What is Google Search Console? Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console is a powerful tool that helps you manage your site in Google search results.
According to Google, here are some of the things that Search Console can help with:
- Confirm that Google can find and crawl your site.
- Fix indexing problems and request re-indexing of new or updated content.
- View Google Search traffic data for your site: how often your site 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.
- Troubleshoot issues for AMP, mobile usability, and other Search features.
Whew! That's a lot. And just like Google Analytics, Search Console can be very overwhelming. So while this post will briefly touch on many of Search Console's features, I'll focus on the most important things for bloggers to know.
The first thing you need to do is make sure your site is set up for Search Console.
If you've just set up Search Console, you'll need to wait for about a month before you start looking at the data. Well, you can look at it sooner than that, but because you won't have much data, you shouldn't make changes to your site based on that limited information.
Google Search Console Overview Report
When you first open Search Console, you'll be on the overview report and will see this menu.
I don't spend a lot of time on the overview.
The performance report is my favorite! I think that's where bloggers should spend most of their time. We'll come back to this after I cover the rest of the sections.
The URL Inspector is a handy little tool to find out if your URL is actually on Google and if it has issues. Hopefully, all of your posts and pages are indexed and problem-free.
This is also the place where you can request that Google index a page. Let's say you've updated an older post, and you're anxious for Google to know about it. All you have to do is click Request Indexing.
You don't have to do this. Google will find out about the changes (usually pretty quickly), but this is a way to get those changes onto their radar quickly.
The URL Inspection page allows you to see the crawled page and will let you know if your page is mobile-friendly.
When you inspect a URL, Google will evaluate the version of your page that they have in their index. You have the option of testing a live URL.
Index Section Coverage Report
The first report in the Index section is the Coverage report. Google tells us that we need to know how Google Search works in order to more easily understand the Index Coverage report.
Here we can discover if our site has pages with errors or with warnings. You can see details about the errors here.
Valid pages are indexed without a problem. You will have more pages than you have blog posts.
Excluded pages are perfectly fine. These are pages that we don't want Google to index. You'll probably have a lot of these–especially if you switched from http to https.
This report shows the sitemaps that you've submitted to Google. You can also submit a new one here too.
My advice? Let the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin create your sitemap. All you have to do is submit it to Google once, and Yoast will keep it up to date.
This video will show you how to submit your sitemap to Google.
Enhancements Section Mobile Usability Report
The first report in the Enhancements section is the Mobile Usability report. This is super important.
In 2018, Google told us that they were starting to use the mobile version of our pages for indexing and ranking.
The good news is that the Mobile Usability report will show you exactly what's wrong and what pages on your site are impacted so that you can fix them.
Rich Results Status Reports
If your site has structured data set up, you may see one or more of these Rich Results Status reports.
- Fact check
- Job posting
- Q&A page
- Sitelinks searchbox
Most sites will have the Logos report and the Sitelinks Searchbox report. If you're a food blogger, you will probably have the Recipes report. A DIY blogger will probably have the How-to report.
These reports will tell you if everything is good or if you have problem.
Security & Manual Actions Section
If your site has a really big problem, Google will tell you in either the Manual Actions report or in the Security Issues report.
Hopefully, you'll see this for both reports!
The Links report is where you can find information about external and internal links.
You can find out which of your pages are linked to the most by other sites, what sites are linking to you, and the anchor text that's being used to link to you.
For internal links, you can see which pages are being linked to the most. The numbers may seem to be exaggerated, but don't forget that every page will have your menu on it, so many of those links are coming from that.
Now let's talk about my favorite part of Google Search Console–the Performance section!
Why do I like it so much? Because it tells you so much about what your site is doing in Google search results.
Let's start with what you see when you first open the Performance report.
At the top, you'll see the row where you can filter your results.
The first button says “Search type: Web.” This just means that the results you're seeing are for regular searches.
The other two options are Image and Video. If you change this, you'll see your results for image and video searches.
Personally, I don't look at those very often. If your site focuses more on images or video, you might want to keep an eye on these.
The second button shows that the date range is defaulted to the last 3 months. Prior to mid-2018, Search Console only showed us 90 days of data. Now, we can see 16 months of information!
If you want to look at a different timeframe, just click the Date button and make the change.
I love that we can set our own start and end dates. That's perfect for tracking the results of a change you've made.
NOTE: Search Console results are always a couple of days behind. For example, today is May 15th, but the results are only through May 12th.
You can also add your own filters. The options are Query, Page, Country, Device, and Search Appearance. We'll talk more about what those mean in a bit.
Next, you'll see a row of boxes with a graph under it. Total clicks and total impressions have a colored background, and average CTR and average position have a white background. This means that you're only seeing the results for clicks and impressions.
I like to see all of my data, so the first thing I do when I open this report is to click on the boxes for average CTR and average position.
NOTE: If you're using the Keywords Everywhere extension, you might want to turn it off while you're working in Search Console. I found that having the extra numbers was a bit confusing.
Google Search Console Definitions
So, what do all those terms mean? Read on to find out!
We'll start with the metrics. They are total clicks, total impressions, average CTR, and average position.
Total Clicks – Google defines a click as any click that sends a person to a page outside of Google search results.
If a person clicks on a search result, goes to your page, goes back to the search results, and clicks your link again, that's counted as one click even though they technically clicked on your link twice.
Total clicks is the number of clicks from Google search results to your site.
Total impressions – In simple terms, an impression is when a URL for your site appears on a search result page.
But there are a few things you have to keep in mind. Let's say your site shows up on the first page of the search results, but it's in the last position on that page. That counts as an impression even if the person searching never scrolls down far enough to see your site.
Having an impression doesn't necessarily mean that someone saw your site.
If your site shows up on the second page of the search results, Search Console will only count the impression if a person opens the second page of the search results.
So, your site's total impressions is the number of times that one of your URLs has shown up on a search results page.
Average CTR – CTR stands for Click Through Rate. It is the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click.
It's calculated by dividing the number of clicks by the number of impressions. For example, one of my search terms has 6,867 impressions and has been clicked 119 times.
My CTR is 119 clicks/6867 impressions = 0 .017.
Change the CTR to a percentage, and you have my 1.7% CTR.
Average position – Position is where your site is showing up in search results. Google search typically shows 10 “blue link” results per page, so if your URL shows up in the third spot, your position is 3.
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But it isn't that simple. Here are a few things that make it more complex.
- If your site shows up more than once in the search results, Google will only count the topmost position when calculating your position.
- If you are ranking number 11 (which puts you on the second page of the search results), but the person searching never clicks over to the second page, your position isn't recorded.
- Unless you filter your results, the average position calculation will include all devices and all countries. This can cause the average position to be different.
- The position of your site may be different from person to person because search results can vary depending on their device, their location, and their search history.
While the average position metric is complex, that doesn't mean that we should just ignore it. I typically don't focus on my site's average position. Instead, I look at my average position for specific pages and specific queries.
Below the graph, you'll see a table with dimensions. They are queries, pages, countries, devices, and search appearance.
Queries – Queries are the words that someone typed into the search bar when Google returned your site as a result.
Pages – Pages are the final URL that's linked by a search result. They can be either a page on your site or a post on your site.
Countries – This is the country where the search came from.
Devices – This shows your results by device–mobile, desktop, and tablet. This is another dimension that I don't look at often.
Search appearance – Search appearance shows us special search result feature such as rich snippet or AMP.
You can see the metrics by dimension. This means that I can see my clicks, impressions, CTR, and position for each query or each page.
Note: Queries will only show the top 1000 for that time period.
Functionality of the Performance Report
Here are some of the ways that you can view your results for this report.
Sort by Metric – Clicking the title of the column (clicks, impressions, CTR and position) will sort that column numerically.
Filter Rows – Let's say I want to see all of my queries relating to the flag. I can click on the funnel, click query, and type the word “flag” to see all the queries that include the word “flag.”
Note: Don't forget that you can show more rows.
For query filters, you can show results that include a specific phrase, or you can show results that don't include a specific phrase.
You can also filter the rows by clicks, impressions, CTR, and position. Because these are numbers, you can see the results that equal, not equal, greater than, or smaller than a specific number.
For example, I want to see all the queries that have more than 1,000 impressions. I would select impressions, greater than, and enter 1000 (don't use a comma). That gives me 64 results.
You can also filter by more than one metric. Let's say I now want to see the queries with more than 5,000 impressions that have a CTR of less than 4%.
Just add a second filter. Click the funnel image again, and check the CTR box. Select smaller than and enter 4. This reduces the number of results from 64 to 41.
Filtering within the table only impacts what's in the table. The graph stays the same.
To remove the filters, click on the funnel and uncheck the boxes.
You can filter each of the dimensions the same way.
Note: If you're working in Search Console and you're getting results that don't seem right, make sure you haven't filtered them.
NOTE: That little circle isn't clickable. If you want to change your filters, you have to click the funnel. Not that I would know that because I clicked that circle a hundred times. 🙂
Let's say I want to really dig in to the search query “flag ceremony.” Instead of filtering my results within the table, I can filter by dimension by clicking +NEW at the top of the screen.
Click query, choose how to filter (containing, not containing, and is exactly), and enter the term.
Now, the graph only shows results for the search term “flag ceremony.”
The results in the table are also filtered by “flag ceremony.” When you click pages, you'll see which of your posts/pages show up in the search results for the term “flag ceremony.”
Pretty cool, isn't it? To remove the filter, simply click the X.
Want to see the results for a specific page? You can filter by that dimension too. Follow the same process as before.
I'll share more about what you can do with this information to improve your blog in another post.
Google Search Console is a powerful source of information about your blog. How do you use GSC for your blog?