Google Search Console Tutorial: Full Guide for SEO Specialists
Since its launch in 2015, Google Search Console has changed a lot, giving webmasters more tools and reports to improve their websites.
So, what is Google Search Console and why do you need it?
Basically, Google Search Console is designed to help site owners understand how Google sees their websites, as well as identify and fix issues in order to enhance their performance in search results. Being a great instrument for marketers, SEO experts, site administrators and web developers, Search Console is an indispensable tool to identify and resolve indexing issues, make sure that Google can crawl all the website pages, see which sites link back to their websites, troubleshoot mobile usability issues, and more.
Taking into account a wide range of Search Console reports, it may be difficult to figure out where to start. We will be happy to help you handle all the essential reports, from Performance to Mobile Usability, and explain how to use Google Search Console for SEO purposes. Let’s not wait around.
First, get your website on Google Search Console
Basically, there are 5 different ways to add your website to GSC, including domain ownership verification via DNS record, adding a <meta> tag, uploading an HTML file, using Google Analytics tracking code, and Google Tag Manager container snippet.
To make sure you’re completing all the necessary steps for getting your website on Google Search Console, follow our detailed step-by-step guide. Now, let’s just cut to the overview of all the tools and reports.
High-priority GSC reports and tools
On the left side of the Google Search Console main page, you can find the list of all the available reports and tools grouped in several sections. An Overview section allows site owners to see the clickable summaries of four essential reports: Performance, Index, Experience, and Enhancements.
Under the Overview section, users can see the full list of all the reports available in GSC that can help see how a website performs on Google Search, identify indexation errors, manage sitemaps, get a UX report, find usability problems according to the new rules implemented by Google, and more.
We’ll dive deeper into each tool.
The Google Search Console overview page displays charts showing the website’s performance, indexing issues, and user experience figures. Here you can find the four most important reports: Performance, Coverage, Experience, and Enhancements. After clicking Open Report, users can see each of them in detail.
URL Inspection tool
The Search Console’s URL Inspection tool provides information about how Google sees every URL of your site. This tool allows you to:
- See the current index status of a certain URL and the reasons why it wasn’t indexed.
- Request page indexing or re-indexing by Google.
- Get a screenshot of how Googlebot sees a particular page.
- View page code.
- Troubleshoot the reasons for not indexing a particular URL.
- Check if your pages are mobile-friendly.
Note that in the URL Inspection tool you can only see the recently indexed page version that may have already disappeared from search results as of the last crawling. To check your page in the real-time mode, click on the Test live URL button on the inspection result panel.
To find out if a particular page is still appearing in results, you can check it manually by inserting the URL into the search bar in Google Search Console.
You can now evaluate the performance of your website on Search Results, Discover, and Google News.
Performance on Search Results
Here is how GSC calculates data for each report:
1. Impressions. Search Console records impressions when a URL appears in search results for a user, even if that URL has been below the fold. For example, if your website is number 8 out of 10 (even if it is not visible for a user), it will count as an impression.
Here is an example of a search result that has one URL “SE Ranking” that counts as an impression when it appears in search results for a visitor.
Note that the impressions you see on the chart and in the table are aggregated by property.
However, the Google Search Console table allows grouping the results by page to count each unique URL separately, whenever a SERP element contains several links to your site.
2. Clicks. The number of clicks from a Google Search that brought a user to your website.
3. Position. The Search Console shows the average highest position of your website in a property report. GSC calculates the average position for all queries, and if your site has had different positions for one query, Search Console will show the highest one to determine the average. If you check metrics aggregated by page or search appearance, you will see the topmost position of a particular page in the results, averaged across all queries in which this page appeared.
For example, if a page took positions 3 and 5 for one query at different times, its topmost position in Google Search Console would be shown as 3. If the second query returned at positions 1 and 4, that would be 1, and the average position would be (3+1)/2=2. If the number were 2.2, your actual average position will still be 2.
4. The CTR can be aggregated by property and page and is calculated as the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions multiplied by 100. For example, if you had 100 clicks and 1000 impressions, then your CTR would be 10%.
Learn more about click-through rate and how to improve it in our CTR for SEO guide.
The Search Console also allows comparing figures, setting up filters, and visualizing them in different ways, so you can easily match the data. For example, you can group data by queries and countries to find out what people search for in a particular region or you can check which pages are most viewed from a certain device. Such combinations provide a more dimensional picture of your website performance because you can see how various metrics are related to each other.
