Google Search Console: The complete guide to how to use it in practice

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Search Console is the tool that shows how Google views your website. Check out the main information for you to extract data and optimize your website!

If Google Analytics is a powerful tool to analyze the behavior of users on your website, Google Search Console is also a key piece to know how users get there.

Google Search Console allows you to understand how Google views your site and make necessary optimizations. But do you really know how and what to analyze?

With the “democratization” of information, even the old name Webmaster Tools was changed, since the public that uses it is no longer limited to technicians.

With that in mind, Blue World City have gathered here the main information so that you can extract important data, even if you are not a webmaster.

What is Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a tool provided for free by Google. Until 2015, it was called Webmaster Tools. In early 2018, it was redesigned and relaunched in Beta, until September, when the new version went live, on December 13th, Google announced the migration of the following services to the new version: AMP, Index Status, Links, Manual Actions , Mobile Usability, Rich Cards, and Search Analytics, in addition, Google plans to migrate even more functionality from the old version to the new one.

Some tools from the old Google Search Console are not available in the new one, but are still accessible in the previous interface. That’s why (and out of habit), even, that most users still use the old version.

Only of all the changes, its reason for being has always been the same: with its reports and features, it allows you to analyze your website’s traffic, checking its performance in searches.

If performance is poor, it offers ways to make your pages stand out in searches. Additionally, Google’s Webmaster Tool shows the way to fix the issues that cause poor performance.

It is widely used by SEO experts, and can be accessed at this link. In this post, we’ll give more emphasis to the features of the old version, because, as we talked about earlier, it’s still what most professionals are using.

So, to learn a little more about each of the features, keep reading the post!

How Google Search Console Works

Below is a short summary of each of the Google Search Console features:

  1. Search Appearance:  How Google is reading each part of the pages – titles, descriptions, images etc;
  2. Search Traffic:  What people are looking for on Google that makes them click (or not) on your site;
  3. Google Index (Google Index):  How is Google’s performance in indexing your site’s pages and identifying the keywords that appear the most;
  4. Security Issues:  Notifications of security issues detected on your website;
  5. Other additional features : Testing tools, business wizards and more.

We will address each of these points, trying to translate all this information into practical actions to know what to do with it:

1. Search Aspects (Search Appearance)

In this topic of Search Aspects, you can analyze the optimizations you can make to improve the appearance of your website when it appears in Google search results:

Structured Data

It is a report that serves to identify the data that is structured on your website, and that Google can identify on your page to understand and add rich snippets  (search results with information optimized to make them attractive). 

Understand as structured data a set of information with standard structure, for example, the sequence of articles that contain author, date, title; or a list of restaurants with address information, user ratings, prices, and so on.

This report is important for analyzing data and markup errors found on the page.

There are two types of structured data errors:

  • Missing field:  For example: did not indicate the author or title of the article;
  • Best or worst rating missing:   For example: a product is rated on a 5-point scale, but the minimum and maximum value parameters – bestRating (5) or worstRating (1) have not been marked.

If you click on the items found, you will have all the details of the tags found.

Use the data marker to fix it, as explained below.

Structured Data Marker

For errors found in structured data, this is the tool for you to indicate to Google what each element of your site is, if it has a set of structured information, such as Events, Articles, Products, etc.

You must choose the type of information you want to highlight. For example, if you choose Article, you will have to indicate Title, author, publication date, image, category, average rating, as in the example below.

HTML Improvements

This report allows you to identify, as the name implies, the HTML improvements of problems found during Google’s crawl on your website. That’s because, in searches, Google always prides itself on presenting search users with unique and exclusive content.

See below what each indication means:

  • Meta description:  Problems found in the site description that will be displayed in searches, such as duplicate meta description, too long or too short. Ideally, a meta description should be between 50 and 140 characters long.
  • Titles:  Identifies how the Title of the pages (Title) is configured: Absent, long, short, non-informative or duplicated. If you click on the problem found, you will have access to a report of the pages where the error was identified. In case of duplicate titles, for example, you must change the <title> for the presented pages. If you have questions about these concepts
  • Unindexable content:  Pages that have not been crawled and indexed by Google.

Links to the website

There is a possibility for rich snippets to have sitelinks, as shown below.

This is a new feature, introduced this year and still in the implementation period. It provides an error report for analyzing pages that have been accelerated for mobile devices. For this, it is necessary that they have already been created according to the specifications of HTML AMPs . 

The goal, described in Google’s own webmaster blog, is to make it easier to detect problems in their implementation of AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages) throughout the website.

If you want to start your AMPs, you can follow this guideline , from the AMPs Project itself. And for more information about this report, you can check the Search console’s own guidance on Google Search Guidelines for AMP  and AMPs Report .   

