As Google is still the number 1 search engine by a long way, it’s hard to oversell how important this is.
If you are trying to improve the quality and quantity of organic search traffic you receive – then you need to focus on Google. If you want to focus on Google, then getting info directly from them is incredibly useful. This is true whether you work in SEO or run a website.
It’s easy to sign up to, and you can connect it directly to Google Analytics (and Google Data Studio) in order to get even more value out of it. And stats aren’t all Google Search Console provides either – it also lets you know a myriad of things about your webpages in relation to Google Search.
So, because it is free, absolutely essential, and exceptionally helpful, I strongly recommend signing up to Google Search Console.
[Please note: I’m not being paid for this endorsement, I just like the product]
Easy To Set Up
I’m not going to go into the specifics of how to set up Google Search Console (as it might change before you read this).
However, I can tell you that every method of setting up GSC that I have seen has been incredibly simple. Just go to search.google.com/search-console and follow the instructions to get started. Google will take you through everything in a simple way.
Once you have signed up, make sure to go directly to the sitemap section and add your sitemap (sitemaps are almost always found at a URL like [sitename]/sitemap.xml, but you’ll have to figure that out for yourself). By adding your sitemap, you are making it easier for Google to find (and index) all of your pages. Also, because sitemaps are usually dynamic, it will also tell Google when you update a page or add a new page automatically. Convenient hey!
I would also highly recommend connecting it to Google Analytics right away so you can get your Search Console data directly in there. To do this – in Google Analytics click the settings cog in the corner, click “All Products” then scroll down to “Search Console”.
Did I mention it’s free? Because it is.
In a lot of cases, when something is free it’s because you are secretly paying by giving the company your data. In this case, however, they are actually giving you their data.
Of course, it’s not like they are doing this altruistically. It is in Google’s best interests that their search results are as good as possible (so they can make money from Google Ads). So helping you make your site better helps them… but it’s still in your best interests to make your site better.
You are literally gaining lots, but losing nothing by signing up to Google Search Console (if there are any SEOs out there who know different – let me know). And if you’re thinking – “Aha but what about when you link it up to Google Analytics?!” – they already have access to that data… via Google Analytics.
Google Search Console is Essential
Let’s get into how GSC can help you. There are three main components to Google Search Console. They each answer essential core SEO questions:
- Performance – How do your webpages perform against queries on Google search?
- Coverage – Is Google indexing your pages?
- Enhancements – How well are your webpages technically optimised for search?
Each of these sections in Search Console is geared towards showing you what Google sees when it looks at your site. Let’s take a brief tour of them:
In the Performance section, you can find out how often Google suggests your links for different queries, where on search results it shows them, and how much they are clicked on. By tracking, examining, and cross-referencing this report you can find opportunities galore.
For example, pages with poor CTRs but lots of impressions could be providing much more traffic if you could get that CTR up (probably by changing the Title tag and Meta Description). Or else a query which brings up too many of your pages could perhaps do with some focus – reduce the number of pages targeting that keyword to stop cannibalising your own content marketing efforts.
The Coverage Report is all about if Google has indexed your pages. This is vital because if Google doesn’t know about your pages then it won’t be showing your pages to anyone. This report tells you the hows and whys of your indexing woes and makes it much easier to fix them.
SEO was originally mainly about making it so that search engines could find and read webpages at all, so this section is not to be sniffed at. This is the ABCs of SEO.
If you are working on a new site/just getting started, this report will help you make sure Google has heard of you. If you are working on a huge and/or old site, this report will help you know how much of it is getting indexed (and if new pages are being indexed in a timely fashion).
This section is about some specific technical SEO bits and pieces that Google cares about. It doesn’t cover every aspect of technical SEO by any means, but it does cover a lot of core stuff that you should deal with. I’ll put it this way – if Google thinks it’s important enough to include here, then it’s probably important enough for you to work on.
The Enhancements section isn’t actually a single report, but a series of different reports. As of writing this, they cover:
- Core Web Vitals (user experience focused stats – including page speed)
- Mobile Usability
- Sitelinks searchbox
This is a great place to find and fix problems. Problems which you might not have even known were happening otherwise. Each report lets you dig into problems and provides links on how to fix them.
An obvious thing GSC can help with is page speed – if one of your pages is loading slowly people will likely leave before they get to what you want to show them. Search Console helps you identify which pages aren’t fast enough by a few different measures.
Similarly, if your mobile site doesn’t work properly, you’ll put off anyone who browses the internet that way (eg almost everyone). The Mobile Usability report will alert you to your mobile problems and help you make your users’ mobile experience better.
These are important facets of your site that you need to deal with, and this section helps you find where you’re falling down.
Not only can you look at how your site is performing on Google in various ways, but you can also update Google with changes to your site directly. If there is a problem with your site in one of the above-listed reports, you can fix it – then directly tell Google that you’ve fixed it, and they will check it and get back to you. That is exceptionally helpful and reassuring.
With so much of SEO being about scrambling around in the dark for ill-defined concepts (I’m looking at you “make the best page”), being able to directly(ish) interact with Google is a breath of fresh air.
And it doesn’t stop there, you can also use their URL Inspection tool to see exactly what Google sees – in terms of both the code they have indexed and the problems they have identified. If you think they are wrong in some way, you can ask them to test the live URL and they will.
It’s not without its problems of course, and you don’t get to speak to an actual person – just press a submit button. For example, I have a couple of pages which Google insists are too wide on mobile, but when they test the live site it’s fine – but they still won’t validate the fix. It is still *mostly* excessively useful though.
There are also other little bits and pieces which are great too, my favourite being the Links report. This tells you the top pages that are linked to from other sites, and the top linking text etc. This can be really helpful when trying to improve your referral traffic, as well as for identifying potential strategic partners.
I honestly debated writing this article in the first place because adding Google Search Console to your site is so basic that you must have heard it somewhere else already.
If you haven’t though, for the reasons I have outlined above and more – sign up to Google Search Console. It costs you nothing and can help you improve your organic search traffic (and site) tremendously.