Google Search Console: Complete Guide for 2020

Georgios Chasiotis

Georgios Chasiotis

Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool offered by Google. It helps you monitor your presence on Google’s search engine, giving you the ability to look at your search analytics, identify issues related to your website’s performance on search engines and troubleshoot these issues. 

This guide on Google Search Console is designed to help you understand how to use this tool to improve your search traffic by better understanding the mechanics of GSC. It can be useful for all users, but it’s intended mainly for those who are not familiar with Google webmaster tools and want to enhance their knowledge.

Table of Contents

What is Google Search Console?

Let’s start with the most obvious question: What is Google Search Console? According to Google

Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console to be included in Google Search results, but Search Console helps you understand and improve how Google sees your site.

Google Search Console is a tool that—as we mentioned earlier—helps you monitor your presence on Google’s search engine. Here’s what GSC’s default view looks like:

Google Search Console Features Review.

Even though Google Search Console seems to be quite complex at first, the truth is that using it is actually very easy. Later in this guide, we’ll dive into each of GSC’s main features, as well as explain how you can make the most out of each of these features. Some of the main things you can do with GSC are: 

  • Monitor the backlinks and internal links of your web pages

  • See what search queries drive traffic to your website

  • See the search performance of your web pages

  • See how often Google crawls your website

  • Monitor how your mobile pages perform

  • Monitor the index status of your website

  • Submit your XML Sitemap to Google

  • Monitor and detect usability issues

  • Submit your robots.txt file

  • Identify crawl errors

Even though GSC has its limitations, it’s still one of the best tools for SEO specialists and business owners who want to monitor and improve their search performance. 

Is Google Search Console free?

Google Search Console is free for anyone to use. To use it, you need to a) register a domain name, b) create a website around that domain name and c) create a Google Search Console account.  

Does Google Search Console help with SEO?

As we just mentioned, GSC can help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It can do so in many different ways, which is why it’s considered one of the must-have SEO tools. Let’s look at just one of the most prominent ways to use and get value out of GSC. 

One of the main reasons why SEO professionals use GSC is to get click data on a query level—in other words, to find out which search queries drive organic traffic to their website. For example, look at some of the queries that drive traffic to MINUTTIA’s website:

Report shows Number of Click on a Query Level for a particular website.

Note: The blurred areas in the “Clicks” and “Impressions” columns are where the number of clicks and impressions are displayed accordingly. 

As you can see, some of the terms driving organic traffic to our website are:

  • minuttia (branded term)
  • SEO competitor analysis
  • SEO competitor analysis template
  • SEO competitor analysis report

For us, knowing what these terms are is important, as it allows us to understand what brings searchers to our website. Based on this data, we can—most of the time—make decisions on what content to create next, what content to update and how best to grow our brand. 

This feature—among many others—is what makes Google Search Console so helpful for website owners and webmasters.

Who is Google Search Console for?

In working with high-growth SaaS companies from all over the world, we’ve come to realize that… 

Not everyone should (or needs to) be using Google Search Console

The first point is easy to understand; there is simply no need for every stakeholder to be using GSC. The data included there is important, of course, but only if it’s used in the right context. We’ve noticed that much of the time, data isn’t used in the right context.

For example, take a look at the following screenshot from GSC’s performance report, showing the clicks a particular web page receives from organic search.

Google Search Console Performance report shows the clicks a particular web page receives from organic search.

Using this screenshot without the right context could make us believe that there’s something wrong with that particular page. However, knowing that this is a page to which we’ve added a permanent redirect (301) helps us understand that what’s happening to the page’s organic clicks is absolutely normal.

Thus, it’s essential that the tool is used by the right people and in the right context. Who are these people? In our experience, the following are the key figures who can both use and benefit from Google Search Console:

  • Web developers—To be able to monitor server errors (e.g. 5xx) and indexation issues.
  • SEO professionals—To monitor the performance of the website in terms of search.
  • Content creators—To monitor the performance of the content they’ve created.
  • Mid-level marketers—To be able to communicate efficiently with senior marketers, content creators and agencies that the company may have hired.

We generally don’t recommend that GSC be used by senior and C-level employees. Their time is better spent elsewhere. They can learn about the website’s organic performance through a direct report that combines data from various sources (e.g. Google Data Studio) without having to log in to each data source separately. 

In the following section, we’ll look at how you can set up Google Search Console for your website. 

How to Set Up Google Search Console

To start using Google Search Console, you need to set up the tool for your website. 

Of course, to do that, you first need to register a domain name at a domain name provider like GoDaddy

Assuming you’ve already done this, and you now have a domain name registered and a website that’s ready to go live, you can set up Google Search Console so that you can start monitoring your search traffic. 

How to access Google Search Console

First, visit Search Console’s main page. Here’s the website’s URL:

First step in order to access Google Search Console.

Image Source: Google Search Console

Assuming you have a Google account, you can then click on “Start Now” to begin the process of setting up your GSC account. If you don’t yet have an account, make sure to create one first. 

Here’s what you’re going to see when you access GSC for the first time.

Google Search Console Access.

Right now, you can’t access GSC’s features and capabilities, since you haven’t yet added a domain or have been added as a delegated user on another account. Thus, you now need to verify your domain. 

How to verify Google Search Console

As you can see in the screenshot below, to start using GSC, you have to enter the domain or subdomain for which you want to verify ownership.

Enter the domain or subdomain to verify ownership.

Author’s Note: Make sure to add only the URL of your homepage, without www in the beginning or / at the end of the domain. 

In plain English, that means that you have to insert the website URL in the field where it says “example.com”. The reason why we’re choosing this option over the URL prefix one is because we want to verify ownership of the whole domain rather than just a page URL of specific pages on our website. 

For a website like MINUTTIA, the domain URL that we need to insert is minuttia.com, exactly as shown below.

Verify Domain ownership in Google Search Console.

Once you click “Continue”, you’ll then be asked to verify domain ownership via DNS record. According to Google’s instructions, there are two ways you can do that: 

  1. Through your domain name provider (e.g. GoDaddy).
  2. By copying the TXT record provided into the DNS configuration for your website.

If you’re not technical and need assistance to correctly verify ownership of your domain, make sure to ask from someone who knows about Google Search Console to help you. Both of these ways work to help you to verify your domain. Once you verify your domain, you’ll see the following message:

Verified property on Google Search Console.

At this point, click on “Go To Property” to see your verified property on GSC. Next, you’ll see the following message prompting you to start using GSC. 

A message shows the possibility to start using Property in Google Search Console.

Once you click “Start”, you’ll be able to see your Google Search Console dashboard. To make sure you haven’t made any mistakes in the verification process, click on “Settings” in the main menu on the left.

"Settings" option in the main menu of Google Search Console.

From there, you’ll be able to see the message confirming that you’re a verified owner of this domain. This means that the search data you’ll get from now on is accurate and that you (as the site owner) can add or remove users in your account.

"Settings" option shows ownership verification and possibility to add or remove users in GSC account.

If you click on “Ownership verification”, you’ll be able to see the users included in your account, along with the level of permission for each user. 

"Users" option shows Included users in google search console account and level of permission for each user. 

From there, you can start monitoring your performance, as well as set up processes attached to Google Search Console as an integral part of your processes and SEO methodologies. 

How to Use Google Search Console

Nowadays, there are many different solutions when it comes to monitoring your search traffic and organic performance. Some of these solutions (e.g. Ahrefs, SEMrush, SISTRIX) work as web applications you can use from your browser. Others, like Yoast, work as plugins for Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress. 

Even though most of these tools provide users with nice estimations in terms of organic visibility (e.g. number of keywords), they can’t get anywhere close to GSC when it comes to monitoring your search performance. Why? Because all the pages included in your website belong to Google’s index. 

It’s therefore only natural that the performance of your website can be monitored by a product created by Google. Of course, this doesn’t mean that third-party software isn’t important when it comes to monitoring your performance—on the contrary, some of these products power our processes on a daily basis. After all, GSC has several limitations and flaws itself. 

Review of the technology stacks.

However, Google Search Console is still an integral part of any organic growth strategy. This is why interest for GSC—according to Google Trends—is consistently growing over time. 

Google Trends Chart shows high interest for term: "google search console" in period of last 4 years.

Now that you’re convinced of the tool’s importance, let’s move on to Performance Metrics in Google Search Console. 

Performance Metrics in Google Search Console

First, to find the Performance Metrics for a page on your website, you have to click on “Performance” from the main menu on the right of your Google Search Console Dashboard.

“Performance” metric is visible in the main menu on the right of Google Search Console Dashboard.

There, you’ll see the following four metrics:

  1. Clicks
  2. Total impressions
  3. Average CTR
  4. Average position
Chart shows correlation between number of total Clicks and total Impressions in period of 3 months.

Clicks

Clicks refer to the number of clicks that a website/page receives over a certain time period. According to Google, “Total clicks is how many times a user clicked through to your site. How this is counted depends on the search result type.”

Definition of total Clicks in Google Search Console.

For example, in the screenshot below, the page we’re looking at has received 61 clicks over a three-month period. 

Chart shows Number of Clicks for certain Page: 61 clicks over a three-month period.

By default, you see clicks for web searches. 

Number of Clicks for web searches in google search console..

However, you can also choose to see searches for images or videos by clicking on the small pen icon. 

Report allows to choose different type of search for images or videos by clicking on the small pen icon.

This applies to performance for all other metrics. You can also compare different types of searches (e.g. web search vs. image search). 

Comparing different types of searches (e.g. web search vs. image search).

The default view—and the one you should be using, unless you have an extremely image-heavy website like Unsplash—is the web search one. 

When choosing to see clicks for a certain time period, you see by default the queries/search terms that bring clicks to your website. 

Number of clicks for a certain time period by query/search term.

However, with a simple click, you can see the number of clicks per…

  • Page
  • Country
  • Device
  • Search appearance
  • Date
Report shows the number of clicks per: page, country, device, search appearance and date.

By default, all these results are sorted in descending order. Here, for example, you can see the number of clicks per page (once again) in descending order. 

Number of clicks per page in descending order.

Even more interesting are the filtering options that GSC offers. To enable these options, click on the “NEW” button on top of the performance dashboard. 

Performance Dashboard shows how to enable filtering options by clicking on the “NEW” button.

From there, you can choose the type of filter you want and enable it by inserting certain criteria. The filtering options available are the following:

  • Filter by Query
  • Filter by Page
  • Filter by Country
  • Filter by Device
  • Filter by Search appearance
Available Filtering Options for search terms in Google Search Console.

Let’s see how the query filter works by using a simple example. For the sake of this example, let’s see how many branded searches we had for MINUTTIA over the last three months. First, we choose the “Query” type and insert the query that we want to filter. 

Report enables to choose the “Query” type and insert the query for filtering.

Note that at this point, you have additional filtering options such as:

  • Display queries that contain (your target query)
  • Don’t display queries that contain (your target query)
  • Display queries that are an exact match (with your target query)
Additional FIltering Options in Google Search Console.

Author’s Note: The same filtering options apply for all other Performance Metrics within Google Search Console. 

Once you click “APPLY”, you’ll see that your filter will be applied and you’ll get only results that match your filtered query.

Results that match applied filtered query.
Report shows number of Clicks for certain pages that have visibility for target query.

To make sure that your filter has been applied correctly, you can take a look at the filtering bar above your performance dashboard. 

From there, you can click on certain pages that have visibility for your target query and see how many clicks they’ve received. 

Let’s move on to the next metric, which is the number of total impressions.

Total impressions

Total impressions refer to the number of impressions that a website/page receives over a certain time period. According to Google, “Total impressions is how many times a user saw a link to your site in the search results.”

Definition of Total Impressions in Google Search Console.

Of course, this is—once again—calculated differently for different types of content (e.g. images) in the search results. The number of impressions has always been a subject of much discussion. Why? Well, if you think about it, the fact that someone scrolled down a SERP doesn’t necessarily mean they saw your result. 

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the metric isn’t accurate. Rather, as with every other metric on Google Search Console, you have to be a bit skeptical about it. Don’t trust everything you see and always seek data from different sources. 

Another aspect you need to consider is the fact that nowadays, featured snippets and other SERP features and rich results have drastically changed the visibility of content. This is why, according to Orbit Media, the biggest trend in SEO isn’t always what most people think (e.g. rankings), but rather how the changes in search engine results pages affect the visibility of the content itself. 

Of course, this is—once again—calculated differently for different types of content (e.g. images) in the search results. The number of impressions has always been a subject of much discussion. Why? Well, if you think about it, the fact that someone scrolled down a SERP doesn’t necessarily mean they saw your result. 

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the metric isn’t accurate. Rather, as with every other metric on Google Search Console, you have to be a bit skeptical about it. Don’t trust everything you see and always seek data from different sources. 

Another aspect you need to consider is the fact that nowadays, featured snippets and other SERP features and rich results have drastically changed the visibility of content. This is why, according to Orbit Media, the biggest trend in SEO isn’t always what most people think (e.g. rankings), but rather how the changes in search engine results pages affect the visibility of the content itself. 

For example, try inserting the term “how to create an online course” into Google search. 

Google search for term: "how to create an online course".

What you’ll get is a collection of ads… 

Collection of ads for particular search term.

Featured snippets…

Featured snippets for term: "how to create an online course".

“People also ask” boxes…

“People also ask” box for term: "how to create an online course".

Videos…

Videos related to term: "how to create an online course".

Images…

Images related to term: "how to create an online course".

Related searches… 

Related searches to certain term.

And even more related searches. 

Related searches to term: "how to create an online course".

How can we be sure that the user who’s scrolling through such a fractured SERP is going to pay attention to the organic results that exist there? The answer is simple: we can’t. Thus, especially for SERPs with many features, you always have to be skeptical as to the actual number of people who saw (or, to put it better, paid attention to) your search result. 

Back to GSC, in the screenshot below, the page that we’re looking at has received 352K impressions over a three-month period.

Chart shows total number of 352K impressions over a three-month period.

In most cases, you should expect that the number of clicks you receive comes out of the number of impressions you get. After all, how can someone click on a result if they don’t see the result first? In the below screenshot, the rule that we’ve just mentioned applies—clicks are affected by the number of impressions (the organic visibility) that the page received.

Of course, this rule doesn’t always apply, but in most cases, you should expect similar graphs. You should also expect similar results for your average Click-through rate (CTR), as the more visible a page gets on the SERPs (and the higher its position), the higher the CTR of the page. 

Chart shows correlation between Total Impressions and average click-through rate.

When it comes to your average position, things work backward. The lower the average position—which means the higher the page ranks on the SERPs—the higher the total number of impressions you get. 

Chart shows correlation between Total Impressions and Average Position in Goolge Search Console.

Thus, you should expect that as your organic position decreases (you rank higher), all other metrics will be increased. If that’s not the case, you should take a closer look at your data. 

Let’s move on to the next metric, which is the average CTR. 

Average CTR

The next metric that we have on Google Search Console performance report is the average CTR. CTR stands for Click-through rate and is, according to Google, “the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click.”

Definition of click-through rate in google search console.

You have to keep in mind that average CTR is heavily affected by the position that a particular page on your website has on the SERPs. Results that have a higher position usually get more clicks with fewer impressions and thus have a higher CTR. For example, as shown in the screenshot below, this page has an average CTR of 6.7%. 

Graph shows average click-through rate of 6.7%.

This is the average CTR of all the keywords that this page is ranking for. In this example, the page we’re examining ranks for more than 1.2K keywords. So, the average CTR is the average of those 1.2K keywords. By clicking on “Queries” while looking at the CTR for a particular page, we can see the CTR of each of the keywords the page ranks for. 

Report shows average click-through rate for each of the keywords the page ranks for.

In general, try not to “judge” the performance of your website by looking at your average CTR site-wide. Instead, try to monitor and analyze CTR on a page level. This will give you a better idea of what pages perform better and why. When you’re on the page level—as mentioned earlier—try to “judge” and improve the performance of that page on a keyword level. 

There is a high correlation between the average CTR and the average position the page ranks for. Put simply, the higher a page ranks (in general) on the SERPs, the higher its CTR.

Chart present high correlation between the average click-through rate and the average position the page ranks for.

After all, a high CTR indicates a “clickable” result—and when a result gets many clicks, it’s only natural that it will rank higher on the SERPs. 

It’s also worth mentioning that the CTR is an indication of how effective our Title Tag and Meta Description are. Many times, Google will auto-extract text from a search result to serve the most relevant piece of information to the person conducting the search. 

For example, here is the meta description of one of the top-ranking pieces for the term “best places to live in london”.

Meta Description of one of the top-ranking pieces for the term: “best places to live in london”.

And here’s the meta description for the same page, but for a different term. 

Meta Description for the term: "safest areas in london".

This confirms what we’ve just mentioned—that very often, Google auto extracts pieces of text from the search result to serve the most relevant information to the searcher. 

This connects to the performance of our result in the SERPs and can have an impact on our CTR. Another element that can have an impact on our performance (and CTR) is the title tag, which changes more rarely. 

In general, once again, you need to keep in mind that it’s better to analyze your CTR on a page level, and from there on a keyword level.

