When it comes to ranking a website in search engines, Google Search Console is one of the most powerful and free tools available to business owners and marketers.
As any SEO agency or marketer knows, ranking a page or website organically for competitive terms is a long-term investment. For this reason, you need the right tools in place to collect data and ensure that your strategy is playing out over time.
While there are a number of paid tools that can help with your SEO efforts, the first two tools to set up are without a doubt Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about Google Search Console and how to use it to improve your organic search rankings, including:
Let's get started.
What is Google Search Console (GSC)?
Google Search Console (GSC) is a free analytics tool provided by the Google Suite that is built to track search data and help you optimize a website for organic rankings.
GSC provides a wealth of SEO data that is relevant to marketers, for example, the keywords and queries the site is ranking for, the average position of each page, click-through rates, and much more.
If you’re wondering what the difference between Google Analytics and Google Search Console is, as discussed in our guide to SEO analytics, the difference can be summarized as follows:
Google Analytics is an excellent tool for analyzing everything that happens after someone clicks on your website. Google Search Console, on the other hand, provides in-depth analytics into everything that happens before someone clicks on your website.
In short, GSC provides business owners and marketers with data about how people are interacting with a website while they’re still in the search engine, making it a must-have tool for any SEO campaign.
How to Set Up Google Search Console
Before we get into how to use this tool for effective SEO, let’s quickly review how to actually set it up correctly.
In order to use GSC, there are three steps you need to complete to verify domain ownership:
1. First, you’ll need to login to Google Search Console with the same account that you’ve setup Google Analytics so you can sync the two accounts.
2. Next, simply click on “Add a property” and choose either a domain or URL prefix—in most cases, you will want to choose to add a domain.
3. Finally, you’ll need to verify domain ownership with your DNS provider, which can be done by copying the TXT record provided and adding it to your domain configuration:
Common Use Cases for Google Search Console
Now that we’ve discussed what GSC is and how to set it up, let’s look at exactly how you can use it to improve your organic rankings in search.
As Wordstream highlights, at a high-level, a few of the most common use cases for Google Search Console include:
Tracking search metrics such as keyword rankings, organic traffic, average position impressions, click-through-rate (CTR), and more
Verifying that Google’s search crawlers are indexing the website properly with their Index Coverage report
Analyzing backlink data
Ensuring mobile usability
Another important use case to be aware of is the new Page Experience report and Core Web Vitals metrics. Both of these sections are new to GSC as part of their Google’s Page Experience algorithm update and are designed to help you improve the user experience of the site. We won’t cover the algorithm update in this article, although you can check out our recent article on the subject if you want to learn more.
7 Google Search Console Tips to Improve SEO
Now that we’ve covered high-level use cases of GSC, let’s get into actionable tips on how you can use the tool to improve your SEO. To do so, we’ve reached out to several SEO and marketing professionals to provide their best tips to make the most of the platform
1. Identify pages with high impressions but low average position
As the owner of Oli Baise Digital suggests, one way to use GSC is to look at pages with high impressions but have a low average position in order to to decide which pages to build backlinks to:
At the beginning of every link-building campaign, I use Google Search Console to look for pages on a website that have a high number of impressions (over 1000 in the last 3 months) but have an average position between 8 and 30.
2. Find under-optimized content for your existing queries
Another way to use GSC and identify “quick wins” is to look for queries that a page may already be ranking for, but isn’t yet fully optimized. Specifically, use the “Queries” tab to find the search phrases that are driving traffic. If these keywords aren’t already included on the page, this represents an opportunity to rank even higher for those phrases. As the director of the marketing agency Evolved Toaster suggests:
Google Search Console is a powerful tool with many hidden tactics to help you rank. Finding underoptimized content is one of the best functions we have found. Navigate to Page > Click on a page > Queries. Using this feature, you can find all of the search phrases that you have impressions and clicks on your page.
