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How to Use Google Search Console to Improve Your SEO

Peter Foy
Peter Foy
Written by
Peter Foy
Marketing at AgencyAnalytics
Jul 08
Jul 8, 2021

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:

  • What is Google Search Console?

  • How to Set Up Google Search Console

  • Common Use Cases for Google Search Console

  • 7 Google Search Console Tips to Improve SEO

  • Automating Your Google Search Console Reporting

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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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 

  • Submitting sitemaps

  • 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. 

These pages have many of the on page elements needed to rank at the top of Google, as evidenced by their decent average position, however they will likely need links to push them to the top of the SERPs. 

Their high number of impressions indicate that there is a good amount of traffic to be won if they were to be pushed up to the top of the SERPs. Building links to these pages should therefore see you get the best ROI from your link building efforts.

  1. 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.

The next step is to see if your page contains the keywords. You can quickly do this by pressing command or control, and F.  Then type in the phrase. Include it in your article if it's missing and watch clicks and impressions soar.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

If you have done everything when it comes to on-page and off-page and your page is still not ranking, you should then check:

  • Does the page have the right canonical?

  • Is it crawled and still not indexed?

  • Is it internally linked from an irrelevant page that's bringing its ranking down?

As Google puts a lot of emphasis on page speed and the core web vitals update is around the corner, also make sure that your metric for speed is done properly.

  1. 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 FrazileMedia 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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:

([^” “]*\s){n,}?

Where n = the number of words in the long tail keyword.

This expression will help you find ranking opportunities that don’t require a lot of effort because the content is getting impressions and will help you increase your clicks and ranking for said keywords.

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.

In order to report on your GSC data alongside other relevant data sources, AgencyAnalytics has prebuilt SEO dashboards and 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, a dedicated SEO dashboard or report allows you aggregate data from multiple sources, automate your reporting, and ultimately scale your agency.

Peter Foy
Peter Foy
Written by
Peter Foy
Marketing at AgencyAnalytics
Peter Foy is a content marketer with a focus on SaaS companies. Based in Toronto, when he’s not writing he’s usually studying data science and machine learning.

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