You will have four new options to choose from how you continue the installation.
- HTML Tag
- HTML File
- Google Analytics
- Google Tag Manager
- DNS (The same as we already wrote.)
You will need to copy the code provided in the HTML Tag and add it to your homepage’s <head> section before the first <body> section.
If you’re using the common platforms, most will use this tag as a verification method.
In the HTML file, you will download the provided .html file and upload it to your website.
Installing Google Analytics is the easiest if you already have Google Analytics installed. All you have to do is to verify it. Ensure that the same account has access to Google Analytics from which you’re trying to add the domain property.
Installing through Google Tag Manager is the same above. If you have it installed, you can simply verify it. Again make sure that the accounts match.
Although you can set up Google Search Console with any domain and website through these methods, some platforms allow you to set it up within the platforms directly.
With all URL prefix methods, you will need to add all the other versions of your domain. Or use the DNS method later on.
In WordPress, you can either directly add the tag code to your header or add it through a plugin.
For adding the code to your header, you can also use the SEO plugin like Yoast.
If you’re using Yoast:
- Find the SEO Tab on your WordPress dashboard
- From general to go Webmaster Tools
- It will want you to add the Google Verification code, which you can extract from the meta tag code, that you would find using the prior methods.
- Then Save Changes
For Shopify, there are multiple ways:
If you have a domain through Shopify, you can add it using the DNS method through finding
Domains -> Manage Domains – > DNS Settings – > Add Custom record and then adding the TXT record and confirming.
You can add the meta tag to the header yourself, and you do it via accessing your theme.liquid file under <head> where you would paste the meta tag and then save.
Alternatively, you can install Google Analytics first and verify through Google Analytics the URL prefix mentioned earlier.
You can install the Google Analytics in your Shopify store through Online Store- > Preferences -> Find the section called Google Analytics and add the Google Analytics code there. And save.
You can connect Google Search Console with Squarespace through the Analytics -> Search Keywords and pressing connect.
This step only connects your account with Squarespace, so you will need to set it up before the connection.
Either via DNS (Through Squarespace if you have a domain with them) or Google Analytics.
To verify with Wix go to Marketing & SEO -> SEO Tools -> Site Verification -> Google Search Console.
After clicking it, add the site verification tag.
Google Search Console Metrics, Reports And Analytics
These will be the four key metrics you will regularly use in Google Search Console. Understanding these key metrics helps you understand the performance -report and make better SEO strategy decisions.
Through these metrics, you can learn how to use Google Search Console more and understand what the tool is for and introduce the data to your overall workflow.
Impressions are how many times users saw your link to your page in Google Search. How Google counts impressions depends on search types.
But for Google Search, it counts an impression every time your link would show up in the search result pages when a user searches for something.
An impression doesn’t mean that the search user has seen the link or scrolled into view. Therefore Google can count impressions without the user being aware of your link in the search page results.
Impression, however, can tell you a lot about keyword potential a said keyword can have.
For example, if your website increases the impression count, your click count can follow the trend. But that’s not always the case as Google might test your pages with different keyword combinations leading to inflated impressions, but when inflation happens, you can pinpoint them most of the time.
A click will be any click that sends a user outside of Google Search to your page.
Google won’t count a click if a click occurs within Google Search, say click to rich results, and the user doesn’t go to your page.
And if a user returns to the search and clicks the same link again, it won’t count as a second click, but if they click another link, that will count as a click.
Average positions are the ranks of your pages and their URLs in Google’s search result page.
A key thing to remember about average positions is that your prior filter options may change the results you see.
Therefore, before being 100% about a page position, remember to check the filtering options and ensure that the filtering settings are correct to your needs.
For example, you need to remember to filter by country to see how you rank for the keywords separately between different countries.
Average Clickthrough rate (CTR)
The clickthrough rate (CTR) is simply the percentage of impressions that lead to clicks to your site.
Monitoring CTR is crucial for improving your SEO results. A low CTR will eventually lead to worsened ranking positions, as Google will likely boost pages with high CTR.
For example, you can analyze why some of your pages would have a higher CTR than others and then replicate the method used in that page for the page you’re about to optimize
If you want to learn more about clicks, impressions, or positions, you can read the support article from Google.
Google Analytics with Google Search Console
One benefit of Google Search Console is that you can connect it to your Google Analytics account.
By connecting the two, you can access a lot more Search Console data at once and use Google Analytics features to make better sense of your data.
Once you connect the tools, you can access the data in Google Analytics the following way:
- Go to acquisitions
- Choose the Search Console and choose one of four reports at your disposal.
- Landing pages
How To Connect Google Search Console And Google Analytics?
To connect the two tools, you need to start from Google Analytics.
- Head over to your account and look for Admin- settings on the bottom OR go from the Acquisitions -> Search Console -> Any of the four reports will prompt you with “set up search console data sharing,” which would bring you to step 3.
- From there, in the middle row, the first item will be property settings. Click it.
- Scroll down until you see “adjust search console” and click it.
- On the next page, click the Add- button, which will prompt you to list all possible search console properties associated with the same Google account.
What Can You Do With The Data In Google Analytics?
For example, suppose you want to export more data than Google Search Console allows you. In that case, you can use Google Analytics to export up to 5 000 keywords at once, making keyword analysis much easier.
If you have Google Analytics Goals installed for measuring conversion performance, you can see how keywords produce conversions for you with the connection.
Unfortunately, you can’t see conversion results for each keyword, but you will see what keywords a landing page ranks for, and for landing pages, you can see conversion data.
From this data, you can better understand the keywords that matter to you.
The critical thing to remember is that while Google Analytics measures data almost instantly, Google Search Console data doesn’t. If you’re analyzing data from today, you won’t see anything from GSC in your reports.
Google Search Console Features and Reports
Going through the Google Search Console features enables you to understand all the possibilities of the free tool.
While you mostly will use it to track SEO performance the most, knowing the other features may come in handy when you need more information about your website’s Google Search presence.
Through the features, you will learn how to use Google Search Console most optimally.
But further ado, let’s look at the many features the tool offers any webmaster, business, or marketer.
The overview report is the first thing you’ll do when you access your website property on the tool.
So what does the overview show you?
It’ll show you quickly a three-month report of performance, coverage, and enhancements.
From here, you can go deeper into each report and gain more data about the topic you want.
Perfect for seeing any underlying issues in generated traffic, any new problems with coverage, or website performance issues.
The performance – report in Google Search Console is the tool’s core functionality and where you will spend the most time.
Here you’ll discover the organic traffic performance you’re getting from Google.
At a glance, you’ll see the total clicks, total impressions, average CTR, and average positions of all the keywords your website gets from Google Search.
Here you can easily modify the data shown to you by filtering by:
- Search Type (web, image, video, news)
- Date (Custom or recent, seven days, 28 days, three months, six months, 12 months, 16 months)
- Query (either by queries containing or exact match)
- Page (URLs containing or exact URL)
- Device (Desktop, Mobile, Tablet)
- Search appearance
You can also use the compare-function in filtering, which helps easily see which of two is better or worse.
After setting the right filters you need, you can see each keyword and their specific performance below the chart.
You can also see the performance of any page, country, devices, search appearance, and dates.
The more data and insight you have available to you, the more filtering you will need to extract the essential metrics.
Remember to always set the right filters before analyzing data, to avoid wrong data sets leading to miscalculations.
Playing around with different options, you can discover whatever you might need to know from any given date, making Google Search Console the perfect SEO tool.
And any combination of filtered data can easily be exported directly to Google Sheets, Excel, or CSV.
You can always inspect any URL within your website quickly through the search bar or under the URL Inspection from the menu.
An URL inspection tells you:
- If your URL is indeed visible on Google
- Coverage Data
- Sitemaps the URL is on
- When Googlebot crawled the URL and if it was successful
- Tell if the URL is mobile-friendly, and the URL has a sitelinks searchbox available.
In the coverage – report, you’ll discover any potential issues with your pages Google search coverage.
You’ll see whether there are any pages with:
- Errors and issues
- Valid pages with warnings
- Valid Pages
- And excluded pages
Errors are critical as they show you if Google can’t index a page for some reason.
Valid with warning are pages that Google has indexed, but there are some issues regarding the indexing. A page might show up even if you intentionally changed a page’s index setups.
Valid pages won’t require any action by you because the pages typically appear on Google Search.
Excluded pages are pages that are intentionally not indexed. It’s crucial to make sure that the pages found here are the pages you wanted to exclude from search if you find any page that wasn’t supposed to be there.
Just click on the excluded pages and confirm that they are ok.
