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Beginner’s Guide to Google Search Console

How to Use Google Search Console for SEO Success?

By
James Gibbons
Google Search Console Guide

You can access all your performance data from Google Search in Google Search Console. It includes insights into how people find your website, what keywords they use to see you, and how many click through to your site. 

Operating a business online means that Google Search Console is one of the essential tools you can use as an SEO marketer. But what exactly is Google Search Console? And are you confident in your ability to use GSC for SEO success? If not, then read on.

Our GSC guide will explain everything about Google Search Console for SEO and its benefits for your website. Learn site performance metrics you should be tracking and data analytics you can dig in from GSC for better opportunities.

What is Google Search Console (GSC)?

Google Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools) is a free tool from Google that allows you to monitor your website's presence in search results, track the performance of your pages, and handle feedback about your site. 

Think of Google Search Console as a sneak peeks from Google on how you are performing on Google. We say sneak peek because Google does not share all the information. Google Search Console is a primary SEO tool essential for success on Google Search. 

It gives you access to your website's performance in Google's search results. It includes information about impressions (how often your site appears in search results), clicks, click-through rate, keyword position, top queries, and more.

What Does Google Search Console Do?

Google Search Console provides website owners with information about how their website appears in Google search results, how often it is crawled and indexed by Google, and how often users click on it. Additionally, website owners can use the Google Search Console to submit their website's sitemap to Google and receive error reports for web pages.

The Google Search Console is an essential tool for website owners, allowing them to track their website's performance in Google search results. By monitoring the various search metrics in GSC, website owners can determine whether their website appears in the correct spot in Google search results and whether it is receiving the correct number of clicks.

Additionally, website owners can use the Google Search Console to troubleshoot errors preventing their website from appearing in Google search results.

Google Search Console v/s Google Analytics

Google Search Console and Google Analytics are essential tools website owners use to measure and evaluate their website's performance. While they have their strengths, both tools can help give a complete picture of your website's performance.

Google Search Console provides website owners with information on how their website is performing in Google search. It shows how many people find your website through Google searches, what keywords they use to see you, and how your website performs regarding click-through rates and impressions.

Google Analytics provides website owners with information on all aspects of their website traffic. It shows you where your website traffic is coming from, what devices people use to visit your website, how long people stay on it, and more.

The below table highlights the main difference between Google Search Console and Google Analytics:

Google Search Console Google Analytics
About How search engine sees your website How visitors sees your website
Monitor How your website is performing in Google search All aspects of website traffic from a variety of sources and devices
Metrics Impressions, Clicks, CTR, and Position for individual user search queries and pages Unique visitors, Page view, Conversion rate, and Bounce rate, to name a few

By using both Google Search Console and Google Analytics, website owners can understand how their website is performing in terms of search engine visibility and overall website traffic.

Google Search Console for SEO Success

When it comes to SEO, you should know how your website performs and what you can do to improve. You can find all the data you need to make informed decisions about your website's search performance in Google Search Console.

Google search console is essential for SEO success because it allows web admins to submit their website for indexing and track their website's search engine visibility, performance, and crawl errors. Additionally, the search console provides insights on how to improve your website's SEO.

One of the main benefits of using the search console is that you can track your website's visibility in search engines. GSC helps identify whether potential customers see your website and how your SEO efforts pay off. With this data, you can locate the most valuable keywords people are searching for and create content that resonates with those terms.

You can also use the search console to submit your website for indexing. Indexation ensures your web pages appear and rank on Google Search. The search console will show you how Google has crawled your website, how often your website has been indexed, and how many pages have been indexed.

The search console can also help you identify any crawl errors preventing your website from being indexed by Google. If the Googlebot crawls and indexes your website correctly, you can use the search console to troubleshoot the issue.

How to Add Your Website to Google Search Console?

To add your website to Google Search Console:

1. Sign in to your Google account. Use the same email address associated with your CMS or work email associated with website creation.

2. Go to Google Search Console.

3. Click the "Add a Property" button. (see next section for domain v/s site-level property)

4. Enter your website's URL and click the "Verify" button.

5. You will then have to verify your site.

Adding & Verifying Site Ownership

The next step after adding your site to Google Search Console is to verify that you are your site's webmaster, owner, or authorized user. It is possible to verify a website in various ways. The top four methods include:

1. Adding a Google Analytics (GA) code if you already use GA to track site metrics;

2. Adding an HTML tag if you possess HTML coding experience;

3. Uploading an HTML file in your site's root directory; or

4. Verify your site with your hosting provider.

GSC verification methods
GSC verification methods

Which verification method you should use depends on your website and how you want to verify it. If you need help verifying your site, the Google Search Console Help Center includes step-by-step instructions for each verification method.

When to Use a Domain-level v/s Site-level Property in GSC?

When you submit your site (or property) to Google Search Console, it will ask whether you are submitting a domain or a site-level property. 

Domain v/s Site level property in GSC

Let us understand the difference between the two so that you select the correct option. 

A domain-level property includes all the individual pages and subdomains associated with the main domain. It displays the overall performance of your entire website. Also, when you have a domain-level property, you can manage all the associated subdomains, such as www and non-www versions of your website, in a single place.

As an example, if you own a website called "yourdomain.com," a domain-level property in GSC would include all of the following URLs:  www.yourdomain.com, yourdomain.com, blog.yourdomain.com OR store.yourdomain.com

A site-level property (URL Prefix) will only include the pages of a single subdomain. It contains the URLs of the exact website you type into the Verification page. You can use this option if you want to track the performance of a single section of your website separately. For instance, you can use a blog.yourdomain.com property only to track the performance of your blog section.

You should use a domain-level property when you own multiple subdomains related to a single website. Using a domain-level property, you can get comprehensive performance insights and track all the necessary URLs in one place. 

On the other hand, you should use a site-level property when you only own a single subdomain and need to monitor it in isolation. The site-level option is advisable when you scan a particular website (with a different domain) in Google Search Console.

Access, Permissions & Users in GSC

The account owner's permissions govern access to the Google Search Console account. The owner can share entries with other users and specify what permissions those users have.

To add a user to your Google Search Console account:

1. In the Google Search Console account, go to Settings in the bottom left corner & click on User's ad Permissions.

2. Here is a list of all exisiting or past users that had permission to this account. Click the "Add user" button.

Adding new users in GSC

3. Enter the email address and click the "Add" button.

The user will then receive an email inviting them to join the account. They must accept the invitation and create a password before accessing the account.

To give a user permission to manage your website's data in the Google Search Console account:

1. Go back to the same view with all users.

2. Click the drop down arrow next to the individual user permission and edit.

The user will then be able to view and edit your website's data in the Google Search Console account.

Now that your account is set up and sent for verification, Google will take a few days to track your website's visibility. 

In the meantime, start familiarizing yourself with the different features of the Google Search Console. Below we have outlined everything you need to know about GSC as a beginner + some pro tips for SEO success.

Google Search Console Metrics

Before discussing different GSC dashboards & reports, let us look at some important terminology & filters you should know.

What is Search Query in GSC?

A search query in Google Search Console is the term or phrase a user enters into a search engine to find specific information. In the context of Google Search Console, it refers to the terms or phrases people have used when searching for a website or page in the Google search results.

Search query is the same as keyword, keyword phrases, search terms, user search words, or search strings.

Search query data is important for website owners and SEO professionals as it helps them understand how users find their websites and what keywords and phrases are most popular. This information can be used to optimize website content and improve search engine visibility.

What are Clicks and Impressions?

Clicks and Impressions are two important metrics in Google Search Console.

Clicks refer to the number of times users clicked on your website or webpage in Google search results. It means the number of people who visited your website by clicking on the search result.

When a user clicks on a link from Google's SERP and is taken to a different web page, it is considered a click. If the user returns to the SERP and clicks on the same link again, it still counts as one click. However, if they click on a different link, it counts as two clicks.

Clicks from links that initiate a new search query are not counted. It's important to note that paid Google results are not included in this count.

Impressions refer to the number of times your website or webpage appeared in Google search results. It means the number of people who saw your website in search results. The impression is registered regardless of whether the user scrolls down or clicks on your search result.

Each time your website or webpage is featured in Google's search results page, it is considered an impression. This is applicable even if the user does not click on it and if your website appears on different search results pages, each instance is counted as an individual impression for that particular page.

What is CTR & How is it Calculated?

CTR stands for Click-Through Rate in Google Search Console. CTR indicates how often people click on your website when it appears in Google search results. 

CTR is calculated by dividing the number of clicks on a website by the number of impressions it receives in Google search results and multiplying the result by 100. 

CTR = (Clicks / Impressions) x 100

For example, if a website has 100 impressions and 10 clicks, its CTR would be:

CTR = (10 / 100) x 100 = 10%

A higher CTR indicates that your website has relevant, engaging content matching users' search queries. CTR is an important metric to track as it can help you assess the effectiveness of your SEO strategy and make necessary improvements.

What is an Average Position?

Average Position is a metric in Google Search Console that shows the average ranking of your website's pages for a particular search query. It is calculated by dividing the total number of impressions by the number of times your website's pages appear in search results. 

The ranking positions range from 1 to the number of results displayed on the page. For example, if your website appears in the first position for 10 search queries and in the second position for 5 search queries, your average position would be (1x10) + (2x5))/15 = 1.33. 

It is important to note that this metric only shows the average position of the pages that received impressions and not all the pages on your website.

What are the various Search Filters in GSC?

Search filters in Google Search Console allow website owners and webmasters to narrow down the data they receive from the Google Search Console by applying customizable filters to the data. These filters enable them to isolate specific data relevant to their website or their SEO goals.

GSC provides numerous options for analyzing and organizing your data. While these filters are beneficial, they can also cause confusion for newcomers to the tool.

Search Type

It allows website owners to segment their search analytics data by web, image or video search types, helping them to understand how their content is performing across different search mediums.

GSC search type filter

To make a comparison between two types of traffic, simply access the "Compare" tab, select the two specific categories you wish to analyze and click "Apply."

Date Range

To analyze the performance of your website or specific pages during a specific time frame, you can segment your search analytics data by date range. The good news is that GSC now offers a longer period of 16 months (previously 90 days). You can choose from pre-set time periods or set a customized range. 

GSC date range filters

This filter is particularly useful in identifying any patterns or trends in search performance and for evaluating the success of any SEO strategies over a particular period of time.

Additionally, you can use the "Compare" tab to compare two date ranges.

Queries, Page, Country, Device, and Search Appearance

While search type and date range are the basic levels of flyers that are applied to your search data, you can add another layer with 5 additional data points.

Find these filters by clicking on “New” next to the Date filter.

GSC search data  filters

The queries filter allows website owners to see which keywords are driving traffic to their site, while the Page filter allows them to see how individual pages on their site are performing. 

Country filter helps site owners to understand how their website is performing in different regions globally.

The device filter enables them to see how visitors are accessing their website – desktop, mobile or tablet. 

The Search Appearance filter allows website owners to see how their website is displayed in search results, for instance, in rich snippets or carousels.

Now that we have a basic idea about GSC, let us dive deeper into the various reports and dashboards.

Google Search Console Dashboard Overview

Google Search Console has various dashboards and metrics it tracks for your website to deliver insights on your SERP performance. But how well these metrics appear on the dashboard depends on how well your website is accessible to Google search bots. Search engine rankings are based on how well Google crawls and indexes web pages.

Once you have ensured Google has full access to your website content and your Google Search Console account is set up correctly, you can begin to make the best use of all GSC features. The sidebar menu on the left gives a list view of the various dashboards.

GSC dashboard overview

Let us understand each of these dashboards and learn what you can do.

The search console overview gives the top insights into all the categories. So you will get a bird's eye view of your performance metrics, indexation status, user experience errors, and any enhancements like structured data.

