Google Search Console (GSC) is an interface provided by Google to help webmasters manage the interaction of Google with their website(s). The top use cases are:
- Find Keywords your audience actually uses: Use the reports to find keywords your target audience actually uses to find your content and deploy these in your titles. This can be segmented by country, device, language and other dimensions.
- Create Forecasts: The GSC API allows you to extract data up to 16 months prior by date so you can model these to make forecasts of future traffic and search demand.
- Create SEO reports: You can extract the performance data from the GSC API to create ranking and traffic reports. If you want to make forecasts.
- Get more content in Google’s results: See the issues that are preventing your content from being indexed and overcome them.
- Core Web Vitals and Mobile Friendliness: Use this data to keep abreast of Page Experience trends so that you can improve those that are loading too slow or failing to be mobile friendly.
- Traffic continuity for Site Migrations: Using the Change of Address notification, you can help maintain visibility and traffic continuity if you’re moving your content to a new domain.
GSC Dashboard Overview
GSC offers the following features:
- Performance: Displaying data on clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and average position.
- URL Inspection: Here, you check the indexation status of a specific URL on your website.
- Pages: Coverage reports highlight issues preventing Google from indexing certain pages, such as crawl errors, server errors, redirect errors, blocked URLs, and soft 404 errors.
- Sitemaps: This section provides information about the status of your submitted sitemaps, including any errors or warnings.
- Removals: You can request the removal of outdated or sensitive content, such as personal information or copyrighted material, using this section.
- Core Web Vitals: This section in GSC provides insights into your web pages’ loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
- Mobile Usability: With the Mobile Usability section, you can identify any usability issues specific to mobile devices.
- Links: These reports provide insights into your website’s external and internal links.
- Security & Manual Actions: This section alerts you to any security issues detected on your website, such as malware or hacking attempts. It also displays information about manual actions taken by Google against your site.
- Enhancements: This section includes information about structured data, rich results, breadcrumbs, and site links.
Set GSC up as a Domain Property
Before guiding you on the benefits of Google Search Console (GSC), set up your site as a domain property to benefit from:
- Consolidated Performance: Adding your site as a domain property will catch all traffic regardless of the multiple URL versions of your site in Google search due to:
- Security (http vs https)
- www vs non-www
- Migration: In legacy GSC versions, you would have had to issue up to 4 “Change of address” notifications for a website migration. As a domain property, only 1 notification is required saving time and stress.
- Index Management: Domain Property configurations in GSC also means having all of your index issues in one single report, again saving time and administration effort.
The only possible (and sensible) exception to setting up your GSC as a domain property might be if you have several standalone sites organised as subdomains or sub folders which makes for different teams to view performance at a glance without having to repeat the filters each time they log in. In such cases, GSC would be set up as both a domain property and a separate site.
The performance section is comprised of:
- Search results: visibility statistics including impressions, SERP position, CTR and clicks (traffic), facilitating SEO performance reporting (see SEO KPIs guide).
The data can be filtered according to device, region, language, keyword string pattern (e.g. brand and non-brand), page etc with/without the use of regular expressions.
The results are limited to 1,000 rows for any given view and so to obtain the full set of data, it is recommended to use the GSC API.
Search results in GSC is the only report showing visibility and traffic statistics by keyword.
- Discover: traffic statistics from Google Discover
Google Discover is a feed curated by Google to deliver articles and videos on mobile devices and is not necessarily part of Google Search results.
The content delivered to users is personalised through searches and related stories. Users also have the opportunity to further customise what they see on their feed by following topics that interest them.
How do you get more Google Discover traffic? In short, by optimising your site for web stories which is a type of markup.
To access the Performance Report in GSC, navigate to the dashboard and click the “Performance” section.
- Start by selecting the time range for the report.
- See how many clicks and impressions your site is getting.
- Click-Through Rate is the ratio of clicks to impressions.
- The average position metric reveals the average ranking of your website in the search results.
- Compare different metrics to uncover correlations and patterns to see what’s working and what needs changing.
- Analysing the queries to help you understand user intent to tailor content to meet visitors needs
- Monitoring your website’s performance trends over time.
- Combining data from the Performance Report with other metrics, such as conversion rates from analytics platforms like Google Analytics.
The GSC API allows you to create custom and scalable reporting solutions, by extracting Search Console data without row limits.
By using the GSC API, developers can gain deeper insights into their website’s performance, streamline workflows, and build robust applications that leverage the data and functionality Google Search Console provides.
