Identifying technical issues in Google Search Console
Click Consult’s SEO team spends a lot of time in Google Search Console analysing data and monitoring campaign performance. You can uncover valuable information that can help inform a successful SEO strategy. This quick guide shows you how you can use Google Search Console to check for technical issues that could hinder SEO performance
We will also show you how to uncover your website’s important keyword rankings and recognise your key traffic-driving pages with a few SEO tips from the team along the way.
While there are several tools that can do some or almost all of the tasks that GSC offers, there are none that you can use for free – and if you’re starting out in search, you may not want to invest the money that would be required for some of the top tier tools. While we’d definitely say that there will come a time when you’ll need crawlers and monitoring tools, GSC offers a nice intro to some of the techniques and practices you’ll need to master to succeed in search.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console is a free service designed to help brands monitor and maintain their site’s presence in search results. Launched in May 2015, replacing Google Webmaster Tools, and updated in January 2018, Google Search Console is one of the many tools that developers and SEOs use to monitor the performance of their sites. It offers error reports, keyword reports, mobile site reports and more – making it an ideal tool for any brand, but perfect to newcomers. If you don’t have a Google Search Console account? Find out how to verify one here.
So, here are just a two things you can explore in your Google Search Console account today:
- Identify Technical Issues in Google Search Console that could be hindering SEO
- Discover which keywords matter the most to your business
Identify Technical Issues in Google Search Console
If your website has technical issues making it difficult for Google to crawl, SEO performance is guaranteed to suffer.
There are a few key reports to check when reviewing your websites technical health in Google Search Console, these include:
- XML Sitemaps
- Mobile Usability
- Security & Manual Actions
- Rendering – How Google sees your webpages
Firstly, we look at how many pages of your website Google has included in it’s index (database)…
The Coverage report lets you see how many of your sites pages are currently being indexed and appearing on Google. You can find this report by simply logging into your Google Search Console account and selecting Coverage, and then selecting the ‘Valid’ tab.
Tip: It’s important to keep an eye on the number of your website’s pages in Google’s index. This number alone can highlight crawl and duplicate content issues. For example, if the number of pages in Google was extremely high or low when compared to actual live webpages this could indicate a range of issues and result in diluted rankings and reduced visibility.
We now go on to check if we are helping search engines find your important pages with the XML sitemap…
XML sitemaps are often overlooked, however, your website’s XML sitemap helps Google to find all your important pages with ease, although Google is pretty good at finding all of a site’s pages already. However, larger sites can be more cumbersome to crawl and a sitemap can be beneficial.
This report is on the left in your Google Search Console account, underneath Sitemaps:
Tip: Check the XML sitemap has been submitted, if not, submit your XML sitemap (find out how to do this here).
Tip: Check if the number of pages in the XML sitemap correlates with the number of valid pages in the coverage report? There are pages missing or other technical issues.
Tip: Make sure the XML sitemap is updated to mirror the pages you want included on Google.
Mobile Usability Report:
Google has been mobile first for a while now, in a nutshell mobile first means instead of ranking websites based on the desktop content. Google switched focus to ordering websites in results pages by mobile content instead, which you can read more about here: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2018/03/rolling-out-mobile-first-indexing.html
The Mobile Usability Report helps you understand if your website is meeting Google’s mobile first standards.
Tip: Check for any errors, if there are errors this means your pages are not mobile friendly and they are below the minimum mobile usability test. If this is the case, you should speak to your web developer about how these can be fixed. If the page is valid, this means your pages meet the minimum mobile usability level. However, there could still be other mobile related issues. If you want to be super sure a page is mobile friendly, you can check via the mobile friendly testing tool (https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly).
Security & Manual Actions:
If your website ever breaks Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9044175?hl=en) you could attract a penalty. As stated in the Google guidelines “If a site has a manual action, some or all of that site will not be shown in Google search results.”
Login and select Security & Manual Actions’ then Manual Actions:
If you have a message in the manual penalty report we recommend an SEO expert reviews your website ASAP.
How does Google see your website?
Finally, check if Google sees your website content, ideally Google should be able to see a site’s content just like a user. To check this you need to inspect a page by adding the URL to the page you want to check, like below:
You will then see a processing message
Once this is completed you will then see a report about the page with lots of useful information:
Then click ‘test live URL’…
You will notice the tested pages section, instead of the ‘html’ tab the tool opens on default…
Tip: If the screenshot doesn’t look anything like your or is lacking images, navigation or anything. Your robots.txt is likely blocking a folder with these assets in. Click Consult recommends this issue should be prioritised with your web developers.
Discover which keywords matter the most to your business
The Performance report allows you to understand which search queries are drawing impressions and clicks to your website from Google. You can also see the average position in Google’s search results pages (SERPs).
You can find this report by simply logging into your Google Search Console account and selecting ‘Performance’.
Scroll down and view a list of queries your whole website is ranking for in Google. You can filter the keywords by query and sort these keywords by number of impressions and clicks:
This can help inform which keywords you should be targeting and tracking.
Tip: Make a list of the keywords that are driving the most clicks (these are your traffic driving keywords). Google these keywords to check the position of your website. Have a look at any pages ranking above and consider – Is the content better? Does the page cover the topic in more depth? Do they include images, videos… Is the site ranking above more authoritative or trusted. Think about in comparison to competitor content, what does your page lack?
You can find more on this topic and other ways to effectively use GSC in our blog
Using Google Search Console to Inform Your Search Strategy
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