You can click on 'Full Report' and navigate to each specific section. 

We have mentioned GSC's top dashboards, but several are available depending on your website's performance on Google Search. 

Sharing & Exporting GSC Reports

You can share issue details in all GSC reports by clicking the Share button on the top right of every report page. Anyone with this link has access only to the current issue details page and any validation history pages for this issue. It does not allow the shared user to access other pages for your resource or perform any actions on your property or account. You can disable sharing for this page at any time to revoke the link.

Many reports include an export button. Data from both charts and tables get downloaded when you click export. Values shown in the report as + or - (not available/no number) will be zeros in the downloaded data.

Performance Report in GSC

Organic search performance is an increasingly important factor for website success. The Google Search Console Performance Report dashboard provides website owners with an overview of their website's visibility and performance in Google search results. The dashboard includes information on website impressions, clicks, average position, and average ranking for the past 28 days (default setting, but you can select a custom date range).

The Google Search Console Performance Report dashboard has two main sections: a graph on top and a navigational information section at the bottom. 

Search console performance report

The graph highlights trend lines of clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and position for the selected date range. You can also add filters and see your search performance. 

The Google Search Console Performance Report dashboard is a valuable tool for website owners who want to improve their website's visibility and performance in Google search results. It can help website owners optimize their website content and improve their website's SEO.

Learn more about Google’s Performance Report for Search here.

GSC URL Inspection Tool

Google Search Console's URL Inspection tool offers web admins insights into how Google Search perceives any URL on your website. It helps web admins identify any issues Google has with indexing and understanding the page's content.

Google Search Console's URL Inspection feature provides web admins with detailed information about the web page they are inspecting. It includes information about how Googlebot crawls and indexes the page, the canonical URL, any AMP or mobile-friendly errors, and any structured data issues. It also provides insights into the page's current indexing status and any warnings or errors it may have encountered.

With the URL inspection tool, web admins can: 

1. See information about the page from Google's perspective 

2. See any issues with the page that are preventing it from being indexed properly 

3. Test the structured data on the page to make sure it is valid and crawlable by the Googlebot

4. Request an immediate crawl and indexing of the page 

5. See the internal and external links that point to the page 

6. Find out if the page is eligible to be featured in Google's rich results 

7. Troubleshoot any errors or warnings that Google may have encountered while crawling the page.

How to Use GSC URL Inspection Tool?

Using Google Search Console's URL Inspection tool is straightforward.

1. Go to the URL Inspection Tool.

2. Enter the page URL you want to inspect.

3. Click "Inspect" or hit enter.

4. Review the information about the page, including its current indexing status.

5. If the page is not indexed, click "Request Indexing" to request an immediate crawl and indexing. 

6. Review any warnings or errors that the tool may have encountered and troubleshoot them. 

Google search console URL inspection tool

Repeat these steps for any additional URLs you want to inspect.

Understanding URL Inspection Results

The top section of the URL inspection results gives the overall page status. It includes whether the URL is on Google or not. Learn more about the overall page status here

Next is the page indexing tab. You can see detailed information about whether Google can fetch and index your page. It includes details like whether Googlebot was able to access the page when it was indexed, is the page included in your sitemap, Google can find any referring pages linking back to this page. The Indexation tab also gives you the exact dates of the last crawl, the name of the Googlebot agent that crawled this web page, if the bot could crawl the page (robots.txt access) and whether Google could fetch the page from your server.

The page indexing tab also includes information about both user-selected and Google-selected canonicals. Here, you can see if your page has any canonical tag and if Google recognizes and understands it correctly.

The last section of the URL inspection report is about 'Enhancement.' Here you can find information about the mobile usability of your page along with the AMP version if you have an AMP page. This section also contains structured data information. You can check if the structured data on your page is working correctly and if Google recognizes it. It includes information about errors or warnings with the structured data on your page and the number of items detected.

Read Google’s guidelines and notes on the URL Inspection tool.