Average position

The average position is the last metric from GSC’s performance report. According to Google, average position is “the average position in search results for your site, using the highest position for your site whenever it appeared in search results.”

Definition of Average Position in search results using the highest position for certain site.

From this definition, we can understand that Google takes into account the top position where a particular website/web page appears in search results. We can also understand that there’s no point looking at the average position on a site level rather than on a page level. Here’s an example:

The average position for this page is 13.6 in period of 3 months.

For this page, the average position is 13.6. Even though that’s useful, if we don’t analyze things on a keyword level—especially for pages that rank for hundreds or even thousands of keywords—we can’t gain an accurate view of how the page performs. 

Thus, we could say that the average position is a vague metric that should be analyzed in more detail to have some meaning for us and our strategy. All the correlations that applied for the other three metrics apply here as well. When a position is lower, impressions are higher, clicks are higher and CTR is higher as well. 

Next, we’ll discuss URL Inspection in Google Search Console and how it can help us improve our performance.

URL Inspection in Google Search Console

To inspect a URL (a page included in your website) with Google Search Console, you have to click on “URL Inspection” and insert the complete URL you’d like to inspect in the box at the top of your GSC dashboard.

Insert the certain URL you’d like to inspect in the box at the top of GSC dashboard.

Once you’ve inserted the URL, you need to wait a few seconds for Google to retrieve the data from Google index.

Retrieving the data from Google index.

Once this is done, GSC will generate a report with useful information on that page. Here’s what the report looks like:

URL Inspection Report present Indexing Status, Coverage, Mobile Usability and Accelerated Mobile Pages.

Some of the main information in this report includes:

  • Indexing status—If the page is indexed on Google or not.
  • Coverage—If the page is submitted in the XML Sitemap of the website or not.
  • Mobile Usability—If the page is mobile-friendly or not. 
  • AMP—If there is an AMP version of the page and whether or not it’s valid.
  • Sitelinks search—If there are any sitelinks detected for that page that are eligible for rich results.

Author’s Note: AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. In order for this feature to be enabled, you have to create an AMP version of the page you want to inspect. 

If you click on “Coverage”, you’ll get to see some useful information such as the last time the page was crawled by Googlebot. 

Coverage Report shows last time the page was crawled by Googlebot.

If you’ve made changes to a page and they haven’t yet been published, you can always request re-indexing by clicking on the “Request Indexing” button as shown below. 

Re-indexing request for pages that haven’t yet been published.

Let’s move on to the next section, which is all about the index in GSC.

Index in Google Search Console

The next report we’re going to examine is the index report. Here are the three options you can find in the index report:

3 available options of index report in google search console.

Let’s take a look at each of these options.

Coverage

The index coverage report gives you an overview of any issues that your website might have in terms of indexation. For example, as we can see in the below example, the website we’re analyzing has 31 valid pages (submitted on Google index) and 51 pages that are excluded from the index. 

Overview of indexation issues: 31 valid pages and 51 excluded from index.

In addition, we can see that the website doesn’t have any errors like “server error 5x”. If you click on “Valid”, you’ll see how the number of indexed pages for your website has changed over time.

Number of indexed pages trend over time of 3 months.

You’ll also be able to see examples of pages that are indexed on Google as well as the last date that each page was crawled from Google’s crawler. 

Overview of Indexed Pages on Google and Google’s crawler date.

When it comes to excluded pages, you get a chart that shows how many pages were excluded from the index historically, as well as details on why those pages were excluded. 

Overview of excluded pages from the index historically,

Let’s see what errors look like in the index coverage report. As you can see in the below screenshot, this website currently has two unsolved issues. 

Overview of Errors on Index Coverage Chart.

To see what these errors are, scroll down to Details—you’ll get a list of the errors along with the type of each error. As you can see, in our example, there are two pages that are submitted in Google’s index that seem to be a soft 404. 

Crawl Urls Error Details in Google Search Console.

If you click on the error type, you’ll be able to see the pages that are affected. 

Overview of Affected Pages from Last Crawled.

When you fix any of these issues and want to test if everything is working correctly, you can click on “Validate Fix”. 

How to validate fix of Soft 404 Error.

We always suggest that you take a look at the index coverage report for your website once a month and address any serious issues your website may have. Now, let’s move on to the next feature.

Sitemaps

As you probably already know, XML Sitemaps are among the most important things when it comes to SEO. We also have HTML Sitemaps, which are different and have a separate purpose. 