You can filter the coverage – report by choosing between
- All known pages
- All submitted pages
- Or Filter through available sitemaps
In the sitemaps section, you can submit your sitemaps for Google to index. Just add the link to your sitemap, and you’re good to go.
Below the submission, you can see all the submitted sitemaps and see if the status is successful or not.
Here you’ll also see when was the last crawl (last read) and how many URLs Google discovered while it’s crawling.
In the removals section, you can send a request to temporarily and quickly remove content from the search engine.
Please note that a temporary removal isn’t the same as permanently removing a page URL from the search engine.
For example, you might want to use temporary removals if you deleted some sensitive content from a specific page so that the sensitive content won’t show up on the search engines without removing the whole page.
Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals measure your website’s performance regularly to tell you if a URL is poor, good, or needs improvements.
The Google Search Console breaks down the core web vitals report into two parts: mobile and desktop.
When first accessing this section, you’ll see how many URLs with poor, good, or need improvement marking.
For example, you might discover that some of your mobile URLs are slow and need improvement. From here, you can pinpoint the issue. Then you can fix the problem and start the validation process. If the validation process is successful, the URL will turn green, a.k.a good.
The report goes hand-in-hand when using tools such as Pagespeed Insights as GSC uses it to measure website loading speeds.
Look for common issues. If you have the same issue across multiple URLs, you might have an underlying problem with your website that needs fixing.
Similar to Core Web Vitals, which measures loading speeds’ performance, mobile usability checks whether URLs have any mobile usability issues.
For example, you might have an error that says “text too small to read” or “clickable elements are too close together.”
Which would mean you might want to check the mobile version of said URL and fix the issues and validate the fix on the mobile usability section.
The validation might not be instant, and you’ll want to check how it did later on from this report.
If you’re optimizing your website to gain rich results from Google Search, in the sitelinks searchbox report, you can see whether your URLs have any errors, valid with warnings, or are valid.
Under the enhancements pane, you will see a report for any of the rich result types you might have on your website.
For example, if you have an online store and you’re optimizing with ecommerce SEO, you will want to know if you have optimized your product rich results correctly and if there are any issues regarding them.
Note that, if you haven’t optimized for any rich results, you will only see the sitelinks searchbox under the enhancements pane, which would be a good indicator that you need to start optimizing for them right away.
Since it’s update and transition from Google Webmaster Tools to Google Search Console, Google has not yet created a replacement for all the legacy tools.
And it might be highly subject to change in the future, but here are the current legacy tools you can access from GSC:
- International targeting
- Crawl stats
- URL parameters
- Web tools
Links (Internal and External)
In the links section, you’ll find all the external links that link to your website.
External links, also called backlinks, are a crucial metric to measure SEO’s performance as commonly, the more quality backlinks your website gains, the higher chance of ranking you have.
But back to what Google Search Console tells you about the backlinks to your website.
The tool shows you the pages and URLs that get the most links in the top linked pages section. If you click any listed URLs, the tool shows you from where the links came from in detail with how many links you’re getting from the external source.
Unfortunately, GSC won’t show the complete URL that links to your page, only the domain. Nor can you evaluate the quality of any linking URLs.
If you want to know more about the specific URL that links to one of your URLs, you will need to use a backlink tool.
For example, you can discover ones from our free SEO tools article or use an SEO tool you already have.
Top linking sites list tells you from which domain you get the most backlinks and the corresponding number.
The top linking text tells you the link text from the external link.
In the internal links section, you will see the top linked pages you’re linking internally to and how many times you’ve linked to an internal page.
Checking your internal links from time to time will help you discover new internal link opportunities so you can improve the experience of your website by linking relevant pages together.
What can I do in the settings of Google Search Console?
- Verify the owner of the domain
- Add new users and permissions to existing ones
- Change of address (Domain)
You’ll also learn which of the indexing crawlers Google uses to index your site and when you added the domain property to your account.
As Google Search Console, it’s free and easy to use, and it deserves a spot on any webmasters, marketers, business owner toolkit to manage their visibility on Google Search.
The additional data and understanding of how people find your website on Google are one of the tool’s key benefits.
If you know how people find you through data, you can keep attracting similar audiences to your website even more, through SEO and other digital marketing strategies.
But as you can see from the list of features, the tool can help you pinpoint issues that may exist on your website and can be a helpful place to start when optimizing the performance of your websites.