4 areas in which search engine optimisers can exploit Search Console for optimum search results.
If Analytics is Google’s handsome, captain-of-the-rugby-team son, then Search Console is Analytics’ reclusive, highly-intelligent sibling – the sort that is a piano prodigy and doesn’t come out of its room when visitors arrive for tea. Perhaps this may be a bit harsh, given that Search Console is easy to find and interact with, but it is the best way of describing the level of insight possessed by this arguably underused tool.
SEO professionals and laymen alike all know about Google Analytics. However, Analytics offers less than half the optimisation insights available from Google. In order to acquire a complete tally of search-related data, you need access to the way in which Google sees web pages. This is why no SEO campaign should ever be run without heavy reliance on Google Search Console.
What is the Difference?
There is a notable difference between Search Console and Analytics. Referring to the above example, Google Analytics is a bit of a show-off. It provides insights on user visits to a specific website; such as number of visitors, bounce-rate, time spent on the site, location of visitors, and referral sites. In addition, it provides information on recurring traffic, keywords, conversion rates, and preferred content based on user interaction.
This is all well and good, and is extremely useful data when analysing a website’s user patterns. However, shaping an SEO campaign based on insights from Google Analytics is slightly akin to working backwards. An optimiser has to look at the results of an SEO campaign and then determine which areas of the campaign are working, and which need attention.
Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools), on the other hand, gives an optimiser insight into the way in which Google sees web pages, as previously mentioned, which makes planning campaigns less like a game of pin the tail on the donkey. By understanding the way Google’s bots view a page, search engine optimisers can plan content that is most likely to gain positive results; a far better alternative to tweaking content that is proving unsuccessful after the fact.
Google Analytics and Search Console should essentially work in unison, where Search Console is used in the planning stages, and both are used to measure success in different areas of the live campaign.
Importantly, Search Console is available free of charge, and requires only an easy verification process on its initial access. This makes Search Console one of the most valuable SEO tools available today, and the areas which benefit from its use are many.
The SEO Benefits of Google Search Console
Search Console is a very powerful webmaster tool, and thus has seemingly endless capabilities. But, in the field of SEO, the following areas greatly benefit from its insights:
1. Search Traffic
This is measured using Search Analytics, which is essentially the update of the old Search Queries Report in Google Webmaster Tools. Search Queries used to cover aspects such as the number of a specific site’s pages that were returned as search results, the amount of search-returned pages which received click-throughs, percentages of click-throughs relating to search queries, and so on.
Search Analytics supplies all of this information, plus some very useful additions. For example, SEOs are now able to filter search data in several ways in order to better analyse and understand it. The data offered is aimed at improved precision, and is able to offer this through new methods of calculation.
Search Analytics is thus able to offer more detailed insights on areas such as keywords, click-through rates, inbound links, and organic search impressions.
2. Bot Crawling
The relevance of a website’s content to a particular search query is what determines whether the site is included in Google’s results pages. This relevance is determined by Google’s bots, which crawl the content of websites in search of information that matches the query, like matching keywords. Thus anyone running an SEO campaign wants to make sure that the content on a website’s pages is able to be crawled by Google’s bots.
Search Console offers data on Google’s crawl statistics, as well as any crawl errors which it encounters. In addition to this, SEOs can use the ‘Fetch as Google’ option to view pages as Google’s bots do, and even render them in HTTP, giving them unrivalled optimisation prowess.
SEOs can use this feature to be sure that all of a site’s pages are being crawled correctly. If not, there is the option to submit the page to the index. This feature also provides information on the page download time, which SEOs can use to be sure that their users aren’t becoming frustrated waiting for pages to load, which would increase bounce rate.
3. Search Appearance
Search Console offers optimisers the ability to view the appearance of a particular site’s search result. The addition of structured data, such as rich snippets, sitelinks, and breadcrumbs, is very useful to search engine optimisation. For this reason, the ability to view a site’s search appearance is priceless to an optimiser.
With this information, SEOs can highlight any shortcomings in their sites’ structured data. Moreover, SEOs can use the Data Highlighter to improve the look of a search result to users. They can do so by featuring information like reviews and event details in the search results, making the search experience easier and more attractive for users.
SEO is largely about ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). In order to make this happen, SEOs must optimise their sites for indexing by Google, which is essentially the act of adding the site’s content to a large list of referable information. Fortunately, Search Console makes this much easier, since it shows SEOs the indexed pages of their sites. It also provides insight into which pages have been blocked by robots, and which pages have been removed.
SEOs can use this information to better optimise pages that are not being indexed. They can also check the site’s content for keywords that are deemed most significant by Google, which allows the better optimisation of future content.
With its recent name change, and its arguably understated prominence, Google Search Console doesn’t necessarily receive the same amount of attention as Analytics. However, by offering priceless insight into search traffic, bot crawling, search appearance, and indexing, among other aspects of search, this free tool is invaluable to SEOs the world over.
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Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.