Nadine Wallis is a copywriter at Pure SEO. When she isn’t writing, Nadine can be found reading fiction (surprise) and enjoying outdoor adventures. She has a Marketing and Communication Studies conjoint degree from AUT.
Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool provided by Google to give business owners and marketers insight into how their website is performing. There is a huge range of features and reports in GSC that make it easier to monitor your site’s Google Search presence and improve your SEO.
Understanding the features in GSC is even more important now as Core Web Vitals begin to impact search ranking. GSC reports can help you optimise your site by highlighting errors, giving you a simple way to ensure your site is visible to your target audience.
Keep reading for a brief run-down on each section in the GSC sidebar, and what you can expect to get out of each feature.
The Overview Report gives you a quick glance at how your website is performing. The first graph shows your website performance based on the number of clicks into the site from the SERPs. This section also gives you important information about errors and failing pages that will need more urgent attention.
The URL Inspection tool is a great way to see how Google views specific URLs on your site. When you click on the URL Inspection tool in the sidebar, it will ask you to input a URL from the site. The report will then show you important information such as if the page has been submitted and indexed, and when the last crawl was completed. It also will give recommendations on enhancements that could be made to the page.
If the page has been recently updated, you can even use this tool to request indexing.
This part of the tool is used to see how your website is performing in the SERPs. Specifically, you can see the top queries or search terms that are leading users to your website, the top pages being visited, countries users are from, devices used to access your site, and clicks by date.
You will also see a snapshot of your total clicks, total impressions, average click-through rate, and average position of your site in the search results.
This tool gives site owners insights into how many users are reaching your site from Google’s Discover Feed and from the Chrome mobile browser. This can be a good way to compare the interactions between these avenues and other search options.
The Coverage report shows the index status for all pages on your website. You can easily see which pages are indexed, which pages aren’t indexed, and the reason why these pages aren’t indexed. This is invaluable, as it lets you easily understand what you need to do to resolve the error that is stopping these pages from being indexed.
It also shows all the pages that aren’t indexed intentionally, like pages that you have marked as ‘noindex’. Keeping track of these pages is important, to make sure there aren’t any in there that should be showing up in the Google SERP.
This section allows you to see a list of sitemaps you have submitted in the past. It shows the date of submission, when the map was last read, the status, and the number of URLs that Google discovered from the sitemap.
You can also use this section to submit a new sitemap for Google to index.
The Removals section is where you can submit URLs to Google to be removed from your site. Here you can request for pages to be temporarily removed, as well as seeing pages that the public has requested to remove due to inaccuracy, or pages that have been requested to be marked as adult content using the SafeSearch filtering option.
The Page Experience report gives you an overview of the experience visitors are having when they reach your site. This section is becoming more important, as experience is now a critical ranking factor.
Google introduced Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor in early 2021. This tool rates your site for mobile and desktop based on these vital factors. That way you can easily see which URLs need improvement in terms of site speed and load time.
The Mobile Usability report shows you which pages on your site are mobile-friendly and which ones contain an error. To pass the Core Web Vitals test a site must be mobile friendly so keeping an eye on this report is also important.
This section will bring up any errors that stop your site from appearing in AMP search results. AMP stands for ‘accelerated mobile pages’ and aims to help mobile pages load much faster by only showing essential parts of the page.
Structured data is what you supply to Google to make it easier for them to understand your site. The reports in this section show you how you can enhance your structured data to get rich results, and highlight any errors that are hindering your efforts.
If you receive a manual action against your site, this means that Google has decided the site or page does not meet their quality guidelines. These actions exist to help discourage black hat SEO and ensure that the pages ranking highest are the most useful for users. This report will show if you have any manual actions against your site, including historical actions.
Hopefully, the security issues tab is not one you will become familiar with. However, in the unlucky event that your site is targeted with harmful content, this tool can help you identify this so you can fix it fast.
Issues this tool can show include hacking, malware, and harmful downloads, among others. Once you know what is wrong, you can ensure your developer takes care of these issues and gets your site back to full health.
These are old tools from GSC, so unless you have previous experience using them and want to continue utilising them, you can leave them alone if you like. Google may announce a replacement for these tools, or get rid of them for good in the future.
Link building is a critical part of the SEO strategy for any website. The ideal scenario is that you acquire a bunch of high-quality backlinks from trusted, well-known domains. You might not always be able to achieve this though, and that’s okay—not all your backlinks have to be from top tier sites. What isn’t okay is acquiring spammy backlinks that Google may frown upon.
To check the quality and number of backlinks to your site, you can use the links tool in GSC. Keeping an eye on this tool will let you see any jumps in backlinks from unwanted sites, and make it clear if you need to improve your backlinking strategy.
At the end of the day, Google Search Console provides plenty of data about your site. This is awesome, but if you can’t draw insights from it and understand what these trends mean, then it’s going to be difficult to use this data to improve your SERP rankings.
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