Google Search Console: The Definitive Guide

Google Search Console:The Definitive Guide

This guide has everything you need to know about the NEW Google Search Console.

If you’re new to SEO, I’ll show you how to get started with the GSC.

And if you’re an SEO pro? I’ll reveal advanced tips, tactics and strategies that you can use to get higher rankings.

Bottom line:

If you want to get the most out of the Search Console, you’ll love this guide.

Google Search Console: The Definitive Guide

Chapter 1:Getting Started With the
Google Search Console

Getting Started With The Google Search Console

In this chapter I’ll show you how to use the Search Console. First, you’ll learn how to add your site to the GSC. Then, I’ll help you make sure your site settings are good to go.

Step #1: How to Add Your Site to the GSC

First, log in to the Google Search Console and click on “Add Property”.

Google Search Console – Add property

Then, copy and paste your homepage URL into the “Domain” field.

Google Search Console – Input website

Next, it’s time to verify your site.

There are 7 ways to verify your site. Here are the 3 easiest ways to get your site verified:

  • HTML File: Upload a unique HTML file to your site.
  • CNAME or TXT Record: Here’s where you add a special CNAME or TXT record to your domain settings.
  • HTML Code Snippet (my personal recommendation): Simply upload a small snippet of code (an HTML tag) to the <head> section of your homepage’s code.

Once you’ve done that, you can proceed to step 2.

Step #2: Set Your Target Country

Google does a pretty good job figuring out which country your site is targeting. To do that, they look at data like:

  • Your ccTLD (for example: co.uk for UK sites)
  • The address listed on your website
  • Your server location
  • The country you get most backlinks from
  • The language your content is written in (English, French etc.)

That said, the more information you can give Google, the better.

So the next step is to set your target country inside the (old) GSC.

1

Click the “International Targeting” link (under “Search Traffic”)

Google Search Console – International targeting
2

Click the “Country” tab

Country tab
3

Check the “Target users in” box

Target users in
4

Select your target country from the drop-down box

International Targeting – Select country

And you’re all set.

Step #3: Link Google Analytics With Search Console

Back in 2013, Google switched all searches over to HTTPS.

Google move to HTTPS

This was great for security. But it was a bummer for website owners.

Suddenly, priceless keyword data vanished from Google Analytics.

Instead, all we got was this:

Not provided

The good news? There’s a simple way to get some of that keyword data back:
Link Google Analytics with your Google Search Console account.

Here’s how:

Open up your Google Analytics. Then, click the “Admin” button at the bottom of the left menu.

Google Analytics – Admin option

Click on the “Property Settings” link.

Google Analytics admin

Scroll down until you see the “Adjust Search Console” button. Click it!

Adjust search console

Click on “Add”.

Add search console property

Scroll down until you find your website, check the box, and hit “Save”.

Add search console property

You’re done! Analytics and Search Console are now linked.

Let’s see what you get…

Landing pages with impression and click data:

Google Analytics – Search Console landing pages

Impression, click, CTR, and position data by country:

Google Analytics – Search Console countries

But most importantly… keyword data:

Google Analytics – Search Console queries

Boom!

Step #4: Check For Security Issues

Finally, check to see if you have any security issues that might be hurting your site’s SEO.

To do that, click “Security Issues”.

Google Search Console – Security issues

And see what Google says:

Google Search Console – No issues detected

In most cases, as you see here, there aren’t any security problems with my site. But it’s worth checking.

Step #5: Add a Sitemap

I’ll be honest:

If you have a small site, you probably don’t NEED to submit a sitemap to Google.

But for bigger sites (like ecommerce sites with thousands of pages) a sitemap is KEY.

That said: I recommend that you go ahead and submit a sitemap either way.

Here’s how to do it:

First up, you need to create a sitemap. If you’re running WordPress with the Yoast plugin, you should already have one.

If you don’t have a sitemap yet, head over to Yoast. Then, set the XML sitemaps setting to “On” (under “General/Features”):

Yoast sitemaps

Click the “See the XML Sitemap” link, which will take you to your sitemap:

Backlinko sitemap

Don’t use Yoast? Go to yoursite.com/sitemap.xml. If you have a sitemap, it’s usually here. If not, you want to create one.

So let’s submit a sitemap to Google.

It’s SUPER easy to do in the new GSC.

Grab your sitemap URL. Then, hit the “Sitemaps” button.

Google Search Console – Sitemaps

Paste in your URL and click “Submit”.

New GSC submit sitemap

And that’s it:

Submit sitemap success

Told you it was easy 🙂

Chapter 2:How to Optimize Your Technical
SEO With the GSC

How To Optimize Your Technical SEO With GSC

In this chapter I’ll share the tactics I use to SLAM DUNK my technical SEO.

As you know, when you fix these technical SEO problems, you’ll usually find yourself with higher rankings and more traffic.

And the Google Search Console has a TON of features to help you easily spot and fix technical SEO issues.

Here’s how to use them:

Use The “Index Coverage” Report To Find
(And Fix) Problems With Indexing

If everything on your website is setup right, Google will:

a) Find your page
and
b) Quickly add it to their index

But sometimes, things go wrong.

Things you NEED to fix if you want Google to index all of your pages.

And that’s where the Index Coverage report comes in.

Let’s dive in.

What is the Index Coverage Report?

The Index Coverage report lets you know which pages from your site are in Google’s index. It also lets you know about technical issues that prevent pages from getting indexed.

Index coverage report

It’s part of the new GSC and replaces the “Index Status” report in the old Search Console.

Note: The Coverage report is pretty complicated.

And I could just hand you a list of features and wish you luck.

(In fact, that’s what most other “ultimate guides” do).

Instead, I’m going to walk you through an analysis of a REAL site (this one), step-by-step.

That way you can watch me use the Index Coverage Report to uncover problems… and fix them.

How to Find Errors With The Index Coverage Report

At the top of the Index Coverage report we’ve got 4 tabs:

  1. Error
  2. Valid with warnings
  3. Valid
  4. Excluded
Errors over time

Let’s focus on the “error” tab for now.

As you can see, this site has 54 errors. The chart shows how that number has changed over time.

If you scroll down, you get deets on each of these errors:

Indexation errors

There’s a lot to take in here.

So to help you make sense of each “reason”, here are some quick definitions:

“Submitted URL seems to be a Soft 404”

This means that the page was “not found”, but delivered an incorrect status code in the header.

(I’ve found this one to be a little buggy)

“Redirect error”

There’s a redirect for this page (301/302).

But it ain’t working.

“Submitted URL not found (404)”

The page wasn’t found and the server returned the correct HTTP status code (404).

All good. (Well, if you ignore the fact that the page is broken…)

“Submitted URL has crawl issue”

This could be a 100 different things.

You’ll have to visit the page to see what’s up.

“Server errors (5xx)”

Googlebot couldn’t access the server. It might have crashed, timed out, or been down when Googlebot stopped by.

And when you click on an error status, you get a list of pages with that particular problem.

Affected pages

404 errors should be easy to fix. So let’s start with those.

Click a URL on the list. This opens up a side panel with 4 options:

Individual error

But first, let’s visit the URL with a browser. That way, we can double check that the page is really down.

404 page

Yup. It’s down.

Next, pop your URL into the URL inspection field at the top of the page.

URL Inspection Tool – Input URL

And Googlebot will rush over to your page.

Sure enough, this page is still giving me a 404 “Not found” status.

Fetch as Google

How do we fix it?

Well, we have two options:

  1. Leave it as is. Google will eventually deindex the page. This makes sense if the page is down for a reason (like if you don’t sell that product anymore).
  2. You can redirect the 404 page to a similar product page, category page, or blog post.

How to Fix “Soft 404” Errors

Now it’s time to fix these pesky “Soft 404” errors.

Again, check out the URLs with that error.

Soft 404

Then, visit each URL in your browser.

Looks like the first page on the list is loading fine.

Page working

Let’s see if Google can access the page OK. Again, we’ll use the URL Inspection tool.

URL inspection tool – Input URL – meintrendyhandy

This time we’ll hit the “Test Live URL button”. This sends Googlebot to the page. It also renders the page so you can see your page like Googlebot sees it.

"Test Live URL" button

Looks like Google found the page this time.

URL is available to Google

Now let’s see how Google rendered the page. Click “View Tested Page”, then the “Screenshot” tab:

Tested page screenshot – meintrendyhandy

Looks pretty much the same as how visitors see it. That’s good.

Next, click the More Info tab, and check for any page resources that Google wasn’t able to load correctly.

Page resources not loaded

Sometimes there’s a good reason to block certain resources from Googlebot. But sometimes these blocked resources can lead to soft 404 errors.

In this case though, these 5 things are all meant to be blocked.

Once you’ve made sure any indexing errors are resolved, click the “Request Indexing” button:

"Request Indexing" button

This tells Google to index the page.

The next time Googlebot stops by, the page should get indexed.

How to Fix Other Errors

You can use the same exact process I just used for “Soft 404s” to fix any error you run into:

  1. Load up the page in your browser
  2. Plug the URL into “URL Inspection”
  3. Read over the specific issues that the GSC tells you about
  4. Fix any issues that crop up

Here are a few examples:

  • Redirect errors
  • Crawl errors
  • Server errors

Bottom line? With a bit of work, you can fix pretty much any error that you run into in the Coverage report.

How to Fix “Warnings” In The
Index Coverage Report

I don’t know about you…

…but I don’t like to leave anything to chance when it comes to SEO.

Which means I don’t mess around when I see a bright orange “Warning”.

So let’s hit the “Valid with warnings” tab in the Index Coverage Report.

Filter warnings

This time there’s just one warning: “Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt”.

Filter warnings

So what’s going on here?

Let’s find out.

The GSC is telling us the page is getting blocked by robots.txt. So instead of hitting “Fetch As Google”, click on “Test Robots.txt Blocking”:

Robots blocking

This takes us to the robots.txt tester in the old Search Console.

As it turns out, this URL IS getting blocked by robots.txt.

So what’s the fix?

Well, if you want the page indexed, you should unblock it from Robots.txt (duh).

But if you don’t want it indexed, you have two options:

  1. Add the “noindex,follow” tag to the page. And unblock it from robots.txt
  2. Get rid of the page using the URL Removal Tool

Let’s see how to use the URL Removal Tool:

Check Indexed Pages For Possible Issues

Now let’s move on to the “Valid” tab.

This tells us how many pages are indexed in Google.

Valid indexation

What should you look for here? Two things:

1

Unexpected drop (or increase) of indexed pages

Notice a sudden drop in the number of indexed pages?

That could be a sign that something’s wrong:

  • Maybe a bunch of pages are blocking Googlebot.
  • Or maybe you added a noindex tag by mistake.

Either way:

Unless you purposely deindexed a bunch of pages, you definitely want to check this out.

On the flip side:

What if you notice a sudden increase in indexed pages?

Again, that might be a sign that something is wrong.

(For example, maybe you unblocked a bunch of pages that are supposed to be blocked).

2

An unexpectedly high number of indexed pages

There are currently 41 posts at Backlinko.

Backlinko published posts

So when I take a look at the “Valid” report in Index Coverage, I’d expect to see about that many pages indexed.

But if it’s WAY higher than 41? That’s a problem. And I’m going to have to fix it.

Oh, in case you’re wondering… here’s what I do see:

Backlinko GSC index status

So no need to worry about me 😉

Make Sure Excluded Stuff Should Be Excluded

Now:

There are plenty of good reasons to block search engines from indexing a page.

Maybe it’s a login page.

Maybe the page contains duplicate content.

Or maybe the page is low quality.

