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Google Search Console 101 Part 1 - Performance Reports

Ever since Google started encrypting the search keyword for a Google Search (removing keywords from Google Analytics as in this article from over 5 years ago), Google has offered a tool to examine the search queries driving traffic to your website. It used to be called Google Webmaster Tools and the interface was clunky and the search data was only stored for a short time.

NOTE: Google changes the look and feel of its products constantly so apologies if the instructions and screenshots are already out of date.

In 2015, Google rebranded it Google Search Console and since early 2018, it has been slowly releasing a new version of the user interface with over a year's worth of search data stored.

To add your website to Google Search Console, you need to prove that you have an administrative level of access. You require to prove your identity with one of the following methods :-

  • Amend your DNS record
  • Have edit permission in Google Analytics
  • Have manage permission in Google Tag Manager
  • Upload a small HTML file to the root of the website
  • Add a meta tag to the home page

Once your website is added and it starts to display information, you can interrogate GSC about the search terms being used in Google Search for which your website is displayed in search results

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Using filters you are able to see for example

  • which queries are most popular
  • for a particular page, which queries are most popular
  • queries by country
  • image search queries

In this article, I'll use 5 examples to show what is possible.

1. Queries by country

By default, GSC will aggregate all of the totals for the whole of the world. This includes the Average Position so it is often more informative to check your search ranking for a particular country.

To filter by a country

Google Search Console 101

Now all of your reports will only include only New Zealand traffic.

2. Average position of queries per page

One of the most powerful features of GSC is to see where you rank in search for each search query. Given that Google tailors all searches based on the person searching - their location, their previous searches and website visitors - then it is impossible to state with certainty your search ranking. Being able to see your average ranking for a query gives you a good idea of where you are and how many places you need to rise to reach the top.

Even if the search term is competitive for Google Ads, the average position indicates where you are placed for organic searches only. A position of 1 indicates that you are the top organic search result even if there are Ads above you on the page.

Note: An impression is recorded every time a search result is displayed on the page, even if it is at position 10 and the user does not scroll down far enough to view it.

Google Search Console 101

3. Non-brand queries

For most companies, you will discover that the most popular search that finds you is a search for your company name or for a brand name of yours. The main interest in these searches is to check that you are ranked at position 1 for searches on your own brand names. If you're not at number 1, then you need to investigate why that is (Cucumber can help)

There is no functionality in GSC to filter the query list so to generate a list of non-brand queries, you need to export to Excel and manipulate the data there to exclude your brand names.

Often the most interesting search queries are high volume queries where you're appearing towards the bottom of page 1 or the top of page 2. You will be seeing a reasonable volume of impressions but very few clicks. These are the best opportunities to improve the SEO of the page and move it towards number 1.

Google Search Console 101

4. Image searches

By selecting the Search type: Image you can see the queries for which images from your website are returned.

Note: Image search on Google has infinite scroll but an impression is only recorded when your image is visible on the page.

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5. Comparison by date

With GSC now keeping up to 16 months of search data it is possible to run reports to show rankings for this quarter against the previous quarter or for seasonal websites, this month against the same month last year. Click on the date picker to set the comparison dates.

Google Search Console 101

Hopefully you can already see the advantages of setting up your own website in Google Search Console.

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