Google Search Console · 4-MINUTE READ · By Tina Arnoldi on August 16 2016 ·
Webmaster Tools naturally sounds like it’s for the web developer on your team, not you as a marketer or SEO analyst. When it was renamed to Google Search Console in 2015, it became clearer that the tool was not just for web developers; it is equally useful for marketers.
If you are responsible for monitoring organic traffic to your website, this is a great addition to your toolkit. With it, you can learn how Google views your site, how searchers find you organically, and key areas regarding your website that need to be addressed.
We have an earlier post describing how to get more than 90 days of Search Console data with the Supermetrics Google Drive add-on, Data Grabber, or with Supermetrics Functions. Here we will step back a bit and review what this tool can do for you as a user of Google Analytics.
How to start: check if your Search Console account is already connected to Google Analytics. You can check this by visiting Acquisition > Search Console in your Google Analytics account. If you do not see any data, follow the prompts to connect the two products. If you are not able to do this, it is because you do not have enough rights in Google Analytics or will want to contact your Analytics Administrator.
Once you are done with the setup, let’s go through what Search Console can help you.
1. Learn which keywords Google thinks describe your site
Content marketing is tough. There’s a lot of noise so you want your content to be found without keyword stuffing.
Naturally you think your site is based on what you write. You have a product or service and provide content for that theme. However, part of being found depends on how Google “sees” you. To view one of the signals they use, visit Search Console and look at Google Index > Content Keywords.
In the below example for a counseling site, there is not a significant amount of content for Google to use at all. Although the keyword “counselor” is the top keyword, it only shows up three times.
Line four below – therapy – seems equally important to a counseling site since those words can be used interchangeably, but that word is also infrequently used. This is not uncommon with sites that tend to be more brochureware. If you have a content heavy site though, this would be a concern if your top words were not listed.
2. View search queries that bring people search to your site
I am still mourning the “not provided” keywords we have now in Google Analytics. Fortunately we can get some of those words back with Search Queries in Search Console.
The below screenshot shows queries for a marketing site which indicates a number of people are searching for help regarding Twitter and this particular site occasionally comes up.
Although it’s great for a site to come up in search, if the site’s primary service is PPC or SEO with very little consulting on social media, it’s time to refocus the content on the site to include more relevant keywords for that business.
3. Access your site metrics and dimensions
Yes, there’s a ton of data in Google Analytics already. What is great about Search Console is that you can gather detailed data on search queries mentioned above.
Search Console displays the clicks, impressions, click-through-rate (CTR), and position of terms in organic search. In addition to these search query metrics, there are also dimensions which include pages, country, device type, date, and type of search.
4. View links to your site
Google Analytics users already know this data is available in Acquisition > Source/Medium. There is detail on the domains linking to a site, the total number of links, pages others link to, and the anchor text that links to your site.
Check if there are pages you expect to see but are missing in this view. It could be you had a link that was removed from a referring site or is a broken link.
You’ll want to invest some time on a backlink strategy to increase the links to key pages.
5. Check your site’s mobile friendliness
It’s been more than a year since Google rolled out the mobile-friendly update and as mobile use continues to climb, having a mobile friendly site is no longer optional.
When you check this in Search Traffic > Mobile Usability, hopefully you will have a message similar to the below. This indicates your site is in good shape and works well on mobile devices.
If your site does not have the stamp of approval like the below message, you will see specific messages about issues, such as a small font size or use of flash. Those fixes need to be a high priority on your to-do list.
You can also how your site performs on mobile with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test before any site edits and check it again after you have optimized the site.
6. Check for errors
If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. But if it is built right, they will eventually see what you have to offer.
Building and maintaining a quality site means pages you build can be found by Google.
If a page has a 404 – not found – error, you can see the referral for the page that is a 404. This is incredibly helpful because it may show a link from your own site which is easy to fix.
Even if you believe your site is in perfect shape, take time to check this in Search Console. When new pages are added to a site and old ones removed, it is very easy to overlook every single page on the site.
You may also discover that pages are not even showing up in search results. Watching for, and correcting errors, is a key element in providing an excellent user experience.
7. Review pages crawled and download time
Crawl Stats will give you metrics about Googlebot activity over the previous 90 days.
The number of pages crawled should increase as Google discovers the pages on your site.
The time spent downloading should be lower over time.
Page speed is crucial both for engines and for people. In the today’s internet world, several seconds for a page to load is too long. The searcher has already moved on to another result before your page is even viewable.
Below you can see a significant change over time (in a good way) for a site.
Although there’s even more to Search Console, these are some key features that make a great case for adding Search Console to an SEO analyst’s toolkit.
Spend some time in there doing an audit and share the findings with your team. You may be surprised to find simple changes you can make that will have a significant impact on your site’s performance.
Start by addressing any site problems with your webmaster, such as mobile usability, 404 errors, and download time.
Next connect with your writers so they can integrate some “content keywords” in their future posts.
And finally, remember that using the Search Console is not a one time activity. Plan to check in here at least once a month, possibly more depending on your site traffic.
About Tina Arnoldi
Tina Arnoldi is Analytics and AdWords Qualified and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert(GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Google Partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn