Are you a Marketing Director or CEO who’d like the tools and knowledge to better manage your SEO team (whether it’s an internal team or a digital marketing agency)?
If so, tbk Creative has been writing a series specially for you. In our first article, we covered how to track your organic traffic through Google Analytics and in the second article we covered how to track your SEO goals in Google Analytics.
In this article, we introduce how best to use Google Search Console as a Marketing Director or CEO. Note: This article is more for the manager of a brand and not the person or team executing the SEO work itself.
What it is
Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) is a software service provided by Google that lets a company setup and monitor their presence in Google’s search engine better.
If you require assistance with setting up Search Console on your website or to add new users to your account, tbk Creative’s Amanda Tadgell wrote about how to setup Google Search Console, which includes step by step instructions.
What to expect in this article
In this article we’ll cover:
- Critical Messages
- Search traffic
- Long-term reporting functions
- Crawl errors (e.g., 404s)
- Site indexing
A) Critical Messages
When you log into your dashboard, near the top, you’ll see a section called ‘New and important’. This is where Google will write any critical messages. Occasionally review these and ensure your SEO team is taking appropriate action on what’s listed. If you wish to view all current and archived notifications you may access Messages which is found in the left navigation.
B) Search traffic
Next, you may start to look at some data around the traffic you are acquiring from Google’s search engine.
To access the search traffic data click Search Traffic -> Search Analytics.
There are a number of things you can view in this section:
- No. of visitors from Google’s organic search;
- Your website’s total impressions on Google’s search engine;
- Pages visitors first land on from Google search;
- Average click through rate (CTR);
- Average position in Google search;
- Keyterms people used to find your website.
I’ll break this section down into the following:
When landing on the Search Analytics section, by default you’ll land on the subsection called Queries. This lists out a selection of keywords people are using to find your website.
For a fuller list of data, you may check the boxes for information on: Clicks, Impressions, CTR, and Position.
Google has chosen not to display 100% of the keywords. Therefore, you can’t use this data as a complete analytical keyword review but instead its best used to garner general trends and understandings about how people are finding your website.
When looking at the queries data, here’s some items you can be thinking about:
- How are your main service topics ranking overall? For instance, if you offer ‘corporate accounting services in Toronto’ and your position for ‘corporate accounting firms Toronto’ is ranking past position 30.0, you may want to have your digital agency create a plan to see that keyword and similar ones improve.
- What types of keywords are driving the most traffic to your website?
- Is there any unique insights or anything peculiar standing out?
To help you sift through the data easier, you may also filter out any of your branded key terms. The reason this may be useful to look at is Google will almost always rank branded keyterms high and to have this rank probably doesn’t require a lot of additional SEO effort. Of course, if you’re having trouble ranking for your brand terms you have a critical SEO issue to address.
There’s usually more room for growth (traffic, leads and revenue) around non-branded keyterms (e.g., corporate accounting firms in Toronto).
To access the pages people land on when they visit your website, click Pages. Overall, this is useful aggregate data to get a glimpse into how your SEO strategy is playing out. Note: You can also access this data through Google Analytics. Here is an article I wrote that provides step by step details on how to track your organic traffic in Google Analytics.
When looking at the landing page data, here’s some potential things to be thinking about:
- If you have individual store or city (regional) pages, how are they performing?
- How are your product or services pages performing?
- Did you recently create a series of blog articles for SEO reasons? How much traffic are they gaining?
For instance, an interesting observation I recently made when looking at the Search Analytics data of tbk Creative’s Google Search Console is that 5 out of the top 10 pages that visitors land on from Google search are blog articles that tbk Creative produced. Furthermore, 11% of all of tbk Creative’s organic traffic from Google in the last ~30 days came from only one blog article that was published way back in 2014.
C) Long Term Reporting Functions
One of the limitations of Google Search Console is that it only displays search data from the last 90 days. Past that, the data is no longer retrievable. For long-term reporting and insights, you may want to setup a structure for exporting and storing this information (whether manually which will require more resources and management or through an automated third party software such as Analytics Edge).
D) Crawl Errors
Another important section in Search Console is the Crawl Errors page. When landing on this page, first make sure DNS, Server Connectivity and Robots.txt fetch are all showing green lights.
Below this information, you’ll see a graph and a table that displays pages that recently received 404 errors. It can be a tedious task to go through every URL that has a 404 but your SEO team should be able to sift through the errors at a decent pace and sort out those that are incorrect. It’s advised that any pages listed here that have reputable backlinks coming into them or were receiving consistent traffic should be fixed or have a 301 redirect to a logical alternative page so that you can maintain some of the backlink equity and / or traffic.
Once you’ve sorted the above out, from an ongoing perspective as a Marketing Director or CEO, you may want to routinely review the graph. For any odd spikes in errors you should ask your digital marketing team to investigate or comment on.
E) Site Indexing
You’ll want to ensure all the pages that should be available in Google are showing up. Google calls this ‘indexing’. To see all the pages that are being indexed in Google, go to Crawl -> Sitemaps.
Here are the items you want to look at on this page:
- Are the pages indexed the same as the pages submitted? If not, its not necessarily a problem based on how your team set up its XML sitemap. However, if the numbers aren’t the same, you should ask your digital marketing team to investigate or comment on.
- Same as number (i) above, any images submitted but not being indexed isn’t necessarily a problem but should be reviewed and commented on by your digital marketing team.
- If there are ‘Warnings’, once again this isn’t necessarily an issue but it’s worthwhile having your team investigate or comment on all the Warnings.
Regular (e.g., weekly) use of Google Search Console is the responsibility of your SEO team but understanding some of the core features and offerings of the software service is useful to a Marketing Director or CEO to ensure your digital marketing agency is on track to reach and exceed your company’s Search Engine Optimization goals.
If you have any questions about how to use Search Console or require assistance with generating more website traffic and revenue from Google’s search engine, reach out to my team at tbk Creative and we’ll be happy to assist.