How to Use Google Search Console

How to Use Google Search Console

This guide will cover how to use Google Search Console as a content manager, editor, or analyst. The focus will be on the features and metrics most relevant to content strategy and optimization while also touching on some of Google Search Console’s other features.

We’ll focus on the features and metrics most relevant to content strategy and optimization and touch on some of Google Search Console’s other features.

Uncover Opportunities in Your Search Data

Google Search Console (GSC) is a powerful tool that provides insights into your website’s performance in Google Search. It offers valuable data on how your content is discovered, ranked, and clicked on in search results. By leveraging this information, you can make data-driven decisions to improve your content and overall search visibility.

Understanding Google Search Console Metrics

Let’s go over the key metrics you’ll find in GSC:

  • Impressions: The number of times your site appears in search results.
  • Clicks: How many times users clicked on your site in search results.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): The percentage of impressions that resulted in clicks.
  • Average Position: Where your site ranks in search results, on average.

These metrics give you a snapshot of how your site is performing in Google Search. But raw numbers don’t tell the whole story. You need to know how to interpret this data to make it work.

Interpreting the Data: Filtering Out Brand Terms

One of the first things you should do when analyzing your GSC data is to filter out brand terms. Why? Because brand searches can skew your data and hide potential opportunities.

Why Filter Brand Terms?

People searching for your brand name are likely already familiar with your site. They’re probably going to click on your result regardless of its position, which can inflate your CTR and make your overall performance look better than it does for non-brand searches.

How to Identify Brand Terms

Start by making a list of your brand name and any variations. This might include:

  • Your company name
  • Product names
  • Common misspellings
  • Abbreviations

Using Filters in GSC

GSC allows you to create filters to exclude these brand terms from your data. But to do this effectively, you’ll need to use regular expressions (regex).

Introduction to Regular Expressions (Regex)

Don’t let the term “regular expressions” scare you off. It’s just a way to define a search pattern.

What is Regex?

Regex is a tool that allows you to create complex search patterns. It’s like a super-powered search function.

Basic Syntax and Operators

Here are some basic regex operators you’ll find useful:

  • ^ : Matches the start of a line
  • $ : Matches the end of a line
  • . : Matches any character
  • * : Matches zero or more of the preceding character
  • + : Matches one or more of the preceding character
  • | : Acts like an OR operator

Example Regexs for Common Use Cases

Let’s put regex to work with some real-world examples. Remember, you can apply these filters to either search queries or URLs in Google Search Console, depending on your analysis.

Filtering Long URLs

To filter out URLs longer than 100 characters:

.{100,}

Filtering URLs with Multiple Query Parameters

To filter URLs with more than two query parameters (separated by ‘&’):

\?.*&.*&

For parameters separated by ‘=’:

\?.*=.*=.*=

Filtering Out Specific File Types

To exclude PDF, DOC, and XLSX files from URLs:

\.(pdf|doc|xlsx)$

Filtering for a Specific Folder or Path

To focus on URLs in the ‘blog’ folder:

^/blog/

Excluding Brand Terms (Search Queries)

Let’s use Best Buy as an example. To exclude searches for “Best Buy” and common misspellings:

best buy|bestbuy|best b|bast buy

This regex will catch variations like “Best Buy”, “BestBuy”, “Best B”, “Bast Buy”, etc.

Finding Product-Related Queries (Search Queries)

To find queries related to “product” or “products”:

(product|products)

Identifying Question Queries (Search Queries)

To find queries that are questions:

^(who|what|where|when|why|how)

Filtering for Specific Date Formats (URLs or Queries)

To find content containing dates in YYYY-MM-DD format:

\d{4}-\d{2}-\d{2}

This would match dates like:

  • 2023-07-03
  • 1999-12-31
  • 2024-01-15

For other date formats:

  • MM/DD/YYYY: \d{2}/\d{2}/\d{4}
  • DD-MM-YYYY: \d{2}-\d{2}-\d{4}

Identifying Mobile-Specific URLs

To find mobile versions of your pages (assuming they use an ‘m.’ subdomain):

^https://m\.

Finding Queries with Numbers (Search Queries)

To identify queries containing numbers:

\d+

You can combine or adjust these patterns to fit your needs.

Finding Opportunities and Analyzing Content

Identifying Underperforming Content

Look for pages with high impressions but low CTR. These pages are showing up in search results, but people aren’t clicking. Maybe your title tags or meta descriptions need some work?

Spotting High-Potential Keywords

Find queries where you’re ranking on page two (positions 11-20). With a little optimization, you might be able to push these to page one and see a significant traffic boost.

Recognizing Pages with High Impressions but Low CTR

These pages are getting seen but not clicked. It’s time to revisit your title tags and meta descriptions to make them more compelling.

Using Filters to Find Trends

Create filters to group similar pages or queries. You might spot trends that can inform your content strategy.

Revamping or Abandoning Content

Sometimes, you’ll need to make tough decisions about your content. Here’s how to approach it:

Criteria for Content Revamp

  • The topic is still relevant.
  • The page has decent traffic or rankings.
  • There’s room for improvement in the content.