Note: When I say “low quality”, I don’t mean the page is garbage. It could be that the page is useful for users… but not for search engines.

That said:

You definitely want to make sure Google doesn’t exclude pages that you WANT indexed.

In this case, we have a lot of excluded pages…

Excluded pages

And if you scroll down, you get a list of reasons that each page is excluded from Google’s index.

Excluded pages errors

So let’s break this down…

So that’s the Index Coverage report. I’m sure you’ll agree: it’s a VERY impressive tool.

Chapter 3:Get More Organic Traffic with the
Performance Report

Get More Organic Traffic With The Performance Report

In this chapter we’re going to deep dive into my favorite part of the GSC: “The Performance Report”.

Why is it my favorite?

Because I’ve used this report to increase organic traffic to Backlinko again and again.

I’ve also seen lots of other people use the Performance Report to get similar results.

So without further ado, let’s get started…

What Is The Performance Report?

The “Performance” report in Google Search Console shows you your site’s overall search performance in Google. This report not only shows you how many clicks you get, but also lets you know your CTR and average ranking position.

Performance report GSC

And this new Performance Report replaces the “Search Analytics” report in the old Search Console (and the old Google Webmaster Tools).

Yes, a lot of the data is the same as the old “Search Analytics” report. But you can now do cool stuff with the data you get (like filter to only show AMP results).

But my favorite addition to the new version is this:

In the old Search Analytics report you could only see search data from the last 90 days.

Old search analytics

(Which sucked)

Now?

We get 16 MONTHS of data:

Last 16 months data

For an SEO junkie like me, 16 months of data is like opening presents on Christmas morning.

(In fact, I used to pay for a tool to automatically pull and save my old Google Webmaster Tools data. Now, thanks to the beta version of the new GSC, it’s a free service)

How To Supercharge Your CTR With The
Performance Report

There’s no question that CTR is a key Google ranking factor.

The question is:

How can you improve your CTR?

The GSC Performance Report.

Note: Like I did in the last chapter, I’m going to walk you through a real-life case study.

Last time, we looked at an ecommerce site. Now we’re going to see how to use the GSC to get more traffic to a blog (this one).

Specifically, you’re going to see how I used The Performance Report to increase this site’s CTR by 63.2%.

So let’s fire up the Performance report in the new Search Console and get started…

1

Find Pages With a Low CTR

First, highlight the “Average CTR” and “Average Position” tabs:

Highlight CTR and position

You want to focus on pages that are ranking #5 or lower… and have a bad CTR.

So let’s filter out positions 1-4.

To do that, click on the filter button, and check the “Position” box.

Position filter

You’ll now see a filter box above the data. So we can go ahead and set this to “Greater than” 4.9:

Filter by position

Now you have a list of pages that are ranking #5 or below.

According to Advanced Web Ranking, position #5 in Google should get a CTR of around 4.35%:

CTR

You want to filter out everything that’s beating that expected CTR of 4.35%. That way you can focus on pages that are underperforming.

So click the filter button again and check the “CTR” box.

Filter CTR

(Make sure you leave the “Position” box ticked)

Then, set the CTR filter to “Smaller than” 4.35.

Filter CTR

So what have we got?

A list of keywords that are ranking 5 or lower AND have a CTR less than 4.35%.

In other words:

Keywords you could get more traffic from.

We just need to bump up their CTR.

So:

Let’s see if we can find a keyword with a lower-than-expected CTR.

When I scroll down the list… this keyword sticks out like a sore thumb.

Best helmet brands

1,504 impressions and only 43 clicks… ouch! I know that I can do better than 2.9%.

Now that we’ve found a keyword with a bad CTR, it’s time to turn things around.

2

Find the page

Next, you want to see which page from your site ranks for the keyword you just found.

To do that, just click on the query with the bad CTR. Then, click “Pages”:

Search console query data

Easy.

3

Take a look at ALL the keywords this page ranks for

There’s no point improving our CTR for one keyword… only to mess it up for 10 other keywords.

So here’s something really cool:

The Performance report can show you ALL keywords that your page ranks for.

And it’s SUPER easy to do.

Just click on “+ New” in the top bar and hit “page…”.

Filter by page

Then enter the URL you want to view queries for.

Enter page URL

Bingo! You get a list of keywords that page ranks for:

Search queries filtered by page

You can see that the page has shown up over 42,000 times in Google…but only got around 1,500 clicks.

Impression data for motorcycle page

So this page’s CTR is pretty bad across the board.

(Not just for this particular keyword)

4

Optimize your title and description to get more clicks

I have a few go-to tactics that I use to bump up my CTR.

But my all time favorite is: Power Words.

What are power words?

Power words show that someone can get quick and easy results from your content.

And they’ve been proven again and again to attract clicks in the SERPs.

Here are a few of my favorite Power Words that you can include in your title and description:

  • Today
  • Right now
  • Fast
  • Works quickly
  • Step-by-step
  • Easy
  • Best
  • Quick
  • Definitive
  • Simple

So I added a few of these Power Words to the page’s title and description tag:

Snippet preview
5

Monitor the results

Finally, wait at least 10 days. Then log back in.

Why 10 days?

It can take a few days for Google to reindex your page.

Then, the new page has to be live for about a week for you to get meaningful data.

With that, I have great news:

With the new Search Console, comparing CTR over two date ranges is a piece of cake.

Just click on the date filter:

Date filter

Select the date range. I’m going to compare the 2 week period before the title change, to the 2 weeks after:

Compare date range

Finally, filter the data to show search queries that include the keyword you found in step #1 (in this case: “best helmet brands”).

Best helmet brands CTR

Boom!

We’ve increased our CTR by 63.2%. And just as important: we’re now beating the average CTR for position 5.

Pro tip: You’ll find that different title formats work better in different niches. So you might have to experiment to find the perfect format for YOUR industry. The good news: Search Console gives you the data you need to do just that.