You can access filters by clicking on the New button to apply the following parameters:
- Queries—are applied to see keywords searched by users on Google.
- Pages—collect search performance data by page.
- Countries—allow you to check where the search comes from.
- Devices—show statistics depending on the type of device used for searching.
- Search Appearance—provides data grouped by the specific search appearance features or search result types.
Also, on the left from that button, Search Console offers two more filters:
- Dates—groups information by day.
- Search type—shows the image, video, news, or web results.
Google Search Console also allows exporting this data to Google Sheets, Excel, or a CSV file with just one click. Values shown as “not available” or “not a number” will be replaced by zeros in the downloaded file.
GSC has its own limits—you can download only 1000 URLs or Queries at a time. This is not very convenient for larger-scale sites, as analyzing them becomes more difficult when you download multiple files. However, there are a few possible solutions to this problem.
The first one is using application programming interfaces, or APIs. In fact, this method is only appropriate for users with a technical background making data export quite complicated and time-consuming.
You can also export data from Google Search Console with the help of the Google Sheets add-on. After enabling it, you will get information about rankings, queries, clicks, and more directly into a spreadsheet that can display up to 5000 rows, which is the API’s maximum.
If you are not a very tech person or don’t have a developer in your team, you can overcome GSC limitations using third-party services.
At SE Ranking, we gather data from Google Search Console and present it in a convenient form so that it would be easier for you to perform advanced analysis or visualize the data differently.
With SE Ranking, you can export up to 10 000 rows in .xls format and an unlimited number of rows in a CSV file. This way, you will download all the data with just a click and have all the information gathered in one place.
When Search Console data is updated
In the top right corner of the GSC, you’ll see the information on the last update. When you add your website to Search Console for the first time, it may take about a week to display the data.
Note that the data in SC may be delayed and thus differ from the data shown in other tools. That could happen because Google didn’t scan your website since your last update, or Google Search Console needed more time to process additional data.
Performance on Discover
The Discover Performance report displays the number of impressions and clicks on Discover—a feed, created for mobile devices, which recommends content to users depending on their past Google searches. All data is aggregated by page for the selected time frame. You can group the information by country, appearance type, and compare different figures. Note that this report will be visible for you only if your site has reached a minimum amount of impressions on Discover.
Performance on Google News
The Google News Performance report gathers data on website performance from news.google.com and the Google News apps. Google News is a search engine that gathers news and headlines from millions of articles worldwide. Although there is no surefire way of getting your article listed with the news stories, you can raise your chances if you share your content by submitting RSS feeds, website URLs, or videos through the Publisher Center.
If you see any of your website pages in this report, you can check how they perform by taking a look at clicks, impressions, and average CTR. These metrics can be grouped by page, country, date, and device type.
If you want to compare data, note that you can use only one comparison filter at a time. For example, if you’ve compared data by country but now want to match mobile and desktop devices, the country filter will be removed.
Page indexing report
Page Indexing (formerly known as Index Coverage) is a report in Google Search Console that lets you know if all of the URLs that Google has discovered for your site have been crawled and indexed.
Basically, this report helps you keep track of your site’s indexing status and indicates whether any tech issues are holding your pages back from being properly crawled and indexed. Be sure to check it regularly to spot and resolve issues before they negatively affect your site’s performance.
Google reorganized the report in August 2022 because people said that the “warning” status in the previous version of the report was an unclear signal on how a given URL should be approached.
As a result, Google decided to group:
- The Excluded and Error pages into the Not indexed status, and
- The Valid and Valid with warning pages into the Indexed status.
On top of that, all of the “Submitted but…” Error statuses are now combined with their counterparts from the Excluded status within the Not indexed section.
To get to the Page indexing report, click on “Pages” under the Index section:
Let’s start by looking in the top-left corner. Here, you can decide if you want to view:
- “All known pages” with every URL Google discovered by any means
- “All submitted pages” only with URLs submitted via a sitemap
- “Unsubmitted pages only” only with URLs unsubmitted via a sitemap
Note that “All known pages” has more URLs than “All submitted pages” most of the time, plus more URLs are reported as Not indexed. This makes sense because sitemaps should only include indexable URLs and most sites have multiple pages that should not be indexed.
So, be sure that you’re looking at the right list of pages when analyzing URL indexing statuses.
To take a closer look at all of the URLs that are indexed within your website, click on the View data about indexed pages section right under the chart.