Criteria for Content Abandonment

  • The topic is outdated or no longer relevant.
  • The page has consistently low traffic and poor rankings.
  • The content doesn’t align with your current strategy.

Best Practices for Content Revamp

  1. Update statistics and examples.
  2. Improve readability with better formatting.
  3. Add new, relevant information.
  4. Optimize for featured snippets.

Process for Content Removal or Consolidation

  1. Identify low-performing pages.
  2. Determine if the content can be merged with other pages.
  3. Set up 301 redirects for removed pages.
  4. Update internal links.

Technical Aspects of Google Search Console

While we’ve primarily focused on content analysis and optimization, Google Search Console also offers powerful technical tools that can help improve your site’s overall search results performance.

In this section, we’ll touch on some of the more technical aspects of GSC that can complement your content strategy. These features are particularly useful for those diving deeper into technical SEO or working closely with development teams.

Exploring the URL Inspection Tool

The URL Inspection tool is a powerful feature in GSC that allows you to check the indexing status and crawlability of specific URLs on your site.

How to Use the URL Inspection Tool

  1. Enter the full URL you want to inspect in the search bar at the top of GSC.
  2. Review the results, which include:
  • Index status (indexed, not indexed, or excluded)
  • Crawl information
  • Page resources
  • Mobile usability

Troubleshooting Crawl and Indexation Issues

If you find issues with a URL, you can:

  • Request indexing for a recently updated page
  • Identify and fix crawl errors
  • Check for mobile usability problems

Understanding Index Coverage

The Index Coverage report provides a comprehensive view of how Google indexes your site’s pages.

Key Elements of the Index Coverage Report

  • Errors: Pages that couldn’t be indexed due to issues
  • Valid with warnings: Indexed pages with potential problems
  • Valid: Successfully indexed pages
  • Excluded: Pages intentionally not indexed (e.g., noindex tag, robots.txt blocked)

Use this report to identify and fix indexing issues across your site.

Optimizing for Mobile Devices

Using the Mobile Usability Report

This report highlights issues that may affect your site’s usability on mobile devices, such as:

  • Text too small to read
  • Clickable elements too close together
  • Content wider than the screen

Address these issues to improve your mobile user experience and potentially boost your search rankings.

Managing Your XML Sitemap

XML sitemaps help search engines discover and crawl your content more efficiently.

Submitting and Monitoring Your Sitemap

  1. Go to the “Sitemaps” report in GSC
  2. Add your sitemap URL and submit
  3. Monitor for any errors or warnings

Regularly check this report to ensure Google can properly crawl and index your content.

The Links report provides valuable insights into your site’s internal and external link structure.

Key Information in the Links Report

  • Top linking sites
  • Top linked pages on your site
  • Top linking text used by other sites

Use this data to identify link-building opportunities and improve your internal linking strategy.

Addressing Manual Actions and Security Issues

GSC will alert you to manual actions (penalties) or security issues affecting your site.

Checking for Manual Actions

  1. Go to the “Manual Actions” report
  2. If any actions are listed, follow Google’s guidelines to resolve them
  3. Submit a reconsideration request once issues are fixed

Monitoring Security Issues

Regularly check the “Security Issues” report for any detected problems, such as:

  • Hacked content
  • Malware
  • Social engineering

Address these issues immediately to protect your site and users.

Wrapping Up

Google Search Console is a powerful tool, but you must know how to use it to get results. By filtering out brand terms, using regex to narrow down your data, and knowing what to look for, you can uncover valuable insights that will help drive your SEO and content strategy.

Remember, SEO is an ongoing process. Keep checking your GSC data regularly, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different filters and analyses.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often does Google Search Console update its data?

Google Search Console typically updates its data daily, but the most recent data can take 2-3 days to appear. Some reports, like the Core Web Vitals report, may be updated less frequently.

What’s the difference between Google Analytics and Google Search Console?

While both tools provide data about your website, they serve different purposes. Google Analytics focuses on user behavior once they’re on your site, while Google Search Console provides data about how your site performs in Google Search results.

How do I add my website to Google Search Console?

To add your website, go to Google Search Console and click “Add property.” You’ll need to verify ownership of the site, which can be done by adding a meta tag to your site’s HTML or uploading a file to your web server.

Is it normal to see discrepancies between GSC data and other analytics tools?

Yes, it’s common to see some differences. This can be due to different tracking methods, time zones, or how each tool defines metrics. GSC focuses specifically on Google Search traffic, while other tools might track all sources.

Can I use Google Search Console to track my competitors?

No, GSC only provides data for websites you own and have verified.

How far back does Google Search Console data go?

GSC typically stores data for the past 16 months. This allows you to compare year-over-year performance and identify long-term trends.

Can I share Google Search Console data with team members or clients?

Yes, you can add users to your GSC property with different access levels. This is useful for collaborating with team members or sharing data with clients without giving full control of your account.

How does Google Search Console handle seasonality in search trends?

GSC doesn’t automatically adjust for seasonality, but you can use the date range comparison feature to compare performance across different time periods. This can help you identify seasonal patterns in your data.

Additional Resources

Want to learn more about GSC and regex? Check out these helpful resources: