There is a plethora of paid tools and software which can help with your SEO strategy, and no doubt each of them has it merits. However, there is a free tool, which means it is often overlooked or given the credit it deserves.
That tool is the Google Search Console, and it has several excellent features which can give your SEO efforts a significant helping hand in terms of being able to see how your website is seen by Google.
Google Search console isn’t one tool but is instead a collection of tools which provide information relating to search traffic, crawling data, and search engine appearance. You may have heard of it being called one of its previous names which were Google Webmaster Central, and more recently Google Webmaster Tools.
To start using Google Search Console there are a few steps you need to complete which include opening a Google account if you do not already have one, and then verifying your account which can be done in several ways, including using SEO plugins such as Yoast.
You will then need to select settings such as whether you want your website to have ‘www.’ or not, how often you want Google to crawl your website, and if there are others who work on your website, adding them as users.
Once you have everything set up, you can then start to take advantage of the Google search Console’s reporting features, and more importantly start using them to make any changes to your SEO strategy that the information they provide suggests.
Here are some of those features:
This will show you the keywords which Google is ranking your website for, and how highly it is ranking you for those keywords. This is vital information which lets you see which of your keywords are ranking well and which keywords you need to work on for them to move further up the SERPs.
Many web owners report that they were shocked when they saw how their keywords were seen by Google with many wrongly assuming they had optimised for some of the keywords, when in fact they hadn’t. This data allowed them, as it will you, to make changes to pages, pieces of content, and linking strategies, to improve the SEO for those keywords.
As you may know, the speed at which your website loads is something which Google uses to rank your site. If it is slow, it is moved down the SERPs, if it loads quickly it will move up. What the crawling stats tell you is how fast Google’s crawlers were able to download a page in milliseconds.
You will be able to see this over a period of time and identify any changes which might have impacted negatively on your websites speed. These can include large images files that need condensing or the addition of a plugin which is now slowing your website down.
Fetch as Google
Many web owners are surprised when they are told that Google doesn’t come and crawl your website every day, or even every month. Big news websites like CNN may get crawled every hour as they are constantly being updated, but a small local business may only be crawled every two or three months.
If you have been making changes to your website it may get crawled sooner, but instead of waiting to see if they have made any difference, you can request that Google crawl your website on demand. There is a limit to how many times you can do this per month, but if used sensibly it can help your ranking as Google gets to see your new content and other SEO changes quicker than it would normally.
Other features in the Google Search Console include a link audit for both internal and external links, sitemap submission tool, and a crawling error report which will highlight pages they can’t crawl.