Earlier this year, Google rebranded its ten year old Webmaster Tools as Google Search Console (though the site is still reachable through the old URL, https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/). For those of us that used Webmaster Tools on a daily basis the change means little. The re-naming of this eminently useful tool was due entirely to Google’s wanting to expand its reach to people other than traditional “webmasters.”
Google Search Console is for everybody and anybody that has a stake in how a website performs in the world of search. That could be SEOs, web designers/developers, business owners and marketing professionals, among others. It’s wanting to reach this diverse bunch of users that drove the decision to rebrand. All these folks could be getting better results in Google Search and Search Console empowers them to do so.
We covered the usefulness of Google Webmaster Tools back in a 2012 blog post – it’s still one of the tools we use every single day – to monitor site health, gauge average keyword positions, check on how new content is being indexed – there is a wealth of information available through Google Search Console. Below I’d like to introduce you to the three most useful tools for SEO newbies:
- Search Queries: which search phrases return your website in the results? Which of those are actually bringing traffic to your website? Search Console provides you with an interactive chart and accompanying table that lets you view, sort and export data related to keyword searches. In the screenshot below I’m looking at Impressions (how many times did my web page appear in search results) and Clicks (how many times did a particular keyword actually results in a click through to my website).Checking the other boxes allows you to also view the click-through rate and average position for each keyword phrase.
- Which other websites link to your website? How you rank in Google Search results is impacted by the number and quality of other websites that link back to yours.Search Console provides you with a comprehensive list of backlinks, shows you which pages on your site are most frequently linked to from other sites, and even shows you the anchor text (the phrase used in the link from the other website) so you can start to gauge how backlinking factors are affecting your site, either negatively or positively.
- For SEO purposes, you should always use unique, informative title and description meta tags for each page on your website. This is the information that is returned by Google in its search results (see screenshot below). Page titles should be descriptive and include targeted keywords; meta descriptions should be enticing enough to get the searches to click through your site.
By navigating to Google Search Console’s HTML Improvement’s report (under Search Appearance), you’ll be able to see which of your pages need attention in this area.
These are only a few of the useful reports you’ll find in Google’s Search Console. Don’t neglect this valuable tool to gain insights and better manage your website’s appearance in Google Search!