What can a Google Search Console account do for your website?

by | Feb 13, 2023 | SEO | 0 comments

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In an ideal world, every page of every website would be listed on Google, and every page of every website would show up for the search phrases or keywords the owner intended it to.

But it’s not an ideal world, and unfortunately not every carefully designed and written page of your website will show up in the search engine listings, despite your best efforts.

Here I’ll show you how you can help Google to help you, with the aid of Google Search Console. I’d advise you to bookmark this page, as I’ll be adding to it throughout February, to help you to make the most of the free help that Google can give.

What is Google Search Console?
Why do I need Google Search Console?
How do I set up Google Search Console?
What can Google Search Console tell me about my website? 
How does Google see my website content?
How do I tell Google search Console about the pages on my website? 
How can I tell Google about new or edited pages on my website?
Why are some of the pages on my website not indexed by Google?

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What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a tool provided by Google that allows you to monitor and manage your website’s performance in Google Search results. It’s a free service that provides you with the necessary information and resources to ensure your site is seen and indexed by Google correctly.

With Search Console, you can:

  • Verify that Google can find and crawl your site with ease.
  • Address any indexing issues and request re-indexing of new or updated content.
  • Analyse the traffic data for your site, including the frequency of appearance in Google Search, the search queries that display your site, the number of clicks, and much more.
  • Stay informed with alerts that notify you of any indexing, spam, or other problems that Google might encounter on your site.
  • Discover the sites that link to your website.
  • Resolve any issues related to AMP, mobile usability, and other Search features.

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Why do I need Google Search Console?

Depending on your role regarding your website, and your SEO needs, there are a number of reasons to set up a GSC account.

Beginner Website Owner

If you’re a beginner at SEO, improving the visibility of your site on Google Search is possible with a bit of effort and understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO) and the Google Search Console. This beginner’s Google Search Console guide will help you get started. You don’t have to be a tech expert or know HTML or coding, but it’s important to take the time to examine the organisation and content of your site and make necessary modifications. Fortunately, even small improvements can significantly boost your search results.

Search Engine Optimiser

Dive deeper into the world of Google Search Console and improve your site’s performance by dedicating more time to analysing reports, understanding how Google Search works, and restructuring your site. This approach is best suited for those who are already familiar with basic SEO practices and terms.

Web Developer

If you are responsible for constructing and maintaining websites, adding structured data, or are using a code editor, Google Search Console is a vital tool for monitoring, testing, and fixing code related issues on your site. GSC helps you to:

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How do I set up Google Search Console?

Setting up Search Console is easy — all you need is a Google account and a website.

Visit Google Search Console and then proceed to add and verify your website’s ownership. This step is necessary as it confirms that you are the rightful owner of the website and grants you access to information and settings that only site owners can see. It may seem a little fiddly, but it’s better than all of your competitors being able to see everything about your site!

Hubspot has a brilliant guide to setting up Google Search Console, which is well worth a read.
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What can Google Search Console tell me about my website?

From a search engine optimisation and SEO copywriting point of view, I use Search Console to find out:

  • Actual search phrases a website has shown in the listings for
  • Search phrases that people have clicked on to visit a website
  • When new content is indexed
  • Which pages of a website aren’t indexed in Google, and why
  • Which key phrases aren’t doing so well and need new content
  • How average position in Google changes over time

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How does Google see my website content?

One thing that a lot of website owners want to know is “How does Google see my website?”, and there are of course a number of answers to this, depending on the actual information you want to find.

In this section, we’re just going to look at how Google sees and places your website with regards to the copy and content already there. This section isn’t about keyword research as such, and isn’t about the things that Google doesn’t already know about your website. We can worry about that later (and we will!)

For the purposes of this post, I’m using a website that is a bit of a side project of mine, doesn’t have any SEO, and has been around for a few years. I could have used my own website, or a client website, but in the interests of giving away as much info as I can on Google Search Console without compromising confidentiality, you’re stuck with GPT Genies.

GPT Genies is a site dedicated to Get Paid To opportunities – so surveys, mystery shopping, playing games, market research etc. It’s there to support a Facebook Group community rather than to get visitors from search engines, so is a good site to use because there’s been no manipulation of the results.

So, let’s dig into how Google sees GPT Genies’ website content.

Performance Overview

Upon opening Google Search Console, you should be faced with the Overview page.

The first thing you see is the Performance Overview, which shows how many clicks you have had to your website from search in the last 3 months. Yours may look better or worse than this:

Google Search Console Performance overview graph

From the above, you can see that the site doesn’t get a lot of daily clicks from search (not surprising as it is a site that supports a Social Media community and most clicks come from there).

You’re also probably thinking, “So what, I can get this info from Google Analytics”, and you’d be right.

