Google Search Console (GSC)

The Google Search Console (short: GSC, formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a free analysis and service tool from Google. With the help of the Google Search Console, numerous settings can be made on websites or apps, statistics can be viewed and optimizations can be carried out. In addition, webmasters receive warnings about unnatural backlinks or malware installed on the website. The data of the Google Search Console is not partially public like the data of Alexa. Search Console metrics can be linked to Google Analytics for data enrichment.
Google Search Console GSC

Background

Google does a lot to ensure that websites are programmed solidly and that the number of errors is limited. This intention has a not entirely unselfish background. On the one hand, the Mountain View-based company wants to ensure that its search results point to the highest possible quality targets, and on the other hand, the optimization of websites also serves to improve the quality of target pages for advertising via Google AdWords or publisher websites for Google AdSense on a to maintain a high level of quality.

At the same time, it can be assumed that Google will receive additional insights into the design and relevant website data via the data maintenance of the webmaster tools.

Requirements for use

To use the Google Search Console, the page in question must first be registered. A valid Google account is required for this. After signing up, the owner needs to verify the site. There are four different recommended methods to choose from:

Alternatively, the website can also be verified using a valid Analytics account, the domain name provider, an HTML tag or the Google Tag Manager. After the verification has been carried out, the tool displays relevant data for the corresponding website and the usual functions can be used.

Functions

The Google Search Console contains a large number of functions that can be used to analyze and optimize a website. Here the functions are briefly outlined:

  • Storage of an XML sitemap: All URLs of a website can be transmitted to Google via the XML sitemap. Although this is not a guarantee for later indexing, it increases the possibility that page elements that are difficult to access will also be crawled. In addition, a separate image sitemap or a video sitemap can also be stored via the GWT. The tool analyzes each sitemap for errors after it has been uploaded.
  • robots.txt tester: If a robots.txt file is stored, it can be analyzed with the Search Console. New instructions for the bot can also be tested there.
  • Website settings: Here you can set the preferred country selection as well as the information on the desired standard domain format (with or without WWW) and the crawl speed of up to two server requests per second. If you don’t know the performance of your server, you should let Google do the setting automatically.
  • Declare backlinks invalid: One of the most discussed tools in the SEO scene in recent years is the so-called GWT disavow tool. This is used to invalidate incoming links when a webmaster deems those links to be more harmful than useful. Many SEOs assume that Google uses the data from this tool to uncover link networks. About the tool: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main
  • Ignore URL parameters: SEOs and webmasters can use the GWT to invalidate individual parameters of a URL. You can determine whether the parameter has an impact on the content or whether it is a tracking parameter such as “utm”.
  • Remove URLs from the index: An important function of the Search Console is the temporary removal of URLs from the Google index. This is always useful if individual sub-pages have accidentally ended up in the index. This feature does not replace exclusive indexing via tags such as Noindex.
  • Data Highlighter: This function makes it possible to mark relevant positions on a website so that Google can determine structured data such as opening hours or prices.
  • Retrieval as if by Googlebot: With this function, a website can be viewed like a spider and syntax errors can be uncovered. It is also possible to render the page completely.
  • Submit URLs to the Google index: After a web page has been fetched with “Fetch as Google” it and the associated URLs can be submitted directly to the Google index. Multiple URLs can be indexed at once.
  • Control of structured data: If a website uses microformats or other structured data, their markup can be checked with the Google Search Console.
  • Checking of rich cards: If a website uses rich cards, they can be checked with the GSC.
  • Test mobile-friendliness: The GSC indicates whether URLs are mobile-friendly.
  • hreflang test: If a website is internationally oriented and has several language and country versions, these can be marked with hreflang . The GSC can control these tags.
  • Blocked resources: The Google Search Console shows users when important resources on a website cannot be loaded or prevent Googlebot from indexing.

Statistics Tools

In addition to the “active” functions, the GSC offers a rich database of statistics.

  • Dashboard: Webmasters get an instant overview of the DNS status, crawl errors, search queries, the validity of the robots.txt and errors in URLs and the sitemap.
  • Search Queries: Similar to Google Analytics, the GSC also offers an overview of search queries, CTR and clicks as well as rankings for individual keywords. These statistics can be downloaded or limited to a specific period. However, this data is only ever displayed for the last 90 days in the GSC.
  • Inbound links: The Search Console provides users with an overview of inbound links registered by Google. In contrast to paid backlink tools, the GWT does not crawl as deep and the backlinks are usually displayed less.
  • Internal links: Here, too, Google offers a useful overview and shows how many links lead internally from the respective subpages. An important clue for OnPage optimization.
  • Indexing status: Here you can see how the website was indexed. This metric is well suited to reading possible penalties. The Search Console also shows how many pages of a website have been indexed and which of them have been removed.
  • HTML improvements: Google provides possible optimization potential for meta descriptions and titles.
  • Crawling errors: The Search Console informs about 404 errors or soft 404 errors here, both on the desktop and in the mobile version.

News from Google

Anyone who has registered their website with the Google Search Console will receive a message if there are problems with crawling. Google also informs the webmaster in the event of server problems or some software updates (e.g. WordPress). Google also reports any spam or a hack via the security problems function. If Google detects unnatural links or copyright infringement, messages can be sent to webmasters via the Manual Actions item.

More web tools

Originally, new analysis tools were introduced as beta versions via the former Google Webmaster Tools and could then be tested by users. Today, Search Console provides links to additional tools such as an “Ad Usability Report”, an Email Markup Tester, or the Structured Data Creation and Testing Tool.

Benefits for SEO

In times of keyword status “not provided”, SEOs can use the GSC as a supplement to Google Analytics. The console provides concrete data on access via keywords. But the tool also has many advantages apart from this topic. The possible applications can be divided into two levels:

  • handy help tool: Google’s Search Console makes it easy to manage a web page for Google Search. The webmasters themselves do not have to be professionals when it comes to working on the source code or server. A good example is the option of storing a preferred version of the website (with or without the WWW) via the GSC. Likewise, markups can be set with the data highlighter without any programming knowledge, to maintain the possibility of displaying rich snippets.
  • Extensive tool for optimization: By storing the XML sitemap, all subpages of a domain can be sent to Google. Notifications about errors in the sitemap or harmful links and analyzes of the meta information are also helpful.

If you always want to receive all the latest news and tips about the Google Search Console, you should check Google Webmaster Central regularly. After registering for the webmaster tools, you can also subscribe to all new information as a mailing if you wish. One important feature is “unnatural link” notifications after the Penguin update, which shook the SEO scene more than once in 2012.

Trivia

Since May 20, 2015, the Google Webmaster Tools are officially called Google Search Console. After Google obtained more detailed information from the users of the Webmaster Tools, they found that only a part of the users are “webmasters”. So that the name of the product also appeals to everyone who uses the tool, such as small business owners, hobby users, SEOs, etc., Google decided to change the name.

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