An HTML Sitemap is a way to pass on link equity to the most important pages on your website through a nice directory-like page. The following example is the HTML Sitemap by online course platform LearnWorlds.

Overview of HTML Sitemap example by LearnWorlds.

As you can see, in their HTML Sitemap, LearnWorlds include the most important pages on their website, each divided by category. Once again, this is different from the XML Sitemap, which we’re referring to in this section.

When you click on “Sitemaps”, you’ll be able to see the XML Sitemaps that are submitted on your website. 

Steps how to add the new Sitemap Url.

In the above XML Sitemap, you can see that MINUTTIA’s website has two individual sitemaps submitted. 

  1. http://minuttia.com/page-sitemap.xml
  2. http://minuttia.com/post-sitemap.xml

If you click on any of these two sitemaps, you’ll be able to see the last time that the sitemap was read, as well as open the sitemap to actually see what pages are included.

Steps how to post Sitemap in Google Search Console.

If you have individual XML Sitemaps for different parts of your website (e.g. blog section), you can submit the index sitemap and not every XML sitemap that’s included in the index sitemap. Here’s an example of an index sitemap:

Submitted Sitemaps Status: Success.

There are some cases where your sitemap won’t be submitted properly. In such cases, you may get a message like “Couldn’t fetch”. This means that even though some of your pages—before the error occurred—are still submitted, new pages or changes in your existing pages aren’t yet submitted. 

Submitted Sitemaps Status: Couldn't Fetch.

Whenever something like this occurs, you should try to work out when and why it happened and try to fix it. You can answer the when by taking a look at the “Last read” in this report. 

Last but certainly not least, if you want to submit a new sitemap on your website—let’s say because you decided to add an image sitemap on your website—you simply need to copy/paste the URL of your new sitemap and click “Submit”.

Steps how to add the new XML Sitemap in Property.

Google will then read your submitted sitemap and add the pages included in its index. 

Removals

Removals is the place where you can “remove content from Google Search”. 

The cases where you may want to remove content from Google search are rare. Still, every time you want to remove a page, it’s always good to ask professional help instead of doing it yourself. 

When you click on “New Request” you’ll be able to a) temporarily remove a URL or b) clear the cache of a URL. You can either remove only one URL (e.g. minuttia.com/keyword-mapping) or all URLs with a certain prefix (e.g. minuttia.com/blog). 

Steps how to temporarily remove certain Url from Google Search.

Once again, this is something that happens rarely, and we always recommend getting it handled by a professional. 

Let’s move on to the next section, Enhancements, and see what this feature is all about. 

Enhancements in Google Search Console

Enhancements in GSC include four main options:

  1. Speed (experimental)
  2. Mobile Usability
  3. Sitelinks searchbox
  4. Videos
Enhancments Options in Google Search Console.

Let’s take a look at each of these options. 

Speed (experimental)

Here’s what the Speed report looks like:

Mobile Speed Chart: slow, moderate and fast Urls.

As you can see from the above screenshot, this website has 0 slow URLs, 179 moderate URLs and 0 fast URLs. Put simply, this means the website definitely has some speed issues, but nothing too extreme. These results, of course, have to do with the website’s speed in mobile version.

When it comes to desktop, there’s a separate graph that presents similar results. 

Website’s speed performance for desktop version of site.

To dive a bit deeper into results, you need to click on the “Open Report” option at the right top corner of each graph. 

Open Website’s speed Performance Report for mobile version.

From there, you’ll be able to get a complete overview of your website’s speed performance for mobile or desktop. 

Website’s speed performance for mobile version of site.

If you scroll to the bottom of that report, you’ll see the issues that your website pages have in terms of speed. Click on any of these issues, and you’ll be able to see the individual URLs on your website (if any) that have a problem.

Speed Issues Types with the mobile version of site.

Even though we monitor speed performance for our client’s websites with third-party tools, we always recommend monitoring any issues that Google Search Console has identified at least once a month.  

Mobile usability

Next, we have the mobile usability report, which basically tells us if there are any issues with the way users interact with the mobile version of our website.

Mobile Usability Review of User Interaction Issues.

Once again, if you scroll down, you’ll see examples of mobile usability issues, such as that the text on the page is too small to read. 

Types of Mobile Usability User Interaction Issues with mobile version of Site.

It’s always good to visit this report once a month to catch any significant issues that may be occurring. 

Sitelinks searchbox

According to Google itself, Sitelinks searchbox allows you to “see which rich results Google found in your property, and whether or not they could be read”. 