Indexation Report in GSC

The Google Search Console's Page Indexing Report is a helpful tool to help web admins and digital marketers understand their website's performance on search engine results pages (SERPs). This report provides detailed insights into how Google indexes and ranks your website. It includes information about the number of pages indexed and the last crawl date. Additionally, there are other metrics, such as the number of pages not indexed by Googlebot, which can help you determine the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.

Navigating GSC Indexation Report 

Navigating the Page Indexing Report is relatively straightforward. To access the report, go to the side menu in the Google Search Console dashboard, click "Index," and then select "Page." In the report's top-level summary page, graphs and counts show the number of indexed and unindexed pages and tables displaying why specific URLs couldn't be indexed.

Indexation report in google search console

1. Why aren't pages indexed: 

This table shows the list of URLs and why Google did not index them. The explanations provided can help you identify potential issues and take the necessary actions to address them.

2. Improve Page Experience: 

This table provides a list of URLs that Google thinks need attention to improve the user experience. It includes suggestions for improving the loading speed, mobile readiness, and security of the pages.

3. View data about indexed pages link:

This link will give you a detailed view of the indexed pages, including when Google last crawled them. You will also find information about how many total pages are in Google's index against your domain. You can filter the list based on URL address, last crawl date, or sitemap name (if you have submitted multiple sitemaps).

The Page Indexing Report is an excellent tool for understanding how Google indexes and ranks your website. It can help you identify any issues preventing your pages from being indexed and identify potential opportunities to increase your presence in the SERPs. Additionally, the report can help you track the progress of your SEO efforts and improve your overall search engine optimization strategy.

Learn more about the Indexation report on Google’s support website here.

Page Experience Report

The Google Search Console's Page Experience report provides information about the user experience of your web pages. It provides metrics, such as Core Web Vitals scores, mobile-usability status, and HTTP status, that can help web admins identify areas of improvement on their site to provide the best user experience possible. Additionally, the Page Experience report recommends resolving issues affecting page speed and user experience.

The page experience report is a per-URL assessment and evaluates the user experience of your web pages in google search using the following criteria:

1. Core web vitals: These measurements provide a snapshot of web pages' loading, interactivity, and visual stability.

2. HTTPS:  Sites must be secure with a valid SSL certificate.

3. Mobile usability: Pages must be optimized for mobile devices.

Mobile usability report in search console

Web admins can use the Page Experience report to monitor their site's performance over time and identify areas that need improvement to deliver the highest quality user experience possible.

Read all about GSC’s Page Experience report here.

Enhancements Report in GSC

Google Search Console's Enhancement Report, also known as Rich Result Status Report, is a tool to help track how well your website appears as a rich result in Google Search. Rich results go beyond a standard blue link and may include images like image cards, videos, or other specialized content. The Enhancement Report can give you an overview of how well-structured your site is and allow you to troubleshoot any issues with your content. 

Using GSC’s Enhancement Report

1. Accessing the Report

To access the Enhancement Report, log into Google Search Console, and on the left-hand side; you should see an option for 'Enhancement.'

2. Summary Page:

The Summary page gives you a quick overview of a chart of invalid and valid items found on your site over time and a table grouped by status + description. The page has tables of critical and non-critical issues found in your items and a link to a list of all valuable items. Click a row in the summary page table to see details about items in that category.

Ideally, you should have 0 invalid error counts on the summary page.

If you find a warning, your rich results appear on Google but may provide a reduced experience to users. Warnings in structured data execution can also result in a dip in organic traffic. Use the schema validator tool to identify these warnings when you publish a new page and rectify them before Google Search Console flags them.

If you have errors, then follow these steps to fix them:

1. Identify the source of the error

Using the Details page, you can find the exact URL on which the error is appearing.

2. Test the page with the Structured Data Testing Tool

The Structured Data Testing Tool identifies the source of the error and fixes it quickly.

3. Fix the error

Once you have identified the source of the error, please make the necessary changes to fix it.

4. Resubmit the page to Google

After you have fixed the error, resubmit the page to Google using the Fetch as Google tool. It will ensure that Google can see the change and that your rich result will be valid again.

Google Search Console's Enhancement Report is an invaluable tool for those who want to ensure their website is correctly optimized for Google Search and appears as rich results. The report can help you identify and fix errors and warnings impacting your organic traffic. 

GSC Links Report

Google Search Console's Links report can help you keep track of the inbound links from other websites and pages to your website. By monitoring the number and quality of these links, you can ensure your website is gaining visibility and trust from other websites and search engines. 

The Links report is located in the left sidebar within Google Search Console and provides data about the number of external links pointing to your website. It also includes data on which websites provide those links, the anchor texts used, and the URLs of those websites. Additionally, you can use the Links report to identify any potential issues with external links and take appropriate action.

To access the Links report, open the Google Search Console and select the property you want to review. Then, choose Links from the left sidebar menu.

Finding Insights in GSC's Links Report

The GSC links report summarizes the external links to your website. It includes the total number of links and the total number of unique websites linking to your website.

Google search console links report

To better understand the inbound links to your website, click on the "More" tab. It will display the details of the links, such as the incoming-link URLs, the anchor text used, and the referring domain. You can use this information to identify potential issues with external links or find potential link-building opportunities.

The links report offers several ways to filter the results. You can filter by URL structure, anchor text, link type, and more. It makes it easy to find specific links or links from exact domains.

You can also export the results to a CSV file for further analysis.

By regularly monitoring the Links report, you can ensure that your website gains visibility and trust from other websites and search engines.

Scale SEO Efforts with Google Search Console

Undoubtedly, Google Search Console is a critical element of any successful SEO strategy. GSC tool provides essential information about your website's visibility on Google search results pages. In addition, it offers a wealth of data and insights about your website's traffic, performance, and security.

With Google Search Console, you can track your website's search traffic and see how your website is performing in Google search results. You can also see which keywords drive your website traffic, CTR, and each keyword's average position.

Additionally, Google Search Console can help you identify and fix any issues impacting your website's visibility and organic search traffic. Using Google Search Console ensures your optimization efforts are paying odd and you are taking advantage of all the opportunities that Google Search offers.

GSC is an essential tool in any SEO’s toolbox however it can be limiting if you are looking to scale your SEO efforts to the next level. Dedicated SEO platforms like Quattr can help you add another layer to your GSC data with AI-driven insights, performance reports, and custom filtering systems.

Quattr SEO Platform warehouses your website’s search console data to unlock additional data points like

1. Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly data filtering and comparison beyond the 16-month window.

2. Categorize search queries into Intents and Categories to get top-level data insights. With Quattr’s custom intent mapping and categorization, you can align them with business goals.

3. Get automated reports to track essential data points weekly & monthly. Set up custom dashboards to quickly access search data reports you need on the go.

Overall, Quattr is a more specialized tool designed to help businesses track their website's performance and optimize their SEO strategy. 

Unlock the full power of your GSC Data with Quattr today!

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Google Search Console FAQs

How often is the data for Google Search Console updated?

The Search Console data is made available through Google's API with a delay of two days. This implies that the complete data from the previous week is usually available on Wednesdays. The data update is automated, requiring no action on your part.

Can Search Console help me with keyword research for my website?

Yes, Search Console can provide valuable insights into the keywords driving traffic to your website and the search queries resulting in clicks and impressions. You can use Search console as your preliminary keyword research tool.

How can I improve my website's search performance using Search Console data?

By analyzing the data in Search Console, you can identify areas for improvement on your website, such as pages with low click-through rates or high bounce rates. You can also use the information to optimize your content and metadata for relevant keywords and to monitor the performance of your site's backlinks.

About The Author

James Gibbons

James Gibbons is the Senior Customer Success Manager at Quattr. He has 10 years of experience in SEO and has worked with multiple agencies, brands, and B2B companies. He has helped clients scale organic and paid search presence to find hidden growth opportunities. James writes about all aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

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