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 Google sees your website.
Google Search Console isn’t one tool but is instead a collection of tools that 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 others work on your website, adding them as users.
Once you have everything set up, you can 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 that Google ranks your website for and how highly it ranks you for those keywords. This is vital information that 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 that Google uses to rank your site. If it is slow, it is moved down the SERPs; if it loads quickly, it will move up. The crawling stats tell you how fast Google’s crawlers can download a page in milliseconds.
You will be able to see this over time and identify any changes that might have impacted your website’s speed negatively. These can include large image files that need condensing or the addition of a plugin that 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, a sitemap submission tool, and a crawling error report which will highlight pages they can’t crawl.