How To Find “Opportunity Keywords” With GSC’s
Performance Report

If the last example didn’t convince you of just how awesome the new Performance Report is, then I guarantee this one will.

What Is An Opportunity Keyword?

An opportunity keyword is a phrase that ranks between positions 8-20 AND gets a decent number of impressions.

Why is this such a big opportunity?

1

Google already considers your page to be a decent fit for the keyword (otherwise you wouldn’t be anywhere close to page 1). When you give your page some TLC, you can usually bump it up to the first page.

2

You’re not relying on iffy keyword volume data from third party SEO tools. The impression data you get from the GSC tells you EXACTLY how much traffic to expect.

Mining For Gold With Google Search Console’s
Performance Report

Finding these gold nugget keywords in the Performance report is a simple, 3-step process.

1. Set the date range to the last 28 days:

Filter performance report by date

2. Filter the report to show keywords ranking “Greater than” 7.9

Filter by position

3. Finally, sort by “Impressions”. And you get a huge list of “Opportunity Keywords”:

Order by impressions

Here’s what to do to push those pages up:

1

Cover The Topic In INSANE Detail

Google LOVES content that covers 100% of a topic.

That’s probably why the average word count of a page 1 result is 1,890 words.

Content total word count

So make sure your content is a BEAST. It should cover everything there is to know about your topic.

(Kind of like this guide you’re reading 🙂 )

2

Improve Dwell Time With Video

Dwell time is the amount of time a Google searcher spends on your page.

And when you increase your Dwell Time, you can get higher rankings (thanks to RankBrain).

Now you already made your content super in-depth. So there’s a good chance your Dwell Time is already solid.

But to seal the deal…

Add some videos to your page. Wistia found that visitors spend 2.6x more time on pages with video.

Wistia study findings

That’s a HUGE difference.

And if you want to learn some other ways to boost Dwell Time, here’s a video that shows you how to do it:

3

Add Internal Links For An EASY Win

Adding a few internal links to your page can give it a quick (and EASY) boost.

Internal links

In chapter 4 I’m going to show you how to use Search Console to optimize internal linking.

But for now, just keep in mind that a handful of strategic internal links can quickly boost your rankings.

4

Grab Some New Backlinks To CRUSH The Competition

Yup, backlinks are still a GIGANTIC part of Google’s algorithm.

Which means:

Building high quality backlinks to your page can boost its rankings… even if everything else stays exactly the same.

But this is not a link building guide. This is.

Backlinko – Link Building Guide

So make sure to bookmark that guide so you can read it later.

And before we move onto the next chapter, I’ve got two quick bonus tips for you…

Bonus Tip #1: Optimize For Opportunity Keywords In GSC… and Rank For HUNDREDS Of Longtails

In my guide to Google’s RankBrain, I said:

“Long tail keywords are dead.”

And I’m not taking it back.

The days of optimizing 1000 pages around 1000 long tail keywords are long gone.

The good news? You can now get one of your pages to rank for hundreds or even thousands of long tail keywords.

Want proof? According to Ahrefs, my post on SEO techniques ranks for 4,000 different keywords…

Ahrefs SEO techniques

For example, I rank on page 1 for keywords like “SEO strategy”, even though I didn’t optimize for that term.

SEO Strategy

Why? Because Google is smart enough to figure out that “SEO strategy” and “SEO techniques” are basically the same.

OK, how about long tails? Yep, I rank for a TON of them:

Long tails

The result? This one page brings me over seven thousand visitors a month from Google…

SEO techniques google analytics

So what’s the secret?

Well first, you want to make your content SUPER in-depth. We already covered that. But it bears repeating.

Because when you publish meaty content, you rank for hundreds of long tail keywords automatically.

Need a hint on what extra sections to include? Just check what keywords your page is already ranking for in Search Console.

Page filter

And here’s another pro tip:

Find the most common questions people ask about your topic. Then, answer them in your content.

The easiest way to find questions: use Answer The Public.

Just type your main keyword into the box…

Answer the public

And you’ll get a massive list of questions…

Answer the public

The best part? These answers give you a shot to rank as a Featured Snippet.

After all: why rank #1 when you can rank #0?

Find High-Impression Keywords

I already showed you how to optimize keywords that rank 8-20.

But…

I also like to look for keywords that aren’t ranking, yet still get some impressions. Here’s an example:

Low ranked keyword

That keyword is sitting at position 50-ish… yet the page was still seen nearly 200 times.

Which tells me: if that many people are visiting the 5th page, wait until I hit the first page.

It’s gonna be nuts!

Chapter 4:Cool GSC Features

Cool GSC Features

In this chapter I’m going to show you some of the coolest features in the Google Search Console.

First, I’ll teach you how you can use the Search Console to fix your schema.

Then, I’ll show you one of the quickest (and EASIEST) wins in SEO.

Power Up Important Pages With Internal Links

Make no mistake:

Internal links are SUPER powerful.

Unfortunately, most people use internal linking all wrong.

That’s the bad news.

The good news?

The Search Console has an awesome feature designed to help you overcome this problem.

This report shows you the EXACT pages that need some internal link love.

To access this report, hit “Links” in the GSC sidebar.

And you’ll get a report that shows you the number of internal links pointing to every page on your site.

Google Search Console – Internal links report

This report is already a goldmine.

But it gets better…

You can find the EXACT pages that internally link to a specific page. Just click on one of the URLs under the “Internal Links” section:

International Links Report – Click on URL

And you’ll get a list of all the internal links pointing to that page:

Local SEO Guide post – Internal links

In this case, we only have 6 internal links pointing to our Local SEO Guide. That’s not good.

So:

Once you find a page that doesn’t have enough internal links juice, add some internal links that point to that page.

Local SEO Guide – Internal link

Time spent: under a minute.

Assessment: Win!

Pro Tip: Supercharge Key Posts With Internal Links From Powerhouse Pages

What’s a Powerhouse Page?

It’s a page on your site with lots of quality backlinks.