Indexing: Seeing your pages in Google’s results
Indexing offers the following features:
- Coverage: Reports on site URLs encountered by Google including those that are valid, valid with warnings, errors and excluded. These are useful statistics for evaluating the general technical optimisation trend over time as well as troubleshooting technical issues.
- Sitemaps: Submitting XML sitemap URL locations to Google to aid content discovery (see guide).
- Removals: Facility to urgently remove content from Google’s results and index.
URL Inspection: Check your page is in Google’s results
The URL Inspection tool allows you to check whether a specific URL is in Google’s search results (i.e. index). Other information is offered including:
- Mobile friendliness
- Structured Data Enhancements
To use the URL Inspection tool, follow these steps:
- Click “URL Inspection”.
- Enter the URL and press Enter.
- The tool will display the indexation status of the URL.
- To request indexing, click “Request Indexing” to get the page listed on Google.
If the URL isn’t in Google’s index, you can click the “REQUEST INDEXING” button to ask Google to include it in the SERPs.
Although there isn’t an API to automate this for all of your site content, we’ve developed technology to overcome this.
Fixing Page Issues
As often is the case, there may be issues that prevent your content from being included in Google’s results. The Pages report of the GSC Indexing section helps you find and fix coverage issues where you can resolve:
- Non 200 server URL stati such as 404s and redirects
- URLs crawled but not indexed
- Blocked URLs (robots, canonicals or otherwise)
Adding Sitemaps: to automate SERP inclusion of your content
XML sitemaps are an opportunity to automate content inclusion in Google’s search results.
A sitemap is a XML file that lists all the pages of a website to help search engines crawl and index them effectively. These quite often are referenced in the robots.txt file and sitemap.xml.
To create and submit a sitemap to Google, follow these steps:
- Generate a Sitemap: Use a sitemap generator tool or manually create an XML file.
- Access Sitemaps: Go to the “Sitemaps” section of GSC.
- Add a New Sitemap: Enter the URL of your sitemap, then click “Submit”.
Other sitemaps can be submitted such dedicated to images, news and video content.
To temporarily hide URLs from Google Search, you can use the Removals report. Access the report, select the ” Removals” tab, and enter the URL you want to hide within the “New Request” tab.
While GSC offers these Indexing reports and tools, these are no substitute for a professional technical SEO site audit which is more detailed and covers aspects beyond data offered by GSC.
Overview trend reporting on the number of high performing URLs from a Core Web Vitals, HTTPs and mobile friendliness (the UX quality offered to mobile users) perspective for both mobile and desktop search results. Subset reports are offered for Core Web Vitals and Mobile Usability
- Core Web Vitals (CWV): Time series line plots of URLs with Good, Need Improvement and Poor CWV performance URLs for both mobile and desktop. Further diagnostic reports are provided to assist with troubleshooting.
- Mobile Usability: Trend plots with diagnostic data to help webmasters monitor mobile performance and improve further.
Users and Permissions
Head to settings, and you can add new users by entering their email addresses and selecting their permission levels:
- Owner: Verification is required to prove ownership such as DNS or HTML tag. Ownership can be transferred to other users.
Permissions can be managed at the account, property, or individual level.
You can also integrate with other Google services, such as Google Analytics, in this tab.
Change of Address
Critically, if you are migrating your site to a different domain, Settings offer a “Change of Address” notification to let Google know and maintain traffic continuity.
Enhancements is a report section that shows Structured Data opportunities to enhance your visibility within Google Universal Search results by way of increased click through traffic from SERP to your website. SERP features (see guide) trend charts and diagnostic reports are offered for:
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs are navigational links that appear in search results, aiding users’ understanding of site hierarchy. Sitelinks are additional links displayed beneath the main search result, improving users to navigate to their required site destination quickly.
- Search box (internal search)
Security & Manual Actions
Access to a view of which pages have been noted as spam / any penalties:
- Manual Actions: Notifications on whether the site has received an algorithmic penalty due to violating the Google webmaster guidelines. If there is a manual action in place, you have the opportunity to send a message to the Google team explaining what happened and what has been done to rectify it.
- Security Issues: Notifications on security breaches such as expired HTTPS certificates.
This report gives insights into the backlinks pointing to your site, i.e. reports showing links to content from internal pages and externally from other websites:
- Internal: Report showing top linked pages which can help SEOs rebalance the distribution of link equity
- External: Reports on the most backlinked pages, the sites providing those backlinks and the anchor text used.
These reports would help inform Digital PR teams on campaigns going forward and also explains why the site has coverage for certain keywords.