Using Google search console for SEO is a smart move.
It’s the biggest search engine around so it makes sense to use the data they provide to help push yourself up their rankings.
Google Search Console is a great tool for tracking Google search results stats. You can find out things like average search results rankings for your pages and which search terms people are using to land on your site.
Before I get stuck into how to use Google search console for SEO I want to talk a bit about Google and search engine optimisation.
The first thing you need to understand is that Google is the number 1 search engine around and they want to keep it that way.
So Google are only concerned with serving users the best results possible, because that’s the only thing that will keep them being the best search engine around. If people stop finding what they need they’ll use another search engine.
This is why more focus is being put on user experience in the latest search algorithms.
If people leave your site quickly after landing on it Google will see that you’re not giving people the information they need when they search for those keywords and will push you down the rankings.
See how people interact with your search results
Ok so when your site pops up in search results right now, what do people do.
Do they click through? Or not?
It’s vital to get people to click through when they see your site appear in results. If they don’t Google will know, and start pushing you further down the rankings.
One thing you can do to improve click through rates is to look at your meta description, you know that bit of intro text that appears just below your link in search results.
I’m as guilty as anyone for not giving my meta descriptions the time and effort they deserve. They’re an afterthought, something that I have to do to help make Yoast go green.
This stat can give you a clue as to how much your meta descriptions appeal to your ideal clients and readers.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the sheer amount and quality of data you get from Google Search Console for SEO.
You can find this information by clicking the Performance option in the left hand sidebar.
Find out where your pages rank in search results for certain keywords
This is a great way to assess where you are with your search engine optimisation right now.
Which are your higher ranking pages and blog posts? Once you know this you can look at getting opt-in forms and adding affiliate links where possible to get the best use of your higher ranking content.
Next look at your poorer performing content and the reasons for it.
Are the keywords you’re targeting too competitive?
Do your meta descriptions need updating to something a bit more catchy?
This is really valuable information to have because it means you can pinpoint the areas for improvement and take advantage of the others for list growing or monetisation.
Which keywords does your site rank for?
This is one that you might find surprising.
Just because you target a specific phrase in your content, doesn’t mean that’s what it ranks for via Google search.
Knowing what keywords your content does rank for means you can look at solidifying your position. If you’re in position 10, optimise for those keywords so that you get to 5th or even 1st position.
Then think about creating lead magnets related to those keywords to help build your email list.
You can find this info by clicking Performance in the left hand menu and scrolling down to Queries.
Submit a sitemap
Make it easy for the Google bots to index your site by submitting a sitemap.
It’s literally a file listing the pages on your site along with the number of images in it. It makes 100% sure that Google knows your site’s there and that it knows how best to crawl it.
Google say that you don’t need one unless your site is very big and that the page structure is complex, but I say submit one anyway. It won’t do any harm and could mean that your pages are added to Google’s index quicker than they would have been otherwise.
Find out exactly how to submit a sitemap in this post I published a couple of weeks ago.
See which of your pages are indexed by Google
For your content to be displayed in Google search results, Google first has to know about it. When it finds your site and it’s content it adds it to their index. The index is basically a list of all the web pages it knows about.
This report will tell you which of your pages and posts are indexed by Google so you can add any missing ones if needed. You can do this on a page by page basis or submit an updated sitemap like I mentioned earlier.
You can find this information under Coverage on the left hand menu.
Get a list of links to your site
Here you’ll find all the info you need about links pointing to your website.
You’ll get a total number of links along with which site has the biggest number of links to your site, which pages of your site are linked to the most and more.
This kind of report will help you with your off-page SEO strategy, where backlinks to your site are a big factor.
The more authoritative the website linking to yours is, the more favourably Google will look at it.
Google uses links from other websites to help decide where yours should rank. And if a very well known, very authoritative website such as the BBC or New York Times links to your website it could have a very positive impact on your site’s overall authority and search ranking.
This kind of report will help you work out whether you need to look at a guest blog posting strategy or other way to get backlinks from other websites to help build your authority.
To get to this report click the Links option in the left hand menu.
Check for crawl errors
There may be some pages or posts that Google can’t crawl for some reason. When we talk about crawl errors it means that Google can’t access a page on your site to add it or update it in it’s index.
There are loads of reasons Google might not be able to index a page, but the sooner you find out about them, the sooner you can fix them.
Possible causes include removing a page and not setting up a redirect to another one. It could even be that when Google tried to crawl your site that your host was having technical difficulties.
You’ll get a reason for crawl errors and advice on how to fix them.
You should also get an email from Google search console telling you about it as soon as it happens. So your pages shouldn’t fail crawling for too long.
To find out about crawl errors click the Coverage option on the left hand menu.
Check if your site is mobile friendly
With more people than ever accessing the internet on phones and tablets mobile usability is crucial.
As Google uses the length of time people spend on a website as part of it’s ranking algorithm, it’s important to keep people on your site for as long as possible once they’ve clicked through.
If your site isn’t usable on mobile this won’t happen and your site will start slipping down the rankings.
That’s why the mobile usability report was brought into Google search console. This is another report where you should be notified as soon as Google finds a problem so you can fix it asap.
You can find the mobile usability report by clicking Mobile Usability on the left hand menu.
Add individual pages for indexing
You can add single pages to Google’s index just by adding the URL via Google search console. This is useful in a couple of situations.
If you’ve fixed a crawl error or a mobile usability problem then you’ll want to tell Google to reindex it so it knows that the problem has been fixed.
You could also do this after you publish a new page or blog post to try to get it into Google’s index a bit quicker than it would have otherwise.
To do this, paste the link into the search bar at the top of the screen and hit enter.
Google will then tell you whether or not it’s included in it’s index. If it isn’t in the index you can click Request Indexing and it will be added to the list of pages to be indexed.
Using Google search console for SEO – verdict
If knowledge is power then Google search console is the kingmaker.
It gives you a huge amount of information to help you supercharge your SEO strategy.
Not only will you have access to the basic info like which keywords your site ranks highly for but it will also give you a list of sites that link to yours including which of your pages they link to, but the link text as well.
If you use the info it gives you and you keep on top of any crawl or mobile usability problems then you should be able to improve your search engine optimisation.