Our agency took on a big client this week that needed a lot of clean up with their site structure. One of the main shocking things I found was that this particular client never setup google search console. This was an enterprise level client I took on, which goes to show even if you have sophisticated organization, there are cracks that can be found in an organization’s marketing design. In reflecting on this on-boarding project, I wanted to write up more on the subject in this post.
Google search console is a suite of tools and resources that help website owners, companies, marketing professionals, and SEO agencies likes myself monitor website performance. It was formerly known as Google Webmaster Central then the name changes to Google Webmaster Tools and finally the name changed to Good Search Console in 2015. It is an incredibility powerful (and also FREE) suite of tools. It amazes sometimes when I see marketing professionals and other SEOs overlook this tool as it is one of the major foundations of performing a technical audit for a client.
A whole bunch of things actually:
Did I mention this tool was FREE? Well, now that you know it’s free — let’s learn how to actually use this powerful tool ^_^.
There are various tools in search console in the search appearance section, but the first three are related to schema and can be resolved using a schema builder. Rich cards is a whole other topic best kept for a separate blog post. The one item in this section I want to talk about is the HTML improvement section.
Google search console has a direct report here that lists our common on-page SEO issues. They will list out the following:
The best thing about this report is it comes with the hyperlinks so you can go direct to the site page and make your edits!
We as SEO agencies love to use tools like Ahrefs and SEM rush to analyze sites, but when you have search console you have intimate access to your client’s data when you can really dig into the search analysis.
Go to Search Traffic>Search Analytics. Here you can see the keyword queries you are ranking for, clicks, impressions, click through rate (CTR) and position. You can take the analysis a step further with a free plugin like Keywords Everywhere, which will add the monthly volume and cost per click (CPC) to the analysis. You can also filter out by page. This is a great way to see low volume keywords you are ranking for, which can be good for local seo campaigns which can pull traffic from a number of unlisted keywords that agency tools may not pick up on. Your only limitation is your visibility is for the last 90 days.
Go to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site. Here you can pull all your links that are inbound to your site. You can pull all the referring domain information and your most linked content in this section. This is a great way to get instant visibility to your website links as agency tools will not grab all the links your site has. I pull this report and begin our backlink audit from this as this is the more accurate reports you can pull.
Once you are at the screenshot above, click on download this table and there ya go. The full back link profile. From here, I can go into my batch analysis agency tools and click on the links from there. For those with small budgets, you can try a tool like SEO Weather and drop in your links in their bulk checker to pull domain authority metrics.
This is something that agency tools really do not do a great job and where search console can fill in. Go to search console > search traffic > internal links. This will list out all internal links by URL. When you click on the URL, you can look further at the actual list of internal links to that specific page. Is this a great way to edit the internal linking structure of the website. You can easily spot areas of improvement auditing with this tool. The tool itself provides the direct link so you can audit where the link is from and the anchor text being used.
Go to Search Traffic > Manual Actions. Here you go instantly check and see if the website has received a penalty from google. Manual action penalties negatively affect your site’s rankings. If you have a penalty, you will need to address the issues and request Google to remove the penalty once you have address the issues by making a reconsideration request.
The crawl section has a number of great tools that you can use for a technical webpage audit.
If a page is blocked by robots.txt this means that the Googlebot is not crawling these pages due to exclusion protocol known as robots.txt. Review this section is important as you may be accidentally blocking important pages from being indexed by search engines. Removing pages that shouldn’t be blocked can result in benefits to your web search traffic. You can review blocked pages under Google Index > Blocked Resources.
Go to Crawl > Crawl Errors. This section here is another website audit tool that will report what pages have 400 errors. 400 errors like 404 not founds allows you to audit your site for dead links and quickly patch up holes in your website and improve your visitor experience. This report will pull the pages affected and detail our the internal links that are affected by the 400 errors.
Search console has this great tool in Crawl > Fetch as Google where you can drop in your URL and have the page sent to google for indexing. This is a great way to get page changes indexed quickly.
Ensuring your site is getting index by google is critical and this tool allows you to check when the last time your website’s sitemap was sent to google for indexing. If your site should be sending regular sitemaps through google through your plugs and if you are not using wordpress, most other content management systems like Shopify or Squarespace will have sitemaps created for you. If a sitemap is not getting sent over, you can have some sent over manually using the add/test sitemap button in this section under the Crawl > Sitemaps section of google search console. To learn more about how to submit a sitemap using search console, check out our friends, UK Web GeekZ who focus on website design in Darlington that wrote a quick guide on the how to submit url to google uk.
That was a good amount of material to cover. Hope you enjoyed the read. If you have any questions, leave a comment below.
Mark is the founder of Velvet Cloud, an Austin Based digital marketing firm that specializes in SEO, content marketing, press outreach, and targeted advertising for local and on-line businesses. Mark's work has been featured in Single Grain, SEMPO, Huffington Post, TechCo and many more.