2. Search Traffic

This report has important features to identify detailed traffic information for your website:

Search Analysis

In this report you can identify organic traffic to your website and gain insights into possible optimizations. The report presents:

  • The keywords in which your website appeared in the search results:  If you have a problem with (not provided)  to analyze the keywords that led users to your website in Analytics, here is the solution. Pay attention to the words that bring the most traffic, and invest in them; 
  • The pages on your site that were referenced:  Analyze if the pages you consider important are really getting results;
  • The countries that accessed:  If applicable, optimize the pages for the other languages ​​that also have traffic for your domain;
  • If it was mobile device or desktop:  If you have great access on mobile, make sure your pages are responsive;
  • Whether the search was for the web or specifically for images:  This is a way to verify that images are being indexed. If you want to know how to optimize the search for your images, check out  this article  with Google’s optimization guidelines.
  • Analysis by date:  Extract analysis and comparison of data by a specific date.

And in all the information you can know how many clicks and impressions (user view in search results), what the CTR (how many views he had and which ones got clicked) and what the average position obtained.

  • Clicks:  Amount of clicks that took users to your site.
  • Impressions:  How many views the link to your site had in Google’s search results, even if it wasn’t displayed by scrolling.
  • CTR (click-through-rate):  Click count divided by impression count. A high CTR means that your site’s appearance in the search results is assertive, meaning that viewers were interested and clicked. If there are no impressions, the CTR will be displayed as a dash (—) as it would be divided by zero.
  • Position:  The average position of your site’s top result in the search results. If there are no prints, the position will be displayed as a dash as it will not exist.

One of the weighting criteria for Google to rank your page better is the number of links that reference it.

Here you can see the websites that reference yours (also called backlinks). This analysis allows you to identify who is drawing attention with your content and draw insights from potential partners.

Internal links

Likewise, the amount of internal links also helps in this ranking. That’s why this report is essential to analyze the structure of internal links used within your own site and verify that important pages are being referenced. Otherwise, you should better explore your internal links to them.

Even though Google uses algorithms to improve the quality of searches, it also uses manual mechanisms in specific cases. In other words, if there is any inappropriate configuration in your domain, this will be manually corrected by Google as a penalty. The reasons can be:

  • Website hacked by third parties;
  • User-generated spam;
  • Spam free hosts;
  • Spam structured tagging;
  • Artificial links to your website;
  • Surface content with little or no added value;
  • Cloaking techniques and/or unauthorized redirects;
  • Pure spam;
  • Hidden text and/or keyword excess.

So, if your site doesn’t show up in the search results, or appears underperforming than it already did, check for manual actions. In Google’s help center you can find out how to fix each of the reasons.

International Segmentation

If your site also has an international reach (which can be seen in the Search Analytics > Countries report), you should optimize the content to reach the right audience. It is in this functionality that you check if it has been correctly optimized for the language in question. For more information go to Google Help .

Ease of use on mobile devices

Unlike the “Accelerated Pages for Mobile” report we talked about above, here you don’t need to have configured AMPs, as the goal is to present the usability of your mobile pages and the possible errors. The main mistakes Google will point out are:

  • Flash usage: most mobiles don’t process flash content;
  • Viewport not configured;
  • Fixed-width viewport;
  • Content not fitted to viewport;
  • Small font size;
  • Very close touch elements;
  • Use of interstitials.

More details and information, see Google Help here . 

3. Google Index (Google Index)

Index Status

Displays pages indexed by Google, those that have been blocked by robots, and those that have been removed.

Ok, but what to analyze? What you should pay attention to is:

  • Constant increase in indexed pages:  This means that Google is able to crawl and index them;
  • Unexpected outages:  Be aware that it could mean that the server is overloaded or down, and that Google is having difficulty accessing your content;
  • Very high index volume:  It may indicate duplicate content, lack of canonical links, automatically generated pages and even that the site may have been hacked;
  • Sudden changes:  Which indicate site security or configuration issues.

blocked resources

In order to be able to properly index pages, the Google robot needs to do a full scan of your domain, including JavaScript, CSS and image files. They need to be accessible for Google to be able to run the process properly.

If you encounter problems, it is in this report that the resources that are blocked for this robot reading will be identified.

If any error is found, to fix it you must click on the host to see the related problems, and in each of the blocked resources there will be an instruction on how to unblock them.

Remove URLs

You can temporarily block pages from your domain that you don’t want to appear in search results by submitting a request to remove this URL.

If you want to permanently remove the URL or don’t know how to use this tool properly, see the Remove URLs Tool article for more guidance. 

tracking errors

If Google has any problem crawling and indexing some content from your domain, this report will show you:

  • Site errors:  Problems from the last 90 days that prevented access to your entire website
  • URL  Errors : Specific errors when trying to crawl pages unique to computers, smartphones or Android apps

tracking statistics

The graphs presented are divided into Pages crawled by day, Kilobytes received and page download time. The important thing here is to analyze sudden rises and falls.

In the article Crawl statistics report (websites)  you can find the full explanation for each situation. 

Search like google

This tool simulates how Google indexes your page to ensure that Flash or Javascript elements are adequate. The important thing to analyze here is whether the survey was:

  • Completed:  Google managed to crawl your entire site
  • Partial:  An error was found and the full list of the error report and how to proceed is here 
  • Redirected:  The server responded to a redirect.

Test Robots.txt

Through the robots.txt file, you can indicate and verify what you don’t want to be indexed and the URLs that will be blocked from appearing in search results. The goal is not to overload the server by crawling irrelevant pages – for example, some image that you don’t want to appear in Google searches.

To better understand how it works, read our full article on robots.txt .

sitemaps

We already talked in the post “Sitemap: what you need to know”  about the importance of a sitemap for Google to better index and understand how your site is structured. We also talked about how to create one, in this post , and it is in this tool that you send the generated sitemap file, as well as being able to visualize the errors found. 

Here, you can tell Google what parameters you use on your website and what its purpose is in order to prevent it from mistaking it as duplicate content.

If your site features multiple products for purchases – which can be separated by beverage categories, for example – these filters lead to different sessions, but which can display the same content. Get a better understanding of this Google Search Console Help Center article . 

4. Security Issues

If your website has been hacked or infected with malware, this is where you will find out. You can follow Google’s own guidelines for preventing a malware infection, provided here . 

If a problem is found, it is best to first analyze the code yourself if it does not contain or offer a download of malware and request a review of the problem.

Once you’ve fixed the issue, you can also request a reconsideration request to have Google re-analyze your site. 

5. Other Resources

This section brings together all the other additional features of Google to further improve your website’s optimization. Are they:

Structured Data Test Tool

Here you can enter a URL or source code and check if Google’s robots can read properly.

Structured Data Markup Wizard

It’s a slightly more advanced tool for marking up structured data, just like the Data Marker from the Search Appearance menu.

Markup Tester for email

Tool to validate email HTML structured data whose purpose is to improve engagement in emails by adding information that allows recipient to configure their inbox.

Google My Business

This is where you can tell Google the physical address and phone number of your store or office when they are searched on Google.

Google Merchant Center

Here, you can configure information about your products and make them more easily found by users.

PageSpeed ​​Insights

Functionality for you to insert search fields on your own website and manage them. As we’ve already commented on in this post,  this is an important application to extract input from what users are looking for within your website and analyze these statistics to create or optimize the disposition of content on your property. 

Google Domains

If you want to buy a Google domain to create your website.

webmaster academy

Area where all the information and content are gathered for you to create a website and optimize it to be found on Google. Here, you’ll have access to courses that show tips, videos and examples and explain how Google search and Search Console itself.

Major changes in the new Google Search Console

As we said at the beginning of the post, we focused on the features of the most popular version of Google Search Console. It is important, however, that you become familiar with the new interface as the old one will be gradually abandoned.

The most recent changes are as follows:

  • The traffic data presented went from the last 3 months to the last 16 months;
  • It is now compatible with mobile devices;
  • Information for specific pages became more detailed;
  • New tracking streams;
  • New and improved reporting and tools.

Another important development of the new version is that it warns about bugs more actively. The webmaster receives an alert message so he can act quickly and resolve the issue, and then notify Google.

Finally, the reporting of structured data that cannot be analyzed has been added. It lists structured data found on the website that could not be parsed due to a serious syntax error. In this case, the desired type of structured data (“Job”, “Event”, etc.) could not be determined due to parsing error. Learn how to use here . As of May 2019, there are also more improvement analysis reports for two new structured data types: Logo and Search Box .

More complete reports

Reports are more complete. Extending the coverage period from 3 to 16 months in Search Performance offers a much greater analytics capability with more data.

In addition, some activities had a change in execution. You can find out what they are on the Migrate from old Search Console to new Search Console page .

The list of what has not yet migrated is a little longer:

  • tracking statistics data
  • robots.txt tests
  • Managing URL Parameters in Google Search
  • “Data Marker” Tool
  • Reading and managing your messages
  • Change of Address Tool
  • Preferred domain configuration
  • Associating your Search Console property with an Analytics property
  • Link rejection
  • Removing outdated content from the index

Having a tool in Google Search Console is essential for you to optimize your site for Google searches, but knowing how to use it can be a challenge. Both the old and new versions require dedication, but the results make it worth the effort.

 

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