How to use Google Search Console to improve website rankings

Not getting enough Google love? We all want our website to perform well on Google and apart from buying clicks through AdWords, the best way to do it is through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). To help you with this, you need to sign-up for Google Search Console.

Google Search Console is a free tool to help you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google search results. It gives you actionable recommendations instead of doing it blind.

Here’s a few of its features and how we can use them.

1. Submit a sitemap

A sitemap is an XML file containing a list of pages found on your website. It shows Google where all the pages can be found, allowing them to serve the best and most relevant page within their search results.

Before submitting a sitemap, you have to create one. If you haven’t, you can do so by using a WordPress plugin such as Yoast. Once created, submit a sitemap to Google by clicking on Crawl → Sitemaps → Add/Test Sitemap

Google Console - Submit a Sitemap

2. Make HTML improvements

Google Console will analyse a websites HTML and report any issues which may effect search rankings. It will scan your websites title and description tags, checking for missing, duplicate or non-informative tags. It will also check for content which isn’t indexable. If you’re new to meta tags, here’s an extensive guide to get started.

To check for HTML improvements, click on Search Appearance → HTML Improvements

HTML Improvements - Google Webmaster Tools

3. View the keywords bringing traffic to your website

The Search Analytics report shows how often your website appears in Google results. For example, a user may search for “summer holiday” and your website appears on page two. If the user goes to page two and see’s your result, it counts as an “impression”. If the user then clicks on your link, it obviously counts as a “click”. It’s a handy tool to see when and where your website appears for different keywords users are searching for.

To view the search analytics, click on Search Traffic → Search Analytics

4. Find websites linking to your site

A backlink is valuable for SEO as they’re considered a “vote of confidence”. If Google can see a website is linking to another website, it’s saying that it vouches for the website and the information it’s providing. If many websites do the same, it increases the trust in Google’s eyes.

With Google Console, you can see which websites are linking to your website, the pages on your website being linked and how the data has been linked.

To view a list of websites linking to your own, click on Search Traffic → Links To Your Site

5. Analyse crawl errors

If Google cannot crawl pages on your website, this section will tell you why. Minimising the errors will result in more pages being indexed and potentially more users accessing your website through Google. Most errors are due to broken links or pages that no longer exists. Once errors are found, it’s important to fix them by either mending the broken link or doing a 301 redirect.

To see any crawl errors, click on Crawl → Crawl Errors

6. Set preferred domain

You can tell Google if you prefer your domain name with our without the www (e.g. www.example.com or example.com). This will result in Google treating both links as the same. By not doing so, Google may see the website as two different domains, resulting in a misinterpretation of your site’s index status and possible duplicate content issues.

To set your preferred domain, click on the Cog Icon → Site Settings

Set preferred domain name - Google Webmaster Tools

7. Check if your site has security issues

Google doesn’t want hacked websites appearing within their search results. It’s a bad look for Google and could put their users at serious risk. If they suspect your website has been hacked, they will attach the text “This website may have been hacked” onto your search listing. Trust me, that’s not something you want.

To make sure your site is clean, click on Security Issues in the left menu.

Security Issues - Google Webmaster Tools

8. Ask Google to notify you if there’s a problem with your website

To keep on top of it, you can ask Google to send you an email if it detects any of the issues above. To enable this, click on the cog icon in the top-right corner, click on Site Console Preferences and make sure the email notifications checkbox is ticked.

Conclusion

The best thing about Google Search Console is that you don’t have to be an SEO expert to benefit from it. You can still login, find out what Google knows and how they view your website, identify potential issues and make changes to improve your rankings on Google.