In the Affected pages chart, you can see the timeline of how the number of indexed pages on your website has changed over time. And right under the chart, you see the actual list of indexed pages. However, keep in mind that not all of them may be visible to you for several reasons:
- The report only displays up to 1,000 URLs
- New URLs may only be added after the latest crawl
Note that you can inspect every URL here by clicking on the Magnifying glass icon.
As for URLs that are not indexed, you can take a look at the details of why your pages aren’t indexed under the chart in the Page indexing report:
Here, you can learn the reason behind a given status, find out what the source of it is (whether your website or Google causes the issue), and discover how many pages have been affected in total.
Moreover, you can see the validation status. Make sure to let the search giant know once an issue has been fixed so that it validates the fix. You can do this at the top of the report by clicking an issue:
I want to point out that although the validation status can appear as “fixed”, it can also show up as “failed” or “not started”. If this is the case, be sure to double-check URLs with such status issues.
Furthermore, the trend for each status is also displayed on the screen: going up, down, or staying on the same level.
Upon clicking on an issue type, you will see which URLs have this status as well as when each URL was last crawled.
Video page indexing report
The video indexing report displays how many indexed pages on your website contain at least one video. Plus, it shows you on how many of those pages a video could be indexed. And as we all know, indexed videos may very well appear in Google.
The Video indexing report shows such information as:
- How many indexed site pages contain an indexed video, and the video details.
- How many indexed site pages contain a video that could not be indexed and why.
Note that this report doesn’t show how many unique videos there are on your site unless some very specific conditions apply to your site. For example, if your site has a single, unique video on every page, Google can index every one of such pages. In this case, the report will include the total number of videos on your website.
However, if you have several videos on a page, or if the same video is present on multiple pages, or if Google can’t index every page containing a video, the chart totals will not show the total number of unique videos indexed on your website.
Also, note that unindexed videos will not show up in the report.
In terms of analyzing the Video page indexing report, pay attention that:
- The number of Video indexed combined with the total number of No video indexed should roughly be the same as the number of site pages with videos. If this is not the case for you, a vast number of pages with videos aren’t getting indexed on your site.
- A high number of No video indexed highlights that there’s a problem with indexing your videos, not the pages themselves.
- If you have a large website with multiple videos, you should see a growing trend in videos over time. If this is not the case, Google is having problems indexing your assets.
Learn more about Video page indexing in Google’s official documentation.
The Sitemaps report gives you access to your sitemap submission history and displays any errors that occurred when parsing your submitted sitemaps by Google.
This report shows the URL where the sitemap is posted, the date of its submission and the last time when it was processed by Google. Search Console also provides information on the sitemap type and status, which has three possible values: Success, Has Errors, and Couldn’t Fetch. In the column Discovered URLs, you can see the number of URLs listed in your sitemap. If you sitemap’s status is Has Errors or Couldn’t Fetch, use our sitemap polishing guide to find solutions to all the issues you have.
The Experience section of Google Search Console includes the Page Experience, Core Web Vitals, and Mobile Usability reports.
Page Experience report
The Page Experience report was rolled out by GSC to help professionals create pages that provide an improved user experience on mobile devices. Google evaluated this experience by taking into account the following criteria: Core Web Vitals (the speed and stability of the page loading) and HTTPS usage for desktop experience. Page experience signals for mobile also include mobile usability.
The Page Experience report shows the percentage of good URLs, or in other words, those that have a Good status in the Core Web Vitals report, no mobile usability issues and no problems with HTTPS. In this report, you can also find the total number of impressions generated by good URLs.
The chart represented in the Page Experience section displays the percentage of pages considered good by Google Search Console on each given day.
What if the Experience report chart shows a small percentage of good URLs?
We must admit that the rules are pretty strict here. Google will mark a URL as Good only if all of the following criteria are met:
- The Core Web Vitals report assigns a Good status to the URL.
- The URL has no mobile usability problems.
- The URL starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP.
If you fail to meet even one of the above-mentioned criteria, the URL will be assigned a Failed status.
Core Web Vitals report
The Core Web Vitals report evaluates the performance of indexed URLs based on the speed and stability of page loading. It is divided into Mobile and Desktop reports and assigns several statuses: Good, Needs improvement, or Poor.
This report uses the following parameters:
- LCP stands for largest contentful paint and shows the amount of time needed to load the largest element visible within the viewport, which is typically an image or video.
- FID, or first input delay, is the time interval from the first user interaction with a page (link click, button tap, etc.) to the browser response to that interaction.