3. Build authoritative content based on the sites Top Pages
The next suggestion is to use the “Top Pages” tab in GSC in order to identify where Google already sees the site as an authority. By creating more content around these pages, you’re often able to rank new pages much faster. As the owner of the SEO agency Lunar Strategy suggests:
For Google Search Console the key metric that we use is the "Top pages", which we use to come up with follow-up guides and articles where we build content around the top pages. This is to ensure that we can focus all our energy on new content/focus keywords where Googles already sees our authority. This helps us to get faster results because Google already knows that we are an authority in the area.
4. Go beyond performance metrics and check the index coverage report
Another valuable part of GSC is the coverage report, which helps you identify the pages that have already been indexed and if Google encounters any problems when indexing your site. As Jack Altmen, the SEO Manager of ThinkOrion suggests:
It's very common among SEO's that they just look at the performance tab which includes clicks, impressions, CTR's and positions. I am not saying this isn't important, however, most SEO's forget to check the coverage report.
5. Submit a sitemap using Google Search Console
Another useful feature of the platform is the ability to submit a sitemap to GSC. A sitemap explicitly tells Google which pages on the site are the most important and should be crawled more often. In short, it gives you more control over which pages you want Google to promote in search engines. As Madhav Goenka, the co-founder and CMO of Frazile suggests:
First of all, we upload the sitemaps of our website on Google Search Console. Then we regularly take notice if there are any issues and errors that it shows and fix them as soon as possible. We also submit links to all our pages so that they are indexed by the Google crawlers. Lastly, we regularly track our position in Google search results to figure out what's working and what is not to make sure we are taking action in the right direction.
6. Don’t forget to look at both mobile and desktop traffic
With up to 70% of all internet traffic coming from mobile in 2021, it’s crucial to make sure the site has high mobile usability and can be found in mobile searches. As Kirsten Reneau, a Content Specialist at Online Optimism suggests:
One way to really optimize Google Search Console for SEO is to not forget to dive into mobile vs. desktop traffic. The way users search and experience things on a mobile device is vastly different than a desktop, and knowing those metrics can help you adjust your content accordingly. It will also help you keep track of whether or not your SEO work is effective. If your SEO adjustments are working, you should be able to see a change in mobile traffic via Google Search Console.
7. Use regex to increase rankings
Finally, one of the more advanced tips is to use regex, or regular expressions, to find long-tail keywords that may represent a good keyword ranking opportunity. As Luat Duong, SEO Lead from the eCommerce site Scandinavian Biolabs suggests:
Regex, or regular expressions, are a form of advanced “search and replace” for strings of words or characters. Since April 2021, Google provided the option to use regular expressions in Google Search Console which allows us to find content that is already ranking and enhance its impact. One expression we can use to find long-tail keywords that are getting lots of impressions in GSC but have low clicks:
Automating Your Google Search Console Reporting
If you’re using Google Search Console to manage an SEO campaign for clients, one area where the platform does fall short is in its reporting capabilities. Simply put, most non-technical marketers find GSC reports to be quite complicated. In addition, you’ll often need to pair this GSC data with other data from Google Analytics at the very least.
Manually creating reports from Google Search Console takes time and can confuse your clients with too much information. Highlighting key insights in a Google Search Console dashboard or as part of an overall SEO Dashboard is made easy with the AgencyAnalytics integration.
In order to report on your GSC data alongside other relevant data sources, AgencyAnalytics has prebuilt SEO dashboards and SEO report templates that can automate your entire reporting process. In our SEO dashboard, for example, you can see below that the sections include:
Summary: How to Use Google Search Console for SEO
As discussed, Google Search Console is a powerful tool for improving your SEO. Unlike Google Analytics that provides data after someone has clicked on your website, GSC provides data for everything that occurs before they land on the site, i.e. while they're still in the search engine.
One of the most common tips mentioned by marketers is to look for ways you can go beyond using it for simple performance metrics like clicks and impressions. Whether it's improving mobile usability, submitting sitemaps, or using regex to find long-tail keywords, the platform has much more to offer marketers and business owners.
If you're managing SEO campaigns for clients, running an SEO site checker on a regular basis and creating a dedicated SEO dashboard or report allows you aggregate data from multiple sources, automate your reporting, and ultimately scale your agency.