Before starting the topic, answer a simple question.
How you get help when are ill or feel unwell?
The simplest answer is we go to the doctor; seek an advice, take prescription and in some time our life gets back to the normal routine.
And what if we have routine health checkups? The probability of getting ill will minimize, right?
Have you ever thought a website also has a life? We create it; feed it with different necessary elements (content, design, a well-defined name etc.), host it for the world and in return it gives recognition to our business in the market and feed us with lot of revenue.
So, do you think that our website can also get ill? And, resultantly, can decrease our revenues? An honest answer is ‘YES’. Our website can also get ill especially when we talk about Search Engine Optimization and presence of our website in search results. And;
“We need a doctor for our website which can perform routine health checkups to keep it healthy and alive”. And that doctor is Google Search Console.
Google Search Console
Google search console (formerly known as Google Web master Tools) is a set of free webmaster tools and resources offered by Google Incorporation to monitor health of your website and its presence in search results. It is like a doctor who checks your website’s health on a regular basis and gives prescriptions in case of potential dangers. Moreover, these tools and resources analyze the data sets and inform you about all the bits that can help you keep your website alive in search results.
Although, the integration of Google webmaster tools does not directly impact your website rankings in search results but it indirectly helps you gain better rankings in SERPs by analyzing your website’s behavior from different aspects.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty!
Integration of Google Search Console on Your website
The very first step in our Google Webmaster Tools guide is integration. Don’t worry! It’s a piece of cake.
Step 1: Google Webmaster Tools Login
Create a Google account and sign in to Google Search Console.
Step 2: Add a Property (your website)
When signed in you will see a red button “ADD A PROPERTY” at right side of your screen. Click that button.
A popup will appear asking for the property you want to add. Here you can add a website, sub-domain, directory or an android application URL.
If you are adding a website ensure the HTT protocol version your website has.
If your website is under HTTP, put the URL http://www.example.com
If your website is under HTTPs, put the URL https://www.example.com
Please note that with wrong http version, although it will verify your property, no data will be shown in webmaster panel.
Step 3: Verify the Ownership of Property
Next step is to verify the ownership of the property you want to integrate with Google Search Console. You will see two sections in this page that can be used as verification method.
1. Recommended Method: verification through logging into domain name provider panel e.g. goDaddy.com. You will see a list of domain name providers under this method. Select yours and follow the steps explained on that page.
2. Alternative Method: if first method seems complicated, select the alternative method. Under this section, you will see multiple options to verify your website. Select the one that suits you best, follow the instructions and click “verify” button afterwards.
If you own this property and steps followed are correct, you will see this page:
Now the integration part is done, read on to find out how to use this doctor.
Salient Features of Google Webmaster Tools
Google WMT has a lot of features that help in outperforming in search results but explaining all of them in one post would not be possible. So, here are the important ones, sorted in top to bottom order. (Sorting is subjective.)
Fetch as Google
Top of all, fetch as Google, is a feature which allows your webpage and its content to be instantly indexed by Google. This feature is best for indexing purposes at page level. When a webpage is fetched, you can see it in Google cache in minutes after submitting the request.
This is the field where you enter the URL of the page you want indexed. Please note that partial URL is required in this field as you can see domain URL is already there before the field. For example, if https://www.example.com/abc/def/this-webpage is subject URL, only /abc/def/this-webpage needs to be entered in field.
Select the platform you want this webpage to be indexed for. Select one option from Desktop, Mobile: Smartphone, Mobile: XHTML/WML and Mobile: cHTML.
After you click this button, it will fetch data from the URL and store it in Google databases.
When you click this button, it will fetch data from URL, store it in database and also show you how Google reads this page.
The first red box is showing that rendering was partial, which means that Google was unable to fully render your webpage.
And in two boxes underneath, you can clearly see that version of webpage that users see is different from the version of webpage that Google sees. There might be some .css or .js files that are not crawl-able by bot if they are disallowed in robots.txt.
Finally, use the button at the top right to submit this webpage to the index, if everything is fine in rendered results.
It shows the status of requested submissions.
Fully dedicated to the search results, this section allows you to analyze search performance of your website from different angles. When your webpages start appearing in search results, this section gives you full insights about which webpages are appearing in SERPs with which queries and at which positions.
In the image above, blue box items are search performance and items in green box are filters that can be added to search performance items (blue box) to narrow down the analysis.
Queries: These are the search terms (typically known as keywords) that users type to reach some specific information.
Impressions: These are the occurrences of your webpages in search results against user queries. For every query, Google shows 100 pages with 10 results on each page i.e. 1000 results for each user query. So, no matter if your webpage appears at 1st position or the last , one appearance will count as one impression.
Clicks: These are the number of times people clicked on your webpages in SERPs and landed on your website.
