SEO: The Basics
Search Engine Optimisation, aka SEO, can be intimidating for the digital marketing novice, but in today’s tech-savvy generation, there are a bunch of tools at your disposal that will do half the work for you. But before we dive into the deep blue that is SEO service, what even is it?
SEO is a series of practices that are put in place to essentially improve web traffic and viewership. It helps in the long-term growth of a brand and takes several steps and processes to convert potential to actual.
SEO requires data and unique metrics to identify a brand’s weak points and the experts then use this data and the tools at hand for damage control. And if you’re wondering if there is a holy-grail that reigns above all else, you wondered right, and he is the mighty Google Search Console.
What is Google Search Console?
In short, Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool that monitors and troubleshoots the SEO performance of a website using real-time data. Website owners and marketers can use it to analyse pages on your website and make it more search-engine friendly. It is a crucial cog in the marketing world, and it offers insight on how to improve SEO from a content and technical perspective.
Most users don’t take full advantage of GSC and mainly acquaint it with fluffy metrics like impressions and clicks. Though there’s nothing wrong with that, there is so much more on offer that can actually boost your site ranking. GSC handles the bulk of keyword-related matters, identifies crawl errors and security issues, provides backlink reports, oversees usability on mobile devices and more. Its comprehensive features make it a vital addition to your SEO toolkit.
How to Set Up Google Search Console
The first and most obvious step is to create a GSC account. If your website is set up with Google Analytics (GA) then you can also sign in with those login details.
You will then need to select a property type in which to add your website URL too. You will have to pick one according to the criteria provided by the two options.
The next step involves verifying ownership of your website. This can be done with the GA tracking ID. For reference, log into your GA account and follow these steps: “Admin” – “Property settings” – “Basic settings” – “Tracking ID”. The whole verification will differ depending on which property type you chose at the start.
It’s not the end yet. Now it’s time to submit a sitemap to Google Search Console. This isn’t a step you can bypass as a sitemap will help GSC find and crawl important content on your site. Simply choose “Sitemaps” from the menu, paste the URL of your XML sitemap into “Enter sitemap URL,” hit “Submit” and voilà, it’s done.
The final step, hang in there, is adding users to the console. Creating a user family is kind of like having different profiles on a streaming platform. Essentially, there is one admin but everyone has access to all or most of the data.
There are 3 types of profiles, and they are owner, full user and restricted user. When you verify the website, you become the owner. To add a user, follow this chain: “Search Console” – “Choose a property” – “Settings” – “Users and permissions” – “Add user”. Provide their email address and choose which access to grant.
- Owner: Has full control over the property in Search Console, including adding users and changing their access. Owners can be either verified or delegated.
- Full user: Someone who can view all the data within the selected property and has the power to conduct some actions.
- Restricted user: As the name suggests, this person has restricted view rights, so they may not be able to view all the data.
How to Use Google Search Console To Improve SEO
Now that you’re all set with GSC, we’ve taken the pleasure of raking through mountains of information for you and found some of the best ways you can utilise the console to improve SEO.
1. Track Keyword Rankings and CTR
Some basic pieces of data are contained in what’s called the “Performance” report. Within this category, there is a “Queries” tab that displays the data for the keywords that your website and pages rank for. Keyword monitoring can save you the agony of wondering if your content is ranking and how you can optimise it for a higher CTR.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) is another interesting nugget of information. It measures the number of clicks that your ad campaign receives divided by the number of times your ad is viewed. For example, if you had 10 clicks and 100 impressions, then your CTR would be 10%.
Simply put, it’s the proportion of impressions that resulted in a click. Impressions are the number of times your results come across in a search.
2. Fix sitemap issues
Issues with your sitemap can result in Google being blocked from accessing and analysing your site. Firstly, and this is obvious, make sure your sitemap is properly submitted to Google.
To scour for issues, head to the “Sitemaps”, then click the “Coverage” button. The coverage report shows tabs showing: errors, warnings, valid URLs, and excluded ones.
If your sitemap is prompting crawl issues, a crawl audit is the best remedy. You can do this yourself or allow a third-party website to perform it for you. Once the issue has been resolved, check to see if the page loads seamlessly before re-submitting your sitemap.
You can resubmit your URL by clicking “Inspect URL” then “Request Indexing” in Google Search Console. Alternatively, you can resubmit the URL through Google’s Sitemap Manager.
Sitemaps allow for transparency between users and the site. It creates digital trust. High-quality sitemaps that follow best practices and allow for easy crawling will evidently lead to a higher ranking.
3. Troubleshoot Page Experience and Mobile Usability Issues
Content alone isn’t the only requirement in order to receive a royal ranking in Google. Google’s crawlers will assess the page loading speed, responsiveness and overall experience for users.
Google Search Console offers a simplified process of rewiring your website, so you can identify and address any technical issues that could impact your site’s rankings and positions. There are four criteria that Google uses to analyse the quality of your user experience. This is as follows:
- Core Web Vitals: The three pillars of core web vitals are performance, responsiveness, and visual stability.
- Mobile Usability: Mobile-friendly sites are increasingly important in today’s smartphone era. According to mobile-first indexing, core web vitals must be upheld on mobile devices too.
- Security: As simple as it sounds, websites should be safe and secure for users to browse.
- HTTPS: HTTPS uses the SSL/TLS protocol to encrypt communications which makes it far more secure than HTTP. SSL/TLS also stops multiple kinds of cyber attacks. Ultimately, it is a metric that can improve rankings.
If you pay attention to the “Experience” feature of your Google Search Console, it will point out any of the above issues and on which web pages.
4. Analyse Backlink Data
Backlink data is yet another important factor affecting SEO. A higher number of backlinks is vital if you want to attract more traffic. Google Search Console can tell you what sites have linked to your website, which pages other sites often link to, and which pages have the most links.
To check your backlinks, select “Links”, then choose “More” under “Top linking sites” under the subheader “External Links”. The report here will show you what type of content you need to keep producing to receive backlinks and boost growth.
5. Update Pages That are Losing Organic Traffic
As newer and fresher content arrives on your website, the older pages will seemingly show a drop in ranking due to outdated content.
To hone down on the pages that are losing traffic we can navigate to the “Search results” report. From here, provide a date range comparison to see data for the past six months compared to the previous six months. We only want to compare actual users, so clicks are the best resource for this.
Now sort the report by “Difference” in ascending order to see the biggest decrease in traffic from to the smallest. Here, you can compare the pages that have seen the biggest drops in traffic but also the queries that no longer serve you traffic. Updating your blog posts and pages with relevant and engaging content might help restore some lost traffic.
When it comes down to figuring out a clever and mature SEO strategy, Google Search Console outperforms every other tool in terms of comprehensive data and accuracy. Google’s cryptic algorithms may be hard to wrap your head around but GSC is dependable to every digital marketer.
Google Search Console can give you a clear picture of where to focus your efforts to optimise your page performance. Once you get more comfortable with basic SEO, you’ll be able to upgrade your website with advanced techniques and platforms to give you a fighting chance at ranking higher than ever before.