Google Search Console Tutorial: The Most Valuable Reports

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At the start of 2018, Google announced that the new Search Console (previously in beta testing) would now be available to everyone.

This new Google Search Console includes improved functionalities that make it easier for users to optimize their website’s presence on Google search. This includes several new reports, such as Search Performance, Index Coverage, and AMP Status.

Despite having rolled out earlier in the year, there is a possibility that not everyone will be able to access their old reports: either because Search Console is still updating, or because Search Console is finding a better way to present the data.

Despite that, we’ll walk you through a Google Search Console tutorial featuring the most valuable reports—some you may already be familiar with, as well as some new options from the recent update.

Search Performance Report

The Search Performance report is part of the new Google Search Console update.

This report shows how your website performs in Google search results: how often it comes up on Google searches, your average position for various keywords, where your traffic comes from (country, devices, and even search type—web search or image search), your click-through rate, and other special search features (like the featured snippet) that your website may have.

You can use this report to monitor website performance over a certain time period. In this case, Google allows you to view up to 16 months worth of data. Note that the default view shows up to 3 months of data.

You can also filter data according to metrics (ie: clicks, impressions, etc) or a data group (query, country, page, etc) and compare accordingly. For example, you could use the Search Performance report to see how your clicks in the UK compare to those in the US.

Index Coverage Report

We get in-depth about one of the newest Google Search Console reports, Index Coverage, in its own dedicated article. As part of this Google Search Console tutorial, we’ll share the basics.

In this report, Google gives insight into how it indexes URLs from your website. It shows you correctly indexed URLs and gives you insight into potential warnings and threats—as well as reasons why Google does not index certain URLs.

The Index Coverage report alerts website owners when new crawl issues are detected, the source of these issues, and suggestions for how to fix them. The report can also confirm whether or not you’ve been able to resolve an issue, which in turn helps keep Google Search Console updated.

If you proactively report errors, instead of waiting for Google to find your site’s errors, they will prioritize resolving these errors and attend to them more quickly. This can be done using the validate fix function. If you're testing multiple URLs, Search Console also gives a validation log, which details the URLs that have been fixed and the ones that failed.

Validate Fix?The Index Coverage report works best for websites that submit XML sitemap files, which make it easier for search engines like Google to see new and updated URLs. If your website uses sitemap files, you can use the sitemap filter while using the Index Coverage report.

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HTML Improvements Report

HTML Improvements reportAlthough Google Search Console introduced several new improvements, there are still several old reports that contain a lot of value. The HTML improvement report is one of them.

This report shows the potential issues Google found when crawling and indexing your website.

The issues identified here don't prevent your website from being indexed. Rather, acting on these can help improve the user experience and drive traffic to your website.

The issues detailed in this report include:

  • Title problems: Problems with the title tag on your pages (such as missing or repeated titles).
  • Meta description problems: Problems with meta descriptions (common examples include duplicate meta descriptions and those not optimized for keywords).
  • Non-indexable content: Includes videos, photos, and other rich media files.

This report used to be found under Search Appearance and is accessible if you’ve added and verified your website in Google Search Console.

Structured Data Report

Structured Data reportAnother “oldie but goodie” is the Structured Data report, found under the Search Appearance section of the old Google Search Console. This report shows the structured information Google was able to detect on your website while detailing information about errors in page markup that could prevent rich snippets from being displayed.

When Google is able to detect and understand the markup on your page, it can use this information to add rich snippets and other features to your search results.

For example, searching for a recipe that has schema markup implemented can yield results that show cooking time, temperature, and calories. These features can encourage users to click on a certain search result over the others, and Google usually puts these results on top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) because of their helpful information.

After adding structured data to your website, use this report to make sure it was properly implemented. You can view any existing errors in this report, and if there are any, use the Structured Data Testing Tool to help you diagnose and correct the errors.

The Structured Data report can alert you to two types of structured data errors:

  • Missing field: When you need to fill in multiple data fields but failed to fill one in. An example from Google: For an event rich snippet, location and performer are mentioned, but not the show date.
  • Missing best or worst rating: For when a product is rated on a 5-point scale but the bestRating (5) or worstRating (1) is not marked up properly.

One criticism of this report is that it doesn’t show all possible data and doesn’t always refresh quickly; you have to wait for changes to be reflected in the dashboard before you can act on them. If you know that you have an issue, it is suggested that you crawl your website and use Custom Extraction rules to validate that you have the correct details in your structured data fields.

Final Thoughts: Google Search Console Tutorial: The Most Valuable Reports

It doesn’t get better than insights straight from the horse’s mouth.

horse mouthGoogle Search Console is one of the most helpful (and free!) tools to optimize your website’s SEO. Alongside useful new updates made to Google Search Console, there are plenty of reports and features that can provide more insight into actions you can take to further optimize your website.

Still looking for more help with SEO? Combine your Google Search Console knowledge with the data in Google Analytics and dig into these SEO dashboards.

What are your favorite Google Search Console reports and how do they help your website rank in relevant search? What would you add to this Google Search Console tutorial? Tweet @PathfinderSEO and we’ll share your best insights!

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Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website, and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman.