Google Search Console has a wealth of useful functionality that makes SEO easier. It allows you to monitor technical issues with your SEO implementation, like indexing status and website visibility.
Because of the wide range of functionality, GSC is sufficient for the needs of many webmasters. It is thus worth checking its feature list first.
That way, you may avoid further expenditure on web analysis tools that you don’t really need. This article discusses five must-know features that will help to facilitate your SEO strategy.
5 Features of Google Search Console
1# URL Inspector
The URL Inspector allows submission of URLs that you want to have indexed. It is effectively the same function as “Fetch as Googlebot” that was found in GWT.
When you update your site, you want Google to recrawl it as soon as possible. Without further instruction, however, this can take some time. It can be frustrating if Google search results do not reflect the most up-to-date version of your site.
With GSC’s URL Inspector you can request a recrawl immediately. That way, Google’s view of your site remains fresh.
Furthermore, this tool allows you to inspect your site from Google’s perspective. This is useful to see if Google’s indexing is up-to-date, but also if you suspect a problem, such as hacking.
In fact, if your site has been subjected to “cloaking” (the insertion of external content into your pages), the URL inspector may indicate this before you were even aware of it.
2# Identify Non-Obvious URL Errors
Some page errors are obvious. Explicit 404 errors, for example, are quickly noticed and easy to track down. GSC’s coverage tab will quickly highlight these, but it can also do much more.
Some errors are less easily detected, such as soft 404 errors. A soft 404 means that a page is erroneously serving up black content but with a normal HTTP 200 response. This indicates a system failure of some sort but is hard to identify without visual inspection because the response code is still “OK”.
Other indexing problems can also be found with the coverage tool. If you find that some parts of your site appear not to have been properly indexed, this tool can also help you find:
- Unindexed pages.
- Pages with automatic redirects.
- Pages with a “no index” meta tag.
- Other indexing errors and problems.
Deeper analysis is possible by toggling the “Error”, “Valid with warnings” and “Valid” checkboxes. For full coverage, also ensure that “Excluded” is checked.
This tool can also help you uncover problems with an apparent excess of indexing. If you have site search plugins installed in your site, these can also give misleading results. By generating extra URLs from a single search, these plugins may make it appear that you have many more pages than in reality.
This is a serious problem because it will appear to web-crawlers that you have extensive duplicate content. This leads to penalisation in terms of your search rankings.
3# Deeper Keyword Analysis
GSC offers a useful way to optimise page performance based on specific search queries. The performance section in GSC can give you deeper information on specific metrics.
For example, if you want to uncover which of your pages respond to a particular query, GSC makes this easy. By simply entering the desired keywords, you can see whether Google is identifying your pages as matches. If not, then you have a problem you need to address.
You can refine these categories by country, device and pages. This allows you to work with more accurately specific audience types and refine your pages to target them better.
4# URL Removal Tool
This tool allows you to remove URLs from Google’s index. Removing specific URLs is very useful if they are problematic for some reason.
For example, if they contain out-dated or irrelevant content or systemic errors that are not going to be fixed. There may be pages you need to keep, but want to remove from search results because they clutter your profile.
This is a powerful but dangerous tool though. It is not always obvious which pages are important for boosting rankings, and it may be wise to consult an SEO expert before making any damaging or irreversible decisions.
The final recommendation in this list, context, is not a single feature of GSC as such, but a way of using its toolset in general.
It is important to remember that websites, their rankings and their problems exist in the wider web. You need therefore to consider what is the real context of any problem that GSC identifies.
In some cases, the most obvious cause of a problem may not be the true cause. Thus, for example, an excess of indexed pages may reveal a technical design issue that is not immediately apparent.
In practical terms, this means that you must carefully investigate all problems whose cause you are not entirely certain of. Speak to your technical team, ask questions more broadly and do whatever you need to do in order to get the best understanding of the situation.
Google Search Console is a valuable tool for any webmaster. It may not fulfil every requirement you have for an analytic tool, but it does have many useful features. Combine an understanding of these with real-world diligence and you may save time and money.
- What is Technical SEO?
- The Key To The Keyword: Fundamentals of SEO
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Author Bio: This article was written by Ian Carroll of Digital Funnel. Ian is an SEO expert and uses Google Search Console to both identify issues and fix them.