Google Search Console is a fundamental tool for every successful SEOs toolkit.
The best part?
In this guide, I’ll show you how to use Google Search Console to improve your SEO performance, so you can get more traffic, leads, and customers from organic search.
Let’s jump in.
Before I show some cool tactics, I need to cover the basics.
How to Set Up Google Search Console
1. Go here and enter your email address.
2. Click the dropdown on the upper lefthand side.
3. Click “Add Property”
4. Select the “Domain” option and enter your root domain (example: gotchseo.com). Then click “Continue”.
5. Copy the txt record and sign in to your registrar (where you purchased your domain).
6. If you’re using GoDaddy, click on “My Products”, look under the “Domains” section to find your domain, and then click on “DNS”.
7. Click on “Add” under “Records”.
8. Select “TXT”. Enter “@” under “Host”, enter the TXT record you copied from Google Search Console under “TXT Value”, and click “Save”.
9. Go back to Google Search Console and click “Verify”. You may end up seeing the “Ownership verification failed” message like this:
10. Google recommends waiting a day and then trying to verify again. In most cases, you’ll see the “Ownership auto verified” message like this:
The last step is to integrate Google Search Console data with your site’s Google Analytics data.
How to Integrate Google Search Console Data with Google Analytics
1. Go to Google Analytics and click on the target website. Then click on “Acquisition”, “Search Console”, and then “Landing Pages”.
You’ll see this screen (click “Set up Search Console data sharing”):
If you don’t see your domain on the list, then click on “Add a site to Search Console”.
As of right now, this is a glitch.
For some reason, when you add a site on the new Google Search Console, it doesn’t add to the old version. Google Analytics is integrated with the old version, so it’s causing some issues.
That said, add the target site to the old version and then go back and refresh the page. It should be showing now.
Select it, make sure it matches the “Web Property” at the top, and click save.
Click “OK” when you see the “Add association” pop up.
Go back to Google Analytics and refresh the page. It should now be integrated.
Keep in mind that it will take a few days to start showing data inside Google Analytics.
Now that you’re all set up, let’s jump into how to use this amazing free tool.
5 Ways to Use Google Search Console to Increase Your Traffic
- Optimize Crawling and Indexing
- Identify Low Hanging Fruits
- Increase Organic Search CTR
- Perform CRO
- Track Branded Search Performance
Optimize Crawling and Indexing
The first way to use Google Search Console is to use the URL Inspection tool.
The URL Inspection tool is useful because you can check the indexation and mobile-friendliness of any URL on your website. Copy any URL and enter into the search bar:
You’ll end up on this page and the goal is to have green checkmarks for every option.
Here’s how it might look if Google hasn’t crawled and indexed a page on your site:
What do you do in this scenario?
First, do not “Request Indexing”.
If your page isn’t getting crawled and indexed there’s a reason (or many reasons). You need to audit your site to identify what’s preventing Google from either crawling or indexing your pages.
Let’s start with crawling because Google can’t index a page unless it can crawl it.
There a few possible reasons why Google can’t crawl a page:
- Your robot.txt file is blocking Google’s crawlers.
- Your page is buried within your site’s architecture that Google’s crawlers can’t it (or have given up).
- Your website’s loading speed is too slow and Google’s crawlers give up.
If Google is crawling your site, but your pages aren’t indexed, then it might be because:
- You’re using the “noindex” tag
- Your site architecture is poorly structured
- Your page is slow
- Your page is unresponsive
- Your website rarely publishes new content
And many other reasons outside the scope of this guide. The good news is that you can actually use Google Search Console to find some of these issues.
Let’s move onto the “Index” section. Click on “Coverage” and this section will show you every technical issue that Google has found.
If you’re having indexation issues, then see if you have an obvious “Errors” such as “Submitted URL marked ‘noindex’”.
Click through and make sure you actually want these pages to be noindexed.
Otherwise, remove the noindex tag and Google will crawl and then index it.
If you don’t find the suspect URL in this section, go back to the “Coverage” overview section. Then click on “Excluded”. Scroll down and click on “Excluded by “noindex” tag.
For example, I want my “Story” page to be indexed in Google, but it’s using the “noindex” tag by accident.
If you click on the URL, Google Search Console will give you two options:
- Inspect URL
- Test Robot.txt Blocking
Start with “Test Robot.txt Blocking” and see your robot.txt is blocking Google’s crawlers (it will take you to the old version of Google Search Console).
If it passes the test, move onto the “Inspect URL” option. Make sure you have removed the “noindex” tag from the target page and then click “Request Indexing”.
You should see the “Indexing requested” confirmation popup.
Now just wait a few days (maybe even a week) to see if the page is indexed.
The “Coverage” section is robust and there are many technical issues you can tackle. I recommend digging through the “Excluded” section and fixing each issue one-by-one.
One other issue you’ll want to look for isn’t as obvious. It’s called index bloat.
This is a very common problem when I’m conducting SEO audits. In short, “index bloat” is when you have pages indexed in Google that shouldn’t be.
This can cause crawl issues, duplicate, and thin content issues, and it can even dilute your site’s authority. I recommend exporting the URLs from the “Valid” and “Submitted and indexed” section.
The best way to decide if pages should be indexed is by using a combination of data and manual analysis.
Check out the video below on how to perform a content audit. I use Screaming Frog SEO Spider in the demonstration, but the general thought process and nuance will apply no matter what tool you’re using.
The last thing you need to do in the “Coverage” section is to make sure you’ve submitted a sitemap.
Now let’s move onto the “Performance” section.
Identify Low Hanging Fruits
Google Search Console’s “Performance” section is where all the magic happens.
If you’ve had it installed on your site for a while, you have tons of critical data at your fingertips.
I’m not going to bore you and show you how to look at the data.
Instead, I’m going to show you how to leverage this data to get more organic search traffic.
The first method is to identify low hanging fruits.
A “low hanging fruit” is any keyword phrase ranking from positions #11 – #20.
These keyword phrases are only a few tweaks away from landing on the first page. You know this, but being on the second page of Google is almost like being completely invisible.
To find these low hanging fruits, click on “Average position”.
Then scroll down and click the filter option.
Check “Position”, select “Greater than” from the dropdown, and enter “11”.
These keyword phrases are your low hanging fruits. I recommend going after phrases with the highest volume.
Now the question is:
The fastest method is to make sure the phrase is mentioned on the page. If it’s a high volume keyword, then you may need to create another section on the page.
Google is telling you what keywords should be targeted on that page. Take advantage of it!
First, click on the target keyword phrase.
Then click on the “Pages” tab. This tab will show you what page on your site is ranking for that keyword.
Second, view the page and search for the keyword phrase. “Backlink builder” isn’t mentioned once on my guide about backlinks.
That means that the first step is to figure out how to integrate that phrase onto the page. I recommend searching the exact phrase in Google to see what the intent is.
In this case, 7 out of the 10 results are tools.
That means it might make sense for me to add a section about “Free Backlink Builder Tools”. I could also reframe it to show a list of the “Top Backlink Builders”.
The key takeaway is to model the search intent for the keyword. In some cases, you can add the keyword variation a few times in the copy (read this guide about on-page SEO).
Once you’ve optimized the page for long-hanging fruits, annotate inside Google Analytics.
Then wait a few weeks. You can go back to Google Search Console and see how that keyword phrase is performing by comparing date ranges.
Click the “Date” filter option. Then click on “Compare” and select the appropriate dates.
You can then see how the page has performed since you made the changes.
If it hasn’t produced any movement, then reassess your optimization and content strategy.
If you feel that both categories are on-point, then I recommend examining the UI/UX, your site’s architecture leading to that page, and the backlink profile for that page.
Increase Organic Search CTR
The next way to leverage Google Search Console data is to increase your organic search Click Through Rate (CTR).
There is no faster way to get more organic search traffic than increasing your CTR. Here’s how to do it:
Go to the “Search Results” section, select “Average CTR” and “Average Position”.
Then scroll down and click on the filter button. Select “CTR”, click “Smaller than” from the dropdown, and enter “1.0”.
Then go back to the filter and select “Position”, click on “Smaller than”, and enter “10”.
Now you should be looking at keyword phrases that you’re performing well for, but your CTR is lacking.
Now there are a few things to consider before I explain how to optimize for CTR.
Here are 4 Factors That Will Impact Organic CTR:
- your position (lower rankings = lower CTR)
- Google Ads (more ads = lower CTR)
- SERP features (more SERP features = lower CTR)
- search intent
Search intent isn’t as obvious as the others. In general, navigational search phrases (like “Gotch SEO”) that you don’t own will have low CTR. For example, my CTR for “blogger.com” is a brutal 0.1%.
I can push my rankings up further for this phrase, but I know it’s a waste of time and resources. Why?
Because people searching navigational phrases are generally looking for the brand itself. The takeaway is that you prioritize increasing organic search CTR for non-navigational keywords.
Now let me explain how to actually increase your organic search CTR.
How to Increase Organic CTR
Select an informational keyword with low CTR. You should pick a keyword that has low CTR and a high position. Sort the data by “Position” to see the top-ranked keywords.
In this example, I’m going to focus on “buy backlinks for SEO”.
Once you’ve selected a target keyword, benchmark its current CTR. I recommend adding this data to an annotation in Google Analytics.
Keep this open because you’ll be adding whatever changes you made to it as well.
Now you need to examine the SERPs for that keyword. The first thing I notice in my situation are the ads.
Take note of the headlines.
The next thing to consider is my page that’s ranking #1.
Does the search intent for the keyword phrase “buy backlinks for SEO” match my page?
I think it’s appropriate that it’s ranking because it is on topic.
However, someone searching “buy backlinks for SEO” seems to already have an objective in their mind. It seems that they already made the decision to “buy backlinks”.
That means they may not want to change their mind about buying links.
That could be a reason why the CTR for this page is suffering.
So, in this example, it doesn’t make much sense for me to change the strategy of my blog post.
This is a good reminder that being an SEO expert isn’t always about what you do. It’s also about what you don’t do.
Since that keyword phrase didn’t pan out, let’s take a look at the keyword phrase: “seo st louis”.
From a quick SERP analysis, it’s easy to understand why the CTR is so poor for that page. There’s a Google Ad and the local pack is pushing the organic results below the fold.
Now if I was serious about ranking for this keyword phrase, I would focus on the local pack. My page is ranking #2 in organic search and there’s a lot of room for improvement.
The first step to increasing your organic CTR is to improve your position. In this case, I would see a major boost in CTR by moving from the #2 to the #1 spot.
I recommend optimizing, improving, and adding more content. Then if it makes sense, try to acquire links to the page. While that’s happening you also want to try to improve your CTR.
I always look for a featured snippet because that’s an easy way to increase your CTR. You have to restructure and optimize your page for featured snippets.
Take note of a few elements in this example:
- The #1 result has structured data and breadcrumbs showing
- The #3 result has site links
That means that our page can also get those features. It makes sense to add reviews to our page that are using structured data.
Not only will these increase the organic CTR, but it will also add more unique user-generated content.
I’ve talked about a lot of technical optimization tactics. Now I want to show you how to optimize your title tags and meta descriptions for CTR.
You’ll need to put on your copywriting hat for this.
The first question is:
What does this searcher want the most when they search “seo st louis”?
This individual wants to work with a competent, trustworthy, and successful SEO company located in St. Louis. They likely want to meet face-to-face and shake your hand.
How do I know?
Because I’ve done exactly that with countless businesses in this area. How business owners operate in St. Louis compared to how they operate in New York City is different.
These nuances are huge. I won’t get into the psychology of midwest culture right now.
That said, your title and meta description should persuade your ideal customer.
So, if you’re targeting business owners in St. Louis, you need to clearly state why you’re the best option.
“Best St. Louis SEO Company” is a good start, but WHY is Gotch SEO the “best”?
What does a business owner in St. Louis value the most?
Some things they might value are:
- Only working with a company that’s located in St. Louis
- Working with a company that’s willing to meet in person and shake their hand
- Working with a proven company with a visible track record of results
- A sense of security that trying SEO again will work this time because it’s never worked in the past
List as many ideas as you can. Step into their shoes. Then, create at least 10 different headlines using these ideas.
Here are some examples:
- #1 SEO Company Located in St. Louis (with Over 153 5-Star Reviews)
- #1 St. Louis SEO Company (See Why 134 Other Companies Trust Us)
- St. Louis SEO Company That’s Driven Over $12,031,231 for Clients
- Most Trust SEO Company in St. Louis (139 Real 5-Star Reviews)
- The Only ROI-Driven SEO Company in St. Louis
- St. Louis SEO Company with Over 1,304,012 First Page Rankings
- #1 Recommended St. Louis SEO Company (Insane Results for Clients)
- St. Louis SEO Company – Get 112% More Traffic Like Our Clients
- St. Louis SEO Company – Get 212% More Revenue Like Our Clients
- St. Louis SEO Company – See Why 174 Others Trust Us
The combinations are endless. That’s why it’s critical that you test.
Add these same concepts to your meta description as well.
I recommend making your changes and then waiting at least a few weeks to see the results.
Make sure you annotate your changes in Google Analytics.
If you don’t see better performance, then iterate, and test again. There is no “end” to optimizing a website for organic search.
Perform Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
The third way to leverage Google Search Console data has nothing to do with SEO.
I recommend that you perform Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) high-performing organic search pages.
Getting traffic is nice, but converting that traffic into leads and new customers are even better.
I won’t get into CRO here, but check out these resources:
- 9 Conversion Rate Optimization Principles to Get You Started
- Conversion Rate Optimization Guide by CXL
- 21 conversion rate optimization best practices
One thing that you need to keep in mind is that every single page on your site should have a goal.
It doesn’t have to always be transactional either. In fact, trying to score a sale is a poor strategy because ~98% of website visitors are not ready to buy.
That’s why it’s fundamental that you convert a percentage of that traffic into email subs or get them on a retargeting list.
Track Branded Search Performance
The last way to leverage this data isn’t actually a tactic at all. I recommend monitoring your branded search performance.
While ranking for informational keywords is critical for increasing traffic, branded search is what will keep you afloat when rankings fluctuate.
The question is:
How do you get more branded searches?
You need an all-encompassing marketing strategy outside of SEO.
In general, if you produce exceptional value and your products are excellent, then you’ll get branded searches.
I recommend using Google Search Console to track your branded search performance every month.
If it’s not growing, then you know you need to adjust your strategy.
Bonus Google Search Console Sections to Investigate
Another Google Search Console section you’ll want to investigate is “Enhancements”.
The “Mobile Usability” section will show you issues impacting the mobile search user’s experience on your website. It’s important to fix anything that shows up here.
Think about this way:
If Google is dedicating a section to it, it’s likely an important factor for organic search performance.
The same logic applies to every section within Google Search Console.
The “Security & Manual Actions” section is one to visit if your organic search traffic falls.
Both manual actions and security-related issues can wreck your traffic. Go to this section first if your traffic plummets.
The last section to examine is the “Links” section.
I prefer using Ahrefs for all link analysis, but Google Search Console can give you some solid intel. It doesn’t give you all your link data.
However, it is a decent sample set. One thing to examine is the “Top linking text” section.
This is your external link anchor text profile. Ideally, your “Top linking text” should be branded.
You should also look at the “Internal links” section because it may indicate some inefficiencies with your site architecture.
For example, my “best link building services” page may not have as many crawler pathways as I would like.
The appropriate action would be to create more internal links that page, so it performs better.
The other way to use this section is if you get a manual or algorithmic penalty. In many cases, websites get penalized because of low-quality links and over-optimized anchor text.
How to Clean Up Your Link Profile Using Google Search Console
Click “Export External Links” and select “More sample links”.
Then copy 200 of these URLs and open up Ahrefs. Go to “More” in the navigation and click on “Batch analysis”.
Paste the URLs, click the dropdown under “Target mode”, select “domain with all its subdomains” and start the analysis.
Click “Export” and open the file.
Delete every column except for “Target”, “Domain Rating”, “Ref domains Dofollow”, “Total Backlinks”, “Total Keywords”, and “Total Traffic”. Then copy the data and paste into the Google Sheet (or you can filter through it in the .csv).
I would filter the links by “Domain Rating” and then manually go through each link.
You can categorize them as “Good, Okay, Bad”.
These will both give you a framework for what a quality link looks like.
That’s a Wrap!
Google Search Console is a robust free SEO tool that cannot be overlooked. Take advantage of it and start increasing your organic search traffic.