Are you planning a SEO campaign aimed at increasing visibility in the search results and organic traffic? In this case, Google Search Console is an absolute must-have. SEMrush, Ahrefs, and other commercial SEO tools are great, I am not going to argue with that, however, remember that they are nothing compared to this great free tool offered by Google. In this article, I present the most fundamental Google Search Console functions that can take your website to a completely new level. Let’s discover them!
The Best Functions to Make the Most Out Of Your Search Console
Not sure what is a sitemap? In a nutshell, an XML sitemap is a file that provides information about the content of your website (pages, videos, files) and helps the search engine crawlers to read your website correctly. Basically, without this file reaching your content will be much more complicated. A sitemap is not obligatory but you can really gain a lot with this file.
How to submit an XML sitemap?
1.From your Search Console dashboard, choose the Sitemaps option (you will find it in the Index section):
2. Add the name of your sitemap and then click the Submit button.
3. If your sitemap has been created correctly, you will receive a message saying “Sitemap submitted successfully”. The new sitemap will appear in the panel (if you want to check if your website has already had a sitemap, this is also a great place to do it):
Submitting a sitemap in Google Search Console is extremely easy, however, preparing the file is a bit more challenging. If you would like to learn more about the importance of sitemap in SEO, I’ve prepared for you a guide that will explain everything you need to know!
2. Index Coverage Report
Google Search Console shows all indexed pages and indicates whether there are any errors found when indexing your website. You should monitor them on a daily basis, as too many errors (such as 404 error or 500 error) on a website can result in a sudden drop of valuable web traffic. And that's not what you want, right?
So where you will find the Index Coverage Report which will indicate all the issues connected with the indexation of your website? In the Coverage option (it is available in the Index section on the right).
Once you choose the option, you will get a full report of errors. At first sight, this report may seem a bit complicated, so I will explain how you should read the report to obtain all the necessary information.
On the summary page, you will see a report with all pages that Google attempted to crawl. The status is grouped into 4 main categories:
error - a page is not indexed, you should fix the problems as a priority,
warning - a page is indexed, however, some issues encountered when indexing the page;
excluded - a given page is not indexed intentionally, for example by using the noindex directive,
valid - everything is fine with a page, it is indexed correctly.
There are the possible errors that can be found by Google:
server error (5xx) - the internal server error, appears when, for some reason, it was impossible to process a given request,
redirect error - one of the redirect errors appeared, for example, too long redirect chain, empty URL in the redirect chain or a redirect loop,
submitted URL not found (404) - a page doesn’t exist anymore,
submitted URL seems to be a Soft 404 - the server sends the 200 OK status code, however, Google thinks that your page doesn’t exist,
submitted URL marked ‘noindex’ - a page had the noindex directive in a meta tag or HTTP header,
submitted URL returns unauthorized request (401) - Google can’t index a page as it lacks valid authentication credentials,
submitted URL has crawl issue - Google was unable to crawl a page,
submitted URL blocked by robots.txt - it was impossible to index a page as the robots.txt file blocked it.
It is worth paying attention to the fact that at Google Search Console you can also choose the primary crawler value (two user agent types: smartphone or desktop) which simulates how a user would see your website or mobile devices or desktops.
3. Links Reports
Link building is one of the fundamental off-site SEO strategies. Simply put, without high-quality backlinks coming from reliable domains, you don't have much chance to increase your rankings in search results. Many marketers use a really great Ahrefs tool to discover backlinks. Naturally, I strongly recommend this tool, but did you know that Google Search Console has prepared a report of all links as well?
You will find the Links report in the last section:
Once you click there, you will receive a report displaying different types of links, both external and internal. This is a really great source of information!
Now, let’s take a closer look at all the reports you can find in this section:
Top linked pages (externally)
Here you will find a list of your pages that are most often linked by other sites. This way, you can check which pages are the most popular and receive recognition. Did you recently introduce a new product to your range or published a nice piece of content? See if others talk about them!
Top linking sites
In this report, you can check on which domains your website is most often mentioned. Websites are sorted by count of backlinks - this way, you will see which domain links to you the most. What can you use this report for? Check the list of the domains and you will see if you recognize all of them. If your website is mentioned on spammy low-quality domains, then you can ask to remove the link or disavow it. What's more, the Top linking sites report gives you an excellent opportunity to check if the domains on which your brand is mentioned are relevant and thematically related to your industry.