More backlinks = more link juice to pass on through internal links.

You can easily find Powerhouse Pages in the Google Search Console.

Just hit the “Links” button again. And you’ll see a section titled “Top linked pages”.

Top linked pages

Click “More” for a full list.

By default, the report is ordered by the total number of backlinks. But I prefer to sort by number of linking sites:

Top linked pages – Full report

These are your Powerhouse Pages.

And all you need to do is add some internal links FROM those pages TO the ones you want to boost.

Easy, right?

Chapter 5:Advanced Tips and Strategies

Advanced Tips and Strategies

Now it’s time for some advanced tips and strategies.

In this chapter you’ll learn how to use Google Search Console to optimize crawl budget, fix issues with mobile usability, and improve your mobile CTR.

Mastering Crawl Stats

If you have a small site (

But if you have a huge site… that’s a different story.

In that case, it’s worth looking into your crawl budget.

What Is Crawl Budget?

Your Crawl Budget is the number of pages on your site that Google crawls every day.

You can still see this number in the old “Crawl Stats” report.

Crawl stats

In this case, Google crawls an average of 22,257 pages per day. So that’s this site’s Crawl Budget.

Why Is Crawl Budget Important For SEO?

Say you have:

200,000 pages on your website
and
A crawl budget of 2,000 pages per day

It could take Google 100 days to crawl your site.

So if you change something on one of your pages, it might take MONTHS before Google processes the change.

Or, if you add a new page to your site, Google’s going to take forever to index it.

So what can you do to get the most out of your Crawl Budget?

Three things…

1

First, stop wasting Crawl Budget on unnecessary pages

This is a biggie for Ecommerce sites.

Most ecommerce sites let their users filter through products… and search for things.

This is great for sales.

But if you’re not careful, you can find yourself with THOUSANDS of extra pages that look like this:

yourstore.com/product-category/?size=small&orderby=price&color=green…

Unless you take action, Google will happily waste your crawl budget on these junk pages.

What’s the solution?

URL Parameters.

To set these up, click the “URL Parameters” link in the old GSC. Then hit “Add Parameter”.

URL parameters

Let’s say that you let users filter products by color. And each color has its own URL.

For example, the color URLs look like this:

yourstore.com/product-category/?color=red

You can easily tell Google not to crawl any URLs with that color parameter:

Color parameter

Repeat this for ALL parameters you don’t want Google to crawl.

And if you’re somewhat new to SEO, check in with an SEO specialist to make sure this is implement correctly. When it comes to parameters, it’s easy to do more harm than good!

2

See how long it takes Google to download your page

The crawl report in Search Console shows you the average time it takes Google to download your pages:

Crawl speed

See that spike? It means that it suddenly took Google A LOT longer to download everything.

And this can KILL your Crawl Budget.

In fact, we have this quote straight from the horse’s mouth…

In a Google Webmaster Central blog post, Googler Gary Illyes explained:

“Making a site faster improves the users’ experience while also increasing crawl rate. For Googlebot a speedy site is a sign of healthy servers, so it can get more content over the same number of connections. On the flip side, a significant number of 5xx errors or connection timeouts signal the opposite, and crawling slows down.”

Bottom line? Make sure your site loads SUPER fast. You already know that this can help your rankings.

As it turns out, a fast-loading site squeezes more out of your crawl budget too.

3

Get more backlinks to your site

As if backlinks couldn’t be any more awesome, it turns out that they also help with your crawl budget.

In an interview with Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting, Matt Cutts said:

“The best way to think about it is that the number of pages that we crawl is roughly proportional to your PageRank. So if you have a lot of incoming links on your root page, we’ll definitely crawl that. Then your root page may link to other pages, and those will get PageRank and we’ll crawl those as well. As you get deeper and deeper in your site, however, PageRank tends to decline.”

The takeaway:

More backlinks = bigger crawl budget.

Get The Most Out of “URL Inspection”

I already covered the URL Inspection tool in Chapter 3.

But that was one part of a big process. So let’s take a look at URL Inspection as a standalone tool.

Specifically, I’m going to show you 3 cool things you can do with the Fetch As Google tool.

1

Get new content indexed (in minutes)

URL Inspection is the FASTEST way to get new pages indexed.

Just published a new page?

Just pop the URL into the box and press Enter.

URL Inspection Tool – "on-page-seo"

Then hit “Request Indexing”…

…and Google will normally index your page within a few minutes.

2

Use “URL Inspection” to reindex updated content

If you’re a regular Backlinko reader, you know that I LOVE updating old content.

I do it to keep my content fresh. But I also do it because it increases organic traffic (FAST).

For example, in this case study, I reveal how relaunching an old post got me 260.7% more organic traffic in just 14 days.

Content relaunch

And you better believe I always use the “Fetch As Google” tool to get my new content indexed ASAP.

Otherwise, I have to wait around for Google to recrawl the page on its own.

As Sweet Brown famously said: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”.

3

Identify Problems With Rendering

So what else can the “URL Inspection” tool do?

“Test Live URL” shows you how Google and users see your page.

You just need to hit the “View Tested Page” button.

"View tested page" button

Then hit “Screenshot”. And you’ll see exactly how Google sees your page.

Tested page screenshot

Make Sure Your Site Is Optimized For Mobile
(Unless You Like Losing Traffic)

As you might have heard, more people are searching with their mobile devices than with desktops.

(And this gap is increasing every day)

Mobile .vs. Desktop

And Google’s “Mobile-First” index means that Google only cares about the mobile version of your site.

Bottom line? Your site’s content and UX has to be 100% optimized for mobile.

But how do you know if Google considers your site mobile optimized?

Well, the Google Search Console has an excellent report called “Mobile Usability”. This report tells you if mobile users have trouble using your site.

Here’s an example:

Mobile usability report

As you can see, the report is telling us about two mobile usability issues: “Text too small to read” and “Clickable elements too close together”.

