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What Is Google Search Console and Why Should You Use It?

15 min read

Google offers a lot of helpful platforms for website owners. Each platform can be helpful, but Google Search Console (GSC) is one of the most important.

Why? Google is by far the most popular search engine in the world. If you don’t use the tools GSC offers, your website might get buried under other search results and stay hidden from users.

Thankfully, Google Search Console is completely free and pretty straightforward. Here’s everything you need to know about the platform and why you should use it.

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Google Search Console Terms You Should Know

We need to cover a few terms before we dive into Google Search Console’s main features and benefits. The platform has quite a few special terms, but these are the basic ones you should know before we move forward.

Webpages and Websites

Ok, these aren’t the most technical terms out there but it’s important to distinguish the two. Put simply, your webpages exist within your website. Think of your website as a book holding all your webpages. Depending on search queries, Google may offer users the whole book or a certain page.

Coverage

In GSC, coverage specifically refers to whether or not a page is ready to show up in the search results. We’ll talk about why pages may not be covered later on.

Sitemap

Sitemaps are files that detail the pages, multimedia content, and other data on your site. Google has to review the content of your website before it shows your pages in the search results. You don’t have to give Google a sitemap, but submitting one can speed up that review process.

What Is Google Search Console?

With those terms out of the way, let’s answer the obvious question: what is Google Search Console?

(Note: Google Search Console used to be called Google Webmaster Tools, but the name changed in 2015.)

At its most basic, GSC is a platform that lets you track your website’s performance in the context of Google’s search engine. When you connect your site to the platform, you’ll get a wide variety of tools to analyze and improve how your site appears on Google’s search results page. The tool is a must-have if you want your pages to get discovered by searchers.

Monitoring Google Search Performance

GSC’s main benefit is the ability to monitor your site’s search performance via the Google Search Console dashboard.

Let’s go over some of GSC’s most valuable performance indicators, then we’ll talk about how the platform can support your search performance and your website overall.

Clicks

After you connect your website to Google Search Console, the platform will track how many times users click on your site when it appears in Google search results.

This data can help you improve your meta titles and descriptions (the titles and descriptions that appear on search results pages). Low click rates could indicate unattractive meta content and GSC can help you identify the problem.

Low clicks can also be an indicator of ineffective SEO strategies since Google sorts search results by relevance. If basic SEO principles like effective keywords aren’t active on your site, you might see low click rates.

Average CTR

CTR stands for click-through rate. While the previous data point just tells you the number of clicks your page gets, average CTR displays as a percentage of users who click on your site. This number is another performance indicator. You might be getting a lot of clicks simply because a lot of people see your website, but there’s room for improvement if your average CTR is low.

Average CTR varies depending on the industries and where websites land on the search results page (known as your position). However, websites closer to the top of the results page get more clicks — and using GSC can help you get closer to the top.

Average Position

As we just talked about, your position refers to where your website shows up on the search results page. You can monitor this with GSC. Ideally, your website will rank within the top 10 search results. But as you probably guessed, that can be very difficult since Google sorts through billions of pages.

There’s good news though. You may not rank in the top 10 right away, but GSC can help you start climbing. We’ll talk more about how GSC can improve your average position later on.

Impressions

This performance indicator shows you how often users saw your pages when they showed up in their search results. Beyond viewing the basic number of impressions, you can use this tool to see how specific keywords influence your impressions and other data points.

For example, let’s say one of your keywords is “orange.” You can enter that word to view total impressions and clicks when the word “orange” was included in search queries. This tool can help you analyze the effectiveness of your keyword strategies.

What Does Google Search Console Do for Businesses?

Those are a few of GSC’s most important performance indicators, but what does Google Search Console do for businesses? And how can you use the platform to improve your search performance? To understand how GSC can support your website, we need to talk about how Google manages search results.

How Google manages search results

In GSC, indexed pages refers to webpages that have been identified and sorted within Google’s search engine. These pages enter Google’s library of indexed sites, letting them join the search results page if a relevant search query is made.

The process of indexing a page usually starts with crawling. Crawling is Google’s process of scanning a webpage to identify its content so the search engine knows when to show it to users. The terms crawling and indexing are often used interchangeably, but crawling is the process of identifying a page’s content while indexing is the process of storing that page in Google’s library of websites.

Your webpages won’t get shown on the search results page if they haven’t been indexed. And they usually won’t be indexed if they haven’t been crawled. GSC can help you ensure your pages have been crawled — we’ll talk about that next.

Why GSC Is Important

Now that you understand the basics of how Google sorts webpages, let’s talk about how GSC supports website owners. There are three main ways, starting with monitoring crawl status.