CTR (Click through Rate): This ratio represents that what percentage (%) of your impressions send users to your website i.e. (clicks/impressions)*100. A 50% CTR means that from every two impressions, one user lands on your website.
Avg. Position: This is the position where your website is/was appearing in search results for queries.
Filters: These filters (Queries, Pages and Countries etc.) allow you to reach some specific data set for analysis. For example, my target market is Pakistan and I want to see keywords performance in search results in last seven days for Desktop users who searched through Google’s website.
Search Analytics Hack: 9 – 15 Analysis
Using search analytics data 9-15 analysis can be performed to improve website’s presence in search results. This can result in increased traffic.
What is 9 – 15 Analysis?
Google shows 10 results per page and studies say that results at bottom of the page have minimal chances of getting clicks, and so the results on next page.
“9 – 15″ term focuses on keywords ranking in between 9th and 15th position and these are the ones that can be pushed on first page of Google with some smart efforts. Here’s how you can perform 9-5 analysis:
Separate this range of queries from data with clicks, impressions and CTR.
Clean the keywords e.g. remove quotes (“) and other punctuation marks.
Add another KPI (Key Performance Index) i.e. keyword searches from Google Keyword Planner.
Sort them from top to bottom on the basis of keyword searches i.e. keywords with higher searches on top.
Separate keywords with zero searches and save them in another sheet. Now you have two data sets. One having keywords with searches and other having keywords without searches. What’s common between both data sets is that they both are ranking between 9th and 15th positions in Google.
First data set, keywords with searches;
Use these keywords in titles and h1 (if keywords used in title and h1 are not ranking).
Put some external links as well.
Mention them in content on relevant webpages.
If a webpage has images, use them in alt text for those images.
Second data set, keywords with zero searches;
Although these keywords do not have searches in keyword planner, but they are appearing in Google search console. Why? Well, this means that people search them but not often. So, optimizing them can produce some benefits. To reap those benefits, use them in content or as anchor texts in internal links. That’s it.
Next in our queue are crawl errors. Google reports 3 types of errors;
Soft 404s: These are the errors when a resource does not exist at server but, to entertain visitors, it is wrapped with a custom page with 200 status code. Or a message “Page not found” is being displayed on the page without throwing a proper 404 server status code. Google treats such pages as soft 404s.
Not Found Pages: These are the actual not found URLs that are properly throwing 404 server status codes.
Server Errors: These are the errors encountered by Google bot while fetching the resources from server when server or some of its services were not responding e.g. 503, 500 etc. Luckily, we don’t have servers in our case.
How to Deal with Crawl Errors?
For server errors, ensure a 100% up server time.
For soft 404s, try to throw proper 404 server status code for both, the users and the search engine bots.
Regarding not found pages reported in Google Web Master Tools, check;
If they are linked with any external and/or internal resource. If so, redirect them to the most relevant webpage available on your website, other than home page. After redirection, remove their internal links too.
If they are only internally linked. If so, remove their internal links. 404 pages should not be linked from any internal resource.
If they are available in sitemap. Remove them from there.
You can check above cases by clicking the reported URL in WMT crawl errors section.
Google does not crawl ‘not found’ pages when a 404 status code is being thrown by server and does not index such pages as well. But a soft 404, as it throws ‘200 status code’, indicates a live page and Google goes for indexing it.
As Google spends definite time on every website for indexing purposes, we waste some of its time with soft 404s while this time could have been utilized for finding and indexing new and unique webpage on our website.
Moreover, we have often seen webmasters write a code in their .htaccess file which redirects every non-existing resource to the home or other custom page. As per Google’s guidelines, this practice is also problematic and should be avoided.
Routine Check Ups in Google Webmaster Tools
We have covered a major part of Google Search Console, let’s come to routine check-ups.
WMT Message Center
Just below the dashboard, you can see the WMT message center. Google uses this section to communicate with webmasters about their website’s performance. Any potential threats to the website or other informational messages are reported there by Google. Checking them on daily basis is a good habit.
This is a splendid feature by Google Search Console which reports potential security threats that can disturb your website’s search presence. Don’t forget to check this section on a daily basis.
As smartphones are taking over the search market, it is necessary to provide mobile users ‘the best’ experience for surfing your website on mobile devices. For this reason, Google has created a feature call “Mobile Usability” which allows webmasters to analyze their website’s performance on mobile devices. If Google spots any problem with your website’s mobile version, it will be reported in this section.
Another remarkable feature provided by Google Search Console, HTML improvements section reports information regarding titles, meta descriptions and problems with non-indexable content on your website.
Now when you have learnt a lot about Google Search Console, it is time to implement these insights on your website. I hope you’ll see a lot of positive results.
Don’t forget to share your results and feedback with us in the comments below.
Happy Marketing ☺