All you need to do is click on one of the issues. And the GSC will show you:

1. Pages with this issue
2. How to fix the problem

Then, it’s just a matter of taking care of that issue.

And if you need more help optimizing your site for mobile users, make sure to read my guide to mobile optimization.

Compare Your CTR On Desktop and Mobile

The new Performance report lets you easily compare mobile and desktop CTR.

Here’s how:

Fire up the Performance report. Then, hit “New+” to add a new filter, and select “Device”…

Filter by device

Click the compare tab on the popup, select “Desktop vs Mobile”, and hit apply…

Compare tab

You’ll get a list of queries, with separate stats for mobile and desktop.

Desktop .vs. Mobile CTR

Of course, it’s normal for mobile and desktop CTRs to be a little bit different.

But if you see a BIG difference, it could be that your title and description tags don’t appeal to mobile searchers.

And that’s something you’d want to fix.

Now, Over To You...

Conclusion

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Which strategy from today’s guide do you want to try first?

Are you going to increase your CTR?

Or maybe you’re ready to beef up your internal linking.

Leave a comment to let me know.

450 Comments

  1. WOW… great post as always. I think this tool is underrated and certainly underused because it’s free so people don’t think it’s valuable. It allows us to see data that can’t be seen with other tools. What do you think about the keywords everywhere tool, have you ever used it? I’m just curious, either way, keep up the epic posts.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Zukais. I agree: the GSC has some of the best features of ANY SEO tool on the market.

      I have used the keywords everywhere extension. It’s solid.

    1. On that note, keywords everywhere tool is super legit. I use it almost daily!

  2. Thanks for the great article!!

    I love Google Search Console and I hope everyone is making the most of it.

    I look forward going step by step with this.

    Thanks,

    Chris Pontine

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Chris. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Jega Avatar Jegasays:

    Solid content as always! Keep it up.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Jega.

  4. Sam Avatar Samsays:

    Great depth as usual Brian! It’s crazy how many website owners solely focus on Google Analytics when Search Console actually provides a much clearer of SEO progress, especially during early stages of campaigns when a lot of people lose hope. Awesome advice on identifying the “power house” pages for internal linking!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Well said, Sam. I think part of the reason for that is that GA is easier to use and understand. “Users” is more intuitive than most of the terms the GSC uses (even the new one that’s designed to me more user friendly).

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome. I tried to make the guide super comprehensive so you could learn everything there was about the GSC in one place.

  5. Niall Avatar Niallsays:

    Fantastic guide, Brian!

    I wasn’t even aware that search console had a feature for showing internal links!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Niall. You’re not alone. There’s A LOT to the GSC that people miss (myself included until recently). As it turns out, even though millions of people technically use it, the GSC is an untapped goldmine.

  6. Brian, amazing post, as always. I will be hitting up the new GSC this evening. To be honest, I’ve been reverting to the old version until I get familiar with it.

    On an unrelated note, I would love to hear your take on keyword cannibalization and how to avoid it. Perhaps you could offer some guidance on this in the future? I often face this with my clients.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Jamie. To be honest, you still need to use the old version for some stuff (like submitting pages for crawling). But they should have the new one out of beta before the end of the year. Also, thanks for the topic suggestion. I might cover that in a future post (or write an entire post on it).

    1. Matt Avatar Mattsays:

      I keep reverting to the old version as well. They’ve moved things around in the new version and it seems like getting to things requires more clicks. In other words, the new version is not very user friendly compared to the old one. (At least in my opinion.)

  7. Honestly, I’ve no idea about using google search console. I just use it to see click getting by my website from google. Thanks Brian, I’m 100% going to use this guide.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Ajay. The Google Search Console has a pretty steep learning curve, but it’s worth learning for sure.

  8. Hi Brian

    At the start you say in the green box:

    Note: Make sure to verify the HTTPS and non-HTTP versions of your site. This means adding: http://example.com AND http://www.example.com as separate properties.

    I think you meant:

    Note: Make sure to verify the HTTPS and non-HTTP versions of your site. This means adding: https://www.example.com AND http://www.example.com as separate properties.

    as you’re referring to www and non-www in the original, which can be specified in the settings.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Paul, you’re 100% right. That’s supposed to be http and https (not www and non-www).

  9. Great post! A lot to digest. This will be an article I will reference in the next several months.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Richard. Let me know how the strategies work out for you.

  10. Perfect guide Brian, this is a monster guide i’ll surely use it in my marketing hub.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Cheers Bill. Glad you learned some new stuff.

  11. All these tips are very detailed and well written for us. I have learned a lot from this guide about Google Search Console. Brian dean your are such a master like us. Thanks a lot and keep going.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Happy to help, Arun.

  12. salina Avatar salinasays:

    too confusing… i have my site on GSC and when i click on it to manage it, i dont see any of the stuff you mention here!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Salina, you’re probably in the old GSC.

  13. This guide is super awesome. Thanks for sharing such an in-depth information. Whether it is STW videos or your articles everything is explained in a super simple way. As far as my experience is concerned, I uncovered lots of potential keywords from Google Search Console data which we haven’t thought of targeting in the beginning.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No problem, Navneet. In my opinion, that’s the best part of the GSC: finding untapped keywords that you’re already ranking for. And unlike most keyword research tools, the data comes straight from the horse’s mouth.

  14. Larbi Avatar Larbisays:

    Brilliant and timely as always. Thank you, Brian

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Larbi.

  15. Thanks for the guide, Brian. Hopefully, I will now be able to fix my Structure data errors. I currently have a couple of errors: Missing: author
    Missing: entry-title
    Missing: updated. Do you have a fix for the entry-title and the update error?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No problem, Ivaylo. I haven’t run into that before. I’ll ping our CTO to stop by and answer this one as he knows more about structured data errors than I do.

    1. Lloyd Jones Avatar Lloyd Jonessays:

      Hey Ivaylo,

      Lloyd here; CTO at Backlinko.