Monitoring crawling

Like we talked about, Google crawls your webpages before they’re indexed (at least in most cases). The good news is Google doesn’t leave you in the dark — you can find out if your pages have been crawled by connecting your site to GSC.

Google Search Console crawl reports let you monitor if and when your pages have been crawled. However, these reports are aimed at really big websites. If your site has less than one thousand pages, GSC offers a more simple crawl monitoring option called the URL Inspection Tool. This tool lets you enter the URL to one of your pages and tells you if it’s been crawled properly.

Alerting you to problems

GSC offers a lot of tools that alert you if problems involving your search performance arise. These alerts vary depending on the issue, but you won’t get any alerts if you don’t use the platform.

Here are a few common problems GSC can help bring to your attention.

Coverage issues

GSC has a section dedicated to monitoring coverage. You’ll see a few categories, including Error and Valid with warnings. If any of your pages fall under the first category, they aren’t getting covered properly. If they fall under the second, you’re at risk of losing coverage. If you notice an alert in either of these categories, you can click it to learn more about the problem. Using GSC will keep you ahead of these issues and help you fix them before your website stops landing on the results page.

Old links

Old links technically fall under the broad category of coverage issues. Google relies on up-to-date data to properly crawl and index your pages. If the system has an old or broken link, your pages will have trouble reaching searchers. Without GSC, you may not notice the problem until Google stops adding your site to the search results page.

Manual actions (Penalties)

If your site breaks Google’s rules, you might get a manual action (a.k.a. penalty). Manual actions are essentially human reviews of your site. Google mostly relies on computer programs to sort through websites, but their system sometimes has humans perform a manual review if a site appears to be breaking certain rules.

These rules mainly focus on shady stuff, like actively trying to cheat or mislead Google to boost your site’s position. Google may remove your site from the search results if this happens. Most people don’t need to worry about manual actions if they’re not breaking the rules, but you won’t know if your site gets penalized if you don’t use GSC.

Mobile usability issues

The world increasingly uses mobile devices to browse the web — and Google takes that into account when managing search results. If your website has a mobile usability problem, Google Search Console will alert you so you can fix the issue. If you don’t use GSC, mobile usability issues can fly under the radar and hurt your search performance.

Checking for security issues

You don’t have to use GSC to monitor website security issues, but it’s a great tool for keeping your site’s content safe. And it’s free.

From the Google Search Console homepage, you’ll have access to the Security Issues tab. This section of GSC will list potential security threats, including hacking and other malicious activities that could harm site owners or visitors. Without GSC, you won’t have access to Google’s free security monitoring — potentially putting your site at risk.

google search console dashboard

Click through all tabs in the Search Console admin to discover all reports and important areas

Google Search Console FAQ

In summary, Google Search Console helps website owners monitor search performance, identify problems hurting their position, and stay in tune with their website overall.

We’ve covered the basic function and benefits of Google Search Console, but we’ll answer some FAQs so you’re fully prepared to start using the platform.

What about Google Analytics? (Google Search Console vs Google Analytics)

If reading about GSC’s performance monitoring tools makes you think of Google Analytics, you’re probably wondering if you need to use both platforms. The simple answer? Yes, you need both.

GSC and Google Analytics both offer website analytics, but GSC focuses on the performance of your website on the search results page. If you just connect your site to Google Analytics, you’ll miss out on helpful data like your average position and impressions. You’ll also miss out on important alerts such as manual actions and security issues — so Google Analytics really isn’t a replacement for Google Search Console.

Instead, GA and GSC can work together. You can connect Search Console to your Google Analytics to enrich your GA reports with organic search data directly from Google.

Should you use Google Search Console if you have a business website?

Google Search Console is useful for every type of website — especially business websites. Whether you run an ecommerce site or a simple page listing your company’s contact details, ensuring your website performs well on Google is vital for connecting with customers and supporting your brand.

Is Google Search Console a replacement for an SEO specialist?

No. Google Search Console can help your site’s SEO strategies, but the platform isn’t a replacement for SEO professionals.

However, GSC can help SEO specialists identify SEO-related problems. For example, some manual actions are taken as a result of search optimization practices that go against Google’s rules. Using GSC can help you identify and discontinue these banned practices. You can also use GSC to track how keywords influence your site’s search appearance. Simply put, GSC doesn’t replace SEO experts, but it can help them.

Get Started Today!

Google has been the dominant search engine for years and that probably won’t change any time soon. Without Google Search Console, you’re left in the dark and your website could stop reaching searchers. So learn how to use GSC today!

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About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

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