November , 2021

Title - The What, Why and How of Google Search Console

A Google Search Console SEO Audit flags the technical issues before they destroy your rankings.

Ever wondered what Google Search Console is? You may have seen it in your searches or even heard about it from someone, but you’re not quite sure what the whole thing is. Well, the North Star team is here to tell you! Google Search Console (or GSC) is an SEO audit tool that helps business owners like yourself get data on their website traffic and search engine rankings. It’s important for any business owner to know how well they are doing with their technical SEO as well as on-page SEO strategy – which means having access to this information at all times.

It can be difficult sometimes when you don’t know where to start with a webmaster tool like Google Search Console. In this article, we explain the What, Why, and How of Google Search Console so you can leverage it to do an SEO audit of your website.

What is Google Search Console and how does it help in Technical SEO?

Image of Login Screen for Google Search Console SEO Audit

Google Search Console is a free tool that helps users measure website performance and identify SEO issues through important metrics. SEO professionals can do an in-depth site audit through these metrics.

You can get insight into how your site is doing in organic search as well as opportunities for improving content relevancy and site performance.

You can also submit updated sitemaps as well as ‘reindex’ website pages where you may have made contact changes. This helps Google update its knowledge of you, ideally so it can present you in a more relevant way to search inquiries.

Some other web metrics that can be accessed through Google Search Console are:

  • Website traffic
  • keyword performance
  • Page speed and site speed through Pagespeed Insights tool
  • Number of indexed pages
  • External links
  • Mobile usability
  • Duplicate content
  • Broken links
  • Security issue, crawl errors and indexing
  • Structured data and canonical tag
  • Internal link structure and core web vitals
  • Opportunities for keyword research and local SEO

A super awesome GSC feature that we love is the automatic alert emails sent when GSC discovers major performance, sitemap, mobility, or coverage issues. And that notice includes a ‘smart link’ that brings you directly to the error report in GSC. From there it’s simply a matter of fixing the issue on your site and then clicking ‘validate fix’ in GSC.

Also, and perhaps most important to most business owners is that GSC is easier to understand than some of its counterparts. It provides robust data for search engine optimization in a simple way, it’s free, and its user-friendly dashboard allows site owners to see the most important information quickly.

And if the convenience of GSC doesn’t impress you then the latest and greatest GSC has to offer might. That gem of course is the Search Console Insights feature which we’ll talk more about next.

What is Google’s ‘Search Console Insights’?

Image of the Landing Page for Search Console Insights

Google advises that: Search Console Insights is tailored for content creators and publishers and can help them understand how audiences discover their site’s content and what resonates with their audiences. This experience is powered by data from both Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

In essence, Insights is a feature of the Google Search Console that gives you a high-level Site Overview which, when connected to Google Analytics, can include:

  • Page Views & Average page duration
  • Overall Content Breakdown including recent content performance and a ranking of what content is performing the best for you.
  • Top Traffic Channels: Which channels do your visitors come from
  • Google Search Results: How visitors find your site on Google
  • Referring links from other websites: Which pages on the web link to your site
  • How visitors get to your site on social media

Again, all this data is presented in an easy-to-digest view that helps the average site owner gain insight into what is and is not working for their site.

Is Google Search Console the same as Google Analytics?

Google Analytics vs Google Search Console

The quick answer is NO.

The slow answer is Yes and No (because the data sometimes overlaps and GSC can pull in relevant data from Analytics if you connect the two accounts).

Google Analytics compiles data related to real-time site metrics, ie: those who visit and interact with your website.

Google Search Console is more search-engine focused, ie: how users are finding you in search results and/or through engagement with your content. GSC provides tools and insights that can help site owners improve visibility and presence on Search Engine Results Page (SERPs)

Why should I add my website in Google Search Console?

You don’t have to sign up for Search Console to be included in Google Search results, but Search Console is an easy and free tool that helps you understand and improve how Google sees your site. You can use Search Console to find out how many people are visiting your site (and where they’re coming from), what they click on, and even get advice about improving content.

How do I add my website in Google Search Console?

"Add a property" screen in Google Search Console

Login to your Google account. Make sure you’re using your business (not personal) account if it’s a business website.

  • Go to Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).
  • Click “Add a property.”
  • Choose “Website” from the drop-down menu and enter the URL of your site. Make sure you’re using the exact URL that appears in the browser bar.
  • Click “Continue.”
  • Pick a way to verify you own your website (HTML file upload, domain name provider, HTML tag, GA tracking code, or GTM container snippet).
  • If your site supports both http:// and https://, add both as separate sites. You must also add each domain if applicable (for example, mybiz.com, blog.mybiz.com, and www.mybiz.com).

Google starts tracking data for your property as soon as you add it to GSC—even before it’s verified you’re the site owner.

Verifying Your Site on GSC

"Verify your site." Screen in Google Search Console

Google will ask that you verify your ownership/privileges for any given site because access through GSC allows users to make changes that can affect a site’s ranking with search engines.

Google has a great support article here that goes more in-depth on how to verify your site. Generally speaking though, most business owners lean on their marketing team/person, website developer, or IT administrator to facilitate verification. Verification is not as simple as a postcard in the mail (ie: GMB) and does require a little technical know-how. 

Key Takeaway

Setting up GMB, Analytics and GSC is something the North Star team includes with every full-service web development project. But you don’t need to be a professional to take advantage of this professional-level tool.

Connecting Google Search Console takes about 5 minutes to set up if you’ve proper access to run through Google’s verification process. That 5 minutes though will save the average business owner countless hours sifting through the massive data dumps provided by other analytics tools.

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