- CLS, or cumulative layout shift, represents the total number of all individual layout changes.
To put it in simple terms, the first render should load fast, be stable, and quickly respond to users’ actions.
After the evaluation of LCP, FID and CLS metrics by Google Search Console, the URL gets one of the following statuses: Poor, Need improvement, or Good.
To see how your website URLs perform, you need to first open up the full Mobile or Desktop report. Then, you can either analyze data about good URLs, or scroll down to see which URLs are categorized as Poor or Need improvement.
Mobile Usability report
We bet you have seen it too many times when using your phone to access a website: the content was wider than screen, text was too small to read, buttons too close together. This is, what Google calls, mobile usability (or, more accurately, its absence).
The Mobile Usability report in Google Search Console helps to discover pages that are poorly displayed on mobile. The chart shows the number of pages with both Error and Valid statuses.
The Impressions checkbox offers the information on website page impressions from mobile devices.
By clicking on a specific issue, you can discover more details as well as the information about how to fix a particular problem and notify Google about the changes you’ve made.
The Mobile Usability report can reveal the following errors:
If your page has plugins that are not supported by most mobile browsers, you should redesign it using up-to-date technologies, for example HTML5.
Content wider than screen
If visitors use horizontal scrolling to see all page content, you should set relative width and position values for CSS elements.
Text too small to read
If the font size is so small that it requires users to zoom, you can set proper font scaling.
Clickable elements too close together
If buttons, navigational links, or other clickable elements are located so close to each other that it’s impossible to easily tap one of them, you should resize them and make them suitable for mobile users.
Some of the latest Google Search Console reports can be found under the Enhancements tab. They include:
- The Breadcrumbs report. It highlights any existing errors in your breadcrumb structure data that may be confusing Googlebot.
- The FAQ report. Use FAQ structured data to mark up your FAQs, and Google may add a drop-down menu with questions to your link in SERPs as a result.
- The Logos report. It should be checked by those who are using Logo markup as it provides the performance details and information on the errors around your Logo.
- The Sitelinks Searchbox report. This enhancement report shows the issues and warnings associated with searchbox.
Other tools and reports in GSC
Google Search Console offers some other vital tools and reports that should be taken into account but are not displayed on the Overview page, such as Removals, Ad Experience, Security Issues, Manual Actions, and more.
If you want to quickly clean up unnecessary content, this Search Console tool will be a big help. Remember that it temporarily blocks the indicated pages from appearing in Google Search results, not from the Internet.
With the Removals tool, you can also check the history of removal requests and see any URLs that were reported as containing adult content. However, note that you can’t block a page on a website that you don’t own. This tool cannot remove a URL from Search permanently (only for six months), but you can use it as a first step. You can also stop a specific URL from being indexed with the help of the noindex directive and robots.txt file.
Manual Actions report
The Manual Actions report enables you to see if your website was affected by a penalty from Google for not following the webmaster guidelines. Since manual action usually results in pages being ranked lower or even omitted from Google search results, it’s important to know your site’s history.
Manual actions might be taken due to various reasons. For example, if site visitors spammed on you, aggressively promoting their business, your website has a chance to be penalized by Google. People working in so-called gray niches often add links to a company website on forum pages or in user profiles. While their business gains more visibility, your site becomes spammy. That’s why you must always monitor any suspicious user activity.
Google also punishes for publishing low-quality or plagiarized content or adding too many keywords to text. You must make sure that all keywords look natural in the text and your content carries value for users.
To see the full list of manual actions as well as how to fix them, visit the Search Console Help Center.
The Security Issues report shows Google findings if the search engine detects that your site was hacked, or what’s on your website can be potentially harmful for visitors. This Google Search Console report provides data on issues falling into a few categories: hacked content, malware and unwanted software, and social engineering.
Let’s look closer at hacked content issues. In simple words, hacked content is any information placed on your site without your permission. Hackers may either inject malicious text into existing posts or add new pages. Sometimes, they do it using CSS or HTML, so it gets harder to spot. One of the most common cases of content hacking is adding code that redirects users to unwanted spammy pages, which might be betting platforms, adult, or other gray-niche websites.
You should regularly monitor the Security Issues report to keep your site safe. If any of your pages are affected, you’ll see the list of security issues at the top of the report. Otherwise, you’ll see the message “No issues detected” and a green check mark.
Legacy tools and reports
Legacy tools are those that haven’t yet been implemented in the new Google Search Console. Most of them have been removed altogether, but as of the end of October 2022, Web Tools is still around.
In this section, you will find tools that can help to improve your site’s structure and to enhance the quality of user experience. They include Ad Experience, Abusive Experience and Notifications Reports, Testing Tools, and Other Resources listed below.
Ad Experience Report
The Ad Experience report helps to identify whether your ads violate the Better Ads Standards. For example, if you have any autoplaying video ads on a page, or if a page has too many ads that are considered highly distracting for visitors from Google’s perspective. With the help of this tool, you can find out what kind of ad experience you provide to your visitors and how you can improve it.
Abusive Experiences Report
This report displays the cases of abusive experience that misleads website visitors. The list of issues may include fake messages, deceiving warnings or system dialogs that force users to click on them. The Abusive Experience Report briefly explains each problem and shows the URL of the page where it was detected. Sometimes, it also provides images showing particular issues in your website.
Abusive Notifications Report
Abusive notifications are also designed to mislead site visitors. They appear in a browser and attempt to trick users into sharing personal information or promote malware or unwanted software. In fact, the report provides information in the same form as the Abusive Experiences Report.
The Search Console Links report provides insights on internal and external links to and from your site.
Here you can see what sites link to you the most—instead of website URLs, you will see the list of their root domains: https://www.google.com/ will be shown as google.com.
To get there, click on Links report > Top linking sites > More.
This information will help you make sure that all the sites that link to you are relevant and reliable. You should regularly check this report because links from unknown and possibly spammy platforms may harm your appearance in search results. Google recommends disavowing such links to avoid having problems with ranking.
What’s more, it would be great to get rid of the links from websites that are not related to your niche. For example, if you run a travel agency website, it’s more logical to have mentions from high-authority travel blogs.
The Links report allows users to see in greater detail which pages link the most to the particular pages in your property. For example, if you go to the Top linked pages – externally and then click on the data in the Linking sites column, you’ll see the list of top sites linking to a particular page. You can further click on the Links column to see the full list of Top linking pages — exact external URLs pointing to a particular page of your website.
Which words other websites use when linking to your site: Links report > Top linking text.
Which are the top sites pointing to different pages on your site: Top linking sites > [URL]
Which pages on your site link to a specific page: Internal links > More, then choose a URL among the Top internally-linked pages to see how many and what pages on your website link to it.
Although the Google Search Console Links report provides quite detailed data, it may be challenging to figure out what type of information to look at to evaluate how your link profile is changing over time.
With the help of SE Ranking’s Backlink Monitor tool, you can easily keep an eye on your backlinks, analyze which domains point to the linking page, evaluate their quality, and get control over spam backlinks that might harm your image. All these details will be available to you with just one screen.
To start tracking your backlinks, create a project and click on the Backlink Monitor tab in the drop-down menu.
If you don’t have an SE Ranking subscription, no worries. The tool is available with a 14-day trial period for free.
The Settings page allows you to view and manage different Search Console settings for your website. You can modify its verification method, manage the page roles, change the domain address, manage the site status, limit the crawling request rate, and make other necessary adjustments.
How to connect Google Search Console to SE Ranking
By connecting GSC and Google Analytics (GA) to SE Ranking, you can get reports that consolidate the daily updates made by SE Ranking’s Google ranking tool, website performance data from Search Console, and details about the visitors on your website from GA—all from a single unified interface.
With all information neatly located in one place, it’s much easier to analyze and filter keywords, pages, countries, and devices according to a specific criteria as well as to see the accurate ranking information provided by SE Ranking—unlike Google Search Console that updates your rankings once in three days, SE Ranking can provide you with the latest data.
Eventually, the integration of these tools can help you expand the database of keywords, improve rankings for underperforming keywords, optimize URLs with a low CTR, and identify the content type that drives traffic.
Gain insights on monitoring and analyzing your ranking positions by referring to our guide on tracking search engine rankings.
To connect GSC to SE Ranking, you have to select your project, choose the Analytics & Traffic section, click on the Connect Google Search Console button, and Continue. Make sure that beforehand you’ve logged in to your Google account that is linked to Google Search Console.
If you want to connect to Google Analytics as well, you can do it in the same window.
Google Search Console can help you take a fresh look at your website to see how well you will be scoring with the Performance and Page Experience reports. With even more data available, you can easily assess which pages perform well and which ones need further improvement, thus building a well-thought-out promotion strategy.