Beginners Guide to Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC), formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, is a free service offered by Google that aids website owners in maintaining and monitoring their website's presence in Google Search results. GSC offers an invaluable set of tools for any website owner, from the enthusiastic hobbyist to the professional SEO specialist. This article delves into the core features of the Google Search Console and how they can enhance the effectiveness of your website.
One of the most crucial features of Google Search Console is its Performance reports. This tool helps you understand your website's performance in Google Search, revealing key metrics like total clicks, impressions, average click-through rate (CTR), and average position. Moreover, it allows you to segment and filter this data by queries, pages, countries, devices, search type (web, image, or video), and date range. This level of granular detail assists in identifying which aspects of your site are performing well and where improvements are required.
URL Inspection Tool
The URL Inspection tool provides detailed crawl, index, and serving information about your pages directly from the Google index. It offers insights into a page’s HTTP status, index coverage, canonical URL, mobile usability, structured data, and AMP errors, among others. Additionally, it allows for a live URL test to check for any issues in real-time.
Index Coverage Report
GSC's Index Coverage report is another essential feature that provides insights into which pages on your site have been indexed, which have not, and why. This tool can help you spot any problems that might prevent Google from crawling or indexing your pages, including server errors, redirect errors, blocked URLs, or pages marked "noindex". It also provides a way to submit a page for indexing if it isn't currently in Google's index.
An XML sitemap is an excellent way to inform search engines about the pages on your website. With GSC, you can submit your sitemap directly to Google, enabling it to find and crawl your most important pages more effectively. Once you submit your sitemap, GSC provides a report that allows you to monitor its status and see if any errors occurred during the processing.
Core Web Vitals
As part of its ongoing efforts to emphasise user experience, Google incorporated Core Web Vitals into GSC. These metrics focus on three aspects of user experience – loading performance (Largest Contentful Paint or LCP), interactivity (First Input Delay or FID), and visual stability (Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS). In addition, the Core Web Vitals report in GSC allows you to identify pages that need improvement based on these critical metrics.
Security and Manual Actions
This feature of GSC notifies you if Google detects any security issues (like hacking or malware) or manual actions due to policy violations on your site. Manual actions could include issues like unnatural links to or from your site, thin content, cloaking, or hidden text. Swift notifications allow you to resolve the problem and submit your site for reconsideration.
For websites using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), GSC provides an AMP status report. This report identifies any errors that might prevent your AMP pages from appearing in Google Search results with AMP-specific features. In addition, the tool offers insights into the nature of the problem and how to fix it.
The Links report in GSC provides valuable data about the links to and from your site. This report can help you understand which external sites link to your pages (top linking sites), the pages with the most links from other sites (top linked pages), and the most common anchor text to link to your site.
Google Search Console is a powerful tool for website owners, developers, and SEO professionals. Its comprehensive features give you a wealth of data about your site's health and performance, providing actionable insights to help you optimise your site for Google Search. As Google continues to evolve and update its search algorithms, staying familiar with tools like GSC will be integral to maintaining and improving your site's search performance.