Much like many of the Google Products over the last 12 months, there has been serious overhaul of the Google Search Console or as it was formerly known Google Webmaster Tools.
If you haven’t logged in recently you’re in for a pleasant surprise and I would recommend you go and take a look pretty quick to see what little treats Google has decided to start sharing with us. Whilst I won’t go through all the new features right now I would like to share a couple of my favourites.
The first thing to strike you in the new admin panel is the slick new look and feel which is becoming familiar across most of Google’s Products now. It has clean, angular lines with no over-bearing features allowing you to concentrate on what’s important. Navigation is no longer a stressful event, you can skip between categories in the left hand menu and with the seamless integration with other Google profiles it now allows you to jump around numerous accounts and profiles, particularly handy if you’re agency managing numerous client accounts.
A few years ago the dreaded “not provided” started appearing in our Google Analytics accounts and Ecommerce Directors all over the country started getting grey hairs as Google started making their lives very difficult. Not provided started replacing the priceless keyword information that would show us how people were finding your site and which landing page they were finding as result, this is crucial in understanding whether your site is optimised and doing the job you’re expecting. Losing it from the free version of Google Analytics was a hard pill to swallow…
However this information can now be found again having re-emerged in the Google Search Console. If you go to the Search Traffic section, under Search Analytics you’ll find lots of juicy information on what keywords are your driving your traffic. And it doesn’t just stop there…. Google now joins all the dots for you in tying up Impressions, Click Through Rate and Average Position all in one handy dashboard. You can select custom date ranges, compare year and year and you can slice and dice the data by Page, Country and Device.
For me it’s my number one stop of reviewing my business’s search visibility to ensure we’re tracking in the right direction.
My next stop takes me to the crawl section. It amazes me how clients I see not realise the pretty important step of uploading a sitemap to Google. I know Google is getting in to all sorts of funky AI but its search algorithm is still essentially a robot, you need to tell it to do stuff! By submitting a sitemap regularly you are telling Google you not only care about your site but also telling it what’s new to your site and what it should go take a look at. Plus it only takes a minute so why wouldn’t you?
When the results come back you need to check that the ‘urls indexed’ matches the number you know to be in your site, if it’s less you need to work out why. The more pages you have indexed, the more keywords and traffic you are likely to drive to your site. By using a “Site:[domain]” search in Google you can then see if the number of pages returned in the results matches the pages indexed. They’ll be some minor differences and this is to be expected but if wholesale chunks of content are being missed you need to find out why. It could be that Google doesn’t like some of the content on a certain page or that you have something in your Robots.txt that is preventing Google from crawling it. I once found a command in a client’s robots file preventing the entire blog section of the site from being crawled, around 100 pieces of content and no one knew how long it had been like that. Often the most dangerous of things are lying hidden behind the scenes and you need to take a look under the bonnet every now and again.
There are lots of other cool features, such as Structured Data, Rich Cards and Data Highlighter which I’ll talk about in a future blog. Google is known for quietly making small but revolutionary updates without telling anyone about it and it certainly feels like the Search Console is in one of those zones at the moment and getting lots of attention from the Google Engineers, so it’s a good place to be checking out fairly regularly at the moment.