But where the magic happens is when we look at the full report. Go on, click on the ‘Full report’ link…

Performance Report

The first thing we can see is that we immediately have more information:

Google Search Console Performance report graph

The default view is Clicks and Impressions:

  • Clicks = how many times a user clicked through to your site
  • Impressions = how many times a link to your site appeared in the search results

We can click the other 2 options on and see:

  • Average click through ratio = percentage of impressions that resulted in a click
  • Average position = average position in the search results across all of your positions

Google search console - all info available

And while this is a lovely graph, and very pleasing to see when blips and changes occur, it’s not the best thing about this part of Google Search Console.

Because, when we scroll down, GSC gives us some very valuable information that we often can’t get from Google Analytics.

The search phrase that has been typed in when our website has appeared in the search listings.

If you check your Google Analytics and are sick of seeing ‘Keyword: (not provided)’ then this is somewhat akin to the Holy Grail. (I may be exaggerating, but I don’t think I am!).

From the list on the Performance Report page you can see the exact search phrases that your site has shown up for, and how many times you have shown up for that search phrase.

In the example I am using, we can see that (as would be expected), the main search phrases the website shows up for are based around the website name. If you’re a freelancer, this may be your name or your company name.

Google search console - top search phrases

Each of the columns (queries, clicks, impressions, VTR and position) can be sorted. Search queries can be sorted A-Z, the other columns can be sorted in ascending or descending order.

(You can also change the time period to be longer or shorter, with pre-set time periods and a custom option.)

This means that we can find out all sorts of information about our website:

  • Which phrases do we have good results (positions) for?
  • Which phrases are generating the most clicks?
  • Which phrases have the most searches that we show up in the results for?
  • Which phrases are we showing up well in the results for, but not getting many clicks?
  • Which phrases get lots of searches, but we’re languishing on page 6?
  • Which phrases are we ‘almost’ there for, but not quite?

And this information allows us to make decisions going forward about the content we produce.

For example, using GPT Genies again:

The website has good positions for the website name, and variations of that, and is usually the number one result for those searches, which is to be expected:

Google search console - searches for company name

It also gets ok positions for some search phrases related to the content:

Google search console - search phrase results

But if we filter the search phrases by the amount of searches the website shows up for, we can start to see where the website content is failing:

Google search console - top impressions

Just by glancing at these results, we can see that:

  • Although the site shows up at #5 for the phrase “swagbucks search win links”, very few people are clicking on the result. So we need to spend some time looking at the other results that show up for this search (why are they better?), the page that Google is displaying on GPT Genies for this result (why is it no attracting clicks?), the description that is showing in the Google results for this search (could our META description be better?).
  • “Swagbucks links”, “swagbucks mahjong” have similar problems, so maybe we need to be looking at these pages a little more?
  • From the above, Google knows that GPT Genies has some content about PrizeRebel, but the site only shows up around result #72, which means that although we’ve shown up in 1100 searches, no-one has bothered to go deep enough to find our website. So we need to look at our PrizeRebel content and see where we can fill it out and add more, in order to show up sooner than page 8.

There’s a whole load more to go into about the performance tab (and I will) but for now why not have a play around, and come and let me know over on LinkedIn if you’ve found anything interesting?

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How do I tell Google Search Console about the pages on my website?

When you’ve spent a lot of time writing and formatting pages and blog posts on your website, it can be frustrating if they seem to get no traction on Google. They may appear lower than you think they should for specific search phrases, they may not perform as well as you thought they would, and in some cases they just won’t appear in Google at all.

Sometimes the reason is pretty straight forward.— Google simply doesn’t know about the pages!

There are a couple of ways to tell GSC about the pages on your website: Sitemaps and URL submission.

Sitemaps

Put simply, a sitemap is a page on your website that includes a list of, and a link to, every page that is readable on your website.

If your site is a WordPress website with a SEO plugin such as All In One SEO or Yoast, or you use a website builder such as Wix or Squarespace, your site should automatically have a page that lists every page on the site. In some cases there are multiple sitemaps – for example there may be one for pages, one for posts, and an overall index.

A sitemap has the extension .xml — using our GPT Genies example, the main sitemap is at https://gptgenies.com/sitemap_index.xml and there are 3 other sitemaps listed – one for pages. one for posts, and one for authors. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a structure like this, the main thing is that you have at least one sitemap.)

If you don’t know if you have a sitemap, try typing your web address into a browser and then adding /sitemap.xml to the end. If that doesn’t work, ask the person who designed your website. If THAT doesn’t work or isn’t possible, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can find out for you.

You can create your own XML sitemap if there isn’t one, but you’ll need to know how to upload it to your website, or know someone who can do that for you. Again, get in touch if you need help with this.

Submitting your sitemap

All you need to do to tell Google Search Console about your sitemap is head over to the Sitemap page and submit it:

Sometimes it takes a couple of hours, sometimes a day or so, but pretty quickly Google will start to know about the pages on your website.

Here’s another site’s GSC, showing the pages that Google now knows about:

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How can I tell Google about new or edited pages on my website?

