Google Search Console provides an in-depth look at not only the organic search performance of your website, but the overall health of it relating to the user experience and usability. It’s got a robust sidebar with a dozen different features, and to a first-time user, it can be overwhelming. We’re going to go through each feature of GSC and break down what they do and how to use them.
The Overview is the default view of GSC, and acts as a dashboard to give you a quick update of all the metrics that it covers–mainly Performance, Coverage, and Experience. Taking a look at these charts and graphs can give you a summary of how your site is performing over the last 3 months, and a chart that all of a sudden tanks or skyrockets gives you a good indication that something is up and should be further looked into.
This is the good stuff. The Performance Report gives you an in-depth look at your organic traffic that Google Analytics can’t. The default filters for this report are Web results over the last 3 months, but you can view the metrics for any given period of time for either Web, Image, Video, or News results:
The Performance metrics are broken down into four different categories–Clicks, Impressions, Average CTR, and Average Position.
- Clicks: Clicks are self-explanatory. How many times a user clicked through to your website from a Google search result.
- Impressions: Impressions measure how many times you showed up for any given query. An impression is gained no matter where you showed up in the search results, not just if a user sees it–so if you’re on page 10, you still get an impression. This makes it a useful metric for measuring general performance, but shouldn’t be relied upon as a black-and-white indicator of how your site is performing.
- Average CTR: CTR, or click-through rate, measures the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click. It can be a good indicator of whether or not you need to try to make your search results more appealing.
- Average Position: Measures the average position of your website in search results. This takes into account every single query that you show up for, so it could include queries that you don’t necessarily want or need to rank for.
You can click each metric on or off to view the ones that are important to you. If traffic is down, you can see if impressions took a dive as well–if they didn’t, you can safely assume it was just an off month for click rate and there is nothing wrong with your site.
Below the performance chart is the Queries–a full list of every query you’ve shown up for, including the number of clicks and impressions for each query. This is a hugely important tool with information you cannot get anywhere else for free. It can drive content strategy and tell you if your current content strategy is correctly targeting the right keywords.
You can also filter the queries report by things like landing pages, country, device, search appearance, and dates to get a more comprehensive look at the type of traffic coming to your site.
The URL inspection is the place to go to look at individual URLs and how they show up on Google, or to see if they’re even showing up. If you suspect that a URL hasn’t been indexed properly, you can enter it in to the search bar and it’ll give you a short overview of that URL, including whether it’s crawled and indexed or not, if the page is mobile-friendly, and a summary of any other enhancements on the page.
If for some reason there is an issue with a page being crawled or indexed, it will tell you what the error is and how to fix it. Once you’ve fixed the issue, you can click the Test Live URL button, where it’ll tell you if it’s been fixed and you’re able to request that Google indexes it.
The coverage graph shows you a full list of all pages on your site that have indexing errors, page warnings, excluded completely from search or are valid. You can highlight any of these metrics to focus on them, and it will give you a list of pages that have errors or warnings, such as soft 404 errors, redirect errors, blocked by robots, and a host of others.
As shown in the screenshot above, you can superimpose your impressions over the chart to see how any influx in errors corresponds with your search performance.
Every website should have an XML sitemap generated for it. They act as a suggestion for Google to crawl and follow the website’s hierarchy of pages so Google can better understand and index it. Every time a new sitemap is generated due to a restructuring of the site or new pages being added, it should be added here. It keeps a running log of sitemaps and the dates they were submitted, and tells Google’s bots to follow the most recently submitted sitemap.
It is possible that Google finds your sitemap organically, but it’s best to not take chances and tell it which one to follow.
The removals on Google Search Console is meant to be used as a “break glass in case of emergency” feature. If you need something urgently removed from Google search, you can submit a request here. This is great for pages that have been indexed already that may present a threat to financial or personal security, have outdated content that could misinform users, or need to be removed for legal issues.
The Page Experience feature is a relatively new portion of GSC that focuses primarily on the three core web vitals. These are Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift. We won’t be covering each of them in-depth, but we have covered them in detail before.
As with any report on GSC, it will provide you with a list of pages that need to improve upon its core web vitals for both desktop and mobile users, along with the mobile usability score for each page. As Google shifts more towards user experience with every algorithm update, it’s vital that you pay attention to these metrics and turn to a developer to help you fix them when necessary.
The last feature that any Google Search Console beginner should learn to use–Links. With backlinks being a major component of SEO, it can be frustrating to not know who might be linking to your site without doing a ton of legwork.
This is summarized perfectly in the links report, which is simply a list of who is including links to your site from their site plus a list of internal and external links on your own website. It provides you which pages on your website are being linked to from other websites, along with how many times each one was linked. If you’re looking to build a robust backlink portfolio, this is the place to start.
When used in conjunction with tools like Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, Google Search Console is one of the most useful tools in any website owner’s arsenal, and most importantly, it’s free. If you’re serious about analyzing your organic performance and creating a website that competes on the front page, dive into Google Search Console today–or just contact us and our SEO team will handle it from here.