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Zyro Glossary eCommerce

Google Search Console

What is Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools)?

Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) is a platform where you can monitor your website’s performance on Google. The search console gives you an overview of the search queries that bring your website the most traffic, which domains are pointing towards your website, how well your website is performing on mobile devices, and much more. 

It’s a useful tool for anyone with a website: you don’t need to be an SEO specialist, a webmaster, or an online marketeer to use Google Search Console. Since all websites can benefit from free organic traffic, it’s important to understand the underlying pain points of your website and optimize and improve based on data.  

This could mean boosting a particular keyword or two that are performing well and bringing in lots of traffic. Or reaching out to other websites that have linked to yours: a simple thank you could lead into a partnership or more sponsored posts if you play your cards right. 

The GSC is also useful when it comes to spotting any pages with errors or mobile compatibility issues. Maybe you were wondering why an email marketing campaign was performing poorly, and realize that the page you were linking to was redirecting elsewhere, or plain broken.

In the best case, the search console can help you save money while helping you climb the SEO ranks. 

Google Analytics vs. Google Search Console

Google Analytics and Google Search Console are often mentioned in close relation to each other. And no wonder: these SEO tools are used alongside each other, and usually by the same people.

While these tools may seem similar to the untrained eye, they are actually used for different purposes. 

Google Analytics is used to view and analyze how your website is performing. It tracks information such as how many visitors your website has, how long they stayed on your website and where the visitors are coming to your website. It focuses on reporting the analytics of your website. 

Google Search Console, on the other hand, is used for optimizing and improving your website’s performance. The console shows you which other websites are linking to yours, whether there are any errors or faulty pages, and how your keywords are performing. 

You can use the search console to perform crawls through your whole website and get a clear idea of which pages and ads get the highest amount of clicks. 

Features and benefits of using Google Search Console

Google Search Console offers a wide range of different features, and it might be a little overwhelming for a new user to understand which functions are worth your attention. 

With the search console, you can monitor: 

  • Web traffic. Identify which pages get the most search traffic, where the traffic comes, and how well your top-performing pages are ranking in the search results. Knowing which pages are your ‘money pages’ can help to allocate the right amount of marketing budget to the correct pages.
  • Click-through-rate. Analyze the average click-through-rate (CTR) of your website and how it has evolved over time, and understand which pages get the highest CTR. It can be helpful to compare the highest CTR with the lowest and see if there’s room for optimization.
  • Impressions. Keep an eye on the number of impressions your pages and website gets. A low number of impressions could indicate that there’s something wrong with your page.
  • Search result page position. Monitor the search result positions (SERPs) of your pages on the Google search engine. Sometimes shifts in the Google algorithm can impact your ranking overnight.
  • Performance. Analyze the search appearance performance of your website across geographic regions and on different devices, and see how good the mobile usability of your pages is. If you get lots of mobile visitors but only have a few pages optimized for smaller screens, you could be losing out on revenue. 
  • Indexing. Understand and monitor the indexing of your pages, and see which pages aren’t indexed and why. Broken links or even hack attempts can show up here.
  • Linking. Identify and analyze the backlinks to your website, and see which pages have the most backlinks and which websites link to your pages the most. Maybe you could partner up with other websites that find your content useful and get even better exposure for your brand. 

How to use Google Search Console to improve your website’s SEO

You should be concerned with your website’s SEO. Whether your website can or can’t be easily found online matters, and can easily translate to fewer bookings and fewer sales in an eCommerce context. 

With a tool like Google Search Console, you can monitor your website and spot any instances that would affect your website’s SEO negatively, and make search engines to punish your ranking. 

To get started, you only need to have your own website and set up your free Google Search Console (GSC) account. 

Adding your website

Once you’ve created your GSC account, it’s time to link it with your website. Unfortunately, you can’t analyze your competitors with Google webmaster tools, since you need to be able to prove that you own the website you want to add to your GSC account. 

You should use GSC primarily for monitoring the health of your own website and use other tools to keep track of your competitors’ movements. 

Adding your website to your GSC account is easy:

  • First, you want to navigate to the left-hand dropdown menu and click on the ‘add property’ button.
  • Next, you need to enter the name of your site. Keep in mind to be very specific: ‘http’ and ‘https’ will be treated as two different sites. 
  • Now it’s time to verify that it’s actually your website. This can be done in a few ways: you can add an HTML file to your website’s server, create a meta tag, edit the DNS settings of your website, or connect your Google Tag Manager or Analytics account with your GSC account.

Tools you’ll find inside the dashboard

To help you get the most out of your data, you need to know how the basics of the dashboard. Rather than clicking around aimlessly, it’s better to approach the GSC systematically.

Let’s go over the main items that you can find in the Google Search Console dashboard.

Performance

In the performance tab, you can analyze and monitor which pages and keywords are ranking well on Google. You can use this overview to see which pages get the most visits from Google’s search traffic. It also shows you which keywords people used prior to landing on your website as well as the total number of impressions on Google search results.

This section of the search console has subsections for:

  • Clicks. The number of clicks or the lack of them is a strong indicator of how a particular page or website is performing. In particular, clicks are a good performance indicator of how well your meta descriptions and titles are doing against the competition.
  • Impressions. This metric tells you how many times your website or a particular page has been seen by a user on Google. For example, if a page gets a high number of impressions but has a low click-through-rate, that’s an indicator that you should analyze the page and identify what’s causing the loss of clicks.
  • Average CTR. The click-through-rate or CTR tells you how many people clicked on your page or website on Google and landed on your website. Usually, the higher your page ranks in Google, the better the CTR is. 
  • Average position. The SERPs are constantly changing, and this metric tracks the average position your page or website has within the rankings. Knowing your average position helps you work out what those ranking higher are doing better, and learn from them.

Index

This tab helps you understand which pages are indexed and shown in Google. While indexing is a bit more technical, it’s an important factor to get right in your search engine optimization.

In the index tab, you can see all the errors and potential warnings that appear on your website. You will also get a notification from Google when any new errors occur. 

If a page is not working and gives out a 404 error, it shows up in the index tab in GSC. Other errors could include a typo in a link redirecting elsewhere from your website, any problems with your theme, or with your code, for example. 

All errors and warnings are listed here, and you can get more information on individual errors by clicking on the specific URL. 

Pay close attention to a few things in the index tab: 

  • New content and indexed pages. Adding new content to your website should translate to an increasing number of indexed pages. But keep an eye out for any sudden drops: this could mean that for some reason, Google can’t access all of your pages. It could be because of changes to robots txt or server-related issues. 
  • Sudden spikes. If you see an unexpected spike in the indexed pages, this could mean there’s an issue with duplicate content, auto-generated pages or even hacking attempts to your website.

Keeping a regular eye on the index tab helps you avoid Google penalizing your ranking due to bad website maintenance. The faster you can fix errors as they appear, the better the browsing experience will be for anyone visiting your site. And this will mean your content will be in the good books of the Google algorithm.

Enhancements

Sitting under the index tab, enhancements gives you an overview of where you can improve your website’s SEO performance. It will give you insights into your website’s speed and mobile usability, and other more technical aspects of your site.  

Speed matters for your website. The GSC speed report gives you a good overview of how fast your website loads on different devices and whether Google encounters any issues when loading up your site. Google bases the data on the Chrome browser’s user experience, so you can trust that the data is accurate and tested by real users. 

Paying attention to the accelerated mobile pages (AMP) can also have a drastic impact on your website’s SEO ranking. If you have installed AMP on your website, this report gives you an overview of all the AMP valid pages and any potential errors or issues. 

If you have structured data on your website, you’ll be interested in checking out the rich results report. In this part of the GSC, you can view and solve any warnings or errors related to this data. You can monitor the performance and status of your

  • FAQs, how-tos, and reviews. These are usually set up with dedicated modules on most CRM systems, so pay attention to any third-party updates that could cause loading issues. 
  • Logos and videos. Big file sizes can cause delays in loading times. If you’re hosting your files on an external server, it’s important to keep a close eye on the server’s uptime. 
  • Breadcrumbs. The little navigational trail usually visible on the left-hand corner of a page enhances the browsing experience on your site.
  • Events and server jobs. GSC will flag up any issues with server-related jobs and events. 
  • Site links. Broken links within your website and linking out from your website all affect your SEO.
  • Search boxes. A poorly functioning search box can cost you more money than you realize. It’s important to notice any bugs related to the search box features on your website.

How to submit a sitemap to Google Search Console

A sitemap is the roadmap of your website, most commonly submitted to search engines as an XML file. The file contains all the URLs of your website and is basically an index of your whole website. It explains to Google which pages belong together under certain categories, and what hierarchies are present on your site. 

Submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console is easier than you may think. 

First, you need to sign in to your GSC account and select your website. You need to click on the sitemap tab on the lefthand side menu. Next, you need to add a new sitemap URL and click on submit. Now the search engine will crawl through the sitemap and begin the indexing process of all your URLs. 

The report that you’ll get after the crawl has finished will include the number of discovered URLs as well as the overall status (including any errors or warnings) of the crawl. 

The links tab is split between internal and external links. This section of the GSC will give you a detailed overview of which websites are linking to yours and vice versa, what those links are saying and where they take the visitor. 

Google considers links as evidence that your content is considered useful by other websites and pages. Internal links mean the linking that happens between your own web pages. 

For example, you could be linking to your pricing table a lot across your website. Since the pricing table page would be getting lots of links from within your website, Google considers it as an important page. 

External links, on the other hand, are links that your website receives from other websites. In SEO terms external links are also referred to as backlinks, and they’re seen as even more valuable than internal links. 

The more backlinks a piece of content has, the better it will rank, as Google considers the page containing a lot of useful information that answers a particular search query. 

Maybe you did a study in your field and published the results in your blog. Let’s say you uncovered some great techniques that helped your eCommerce store reduce abandoned carts at checkout. Many other websites find your study useful and include your tips and link back to your original article in their posts on eCommerce marketing strategies. 

Google sees that your content is being linked to by external websites a lot, and takes this as an indicator that your content is very useful in answering a question on great eCommerce marketing strategies. This will improve your page’s ranking and overall SERP position. 

Written by

Author avatar

Matleena

Matleena is a seasoned eCommerce writer, with a particular interest in emerging digital marketing trends, dropshipping, and growth hacking. She’s addicted to coming up with new eCommerce business ideas and making them a reality; she deserves her nickname of ‘print on demand business mogul.' In her free time, she enjoys cups of good coffee, tends to her balcony garden, and studies Japanese.

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