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Elise Dopson on June 4, 2020 • 47 minute read
You’ve got tons of SEO tools at your disposal.
According to G2, there are 200+ tools. Most of them are paid. Each shows its own data set; a bunch of different metrics unique to each tool. How do you know which to rely on?
Luckily, there’s one tool that can handle the bulk of your keyword and SEO ranking tracking for you: Google Search Console. And, it’s free.
So, how can you unlock the power of this free tool? And how do you use it?
We’ve polled more than 100 marketers and put together this guide to help you learn how to use Google Search Console for SEO.
First, we’ll go over the basic data you can find in Google Search Console—and how to find it. After that, we’ll present insights from 100+ experts who shared the unique ways they use Google Search Console to increase traffic and rankings.
Table of Contents:
Google Search Console is a free tool built by Google that helps businesses optimize their sites for search.
It gives you tons of information that’s crucial for effective SEO, things like what keywords your site ranks for, what position you rank in for those keywords, how often people are clicking your result after typing in specific queries, and what other sites have linked to your content.
It also tells you about any issues with your site, things like crawl errors (i.e. Google can’t access a page on your site) and manual actions (i.e. Google has penalized your site due to a violation of one of their quality guidelines). It will even tell you if your site is mobile-friendly or not.
For these reasons, Google Search Console is a must-have in your SEO toolkit.
First thing’s first––visit Google Search Console.
Create an account, or if you have Google Analytics set up on your website (recommended), log in using your Google Analytics credentials.
Next, select a property type by adding your website address to either the domain or URL prefix tab (as seen above).
You’ll have to verify that you own your site. Preferably, verify ownership using your Google Analytics tracking ID.
To find your Google Analytics tracking ID, login to your Google Analytics account and navigate to Admin » Property settings » Basic settings» Tracking ID.
That’s it. It’s as simple as that. Now, the next time you log in to your Google Analytics account, you’ll be able to access Google Search Console via the sidebar as well.
Now that you have Google Search Console set up, here are 10 basic things that you can do in Google Search Console to help you understand how your website is performing in organic search and enable Google crawl and index for your site.
Google Search Console’s “Performance” report contains many of the basic pieces of data you’ll need to rely on for SEO. One of those is the keywords that your site and pages rank for, called “queries” within the tool.
To see your keywords in Google Search Console, log in to the tool, click “Performance,” and scroll down the page.
The “Queries” tab will be selected by default. Below it, you can scroll and page through the list to see every keyword you show up in search results for across your entire website.
If you want to see what keywords your individual pages rank for, you’ll need to take a couple more steps. First, click the “Pages” tab, and then select the page you want to review.
Now, click the “Queries” tab again. Here, you’ll see all of the keywords that the specific page you selected in the last step ranks for.
If you want to look at keywords for a different page, return to the “Pages” tab, dismiss the currently selected page, select the next page you want to view, and click “Queries” again.
Above the graph in your performance report, there are four metrics: total clicks, total impressions, average CTR (click-through rate), and average position.
We’ll take a look at average position in the next section.
When you first open the performance report, the data displayed in this section is data for your entire website. But if you click the “Pages” tab and select a page, the report refreshes to show the data for that specific page.
Each of these metrics is selectable. When one is selected, the background displays in color. When unselected, the background displays as white.
When you select a metric, Google Search Console displays the data for that metric both in the performance graph and below the graph in the table.
If you’re on the “Queries” tab, you can now see how many times people saw your result for specific keywords in search and how often they clicked those results, as well as your overall click-through rate.
The last metric available in the performance report is average position. “Position” refers to where you’re ranked in the search results for specific keywords. If you’re the top result, your position is 1. If you’re at the top of page two, your position might be 11.
“Average position” is an average (sum of positions divided by the total number of keywords) of your positions for every keyword you rank for.
The general report shows the average of your positions for every keyword your entire site ranks for. If you filter by page, it shows the average of positions for all keywords a specific page ranks for.
For this reason, average position usually isn’t the most helpful piece of data. However, if you scroll down to the table below the graph, it will show you what position you rank in for each individual keyword. And this data is incredibly useful.
Using this data, you can not only see exactly where each page of your site ranks for specific keywords, but also—as Jennifer Schulman of Fortune Web Marketing says—you can use it to “monitor how your rankings change after you make on-site adjustments and optimizations.”
Using Google Search Console’s “Coverage” report, you can see exactly how many pages of your site Google has indexed. Click “Coverage” and then select the tile for “Valid.”
Jason Acidre of Kaiserthesage recommends that you “compare the number of pages that you’ve submitted via XML sitemap with the actual number of pages that have been indexed by Google—particularly for large sites.”
“This is one of the most important steps to take in order to determine if your site has crawling, indexing, and/or content duplication issues,” Acidre says.
