As a business owner, you appreciate the pivotal role of the internet in your sales. Most clients check online platforms before they choose to invest in your brand. Your website should therefore be the first one they come across when they type in a search query because few will consider results at the bottom of the first page or on the second page. Nonetheless, being at the top of search engine results is not easy.
There are currently thousands of tools for boosting your website’s position on search engines. Unfortunately, most of these are paid tools that are limited in scope. Luckily, you have one free tool that will handle most of your keyword research and search engine optimization (SEO) rank tracking to pinpoint the mistakes keeping your site from the top position on search engines. This is Google Search Console (GSC).
GSC, previously called Google Webmaster Tools, is often confused with Google Analytics. While Google Analytics is a reporting tool helping you understand how people behave on your site, GSC is a tracking tool that helps you know your website’s performance on search engines. Since the name change to GSC in 2018, Google has continued adding new features to the tool to help you better analyze your website’s SEO performance.
Here are some of the updates on GSC so far.
In February 2022, Google introduced a URL inspection application programming interface (API) that allows third-party SEO software and apps to interact. Like all APIs, this tool is a bridge that will enable communication between different software programs. In addition, with this feature, you can quickly discover the issues on your web pages and then debug them efficiently. API integrated tools will give you the additional information that helps you quickly fix the mistakes on your pages.
A previous search console API enabled some WordPress plugins and most SEO tools to access crucial site information that would have required manual imports. The new URL inspection API allows a request of information about an indexed URL and a relay of the latest information available on the tool.
Google launched this update in January 2022. The Page Experience Report feature is meant for desktop sites and helps you understand the criteria used for ranking a ‘good page experience’ on Google. This will help you know how best to improve the user experience of your desktop webpages and keep potential customers on your website for longer or keep them coming back. These actions translate to a high rank on search engines. To access the Page Experience Report, click on the Experience tab on GSC and then the Page Experience link.
This feature introduced in October 2021 combined three tools under the URL Testing tool. These three tools include Mobile Friendliness, Rich Results, and AMP Validator. According to Google, the three tools are different, but they all use the same engine as the URL Inspection Tool. By incorporating these tools under the inspection tool, you don’t have to toggle between tools to get reports. The features you can now get in the URL Testing tool include page availability, page screenshot, HTTP headers, and paired AMP inspection.
This update was launched in March 2021, targeting the rich reports section. There are two updates related to the Job Posting Report. One update focuses on the Job Posting Report itself and another on the Q&A and FAQ sections. In addition, the Education properties section of Google Search Console has changed the requirement for education, experience, and experience in lieu of education properties.
For employers and site owners of job sites, the changes mean more interactive search results, attracting more motivated applicants and higher chances of being discovered. You might notice increased warnings for job postings because of these changes. If you notice errors on your Rich Results Report, review the warnings and ensure the structured data of your job posting follows the new requirements.
In February 2021, Google introduced the “associations” feature on GSC, enabling users to connect to associated Google services. With this feature, you can now connect Android Apps, Actions Console, Play Console, Chrome Web Store, Analytics and YouTube to GSC. This proves handy when managing several GSC properties. Unfortunately, the “associations” feature is only available to users with full access to GSC’s website data.
You might confuse the “associations” feature for ‘Property Sets’ previously called Domain Properties. The latter is a verification method that collects site data from multiple root parameters. On the other hand, “associations” allows you to access different Google services available under Property Sets.
In January 2021, Google launched a News Performance Report. This report was meant for publishers to better understand how users behave on Google News on IOS and Android devices and news.google.com. With the Google News Performance Report, you only click on the left navigation performance side of Google News to access your performance report. The report will include crucial metrics like click-through rate (CTR), impressions and clicks. These help you know how many of your articles appeared to Google News users and which articles have had an exceptional performance.
Web admins had long discussed Google AMP and highlighted its URL and other attribution-related issues. The introduction of the Signed Exchange supporting Google AMP in August 2020 enabled web publishers to deliver portable content like AMP without losing their integrity and attribution. The AMP enhancement report within GSC uses the Signed Exchange to help web admins identify issues with your content.
In August 2020, Google announced an upgrade of its Search Console API’s infrastructure. The revamped infrastructure was much like the previous one, but had a backward functionality. Some of the things on the updated Search Console API that web admins should take note of include API key restriction changes, discovery document changes and Google Cloud Platform dashboard changes.
For some time, Google had been testing its Rich Results tool and finally launched it in July 2020. Nonetheless, this was not the best announcement for those using the Structured Data Testing Tool. Google does not support all the structured data that Schema.org does. This caused the Structured Data Testing tool to depreciate with the entry of the Rich Results tool.
New user experience signals became a ranking signal for Google in 2021, following the introduction of Core WebVitals in June 2020. This concept incorporated three experience factors to evaluate real-time user experience. These include the First Input Delay, Largest Contentful Paint and Cumulative Layout Shift.
The First Input Delay score evaluates how long your browser takes to respond to user interaction. The ideal score is a millisecond or less. Cumulative Layout Shift detects web visual element layout changes after displayed to users. A render-blocking script or slow server response time might cause a low Largest Contentful Paint score. The ideal recommended by Google is 2.5 seconds.
The owners of cooking websites had to wait for a reprocessing of their sites before accessing their Google Assistant updates. Thankfully, in May 2020, Google introduced Guided Recipes support in Search Console and the Rich Results Test tool. With this update, people could validate their markup instantly for recipes and pick any issues with the recipes on their sites.
With the update on Guided Recipes, you can also view a rich Result Status Report detailing the fully valid pages, errors and warnings on your site’s recipes in Search Console. There is also a checkbox that details trends on your search impressions. You can use your report to notify Google of changes on your web pages that should be re-crawled and then re-indexed.
In January 2020, Google introduced a removal feature to its Search Console. This temporarily blocks Google from displaying the results on your web page. Mistakes are inevitable, and you might want to remove a web page that has errors or temporarily hide a page that paints your brand in a negative light.
There are three tools under the Removal Report feature on Search Console. These include Temporary Removals Tool, Outdated Content and SafeSearch Filtering. For example, in the Safe Search Filtering section, you get a list of the pages that users reported for adult content.
If you have been wondering how to assess the performance of various elements on your website for SEO, the above features on GSC have hopefully convinced you why this is the best tool for boosting your search engine position. However, the above are only some of the available features on the tool, and Google is still working on new ones to keep up with changing technologies.
Besides GSC, Google also has Google Reviews, a platform on which clients can leave reviews on your site and products. These reviews can improve different elements on your website that will enhance user experience and keep people on your site to boost search engine positions.