      Can I see an example of your post / page with this error?

      Cheers,
      Lloyd

        1. Hey Ivaylo,

          I see what you mean there.

          I would take a look at the source code of one of our blog posts, for example this one: https://backlinko.com/on-page-seo

          You can see that we have an “article” tag with a class of “hentry”.

          Inside of that, we have “entry-inner”, and then “entry-header”.

          Inside of that, we then have “entry-title”.

          Also inside of “entry-header” we have “vcard” and “author” classes on the same div, with the author (Brian) ‘s name inside a span with “fn”.

          From my research at the time, I found that the structure I’ve just given was the optimal way of doing this (though there are other, similar structures that will also work).

          Crucially though, when I view the source code of your link, I don’t see any divs with the class of “entry-title”, “author” or “updated”.

          Hope this helps 🙂

          Cheers,
          Lloyd

  16. Hey Brian, another awesome post.
    On statement you might want to revisit:
    “Note: Make sure to verify the HTTPS and non-HTTP versions of your site. This means adding: http://example.com AND http://www.example.com as separate properties.” You mentioned HTTPS and non-HTTP, but your example cited the www and non-www versions.
    Thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Steve. Good catch there. That’s a typo for sure. Fixing that now.

  17. Another Great Post Brain!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Cheers, Anik.

  18. Thanks for this Guide Brian
    You pulled out a couple of areas I neglected in the past

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Enstine. Happy to hear that.

  19. Great guide, Brian. Have already forwarded it to my folks to see if we haved missed anything in our internal processes.

    One thing bothers me a lot about GSC: Limitation to 999 results. On big sites 999 URLs are reached pretty quickly and in GSC itself you will not get all the results.

    This is especially annoying when keywords with more impressions get added and “rankings are lost” for ones with less impressions that ARE actually ranking.

    There is a way to get ALL the data, though, using a neat Excel Addon called Analytics Edge.

    If you want I can add a chapter to this guide with screenshots on how to use it. Just shoot me a message.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Henrik. Yup, that’s annoying for sure (most ecom sites I’ve worked with run into this problem all the time). I’ll email you if I decide to add a new chapter to the guide.

  20. Thank Brian for a great post !

    I’m learning Google Webmaster Tools and you have this new guide !

    My sites is spammed by competitor backs links and I’m trying to disavow it !

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Clint. This is perfect timing then 🙂

  21. Nguyen Son Avatar Nguyen Sonsays:

    Great post! As always!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Happy to help, Nguyen.

  22. Ah Brian, I thought it was just a new look console. I didn’t realise it has increased functionality. Some of these tips, I had no idea about.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Ian, a new look and UI is definitely the biggest chance. But they also added a lot of cool new features.

  23. Excellent write-up, Brian. Any theory on index coverage / Indexed, not submitted in sitemap?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Joe. I have a few pages in that category. When I check them, it’s exactly as Google describes: they’re pages that are indexed but not in my sitemap. In my case, they’re pages that I actually don’t want indexed.

  24. Thank you very much for this post. Your information is so helpful!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No problem, Elesha. Glad you learned some new stuff that you can do with the GSC.

  25. Excellent article written in an easy-to-follow manner. Definitely one I’m bookmarking for future reference (specifically for when errors pop up).

    I followed along and already discovered a keyword I’m going to target for greater CTR. Many thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome, Nikki! Way to take action so quickly. Keep me posted on how your CTR does for that keyword.

  26. Amazing content, Brian, as usual. Thanks for making me aware of new ways of taking the most out of GSC. Cheers!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Filipe. The GSC is a totally underrated SEO tool. So I thought it was high time that I wrote about how to get the most of out this gem of a tool.

  27. Aman Avatar Amansays:

    Can You Make Post on

    How To create Post Like You I Want To Make Post Like You For My Business Website

    How You Find topics ?
    How You research ?

  28. Thanks Brain,
    You Made Everything Easy To Understand and Improvement a Website.
    I Learned A New Lesson Today.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Raju.

  29. Thanks Brian, for this amazing guide. I used to with the old version of Search Console and since I saw the new version I was scared that now I have to learn everything from beginning.

    But thanks to this guide now I am ready for new search console.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome, Umesh. Fortunately, most of the same features are in the new GSC. But it can take some time to get used to it (in fact, that’s one of the reasons that I wrote this guide: to force myself to learn about the new GSC).

  30. WOW! The longest and most complete GSC guide I’ve ever read. thanks. I really enjoy this.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Herbi. That’s exactly what I set out to do when I wrote this badboy!

  31. Your guides are pretty easy. Very helpful for Beginners as well as Professionals. I’ve been reading Backlinko posts for a long time. I have commented one or two times here.
    Your writing style and easy-to-understand methods + long in-depth posts help us to learn more and grow our blog.
    Thank you, Brian!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks for your kind words, Rushikesh. Happy to help.

  32. The most understated part of this whole guide is the fact you get 16 months of data. This is really useful if you’re new to working with a site and have no history of rankings etc.

    Being able to spot that a specific keyword dropped 20 positions at the time of a Google update 6 month before you took on a client or joined a new company is pure bliss. In my experience people are much better at setting up Search Console for a site than analytics or any form of keyword tracking.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Yup, that’s a big change for sure. 90 days of data is nothing. 16 months is legit. It’s Google’s gift to SEOs 🙂

  33. Sanjeev Tiwari Avatar Sanjeev Tiwarisays:

    Your Articles are so easy to understand, I have read all your articles and they are epic. Thanks for providing Such amazing Contents 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍👍👍

      1. Sanjeev Tiwari Avatar Sanjeev Tiwarisays:

        How do I get a Do-Follow Backlink from Backlinko?
        I Know This is Complicated But I need One Backlink

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Oh boy…

  34. Complete Guideline on Search Console Ever I Read.

  35. Hi Brian,

    Thanks once again for the super informative post. It’s awesome.
    I was expecting you to talk even briefly about the backlinks section in Search Console. Do you think you will ever do an analysis on the correlation between search console backlinks and the main SEO tools backlinks reporting at any point? Now, that would be an interesting post.
    Thanks again

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Marko, I didn’t cover that feature because it’s pretty much useless. The GSC only shows a very small fraction of your site’s total backlinks.