If you find that a specific page of your site isn’t in Google’s index, you can submit it for indexing using the “URL inspection” tool:
It may take anywhere from a few hours for a few days for Google to process your request, crawl the page, and add it to its index.
Sometimes, developers will add canonical or no-index tags to a page to temporarily prevent Google from crawling it, but they may forget to later remove those tags. Other times, you delete a page and forget to redirect it to a new page.
Fortunately, Google Search Console logs issues for these types of problems so you don’t need to inspect the HTML of each page to look for errors. You can find these errors in the coverage report by clicking “Coverage” and selecting “Error” and “Valid with warnings.”
“The new Search Console interface takes a bit of time to get used to, but its updated coverage tool is absolutely stunning,” says Alisa Nemova of SEO with Love. “It not only shows which pages aren’t indexed, but it also explains why those pages weren’t indexed.”
“It helped me notice a developer’s mistake on one of the websites I was working on. The website started losing rankings for no reason. Apparently, a significant number of pages were no-indexed by mistake. Since that’s a very rare mistake, it would have taken me longer to spot it if that wasn’t for Google Search Console.”
This report also shows you 404 errors found on pages you’ve submitted to Google via either a sitemap or the “Request Indexing” tool.
“404 errors are usually a result of old or broken links which have previously been indexed by Google,” says Digitopia’s Andrew Vinas. “But with this feature, you can easily find URLs on your domain that are producing 404 errors.”
However, as Weidert Group’s Jonathan Stanis notes, not all errors need to be addressed. “Sometimes you can ignore the issues Search Console informs you of, such as asking you to include job posting information on a careers page that currently has no positions open.”
If you have a sitemap that you keep updated for your site, you can submit that sitemap in Google Search Console to make it easier for Google to crawl your site and to let it know about new pages you’ve published.
To submit a sitemap:
With Google slowly rolling out its mobile-first indexing, it’s crucial that all pages on your website are mobile-friendly. Luckily, Google Search Console makes it easy to find any mobile page issues. Just click on “Mobile Usability” and look to see if you have any errors. If so, scroll down the page to get more details.
“I always check all 2,300+ of my blog posts and web pages to make sure that they’re mobile-friendly,” says Mike Schiemer of Bootstrap Business. “Google checks to make sure that the pages are responsive and quick to load, and that all elements fit on the page and fonts aren’t too small to read on mobile.”
“Google Search Console provides you with a list of the specific mobile-unfriendly pages and what needs to be corrected. This ensures that your webpages are providing a better mobile experience for visitors—and that they end up ranking higher in search.”
Google Search Console’s “Links” report shows you what other sites have linked to your site, what pages other sites link to most often, and what pages have the most links.
To see all of your site’s backlinks, click the “Links” tab, then click “More” under “Top linking sites” to view all of your inbound links.
If Google determines that your site violates its quality guidelines, it can issue a manual action against your site which could result in your entire site getting removed from its index.
Typically, manual actions are the result of things like buying backlinks, publishing scraped or low-quality content, keyword stuffing, or sneaky redirects.
If you or someone you’ve hired to work on your site ever engaged in any questionable practices to boost your SEO, it’s worth checking to see if you’ve been issued a manual penalty.
But you can also be issued a manual penalty for things other people did to your site. If Google believes your site was hacked, it may remove it from its index. It can also issue a penalty if your site is full of low-quality comments with links that point to questionable sites.
Hopefully, manual penalties aren’t something you’ll ever have to worry about, but if your traffic drops rapidly and you aren’t sure why, it’s worth checking the “Manual actions” report to see if you’ve been issued a penalty. If so, you can find instructions for how to fix the issue and get your site reindexed.
Once you have the basics down, you’re ready to move into using Google Search Console data to gather more advanced SEO insights.
Our respondents expanded on these tips below—and offered a few more ideas. 34 to be exact.
Before we dive in, “you should never focus your attention on only one of the metrics as it could be really misleading,” according to GloboOutdoors‘ Gleb Myrko.
The most popular metric to track in Google Search Console is clicks:
However, Myrko thinks: “It is far better to look at the combination of impressions, CTR and average positions. Clicks are irrelevant in this situation as they are a result KPI of CTR and impressions.”
“A high number of impressions and excellent average position could occur for a webpage if you rate well for certain keywords, but you don’t match search intent. It could lead you to the wrong impression that it is performing very well.”
“But, your CTR will definitely suffer. Sooner or later, you will lose your positions so it is not sustainable,” Myrko adds.
When using Google Search Console to track your website, Adam Smartschan of Altitude Marketing advises to “follow the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid.”
“GSC has a TON of metrics, and it’s easy to get sucked into the minutia. (e.g., “We had 17 impressions for ‘marketing agency’ in Switzerland last Thursday!”).”
“Instead, track a few bellwether terms and metrics. Know your “big five” search terms–the ones that are highly relevant to your business and are likely to drive leads. Those obscure long-tails from old blog posts are great, but they’re a means to an end–driving your bellwethers higher.”
Smartschan continues: “A quick glance at these every morning lets you know how you’re tracking in general. Likewise, know your core click and impression metrics, and track the long-term trend line.”
“Day-to-day fluctuations are normal; month-over-month is what you’re really looking for.”
Petri‘s Tasia Duske adds: “Focus on the big picture as much as you do on the little ones. There is so much data in Google Search Console that it is easy to get lost in very nuanced decision making. Are you optimized enough? How could you increase impressions by 10%? These decisions are important for your business, and so is looking at the big picture.”
“At least once per month consider how you are approaching your content strategy and how the data informs it.”
*Editor’s note: Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of data available to you? Get straight to your most important metrics, and cut the noise, with our Google Analytics SEO dashboard. It pulls data from your account without having to manually go through and find it:
“To make the most of Google Search Console data, it’s best to export the data for analysis in another tool like Excel or Google Data Studio,” says SoftwarePundit‘s Bruce Hogan.
“You can easily export the data from Google Search Console into a document that has distinct pages that cut the data by specific queries, pages, countries, and devices.”
“Plugging this data into another tool ensures it will be saved, and allows you to do more sophisticated analyses that what’s possible in Google Search Console,” Hogan explains.
That’s why Daniel Young of TwistFox recommends to “utilize Google Data Studio’s ability to blend data so you can cross-reference positions with on-site metrics from Google Analytics. This gives you a much deeper insight into performance.”
Meg Casebolt of Casebolt Creative agrees: “Import your GSC data into a Google Data Studio dashboard so you can quickly see performance trends (like a % change in CTR or position) over a specific time period.”
“I habitually add a URL query to the primary website field within GMB, then use Google Search Console to see what keywords searchers are using to find and click on my local results,” says Tony Mastri of MARION Marketing Agency.
“By using the “Exact URL” page filter in GSC, you can differentiate standard organic clicks to a page vs. local organic clicks to a page. This provides granular search term information that can be used to advance local SEO efforts.”
Brendan Tully of The Search Engine Shop explains: “The SERPs are really hyper-localized these days and we see massive variations in rankings and traffic down to city and even town-level data.”
“Keywords that you assume you rank well for country-wide may actually be ranking quite poorly (or quite well) at a city or town level if there are local competitors targeting the same terms. In other words, pay attention to the geographic filters in GSC.”
Plus, Tully says it’s worth “integrating GSC into Google Analytics as this can often help refine data that is affected by location in a much more granular fashion.”
“One tip for using Google Search Console to track SERPs would be to keep an eye on the countries tab that shows your results,” says Anjana Wickramaratne of Active Digi Solutions.
“Some people only care about the search queries that they rank for, but in reality, the countries that they rank for are much valuable as well. By monitoring the countries in your SERPs, you are able to adjust your future SEO strategies to target the countries that you want.”
Finn Hayden of Capital Cooling recommends to “look at devices within the performance report. Most businesses forget that the majority of their traffic is likely to be coming from mobile devices and that their mobile rankings will likely differ from their desktop rankings.”
“Within the performance report in Search Console, there is a ‘devices’ section where you can see which devices are driving the most traffic to your site.”
Hayden explains: “You can pull out some great reports from here that will really help show you if your SEO work is effective. For example, you should see a gradual increase in mobile traffic if your SEO is working.”
According to Elijah-Blue Vieau of The Influence Agency, “a great place to start tracking how your site is ranking is to open the Performance report, view by Pages (URL), then click the filter button and use include/exclude to view certain sections of your website like /blog/ or /services/.”
“From there, you can drill down and view CTR, Clicks, and more across different devices and regions. Having data across sets of pages can be really useful when it comes time for reporting.”
Abdul Rehman shares how they do this at VPNRanks: “We have been using Google Search Console for a number of metrics but the one tip to use it would be to focus closely on the user queries of your blogs. Those queries will help you master the intent of a keyword and refine your blog to rank a lot better.”
“Once the page is in top 10, then try to focus more on the CTR by experimenting with the title and meta,” Rehman adds.
Candour‘s Kiera Lavington recommends “identifying potential keyword cannibalization issues using the “Performance” report by filtering to a target term using the “Query” filter, viewing the pages which rank for this term and then filtering to compare the top 2 pages (by impressions) using “Compare” in the pages filter.”
“By using the “Impressions” or “Average Position” tab you can see where pages dropped in and out of Google’s search results for the target term.”
“This will not be conclusive in identifying a cannibalization issue but will set you on your way if you can spot instances where one of the pages starting to rank causes the other page to drop,” Lavington continues.
“With further exploration, you can determine whether this is a cannibalization issue or not.”
“Every few months, I reassess my keyword ranking targets by comparing the keywords that I track on a daily basis in Ahrefs with the keywords that I show up in my Google Search Console report,” says Adam Jernigan of The Home Blog.
“This allows me to see which keywords I’ve unintentionally gained traction for so I can focus more efforts around optimizing for those themes, and less effort on themes that I’ve been struggling to gain traction for.”
Beekeeper‘s Alexandra Zamolo adds: “It’s important to always keep track of your keywords. If they aren’t ranking, then you’re going to need to pivot and select new keywords, or ensure that your original keywords are properly placed for SEO.”
“One Google Search Console feature that adds significant value is the ‘Coverage’ tab,” Colton De Vos of Resolute Technology Solutions explains.
“From Coverage, you can identify and track any errors that may impact your search rank, site-wide, or for specific pages. It will identify things like server errors, ‘noindexed’ pages, crawl issues, and URLs not found – among others. You can re-mediate issues and re-index to notify Google that the issues have been resolved.”
“Then in the ‘Performance’ tab, track how many clicks and impressions each individual page you’ve fixed gains after optimizations.”
Similarly, Obaid Khan of Planet Content says: “I always use the index status to check which URLs are indexed by Google, which of them are blocked, and which of them have been removed.”
“If a page isn’t indexed or blocked (by my robots.txt file), I can find out why, correct any errors, and make improvements that help generate better results.”
Biztech‘s Dhaval Panara summarizes: “My primary purpose of using Google search console to get website errors, security issues, and indexing problems that may affect the website’s search rankings.”
It can take a few days for Google to find your URL. During that time, you’re refreshing your Search Console data to check any immediate impact. But there isn’t any; Google doesn’t know your content exists yet.
Brian Barwig of Integrate Digital Marketing shares how to work around this: “After publishing a new post or updating an old post, be sure to resubmit the URL via the URL Inspection Tool in GSC.”
“If you don’t, Google may not notice the changes for some time. Better to get the URL re-indexed as quickly as possible.”
“This will encourage Google’s crawler to review and index your content faster, so you can get organic traffic sooner,” Marcio Santos of nerddigital adds.
“Use this when you have a new page/post or when you’ve made an update to an existing post,” Santos explains how:
Similarly, Russell Michelson of Bead the Change recommends adding a sitemap: “Uses Yoast SEO to generate a sitemap and submit it into GSC. Sitemaps make it much easier for your site to be crawled, and effectively index your content.”
Voro‘s Tomas Hoyos says you should “make sure to select the canonical domain you prefer within Google Search Console.”
“In other words, you should specify that whether you prefer “”www”” in front of your domain name (e.g., www.voro.com), or not (e.g., voro.com).”
“f you don’t do this, Google might view at the www and non-www versions of your domain as distinct, which means that you will divide credit for clicks, page views, backlinks, and engagement between two domains. This will hurt your SEO,” Hoyos explains.
“We always pay close attention to the CTR of our top keywords and pages,” says Sanitycheck‘s Nick Swan. “From our internal data, we have seen that when we consistently drive up our CTR our rankings improve over time.”
“We update title tag and meta descriptions each month and run tests to see if our new copy can improve our CTR. Just like we would test ad copy in Google Ads, it is critical to be running organic search snippet tests as well.”
Swan adds: “This tactic helped us grow our overall traffic by 30% so far in Q1 2020.”
BretzMedia‘s Sam Bretzmann explains: “When you are in Search Console, click on Performance, and then filter the Queries list by Impressions.”
“If you have a query that is getting a lot of impressions, but few to no clicks, this is most likely a keyword that you are close to breaking through on and just need a little more optimization.”
“This could mean beefing up the article a bit or trying to optimize the title and meta tags. This is a quick way that you can get an idea of some posts to optimize that could lead to more traffic to your site.”
“One tip to use Google Search Console to track your website in SERPs is to monitor which keywords have a higher click-through rate and optimize around those,” Eden Chai of Generation Marketing explains.
“Let’s say you’re optimizing your website around 2 different keywords, you may find that one of them has a much higher click-through rate which can result in more clicks. This keyword can be more favorable for you even if it has a lower search volume than others.”
That’s why Lynn Hericks of Intuitive Digital recommends to “optimize and expand old blogs on your site by using keywords that are already working!”
“In the Performance section of Google Search Console, filter your queries by page to see what terms a blog already ranks for—find relevant keywords that rank on average in positions 8-20 (terms that you weren’t necessarily targeting directly but your content still shows up for).”
“Now go back to edit your blog post and specifically use those terms to expand content for a rankings boost!” Hericks explains.
Most of our experts publish new content on their websites at least once a week. That’s a lot of content to keep an eye on in Search Console:
However, Maxburst‘s Andrew Ruditser adds: “Knowing what keywords you rank for will help you optimize your site to rank even higher by matching your content to that targeted keyword. You can also track those that have a low CTR that you wish to rank higher for. Knowing what keywords that have a low CTR, will help you improve them.”
Camilo Atkinson of blimpp agrees: “If you have pages on the first and second positions, that is fantastic!”
“Now, for those pages on the 3rd position or below, you can find optimization opportunities by clicking on the query and then heading over to the Pages Tab. This will show you the web page that is ranking.”
“Check if you can optimize that page by building new links, expanding the content, or improving the CTR by tweaking the meta title and description,” Atkinson summarizes.
*Editor’s note: It can be tricky to monitor the SEO impact after you’ve updated a piece of content. But our Blog Post Performance After SEO Update dashboard does the job for you. It’ll show exactly how your performance improves after updating it:
“Google Search Console can be used to spot upcoming trends,” says DealNews‘ Gennady Lager.
“Let’s say you recently created a new category of products or wrote a new article, you can use the Search Results performance report, filtered down to the most recent dates to see where new organic search traffic is landing. You can also look at impressions, CTR, and average ranking to predict where traffic will soon be seen.”
Lager continues: “This level of detailed information will allow you to audit that page’s keyword targeting, review the copy, improve internal navigation, and kick your link building into high-gear to take advantage of a new, trending landing page.”
Matthew Alexander adds: “Since GSC doesn’t record all clicks from a specific query or page, sorting by Impressions and using critical thinking, I can identify what questions people might have about a specific service that I offer, and use their queries to improve that content through FAQs, CTAs, and more.”
TJ Kelly explains how they do this at RaySecur, Inc:
Kelly explains: “You can now sort by Impressions, for both Last 3 Months and Previous 3 Months, to see which queries are driving more (or less) SERP impressions for a given page.”
“The key is to find Queries that appear high on the Impressions list for Last 3 Months, but did NOT generate as many impressions on Previous 3 Months—that may indicate the page ranking for new Queries, or that these new Queries are gaining search volume, and would therefore represent new traffic opportunities.”
“Bonus points if you export the report to a spreadsheet and calculate the change, then sort by change value. This shows the biggest movers (up or down) over time,” Kelly continues.
“Combine this insight with your Click numbers to see if the increased Impressions are translating to more clicks/traffic—an indication that your ranking is improving or maintaining—or, if Impressions went up but Clicks did not, your positions may be falling.”
“One good thing to always keep in mind is to compare your results against your biggest competitors,” according to Mailbird‘s Andrea Loubier.
“If they are ranking above you in searches, then see which tactics they may be implementing that you currently aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with drawing a little inspiration from another company and then adding your own unique touch.”
“Click to lead conversion is a big focus for Christensen Recycling,” says Ken Christensen.
“Since most of the leads generated from our site will be from search to site to phone call, that is the model that we pay the most attention to. This ultimately leads to better content creation and focus on the needs of the end-user, while making the call to action (of calling us) even more prominent.”
Most of the tips we’ve mentioned so far are in relation to the metrics you see inside the performance report of your Google Search Console account.
However, WikiLawn‘s Dan Bailey says: “In terms of position on SERPs, we primarily use the backlink tools to examine which sites are linking to us and how much traffic those sites are bringing in.”
“My best tip here is to compile that data in a spreadsheet not just with the total number of links, but the domains those links are coming from.”
“Then search for sites that are similar to the ones already linking to yours,” Bailey continues. “Research their SERP position and if they’re decently indexed (and it’s appropriate to do so), see if you can write a guest post for their blog or be included in their resources page.”
“The best way to utilize Google Search Console is to find out if there are existing site links that Google thinks is relevant to the main query,” according to Seriously Smoked‘s Jeremi Owens..
“Sitelinks are an excellent addition to your result in SERPs because it gives options to your visitors to visit more in-depth web pages without the need to navigate through your homepage. If you don’t see any site links, it is best to continue adding relevant content until your site reaches a critical mass for Google’s algorithm to pick up.”
“The one tip I recommend is to use GSC to find pages that need internal linking,” says WPBeginner‘s Faizan Ali. “To find pages that need internal linking, click more under the top linked pages and then click on the internal links.”
Ali continues: “There are two main advantages of internal linking:
“In order to find internal linking opportunities try this search operator “site:yourdomain.com ‘keyword you want to internal link,” Ali explains.
“If you have a very new website, it may be getting almost no traffic yet, but you can still monitor the progress of your website by looking at the impressions in Google Search Console,” writes Paul Matthews of Match Maker Advisor.
“If the impressions are continually going up, this means that more and more keywords are at least starting to show up in the SERPs which should translate into clicks and traffic down the road.”
Matthews adds: “If the impressions have plateaued out, and you still have almost no traffic, that means that you to do something else to kick start your site.”
“An important metric to look at when opening Google Search Console is web performance over a specific period of time,” says Stanford Mead of Summit Home Buyers, LLC.
“We like to monitor our websites ‘average position’ in the SERPs on a monthly basis. This data indicates whether our SEO efforts are working or not. If our average position is on the rise, it means that our SEO efforts are working. If our average position is trending down, then it’s time to reevaluate SEO strategies.”
Vulpe Mihaita says the team at SEO Atlantic “check the last 7 days of each landing page that we’re targeting to see if the number of clicks/impressions rise. You will get an accurate average of position on a timeframe like that.”
Benson SEO‘s Grace Schlickman explains: “Remember to use the date comparison for queries, a keyword could have a great CTR, but an even higher CTR the month prior which indicates there could actually be some work to do.”
“Overall, the search results performance report gives you a great indication of the health of your website and where to start when improvements need to be made.”
Digital Debut‘s Deniz Doganay adds: “I really like to use the performance section to compare yearly quarter vs. quarter.
There are quite a few insights you can gather from this. Some being, checking rankings positions currently vs before, as well as clicks and impressions. It also gives you a good idea of your click-through rate.”
“Sure, you might have much better rankings now and higher impressions but may notice that your CTR is a lot lower,” Doganay continues. “You then may need to work on your CTA’s or your meta title/descriptions or may even look into what you are doing on other channels to capitalize on these missed opportunities.”
It’s something the team at Pigtail Pals also do, according to Jesse C: “We also make a point check which keywords and pages are getting a high number of impressions but a low number of clicks and then work to increase the rank for those pages / keywords.”
That’s why Frootful Marketing‘s Sean Dudayev says: “What this will do is leave the third column for you that tells you the “difference.” You can then toggle this to see which pages have gained the most visitors, and which pages have lost the most visitors.”
“Based on tactics you’ve been using, this tells you what’s working and what’s not and which pages are seeing the biggest changes in the SERP’s.”
Regardless of how often you’re comparing Google Search Console data, Ashley Sterling of The Loop Marketing things you should “review it more than you think you should.”
“Being aware of your audience and how they’re using your site will create a domino effect that directly impacts your strategy. Be on top of how and why site visitors are on your site, where they leave, how to answer their questions and close the funnel.”
The majority of companies have one person managing their SEO activity:
That can be tricky when it comes to using Google Search Console data to share with your team in SEO reporting meetings.
Jeffery Reiff of Reiff Law Firm explains how they work around this: “With the help of our marketing partners, we carefully look over the search query report at the end of every month with one thing in mind: what queries are we getting a high number of impressions from, but very few clicks?”
“These high-volume, low CTR searches indicate that while we have a page ranking for those phrases, it isn’t relevant–and we need to write a hyper-focused page for those queries. It goes beyond getting a page ranking–we use Search Console to make sure we have the correct page ranking.”
*Editor’s note: Looking for an easier way to share data with your team? We’ve got a bunch of Google Search Console templates for you to build on. It’ll pull your chosen metrics from your account, and show them on one screen. The goal? To make SEO data easier for your team to digest:
Earlier, we mentioned that one of the best ways to use Google Search Console to track your website is to pull data from it, but display it using another tool (like Data Studio.)
For a similar reason, Sam Maley of Bailey & Associates advises to “never use overall average position as a KPI.”
“When measuring average keyword position, Google looks at the top 1000 places in the SERPs. This means that if you gain new keywords, but you only rank very low (say in 300th place for example) your overall average position will drop rather than go up.”
“If you do look at the average position as a KPI, make sure you do it keyword-by-keyword,” Maley explains.
“Even then I would argue that it is not a particularly important metric, considering the discrepancy on click-through rate between keywords. This discrepancy is only increasing now Google provides us with richer information in the SERPs themselves.”
William Chin of Pickfu.com adds: “What you should focus on is what are your organic click drivers (for most websites it’s usually the first thirty queries in Search Console) and optimize for the pages that rank for those queries.”
However, Chin adds: “A small caveat is extremely high impression counts. Usually, I love to filter by impressions to see what pages are getting seen but not clicked on. Whether it’s the case that the content is not relevant (Title-tag, Meta), or your SERP listing doesn’t stand out – both are in the realm of SEO and should be triaged immediately!”
Rianna Susco of Squeeze Marketing agrees: “One tip for using GSC is to understand its limitations and don’t expect it to be a platform it isn’t. GSC is great for tracking positions the website was found on SERPs by keyword each day/week/month.”
“Understanding user engagements on SERPs with the website is key. GSC will not, however, be particularly helpful with understanding what users to after leaving the SERP.”
“Much more in-depth tracking is required for deeper analysis of user engagement with the website. GSC is excellent for search rankings and we haven’t found a more accurate tool, free or paid,” Susco adds.
“We leverage Google Search Console consistently for internal link building,” says Brian Schofield of Trailblaze Marketing. “By linking from pages with authority to pages you want to push up in rankings, you’ll see almost immediate results. It’s a great tactic for getting onto page one of Google, or within positions 1-3.”
“In Google Search Console, look for pages ranking in positions #4 and #9. Then, find high-authority pages on your site by sorting your pages by impressions and clicks; generally, these are your most well-regarded pages in the eyes of Google,” Schofield says.
Once you’ve identified your high-authority pages and underperforming pages, link to the underperforming pages from the high-authority pages. This passes some of the authority from high-authority pages to underperforming pages, which can give your underperforming pages a rankings boost.
Google doesn’t necessarily always crawl every page of your website. It sometimes establishes a crawl budget, limiting the number of pages of your site that it crawls regularly.
This can be an issue because it could lead to new/updated content getting ignored by Google’s crawlers (i.e. your new/updated content won’t appear in search results).
For small sites, crawl budget usually isn’t an issue. But if you have a site with thousands of pages of content, it can be. According to Google, “having many low-value-add URLs can negatively affect a site’s crawling and indexing.”
Indigoextra’s Martin Woods says that Google Search Console can help you find low-value pages that may negatively impact your crawl budget: “Google Search Console is very useful for finding the pages on your site that nobody visits anymore.”
To do this, look for pages that get the least number of impressions and clicks. Then, either delete them, 301 redirect them to pages that contain similar content, or update the content on the page to make it better.
“Studies have shown that if you delete pages with very little or no traffic—or 301 redirect them to better pages—Google will value the more relevant pages more. Overall, this substantially increases the traffic to your site as a whole,” Woods says.
After you have plenty of content on your domain, you probably want to review your existing pages and see if there are opportunities to improve rankings on specific keywords. Unless you are some sort of SEO wizard, you probably did not pick the perfect keywords the first time.
To find the ideal keyword for any piece of content you’ve published—and then reoptimize that page for its ideal keyword—I Wanna Be a Blogger’s Michael Pozdnev says to look at the queries your page is ranking for with impressions, CTR, and average position data displayed.
“Sort your data by impressions and find the query that has both the most impressions and is ranked in positions 3-7. Then, just add this query to either the SEO title or H1 on your page,” Pozdnev says.
LeapFroggr’s Dennis Seymour agrees: “Simple tweaks to your metadata and content can bring you from page two to page one. Within two weeks of making the change, you will probably have traffic coming in that the site wasn’t getting initially.”
“Many still don’t know this, but click-through-rate has become a very important ranking factor,” says Nettly’s Thorstein Nordby. “If your result gets little or no clicks, your rankings will drop. Google will interpret your result as less relevant. However, if your result gets a lot of clicks, your rankings will increase.”
“Pay attention to your CTR on the queries and pages that you already rank for,” says Brittany Laeger of StoryTeller Media + Communications.
“If you‘re getting impressions, but no one is clicking through to your page or article, simply spend a few minutes looking at how you can optimize your title, meta description, or URL to entice people to click through to your content.”
“Take a few minutes to look at the other pages that are ranking around you. Ask these questions:”
WinSavvy’s Adhip Ray says to “try to craft a title tag that is attractive, makes readers curious, and has numbers and parentheses to attract a greater audience. Also, your meta-description must answer the question, ‘Why should viewers click on your page and not the others?’”
Editor’s note: Track the click-through rates for your most important pages quickly and easily with this free Google Search Console dashboard. It not only shows you how many clicks your pages are getting, but it also shows how your number of clicks compares to previous months.
“Google Search Console is the best source of information about the rankings of any page,” says Orbit Media Studios’ Andy Crestodina. “Whether you get this data from the reports integrated into Google Analytics or directly from GSC, it has killer SEO insights.”
“The key is to find a page that ranks, see how high it’s ranking and for what phrases, then optimize it to better rank for that phrase. This is the fastest way to increase search traffic,” Crestodina says.
Adam Connell recommends “looking for keywords that rank on page two or at the bottom of page one. The keywords that have high impressions but are ranked lower are prime keywords to focus on. They have the potential to generate serious traffic.”
And Pyxis Growth Partners’ Parker Short recommends using Google Analytics to find the pages that drive the most traffic to your site, then using Google Search Console to find the data you need to optimize those pages even further.
“Look to see what terms each page ranks for that are in positions #2-10 in search results and focus on those. Take those terms (if they’re relevant) and try to work them in naturally into the copy on that page.”
