Google’s Search Console tool has always been a critical (free) tool for all website owners working on SEO, and it has now seen a great (and long-awaited) redesign.
Keeping it in line with their other modern web apps, Google had been testing the new GSH interface for a while and then slowly rolled out the new version to its users.
The revamped indexing and search performance reports will provide even more insights into how you can improve your website (both in Google’s eyes and for your human visitors).
“The new Search Console was rebuilt from the ground up by surfacing the most actionable insights and creating an interaction model which guides you through the process of fixing any pending issues.”
– Google Webmaster Central Blog
The new version of Google Search Console doesn’t yet have all the features of the old interface, but its reports provide:
- improved graphs and tables, which lead to better insights
- a faster “communication” between website owners and Google (especially the “validate fix” functionality, more on this below)
The “Performance” report is basically a revamped “Search > Search Analytics” report, now with 16 months of data! It contains metrics about how your domain is performing in Google search results: total clicks, total impressions, average click-through rate (CTR), average position – all tracked over the last 16 months. (Learn more from Google’s help page: Performance report)
The “Index coverage” report is a combination of the old “Index Status”, “Blocked Resources”. It’s useful for knowing how many of your pages have been indexed by Google, and most importantly, how to fix those that couldn’t be indexed. Spikes or drops in these graphs should definitely have your attention. (Learn more from Google’s help page: Index Coverage Status report)
A great new feature here is that if you ever fix an indexing error on your site, GSH now provides a “validate fix” button (which will make Google re-crawl and update that specific page with a high priority, leading to faster times to get your site back on track).
The new Search Console can also help you confirm that you’ve resolved an issue, and help us to update our index accordingly. To do this, select a flagged issue, and click validate fix. Google will then crawl and reprocess the affected URLs with a higher priority, helping your site to get back on track faster than ever. – Google Webmaster Central Blog
Other new features:
- AMP status report – if you’re a fan of Google’s AMP pages
- Job posting status report – if you’re using JobPosting rich results on your site
The “Sitemaps” area provides the same functionality as before here, you have the ability to submit a new sitemap and to track how much of it has been indexed. But only pages are tracked so far, no image index stats yet.
And the following features are no longer / not yet present in the new GSH interface:
- Message (though they still provide insights via email notifications)
- Search Appearance > Structured Data, Rich Cards, HTML Improvements
- Search Traffic > Links to Your Site, Internal Links, Manual Actions, International Targeting, Mobile Usability
Google Index > Remove URLs
- Crawl > Crawl Stats, Fetch as Google*, robots.txt Tester*, URL Parameters
- Security Issues
- * The “Fetch as Google” and “Robots.txt tester” functionalities are still there if you go to Status > Index Coverage and dive into one of the lists of indexed pages and then click on a URL, you still get the options there, but apparently you can no longer just input a new slug, like when having just created a new page on your site).
Still in beta
The new Google Search Console is still in beta, while Google is still working on bringing in features from the classic version. So for now, both version will live side-by-side (you can switch from one to the other the link in the navigation bar):
What are the most important reports that you should check regularly?
The Search Performance report is definitely the star in GSH. Besides Google Analytics, this search console report is the most useful piece of traffic info you have. You learn how people are searching for your site (aka what keywords/phrases they use to at least see your site in search results, if not to click on it).
At the top of the page, you have the 4 main filters: Total Clicks, Total impressions, Average CTR, Average position (in search results).
Below you have the 4 types of reports you can get:
- The “Queries” tab shows you search stats for the main queries people use to find you with.
- 1. Look for the main phrases that you want to target (based on your SEO goals). For the pages that are performing poorly (have a low CTR), consider rewriting your SEO meta-description to encourage more clicks. And for pages that have a low position, consider improving the page content to eventually rank higher.
- 2. Look for surprise queries here, phrases that you didn’t expect to be ranked for. Maybe one of your older articles become a little bit “viral”. See then how you can further improve those articles/pages to take advantage of the “unexpected” organic traffic: use internal links to drive people to other parts of your site, or add a lead-magnet to get people to subscribe to your newsletter or social media accounts.
- The “Pages” tab lists your top pages, the ones getting the most clicks, or the ones showing highest in search results, depending on what filters you’ve enabled at the top filters. Once again, see how the list of top-performing pages compares to your expectations of your content. Good pages performing poorly means that you need to further improve your content. So-and-so pages performing well means that there’s something there, there’s an interest for that sort of content, and you can expand on it.
- “Countries” is all about search performance broken down by location
- And the “Devices” tab shows how your pages perform on mobile/tablet searches
The Index coverage report should also be checked from time to time.
- Anything in the “Errors” tab should be addressed promptly.
- Items in the “Valid with Warnings” tab should be investigated. Both tabs sometimes throw in some “false positives”, ask a developer or SEO expert if you’re not sure.
- The graph in the “Valid” tab should just be checked for any sudden drops (which would signal big problems with the site, or sometimes a normal sign after a website migration or redesign).
- The “Excluded” tab provides really interesting or why some pages in the site have not been indexed. When that’s intentional, all good. When pages are excluded by mistake, the report will tell you what you need to fix.
With these recent improvements, Google Search Console has cemented itself as a critically important tool in your online business, not just for SEO purposes, but for your website’s health as a whole.
If you (or your web-designer) are not using GSH, you’re not serious about your website.
What are your favorite reports in Google Search Console and how are you they informing what website changes to work on?