If your blog is more than 6 months old but you’re not using Google Search Console for SEO purposes, then I bet you’re leaving lots of easy traffic on the table and your competitors are loving it.
Google Search Console is a free tool that enables website owners to monitor their site’s performance on Google. This includes checking backlinks, organic CTR, average position, technical errors, and submitting sitemaps.
While most people use Google Search Console to check their site’s keyword rankings, CTR, organic clicks, total impressions, and submitting sitemaps, advanced users are harnessing the impressive data and improving their SEO without having to spend a penny.
This will act as a simplified guide to help you understand how to use Google Search Console for SEO purposes. I hope you have already set up your account and have submitted your site for indexing (sitemaps submission).
How to Use Google Search Console for SEO
In this guide, we are going to focus on 5 important SEO tasks that you can accomplish with Google Search Console;
- Optimizing high ranking keywords with low CTR
- Identifying the best performing content
- Identifying “forgotten” pages in your site
- Updating pages losing organic rankings
- Fixing unwanted sitemap issues
Let’s get down to business, shall we?
1. Optimize high ranking keywords (with low CTR)
Despite aiming for one of the top spots on Google (and getting it), you might still find that your organic CTR is low. That means users can see your content on search results but they opt to click on a different link.
So, how do you identify the high ranking keywords and how can you tell if their CTR is low, average, or high?
Head over to your Google Search Console and under “Performance” toggle on all the data slots – Total Clicks, Total Impressions, Average CTR, and Average Position.
Then scroll downwards where you get to see all the data including queries, clicks, impressions, CTR, and average positions. The keywords we wish to focus on are the ones ranking in the top 5 positions on Google.
Under the “Position” column, click the position filter (the three horizontal lines) and check the “Position” checkbox as shown below.
Choose “Smaller than”, enter type in 5.1 then click the “DONE” button on the right-hand side. This will show you all the keywords ranking in the top 5 slots on Google.
Then proceed to sort them in ascending order by clicking on the CTR option which will order them starting with the keywords with the least CTR but ranking in the top 5 on Google.
As you can see, there are a few keywords that are ranking in the top 5 but getting a CTR of less than 20%, which is a realistic target for such top-ranking keywords.
One of the keywords stands out for me. It has a CTR of 15.4% and almost four times more clicks than all the others. That clearly indicates if I was to get it to rank in the top two positions, it would be getting almost 4 times the organic clicks.
But is it possible to improve every single keyword with such a low CTR?
Of course not.
Some of your keywords are ranking among the top three results but Google still shows multiple ads, a featured snippet, and a “People Also Ask” ahead of it. That means the chance of beating all those three competitors is greatly reduced.
The best thing you can do is analyze the features of the content shown as within featured snippets and some of the content within the “People Also Ask” box and see if you can optimize your content to be better and get ranked in those top slots.
But in case there is no featured snippet or Google ads, then you can update your content to include relevant sub-titles, optimize your title tag the right way such as including numbers, percentages, and parenthesis, or use better media within your content, such as screenshots, video embeds or graphs, and pie charts.
All these make your content more user friendly, which in turn yields better User Experience (UX) signals that Google uses to rank pages these days.
To make things more fun, why not have a look at impressions to understand which content needs some attention?
If a piece of content is getting lots of impressions on Google search results but generating very few clicks, it shows that your blog’s title tag needs to be edited.
Because impressions mean people can see your content, but they opt to click on another link instead of yours. Maybe because the title is vague and isn’t clear on what they should expect or maybe your competitor has a better, well-crafted title that stands out.
2. Identifying the best performing content
There are two ways Google Search Console can help you identify the best performing content on your blog;
- Content that generates the most organic clicks
- Content that generates tons of backlinks
To see the content that generates the most clicks, just click “Performance” and make sure to select the “Total Clicks” option only. Then scroll down and choose “Pages”. This will show you all the best performing blog posts based on the number of organic clicks they get.
You can also identify the best performing blog posts by checking the total number of external links pointing at individual pages.
Clicks on the “Links” tab in your Google Search Console and you can see all the top linked pages and top linking sites.
After identifying the best performing content, identify the type of content each one is and why they are performing well.
The type of content can be case studies, guides or tutorials, comparisons (e.g. Product A vs Product B), listicles, etc. You can also use a few questions to better understand your content, such as;
- Did the content length play a role?
- What type of content performed better?
- How many and which type of media did I use?
- How about optimization for organic CTR?
All these will help you identify why one piece of content was successful and another wasn’t. Then you can use that information to produce better-performing content in the future.
3. Identifying “forgotten” pages in your site
Forgotten pages are the content that gets the least amount of attention in terms of getting internal links from other related content. Some even have zero internal links, and such content are often termed as “orphaned” content.
Every time you publish a new piece of content, you should always link to other related posts. This helps the new posts to get indexed faster.
If you have a page that’s already ranking in the top spots on Google, linking to a brand new page from that page will help boost the rankings of the new page by transferring PageRank.
That’s a quick on-page SEO practice that you can do every time you publish a new post or when updating your old content.
However, it’s not always easy to keep up with the number of internal links a page is getting or keeping tabs on the least linked posts.
Head over to the “Links” section within your Google Search Console and you will see all the Top Linked Pages under the column “Internal Links”.
Then scroll down and at the bottom click the “More” option and you’ll see all the top linked pages. Click on the three horizontal lines and choose “Internal Links” and order them in ascending order by clicking the toggle option.
You will see the least linked to the content in your site, and each of them needs to be internally linked with related posts to boost their organic rankings.
4. Updating pages losing organic rankings
The older a page gets, the less high organic rankings it enjoys. Becoming outdated eventually leads to getting outranked by newer, better, and more insightful content.
You should update such pages once in a while to keep them up-to-date and ensure they remain relevant.
But what if you have lots of content and haven’t updated most of your old content for more than 6 months? How then do you find old content that once performed well but is now generating very little organic traffic?
Under “Performance”, toggle off Total Impressions, Average CTR, and Average Position and make sure you choose only “Total Clicks”.
Then proceed and click on the date option, choose “Compare”, scroll down and choose “Compare last 6 months to previous period”.
After you click “APPLY” at the bottom corner, scroll down and click on “PAGES” then click “Difference” to arrange the data in ascending order. You will see data similar to this;
You can now see which of your blog content is generating less and less traffic month after month. If you wish to get more in-depth information about the exact keywords within the content that has dropped in rankings and organic CTR, click on the specific link.
If I click on the second link on the screenshot above, then switch to the “QUERIES” tab, I can see every single keyword with negative organic search clicks;
Is there something you can do to regain the rankings? Maybe revamping your content, optimizing your title tags, or even writing better, longer content?
If YES, then go ahead and do it.
5. Fixing Unwanted Sitemap Issues
Another great way to use Google Search Console for SEO is to fix any unwanted sitemap issues. If you leave sitemap errors unresolved, it’s likely to lead to reduced organic rankings and traffic.
To check if there are any issues with the sitemaps, head over to “Sitemaps” and click on one of them. Then at the top right corner click “SEE INDEX COVERAGE”. You will see the number of errors, warnings, valid URLs, and excluded URLs.
As you can see, there are 20 URLs excluded that we need to fix. When I click on the “Excluded” tab, I see some URLs are yet to be indexed while two have a redirect. The next thing will be to fix all the technical issues, mainly the redirects.
That’s a simple way you can use Google Search Console for SEO. It provides massive data which can be more or equally important to the data you get using premium SEO tools.