Imagine standing on a mountain peak, surveying the landscape below. You can see every nook and cranny, every path and obstacle. You can see where you are, where you've been, and plan where you're going next.
That's what it feels like to use Google Search Console (GSC) for SEO. It's like having a bird's-eye view of your website's SEO performance in Google's search engine results pages (SERPs). It's an incredibly powerful tool that can help you navigate the often-complex world of SEO, and the best part? It's absolutely free.
Now, I won't claim to teach you everything there is to know about GSC in this blog post. That would be like trying to climb Everest in flip-flops; it's simply not feasible.
But what I will do is guide you on how to use GSC effectively to improve your website's SEO and increase your organic traffic.
So, are you ready to scale the heights of SEO success with GSC?
Are you ready to unlock the full potential of your website, to illuminate the path to increased visibility and higher rankings? If you are, then buckle up, my friend. We're about to embark on an exciting journey through the world of Google Search Console.
And remember, if you ever feel lost or overwhelmed, don't hesitate to reach out. I'm here to guide you every step of the way. So let's get started, shall we? The view from the top is waiting for you.
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Tell Google You Have New Content or Updated Content
Anytime you have new content published on your site, the first thing you should do is alert Google about the content.
If you don’t do this, it’s hard to say when Google bot will crawl your site again and index that content. And if Google is unaware of the new content, it won’t show in search results.
So here’s how to make Google aware of a new page of content:
Login to Google Search Console. Once in GSC, submit the URL as below.
Google will crawl the page immediately and tell you whether it’s indexed. If it is, you will see something like below.
Now at this point, if this was a new page, you don’t need to do anything else - Google has indexed this content already.
However, if this an older page and the content was recently updated, then you would click the “Request Indexing” link that is to the lower right of the red box to let Google know to re-crawl the page.
Keep in mind that even if your page or blog post is not new, there is a chance that Google has not indexed it just as if the page is brand new. Either way, you will see something similar to this:
Click Request Indexing to notify Google that they should crawl and index the page.
Keep in mind, Google bot marches to the beat of its own drum so it’s hard to say precisely when Google will crawl and index your page but at least you’ve notified it.
Finding Content on Page 2 To Improve
An effective way to achieve quick wins in SEO is to find pages that are on page 2 of Google that, with a little bit of work, could be bumped up to page one. Ideally, these are pages near the top of page 2.
Here’s the process.
Within Google Search Console, click on Search Results, and then Export and choose Google Sheets.
You will end up with a Google Sheet similar to this:
Click on the Pages tab and filter for all those pages that are between positions 11 - 13. You can choose whatever position range you want, but you want to filter for pages that are within reach of the first page. Below we found 16 pages between positions 11 and 13.
So now you have your page 2 list, let’s start identifying what we can do to improve the rankings. It’s a good idea to start with those pages with the most clicks and impressions, since they have the most potential.
As an example, I am choosing the first page listed in the above screenshot. Find this page and click on the listing as shown below.
Then Export to Google Sheets.
Now you will in Google Sheets all the search terms that Google is showing that page for in organic search results. You will see something similar to this:
Now filter this keyword list for terms between positions 11 and 13. But if your list is not long, expand the positions you’re filtering for.
Now you can see all those terms between positions 11 - 13 for the page we’re interested in. This process has a couple of benefits for SEO.
- 1You can find terms that might not be that hard to bump to the 1st page with some content tweaks on the existing page
- 2You can find new search terms you could write new blog posts for and capture more search traffic
So from here, you go through the process of asking yourself:
Here’s a related post on how to improve your older page content to improve SEO and another post on how to choose keywords for SEO.
Identify Pages That Have Dipped
Pages will start to drop on average position, clicks, and impressions over time for various reasons.
Often the culprit is that the content is outdated.
Below is an example of a page that dropped on average position. After studying the pages that jumped ahead of this page in Google search results, we discovered the page needed updated content. Then when we updated it with new content, and the page popped back up to position one.
Sometimes it’s that easy.
To find pages that have trended down, click on the Search Results. Click on the Pages tab and sort by Clicks or Impressions in descending order (see image below).
Then, click through to one page.
Once on a single page, click on the queries tab to see the search terms and click through on the search term you're most concerned about to see the trending charts on clicks, impressions, and average position (as in the below line chart showing average position for a specific keyword).
You can change the timeline to see longer time frames going as far back as GSC will allow, which is 16 months (in the good ol’ days of Google Search Console, there was no time limit on how far you could go back…sigh).
But before rushing into concluding a drop in trending clicks, impressions, or average position is the result of outdated content, run through this checklist:
- 1Algorithm Updates: Check for Google algorithm updates and whether that affected your site and page. Google does major core updates several times per year, and minor updates almost daily. If a core algorithm update is correlated to the same time your page dropped, it might be related or it may not be to the decline in page performance. It’s possible, for example, that Google changed the features in search results, which leads to the next point
- 2Search Results Page Changes: Did the drop occur because Google changed something in its search results page features? For example, Google dropped FAQ Featured Snippets from many of its searches - if your page was ranking in position 0 in a FAQ Featured Snippet, updating content or improving the SEO won’t matter
- 3Technical Issues: Crawl issues - was Google unable to crawl a page? Check if there are any server issues and robots.txt issues. Mobile usability issues - check Google Search Console Experience report for issues related to mobile usability. Slow page time - is your page too slow? Check the Experience report in GSC again and independently use page speed insights for a deeper understanding. Compare to competitors to see if your page is much different.
- 4Competition: are other sites providing better, more helpful, relevant content to the searcher? If so, this is where updating your page will definitely benefit the page
- 5Click-Through-Rate (CTR) Drops: when looking at your page, check to see if the CTR has dropped. You can see this trending in GSC, too. If it has dropped, it may indicate to Google your page is less relevant. The solution here, consider re-writing your Title tag and Meta Description to improve the likelihood of earning a click. You can do this by using calls-to-action, and listing benefits of the page for the reader
- 6Seasonality: First, realize that your content may be affected by seasonality. You can check this by looking at years of trending data in Google Trends for a particular topic which can indicate that demand drops during certain periods of the year and there’s nothing wrong with the page at all (related post here about how to use Google Trends for market research)
Find Anchor Text Ideas for Internal Linking
Internal linking is one of the most important SEO tasks you can implement for traditional SEO. GSC makes it easy to find anchor you should use to link to a particular page.
You can also use the Google Sheet from above to help you identify anchor text phrases you should use to link to a post internally.Google tells you what it believes a post is about by showing you the keyword terms it is showing the page for (a related post here on the effectiveness of internal linking strategies that covers anchor text).
Here's the example we used earlier. Make sure you are looking at the top-ranking keyword phrases on page one only. In the example below, I would consider using the top 4 keywords as anchor text from other blog posts back to this page as long as they aligned with my target topic and keyword of that page.
In conclusion, Google Search Console (GSC) is not just a tool, but a strategic partner in your SEO journey.
Using GSC's data export feature, you can uncover the hidden potential of pages ranking on the second page of Google. With some optimization, these could easily rise to the coveted first page, boosting your site's visibility.
GSC's ability to analyze click and impression data allows you to identify and rectify pages that have experienced a drop in rankings over time. This could be due to various factors, such as algorithm updates, SERP changes, technical issues, increased competition, CTR drops, and seasonal fluctuations.
Furthermore, GSC helps you optimize your internal linking strategy by providing search term data. Using this data, you can strategically use keywords as anchor text when linking internally, further improving your rankings.
In essence, Google Search Console provides a comprehensive overview of your site's SEO performance. It empowers you to identify optimization opportunities, monitor rankings, unearth issues impacting performance, and ultimately enhance your site's organic visibility and traffic. Therefore, it's a vital instrument in any SEO toolkit, guiding you toward a successful voyage in the vast ocean of Google's search results.