“This is a great way to optimize historical blog posts that maybe pull in some organic traffic but are underperforming given the high quality of the content,” Short says.
“Google Search Console can be a goldmine of keyword ideas, ad copy suggestions, and the best landing pages to use for your Google Ads campaigns,” says Danny Florian of KIT.
Florian recommends setting up your performance report to show clicks and impressions for each of your queries with the timeframe “Last 3 months.” Then, “sort by impressions to get more keyword ideas for your Google Ads campaign.”
“You can also select ‘Average CTR’ and ‘Average position’ and sort by position to view the search terms your pages rank highest for. By using this landing page and keyword combo, you will have a higher chance of increasing your quality score for your ad group.”
“A higher quality score means a lower cost-per-click and higher position,” Florian says.
“Export up to 1,000 of the queries you’re showing up for in search,” says Paul Schmidt of SmartBug Media. “After exporting this data, categorize your queries by topic/category to understand the groupings of keywords that your site is showing up for.”
“This data will show you the areas where you need to devote more time to get more impressions/clicks within organic search, plus ideas for topics you can write about to increase your traffic and click-through rates.”
“Keyword data in Google Search Console has been expanded recently and has become one of our most-used features,” says Six & Flow’s Daryl Burrows. “It reaches back much further in time.”
“We find this particularly useful when tracking and assessing year-over-year branded and non-branded keyword performance, which leads us to a more accurate dataset (rather than being assumptive based on the destination).”
“One advantage of using Google Search Console to see what keywords your site is ranking for is to identify negative keywords,” says Sam Makwana of Traffic Radius.
Negative keywords are queries that you’re ranking for but really shouldn’t be because your content doesn’t satisfy the user intent behind that keyword. According to Makwana, this can have a negative impact on your bounce rate. “With appropriate corrective measures, you will be able to decrease your bounce rate.”
One way to do this is to update the content to more appropriately address keywords you’re ranking for but haven’t really covered in your content.
Another approach may be to create a new piece of content that does address the intent of a negative keyword, then linking to that new post from the existing post that’s already ranking for the negative keyword.
Adding structured data to your site gives Google more information about your content. For example, you can use structured data to specify whether a piece of content is a general article, a list of FAQs, a recipe, job posting, review, and more.
Structured data helps Google understand your content better and can result in an expanded search result listings. For example, here’s a search result that contains structured data for both a recipe and ratings; both of these pieces of data lead to a more detailed search result:
But as Primitive Social’s John Hodge says: “Not all SEOs are experienced with web development, and sometimes even code-confident SEOs simply don’t have access to website code.”
“With the data highlighter in Google Search Console, you can customize a site’s appearance on search result pages. This makes pages stand out, improves rankings, and gives more context to Google about your content.”
“Using the data highlighter makes it easy to tag different pieces of content on a website without adding structured data to your site code. Also, it’s super easy. All you do is select the item you’ll be highlighting (software, reviews, restaurants, etc.), enter the URL of the page, and start highlighting.”
“When you highlight a piece of content, you can then specify more information about it, like if it’s a picture, an official URL, a download URL, and more.”
“Google ranks items based on contextual cues, and using the data highlighter is an efficient way to improve the context of your website content.”
Note: The data highlighter tool has not yet been migrated to the new version of Google Search Console. To access this tool, you’ll have to use the old version of Google Search Console.
If you’ve fully migrated to the new Google Search Console and are using only domain-level properties, you’ll need to add a URL-prefix property to your account to access the old Google Search Console and the data highlighter tool.
The more you optimize your site for search, the more data you’ll realize you’ll need to do your job properly.
Even doing only basic SEO, you’ll definitely need data from both Google Analytics and Google Search Console. When you get more advanced in the practice, you’ll also likely want to use data from popular SEO tools like AccuRanker, Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush.
Connecting these two applications lets you access keyword and search performance data from Google Search Console directly in Google Analytics so you don’t have to switch back and forth between the two tools.
Another option is to use Databox. Databox is a data visualization tool that lets you create shareable dashboards that centralize metrics and data from 70+ tools, including Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz, and AccuRanker.
The free Google Analytics SEO dashboard below is a great example, pulling data from both Google Analytics and Google Search Console to show you the most important pieces of data for your SEO efforts: top keywords/pages, total number of organic sessions, and indicators showing performance trends.
Originally published in March 2018, this post has been updated with additional ways to use Google Search Console for SEO, plus instructions and screenshots for how to perform each recommended tip in the new Google Search Console.
Nicely summarized by one of our respondents, UNINCORPORATED’s Ian Evenstar shares 8 benefits for using Google Search Console––a powerful tool for analyzing performance data.
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Case Study | Sep 23
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