The second way to tell Google about the pages on your website is to submit the page manually. You would usually use this option if you have created a new page (for example, a blog post) or significantly edited a page or post, and don’t want to wait for Google to find it.

On any page of the Google Search Console, at the top, see the ‘inspect any URL’ box.

Inspect any URL on Google Search Console

Type in the URL of the web page or blog post that you want Google to know about and click submit. This will happen:

Page not in index - Google Search Console

Click on ‘REQUEST INDEXING’, and this will happen:

Testing live URL - Google Search Console

Wait a little while – it can take a few seconds, just have patience, and you should get a confirmation that your new/edited page has been queued for recrawling.

Google search console - indexing requested

Indexing can take a couple of days, it can take a couple of weeks, but don’t be tempted to resubmit, as it won’t happen any faster.

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Why are some of the pages on my website not indexed by Google?

A frequent question over the years, and in the past the only answers given would be an educated guess at best.

But now, with Google Search Console, not only can you find out which of your pages aren’t indexed, you can find out why.

Navigating to the Indexing –> Pages section of Google, you’ll find a chart showing how many of the pages on your site are indexed by Google, and how many aren’t:

Pages not indexed by Google, as shown in Google Search Console

(Hopefully yours won’t be quite as scary as this – remember, the site we’re using as an example in this blog post has had no SEO work done at all.)

From the above graphic, we know that 535 pages aren’t indexed, for 7 reasons. Luckily, Google tells us those reasons too!

Reasons for pages not indexed by Google, as shown in Google Search Console

So, let’s go through the reasons that all those pages aren’t listed.

Excluded by ‘noindex’ tag

This means that either you or someone in charge of your site has specifically told Google not to index these pages. If you have a WordPress or similar blog, this will usually include category and tag pages, feeds, and pages that don’t need to be indexed (such as your Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy pages). It can, however, include pages you really do want to be indexed.

What to do:

Check through the pages listed to make sure that nothing is being restricted that shouldn’t be. If you see pages that shouldn’t be restricted, talk to your web developer or an SEO expert.

Read more about ‘Excluded by ‘no index’ tag here

Page with redirect

This often happens when you have changed URLs on a website. For example, most of the issues with the GPT Genies site are because we restructured the URLs of the blog posts, and Google has decided that the new URLs are the correct ones, so the old URLs it still knows about are redirects. To avoid indexing both, Google is ignoring the old URL and deciding that the newer one is the right one.

This can also happen when you redesign a website and use redirects to point old pages to new ones.

What to do:

Make sure that all of these URLS redirect to the correct pages through proper permanent 301 redirects and delete the old pages.

Read more about Pages with Redirect here.

Alternate page with proper canonical tag

Google has recognised this page as an alternate version of another page. It could be the mobile version of a page already indexed, or vice versa. Either way, you can ignore this section as all of these pages have alternate versions that should be indexed.

What to do:

There is nothing that you need to do here.

Read more about Alternate page with proper canonical tag here

Not found (404)

When Google tried to index these pages (usually from a link elsewhere) the page was not there. It may have been renamed, deleted, or the original link may be incorrect. If the page listed has a newer version, the best thing to do is set up a 301 redirect (find out more info on 301 redirects here), but if it has been deleted or the original link is incorrect, the best thing to do is wait. Google will check occasionally to see if the page has a new redirect or is still showing a 404 error, and eventually just stop checking altogether.

What to do:

If the page has moved, use a 301 redirect to the new location. If not, eventually Google will stop checking the page.

Read more about Not found (404) here

Soft 404

A soft 404 is a page that tells Google the page has been successful, but is actually an error page. Often (but not always) custom 404 pages – where you tell the user that the page isn’t found but give them some links or a search box to help them find it – give this response. My advice is talk to your web designer on this one.

What to do:

Either read this Google document on soft 404s, or send it to your web design expert.

Read more about Soft 404 here

Discovered – currently not indexed

These are pages that Google knows are on your site. They just haven’t crawled them properly, either because crawling them would have overloaded your website’s resources or because your crawl allocation has been reached.

What to do:

You could just leave this and wait for Google to reschedule the crawl, but if it’s a page you want to be included in the Google index, then you can submit it manually.

Read more about Discovered – currently not indexed here

Crawled – currently not indexed

Google has found these pages and crawled them, but for one reason or another has decided not to include them in the index. This could be for a number of reasons – poor copy, poor E-E-A-T signals, duplicate content, and more. Take a look at these pages and see what you can do to make them better before resubmitting to Google.

What to do:

Google advises doing nothing, as the page may or may not be indexed in the future. I would recommend checking the content, updating and rewriting so that it is fresh, and then submitting manually.

Find out more about Crawled – currently not indexed here

There are a few other reasons that pages may not be indexed, but these tend to be the main ones. If your Google Search Console is showing different errors, you can usually find out the reason why by clicking on the error, then clicking ‘READ MORE’.

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Need more help understanding Google Search Console? My Google Search Console Training could be for you.

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