  36. Thanks, Brian! As always, great tips & insights. GSC has indeed great features & it’s just a case of using them in the right context. I loved the way you show CTR optimization based on The Performance Report. It really works, I’ve tested that myself. That’s also a low-hanging fruit anyone can just go ahead and implement right away. Other tips are also super helpful, especially for beginners who are just starting out with GSC.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Marcin.

      You’re right and make a great point: the GSC has a ton of pretty amazing features that most other SEO tools would charge thousands for. The downside is that, unlike tools like Ahrefs etc. , it can be hard to know when to use the GSC (and how to use it).

  37. I have over 3.43K errors on index coverage in new GSC. I know I changed types of hosting. How do I fix these? Any help is appreciated Brian.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      That’s a lot of errors actually. I’d recommend working with a technical SEO (or developer who knows a lot about SEO) to get that fixed. It’s hard for me to diagnose the problem without digging deep into your site.

      1. I believe a lot of those are because of redirects. Bluehost may have changed directories (not sure!). What I just did after reading your blog is “fetch as google” my main URL. Once Google re-indexes it, it should resolve the redirects (replace with the right ones), correct? I hope I’m understanding this correctly. Thanks again for your help!

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          If the pages are redirecting properly, then yes, having Google fetch and render them can speed the process up.

        1. Matt Avatar Mattsays:

          Assuming they’re 404 errors, unless you setup 301 redirects for them, Google will continue to complain about them. Of course, you only want to setup a 301 redirect if a page on your current site directly corresponds to an old url (ex. contact.php is now contact/). If not, you can safely ignore them.

  38. Hi Brian,

    Good post. Worth noting that you state a meta-description length of c.300 chars.

    There have been discussions on Twitter around changes to this that seem to be getting tested at the minute, with comments from JohnMu: https://twitter.com/screamingfrog/status/995734617725521921

    Worth checking out anyway, be interesting to see what the impact of this is and how good they are about altering this in line with search context.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Rob. I saw that too. These changes always happen when I publish a new piece of content, LOL.

      Like many SEOs, I’m keeping an eye on how this shakes out. Did you add more text to your descriptions when they increased to 320 characters?

      1. Ha yep, standard, the same as any time you are our the office for one day or planning a holiday, etc. ah well!

        Thankfully not on all the sites we work with, but we were working towards these new guidelines with a lot of our high priority pages and any new pages that were being developed.

        Thankfully not gone too far with it, but the vague nature around the statements essentially saying “the length will vary depending on a number of factors” isn’t exactly the most useful.

        Something to just keep an eye on I guess, especially with regards to CTR optimisation.

  39. Hey, Finally a Guide on GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE. i have been waiting for this for a long time. thank you Brian 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome. I thought the world needed a guide to the GSC. And here we are 🙂

  40. Amazing post, Brian
    But I used all these steps.
    Could you please write a blog on scheme markup?
    Which are the schema markup important for a website?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks for the suggestion. I might do that actually.

  41. Thank you so much for the information. I find it very helpful. Cheers!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Fonnie. Glad you found it useful.

  42. It took me 2 hours to read the full guide!
    Thanks for this detailed guide.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Khalil. Hope it was worth it 🙂

      1. I really used to learn from your SEO guide! Today I’m (truly speaking) well trained through your guide. Your post “200 Google ranking factors” is still bookmarked on my chrome!
        Thanks to your efforts!

  43. Dr Brian,
    You have totally made me look so ignorant about the search google just after reading blog. I didn’t know that all long i have been a kid posing as an industry leader.
    Thank you for again putting in your time to put up this blog. Am sure it needed a lot of resources.
    Now, let me head straight to my gsc and i do as you say.
    Kudos Brain.
    Your content is always at the top.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Happy to help, Kwema.

  44. GSC helped me to check articles that are not indexed so I can update them or resubmit them. But I didn’t know that this can actually help me improve my blog! I did not regret reading this guide. It is very helpful! Thank you!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Kareen. For sure. The GSC is a great tool for getting more traffic to blog posts.

  45. Finally the search is over for a complete guide on Google Search Console. I thought of doing one but I’m just way to busy, I don’t know how you find the time. Thank you for all your hard work Brian.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Paul. You’re not kidding: this guide was a BEAST to put together. As you know, there’s so much inside of the GSC to cover. But I’m glad it’s done because I think it will help a lot of people get more out of the GSC.

  46. Absolutely top notch Brian!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Graham. A lot of work went into this guide, so I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed reading it.

  47. Seriously Brian, this was so f**king amazing. I’ve read sooo many guides stating stuff I already know, just with the hope of learning one new thing.

    This guide taught me so much – I’m absolutely flabbergasted.

    P.S. I’m also interested in a markup post from you – if you at some point want to dig into that.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Mads, happy to help. It was tough to write a guide that included material for people that are new to SEO and those that have been in the field for years. That’s why I included chapters 4 and 5. That way, people that are experienced (like you) can easily find some cool new techniques.

  48. Thanks Brian! Great as always. The technical SEO renaissance is happening :0

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Absolutely, Cécilien. And that’s especially true for bigger sites (like ecommerce sites).

  49. Hi Brian,
    Another fantastic and highly informative piece of content. The whole guide was great but in particular I found Chapter 3 remarkable. My team and I will be be reviewing the Performance Report for all clients each month as a tool to increase Organic traffic. You set the bar really high, keep up the great work!
    -Brian

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Brian. Nice! The old “Search Analytics” was pretty cool, but the Performance Report is even more awesome

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *