How to Use Google Search Console to Refine Keywords

No matter if you’ve recently published a new site, made changes to your existing site, or want to optimize your organic reach with keyword research to improve your page ranks, Google Search Console is the tool you need.

Since Google ranks pages, not entire websites, Google Search Console is a powerful tool to help you better understand your organic positioning. 

Google ranks pages , not entire websites

Table of Contents

What is Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free service that offers a suite of tools and reports to help measure organic traffic and performance, evaluate issues, and improve search performance. 

 

You might be thinking that you already have Google Analytics, so why would you need this tool too, and that’s a fair question… 

 

Google Search Console is primarily the service you need to get your site indexed and improve organic search results. We have to ensure that Google knows about your site and indexes it before we can use the Performance Report to improve page rankings. 

google search console performance report

Differences between Google Analytics & Google Search Console

While both are necessary, there are key differences. Google Analytics produces reports, whereas Google Search Console produces suggestions. Google Search Console is less focused on who uses the site and how, and more focused on metrics related to search visibility, ranking, search queries, click-through rates, impressions, crawl errors, etc…

Google Analytics

  • Audience Demographic
  • User time spent on the website
  • Bounce Rate
  • Customer Acquisition and Return of Investment
  • Webpage performance
  • Organic Search Data
  • Paid Search Data
  • Inbound & Outbound Links
  • Malware Detection

Google Search Console

  • Top keyword queries
  • User clicks and impressions
  • Click-through Rate, Impressions
  • Query Position
  • Organic Search Data
  • URL Inspection & Live Tests
  • Website Enhancement (Speed, Usability & Schema)
  • Inbound & Outbound Links
  • Crawl & HTML Errors
  • Malware Detection

How to setup Google Search Console

Setting up Google Search Console is pretty straightforward. If you’re working with someone to manage your SEO and they don’t have an account setup for you, then you’re not working with a professional. Here’s how to setup Google Search Console correctly

  1. Sign In
  2. Enter website domain or URL-prefix; I highly recommend that you use the domain verification method as it includes all URLs across the domain and both http and https.
Verify Domain Google Search Console

3. Verify Website

google search console verification

3. Submit your sitemaps

search google search console sitemaps

Sitemaps always end in ‘.xml’. If you’re looking for your sitemap, try adding one of these to your primary url:

/sitemap_index.xml

/sitemap.xml

Google Search Console Indexing

While Google’s crawlers may eventually find your site on their own, by submitting your sitemaps to Google, you can ask Google to crawl your site and then track it in the Search Index.

“When crawlers find a webpage, our systems render the content of the page, just as a browser does. We take note of key signals — from keywords to website freshness — and we keep track of it all in the Search index.”

Google also states that “crawling can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.” If you’re not sure that your URL is indexed, use the ‘Inspect’ tool to check. 

Google Search Console, Inspect URL

Google Search Console Features

  • Keyword Analysis Through Search Queries

  • Assess User Interaction

  • Page Positioning in Search Results

  • Site Coverage

  • Submit Pages for Indexing

  • Errors and Unindexable Pages

  • Sitemap Submission

  • Mobile-first Indexing

  • Links to Your Site

  • Penalty Reviews

Google Search Console Performance Report

The Google Search Console Performance Report is a vital tool that shows important metrics about how your site appears in Google Search results. You can configure the report by metrics, such as clicks, impressions, position, CTR, or by dimensions, such as Page URL, country, query, devices, search appearance, or dates. Layer in filters to maximize your understanding of your site’s performance.

screenshot Google Search Console Performance Report

How to evaluate the Performance Report

Since the Performance Report allows you to see changes in traffic over time, it’s important to understand how to manipulate the data. 

To gain a greater understanding of Dimensions, Filters, and Metrics so you can master your evaluation of the Performance Report, I highly suggest you read through these explanations from Google

Dimensions and filters

You can group and filter your data by the following dimensions. To group, select the dimension tab above the table. To filter, read here.

  • Queries
  • Pages
  • Countries
  • Devices
  • Search Type [Filter only]
  • Search Appearance
  • Dates

Metrics

Choose which metrics to display by toggling the appropriate tab on the report.

The following metrics are available:

  • Clicks – Count of clicks from a Google search result that landed the user on your property. Learn more.
  • Impressions – How many links to your site a user saw on Google search results. Impressions are counted when the user visits that page of results, even if the result was not scrolled into view. However, if a user views only page 1 but the result is on page 2, the impression is not counted. The count is aggregated by property or page. Note that infinitely scrolling result pages (image search) the impression might require the item to be scrolled into view. Learn more.
  • CTR – Click-through rate: the click count divided by the impression count. If a row of data has no impressions, the CTR will be shown as a dash (-) because CTR would be division by zero.
  • Average position [Chart only]- The average position of the topmost result from your site. So, for example, if your site has three results at positions 2, 4, and 6, the position is reported as 2. If a second query returned results at positions 3, 5, and 9, your average position would be (2 + 3)/2 = 2.5. If a row of data has no impressions, the position will be shown as a dash (-), because the position doesn’t exist. Learn more.
  • Position [Table only] – The position value in the table represents the average position in search results for the URL. For example, when grouping by query, the position is the average position for the given query in search results. See the average position above to learn how the value is calculated.

I find it easiest to evaluate by exporting all of the report data and filtering it in Google Sheets.

EXPORT

3 Ways to Optimize Your Site with Google Search Console

Once you’ve evaluated the Performance Report by exploring what search queries are most likely to show your site, which pages have low rank, which search queries are most likely to show images from your site, which queries are made on mobile devices, which pages have the high impressions but low click-through rate, etc… You can optimize your site.

Here are three ways to optimize your site with Google Search Console:

 

Optimize Keywords With Low Page Ranks

  1. Open Google Search Console > Performance
  2. Click on Search Results
  3. Click “Average CTR” and “Average Position” 
  4. Sort by Position
  5. Choose those keywords that are not ranking well
  6. Adjust the following parameters on the page itself according to your decision:
    • Title Tag
    • H1
    • H2
    • Body content
    • Image ALT Tags

 

Improve click-through rate of pages

  1. Open Google Search Console > Performance
  2. Select ‘Pages’
  3. Filter ‘contains’ url of the page you want to optimize
  4. Click on ‘Queries’ & sort by either Clicks or Impressions
  5. Decide what keyword to optimize for
  6. Adjust the following parameters on the page itself according to your decision:
    • Title Tag
    • H1
    • H2
    • Body content
    • Image ALT Tags

 

Optimize Long-tail keywords

  1. Open Google Search Console > Performance
  2. In the filter row click “+ New,” then select “Page…”
  3. Enter the URL you want to optimize and click “Apply.”
  4. Scroll down to look for keywords for which your page has shown in Google search results
  5. Look for long-tail keywords to further optimize
  6. Adjust the following parameters on the page itself according to your decision:
    • Title Tag
    • H1
    • H2
    • Body content
    • Image ALT Tags
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