Top linking text
In this report, you can see which anchor text is most often used by other sites to point to your site. The Top linking text report, indicates only links from other sites, excluding your internal links.
Keep in mind that this report is case-insensitive which means that the “source” and “SOURCE” anchor texts are recognized as the same thing. However, “sources” (the same word in plural) is not considered a duplicate. It is worth keeping in mind that every link pointing to your site that has no text (it is possible, for example, with image links) are presented as “empty” in the report.
Top linked pages (internally)
It is quite similar to the first one, with one very significant difference. Here, you will see all the internal links, i.e. a list of the most frequently linked pages within your site. Check if the internal linking is correct and if most links lead to the core pages, such as the home page, category pages, contact page.
4. Performance Report
Increased visibility of your website in Google search results - this is what all SEO activities are aimed at. That's why you should regularly measure your site performance. To do this, there is no better and more effective tool than Google Search Console. Remember that e.g. SEMrush and other paid SEO tools will only show you estimated traffic, but here you will get more accurate data.
Where will you find the Performance report? Look for this report on the top of the main section:
Why is the Performance report the core of all Google Search Console functions? Mainly because this is where you will find all the key data. You will be able to check:
how the organic traffic and visibility in Google search results changed with time,
to which keywords your website appears in search results and which of them generate the highest traffic,
what is the click-through rate (CTR) of particular pages,
which devices generate more traffic: mobiles or desktops.
How to read the Performance report?
The Performance report displays several key metrics thanks to which you will be able to evaluate the performance of your website in the search results. These are:
total clicks - the number of visits to your site from organic search results,
total impressions - the number of times your website appeared in the search results after entering a query,
average CTR - the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions, CTR is presented as a percentage,
average position - the average position of the topmost result on a given query is taken into account.
Which dimensions and filters can be selected in the Performance report?
The Performance report offers the possibility to adjust the displayed data to several dimensions:
queries - keywords to which your website or a certain page appears in the search results, it gives a list of only the searches to which your website was shown;
pages - which individual page within your site appears most often in the search results;
countries - countries from which the user searches come from, e.g. United States, India, Poland, the United Kingdom, etc.;
devices - types of devices on which users made searches that showed them your website: desktop, mobile, tablet;
search type - this search type showed your website to users: web (results that appeared in the All tab), image, video, news;
search appearance - which additional search result features were presented, e.g. FAQ, how-to, article, Q&A, recipe, review, etc.
dates - the number of clicks and impressions made on a given day.
5. Mobile Usability Reports
Currently, absolutely every website should be optimized for mobile devices, and not without a reason - more than half of the global web traffic comes from mobiles. Check if Google Search Console reports any issues concerning mobile usability.
Where to find the Mobile Usability report? It is available in the Enhancements section:
Once you click, you will find a report presenting all the issues concerning the lack of optimization of your website for mobile devices:
The report shows two types of relevant data:
status - error (a page is not mobile-friendly) or valid (a page is mobile-friendly),
pages - the number of pages affected by a given error.
Which types of error appear in the Mobile Usability report?
In the Mobile Usability report, you will find the following errors:
uses incompatible plugins - some of the plugins that a given page contains are not compatible with mobile browsers,
viewport not set - your website doesn't inform a web browser how to adjust your pages' dimensions to different screen sizes,
viewport not set to "device-width" - a page doesn't adapt to different screen sizes, a responsive design hasn't been adopted,
content wider than screen - a page must be scrolled horizontally to fully display words or images,
text too small to read - the size of the text is too small and illegible, making it difficult for users to read the content,
clickable elements too close together - buttons or links are placed too close to each other and clicking on the desired element becomes too complicated.
As you can see, Google Search Console offers a wide range of great features and reports/strong> to keep monitoring your website's performance in the search results. In this article, I presented 5, in my opinion, the most important functions, however, GSC can do so much more! In this Google tool, you can also check, for example: security issues, Core Web Vitals, AMP, crawl stats, or international targeting.
If you are looking for SEO specialists to help you increase the visibility of your website in the search results and, as a result, organic traffic, feel free to get in touch with us. Our SEO experts will prepare for you a long-term effective strategy and constantly monitor its effects.
Managing Partner, has been building Delante since 2014. Responsible for international SEO strategies. He has a strong analytical approach to online marketing backed by more than 12 years of experience. Previously associated with the IT industry, as well as the automotive, tobacco, and financial markets. Has experience in creating scaled processes based on agile methodologies.
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