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Growing Your Business with Insights from Google Search Console

By Darren DeYoung

Google Search Console is a web service provided by Google to help you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. Even though this free service may seem geared toward the technically savvy--after all, it was previously called Google Webmaster Tools--it is an invaluable tool for anyone that has a website.

From business owners to marketers to developers, Google Search Console can help you understand and improve how Google sees your website.

Growing Your Business with Insights from Google Search Console

Identifying Website Errors in Google Search Console

There is always a chance that your website may break, whether a page goes missing, a link goes bad, or you experience mobile issues. These errors are unfortunate, and you’ll need to fix them as soon as you can. When a customer leaves your website because they can’t find what they’re looking for, your business may suffer.

For example, look at the short attention span of users--if they encounter a dead link all they have to do is tap the back button to find a never-ending list of alternatives. And in many cases, this list of alternatives is a list of your competitors. So if you are in a competitive industry where brand loyaty is thin, you just lost business because of your website.

Thankfully, Google Search Console keeps a record of such errors and will let you know when they occur. Sometimes these errors are simple fixes and sometimes they are more complex issues. Without this feature, you could go months without knowing that an error was driving traffic away from your site.

Identifying Crawling Errors and Non-indexable Pages

Crawl errors occur when a search engine fails to reach a page. Google Search Console will alert you if Google is unable to crawl and index your page. There are many reasons why these errors occur with the most common being:

  • DNS errors: The search engine isn’t able to communicate with the server.
  • Server errors: The search engine tried to visit your site, but it took too long and timed out. This could be due to poor website coding that prevents a page from loading or from the website having too many visitors that the server couldn’t handle all the requests.
  • Robots failure: Before crawling your website, Googlebot tries to crawl the robots.txt file. This file contains areas of your website that you’d rather not have indexed. If Googlebot cannot reach this file, Google will not crawl your site.
  • Mobile-specific errors: Errors that are unique to mobile users.

A non-indexable page occurs when a web page is not indexed by Google. Many times this is intentional (e.g. duplicate content, checkout pages, thank you pages, etc.) while other times it is not. Thankfully, Google will log these issues in Search Console as well. This saves the non-techy folks from having to inspect HTML code of each page and they can simply find these errors in the Coverage Report and selecting “Error” and “Valid with warnings.”

Coverage Issues on Google Search Console

Are Your Pages Mobile-Friendly?

Mobile is the primary user device and Google uses mobile-first indexing, so your website must be mobile-friendly and free of mobile usability issues. Google Search Console is your friend and makes it easy to find these issues. Addressing the issues found by Google Search Console will ensure that your webpages are providing a better mobile experience for visitors and that your pages rank higher in search.

Mobile Usability Errors Identified in the Google Search Console dashboard

See What Other Sites Have Linked To Your Site

Backlinks are links from other websites that connect to any page on your website. Google Search Console’s “Links” report will show you:

  1. What other sites have linked to your site
  2. What pages other sites link to most often, and
  3. What pages have the most links

Essentially, the more quality websites that link to your site, the better your site will do in search. However, there are some shady backlink practices that will cause Google to penalize and devalue your website. If you see abnormal changes in your traffic, you may want to use Google Search Console to see what sites are linking to you.

Since external backlinks are a big ranking factor and boost the visibility of your website, you can use Google Search Console to monitor and leverage these links for greater growth. Start by analyzing the top linking sites. If you notice that the majority of your links come from the same website, this means that you should target new websites for backlinks. Strive to make your backlink profile diverse, instead of being tied to one website.

If your backlink profile is diverse and several different websites are giving you backlinks, reach out to them for more backlinks. Find new ways to create backlinks and experience greater growth.

Backlinks are critical to any SEO strategy and the data in Google Search Console can help you find quality links. The higher the quality and diversity of your backlinks, the more your site will stand out to search engines.

Pages with lots of backlinks rank above pages that don’t have as many backlinks. In fact, the #1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10.

See If Your Site Has Any Penalties Or Manual Actions From Google

Google can issue a manual action against your site if it determines that your site violates any of its guidelines. This demotion results in either an immediate drop in rankings or a removal of your site from Google’s index. These are not related to noted Google algorithm changes such as Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, or others. This is Google manually punishing websites for poor behavior. Manual actions are typically the result of:

  1. Unnatural links to your site
  2. Hacked site
  3. Publishing low-quality content
  4. Keyword stuffing
  5. Sneaky redirects
  6. Spammy free hosts
  7. Spammy structured markup

Manual Actions identified within Google Search Console dashboard If you have hired someone to work on your site who has engaged in questionable practices to boost your SEO, it’s worth checking to see if you’ve been issued a manual penalty. Sometimes these penalties may be issued months or years after the fact. Keep in mind, a penalty can be issued for the actions of others, too. If Google believes that your website has been hacked, they may remove it from its index. Google can also take a manual action if your site is full of low-quality comments that link to spammy websites. It is always worth it to have a reputable digital marketing agency to look over previous work and to take corrective action when needed.

If you ever see a rapid drop in traffic, it is worth checking the “Manual actions” report to see if you’ve been issued a penalty. If so, there are typically instructions for how to fix the issue so your website can be reindexed.

Learn Common Keywords That People Use To Find You

Keywords are words and phrases within your content that are seen by Google and help your website appear in relevant searches. These keywords are one of many signals that search engines use to determine if your content is worth showing in search results.

Even if you do not have a specific SEO keyword strategy, it is good to know what your website is ranking for and make assessments:

  1. Is my website ranking for branded keywords?
  2. Are the top keywords valuable? (i.e. do they relate to my products/services and are they driving visitors to the site?)
  3. Are there any keywords that I’m surprised to see?

Based on your findings, you may need to adjust your keyword strategy or hire an SEO expert to guide your efforts.

Search Queries with clicks and impressions from Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows you the most common keywords in the Performance report. To see your keywords in Google Search Console, click on “Performance,” and then “Queries” tab to see the keywords that your website ranks for in search results.

Using the data in Google Search Console is one of the best ways to diagnose problems, fix website issues, and find new opportunities to grow your business and connect with customers. Spend some time getting to know the ins-and-outs of the platform. You don’t have to be an expert, but a basic understanding will help you use the data to your advantage.

If you’d like a digital marketing agency to look over your Google Search Console

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