Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool that allows you to monitor your site’s search performance and technical SEO health.
It reports on various metrics, from search appearance to user experience. These metrics help measure your site’s SEO performance. Acting on these metrics will help you to improve your site and drive more natural search traffic from Google. Things you can do with GSC include:
Setting up Google Search Console
Before you can start using GSC, you need to add your domain. Adding a ‘domain property’ gives you a comprehensive view of your website’s information, as perceived by Google. This will include data from all URLs under the domain name, including all subdomains.
Before your site data appears in GSC, you must confirm domain ownership. There are several ways to verify your site ownership:
Adding a sitemap to Google Search Console
A sitemap file includes the URLs of your website that you want Google to crawl and index. This is vitally important because Google needs to crawl and index your pages to rank them.
If you do not submit a sitemap, Google will eventually crawl and index your site. However, submitting an XML sitemap via GSC can speed up the process.
Google Search Console Reports and Features
The Performance report provides information on how your website is performing in the Google natural search results. It shows four metrics:
This data is useful for analysing your site’s search engine performance and improving. For example:
URL Inspection Tool
The URL inspection tool allows you to check the indexing status of an individual page on your live website. It also helps troubleshoot any issues preventing your page from appearing in Google’s search results.
By pasting the full URL in the inspect search box and pressing enter, you will then see the following information for that page:
Page Indexing Report
The Page indexing report details the pages that Google can find and index, listing any issues. It is vitally important to avoid indexation problems, as pages must be indexed to appear in search results.
There are several reasons why some of your pages may not be indexed. For example, you may have excluded them accidentally in your robots.txt file.
The Page indexing report will show you how many pages are indexed and the reasons why other pages are not indexed. If you implement any fixes, click VALIDATE FIX to tell Google that the page should be reindexed.
The Sitemaps report in GSC details your sitemap submission history and lists any issues. The Sitemaps report includes the following information:
- URL. The URL of your sitemap
- Type. The format of the sitemap, e.g. XML, RSS, etc.
- Submitted. The date the sitemap was submitted
- Last read. When Google last crawled your sitemap
- Status. The crawl status of your site, i.e. Success, Has errors, or Couldn’t fetch
- Discovered pages. The number of pages Google found in the sitemap
Clicking on your sitemap submission entry will take you to the report for that specific sitemap. Clicking the SEE PAGE INDEXING button will bring you to your sitemap’s Page Indexing report.
If your sitemap is successfully read, you will see the following statuses:
- Success. All is good in the world!
- Has errors. One or more errors are present in your sitemap. Review the error messages carefully and make corrections to the sitemap.
- Could not fetch. GSC could not fetch your sitemap. Investigate the errors using Google’s URL inspection tool to perform a live URL test.
Page Experience Report
The Page Experience report gives Google’s assessment of your website’s usability. The following criteria are assessed:
- Core Web Vitals. These metrics measure the performance of the website, including loading, interactivity, and visual stability of webpage content
- Mobile Usability. The mobile-friendliness of your site
- HTTPS. Whether your site’s connection is secure
The percentage of Good URLs gives Google’s assessment of how many pages on your site provide a good experience to users. This figure should be as high as possible! We recommend getting help from a developer on your team to fix usability and Core Web Vitals issues.
After fixing any issues, inform Google about the change by clicking VALIDATE FIX.
The Enhancements report details the structured data that Google has detected on your site, listing any errors. Talk to your web developer if you do not see the structured data you expect in this report or the data is incorrect.
Manual Actions Report
Google may issue a manual action if a site is in breach of Google’s spam policies. To check whether you have a manual action from Google, visit the Manual Actions report in Search Console.
Websites with manual actions (i.e. penalties) may rank much lower in Google search results. In the worst cases, they may be excluded from the results. This will lead to a huge loss of traffic.
You will not get a manual penalty if you have followed best practices. However, if you have issues stated in this report, it is bad news for your natural search engine performance, and you need to address the issues stated immediately.
The Links report lists your external links (a.k.a backlinks) as discovered by Google. Backlinks are links on other websites that point to your domain. The Links report also details the pages on your site that have the most internal links, i.e., links within your site.
There are two reasons why internal links are important to SEO:
- Navigation. They help users and search engine bots navigate your site.
- Distribute authority. They transfer authority to other pages on your site, which can help them rank higher.
The Shopping report is for ecommerce sites and product review sites that have added product markup on their sites. It lists any issues with your product-related structured data. This includes:
- Product snippets. Lists structured data issues for product snippets in search results
- Merchant listings. Lists structured data issues for free listings across Google
- Shopping tab listings. Lists structured data issues for listings in the Shopping tab in Google Search results