Sitelinks Overview referring to “rich results that Google found in your property.”

If you click on “Valid”, you’ll be able to see the list of complete items that your website has for individual pages. 

Valid Sitelinks Overview in period of 3 Months.

For example, this website has 64 valid sitelinks, all of which are complete items. 

Total Number of Items Sitelinks.

In general, sitelinks are indicative of a good website/page structure that can be read properly by search engines. Sitelinks allow users to navigate to specific parts of your website, right from the SERPs. Think of it as a Top Level Navigation (TLN) menu of your website on the SERPs.

Of course, the way in which sitelinks appear for the homepage of your website and an individual page is different. For example, here’s how sitelinks look for the homepage of LearnWorlds.

Sitelinks Results for certain Url on the SERPs.

And here’s how sitelinks for one of LearnWorlds’ content pages appear on the SERPs. 

Sitelinks for Content Pages Results on the SERPs.

For the first example, sitelinks appear as menu options for different pages on the website (e.g. pricing). In the second example, sitelinks appear because of the internal jumplinks that the page has and which lead to certain sections on the page. 

In any case, it’s evident that sitelinks can give you more real estate on the SERPs, as well as provide users with a better overall experience before they visit your website.

Video or logos

Depending on your GSC settings and website content, the next option you’ll see in this section is Videos or Logos. Once again, we’re referring to “rich results that Google found in your property.” Some of these results are read and thus displayed properly, while others can’t be displayed as they should. 

Videos on Enhancements displayed properly and not properly.

For example, this website has 4 videos displayed properly on the SERPs. 

Number of Total Valid Videos displayed properly on the SERPs.

If you want to see what these pages are, you just need to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Complete Items” under the Type column. This is what you’ll see next: 

Videos on Enhancements displayed properly and not properly.

From there, you can make decisions about other videos you could create based on those that already perform well and have visibility on the SERPs. 

In the Enhancements section, you’ll also be able to see a report called AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) if you’ve enabled AMP for your website. 

Accelerated Mobile Pages Features on Enhancements in Google Search Console.

Let’s move on to the next section, which is Security and Manual Actions. 

Security & Manual Actions

In this section, you’ll be able to see any manual actions that Google has had to take against your website, as well as monitor any security issues your website has. 

Security & Manual Actions Options in Google Search Console.

Let’s see what each of these options is all about. 

Manual actions

According to Google, “Google issues a manual action against a site when a human reviewer at Google has determined that pages on the site are not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines”.

Human reviewers take manual actions if there’s something wrong with site.

This couldn’t be more clear. If Google’s human reviewers think there’s something wrong with your website (e.g. you’re attempting to manipulate Google’s search index), they will take a manual action against your website. 

If you stay on the white-hat side of things, you have nothing to worry about here—in most cases, there will be no issues detected for your website.

Checking Issues Manually in Google Search Console.

Even so, it’s good to take a look at this report once a month. There’s no need to worry or be obsessed about it—just keep an eye on it and try to comply with Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Security issues

According to Google, this section presents the findings of security issues that your website may have.

Report on security issues findings that the website may have.

Image Source: Search Console Help

According to Google, security issues fall into the following categories:

  • Hacked content
  • Malware and unwanted software
  • Social engineering
  • This is, once again, something you shouldn’t need to worry about. In most cases, there won’t be any issues detected for your website. 
Security Issues Checker in Google Search Console.

Just make sure to visit this report once a month as part of your regular monthly audit. 

Legacy Tools & Reports

The next set of features we have on GSC is Legacy Tools & Reports. This is a set of features from the old version of Google Search Console, some of them still useful and fully functional now and others with limited functionality. The tools and reports included here are:

  • International targeting
  • Crawl stats
  • Messages
  • URL parameters
  • Web tools

 Let’s take a closer look at each of these tools and reports

International targeting

International targeting is mostly interesting for websites targeting audiences in different countries that speak different languages. As you can see below, the website we’re on doesn’t have any hreflang tags. 

International Targeting Report doesn't show any hreflang tags.

That could indicate an error or misuse of meta tags that could help your website be displayed on the SERPs for audiences in other countries. We generally don’t recommend visiting that report as often, but you should definitely visit it while auditing your website for the first time.

Crawl stats

Next, we have crawl stats. Crawl stats can give you an idea of how many pages are crawled by Googlebot on average per day. Of course, this piece of information has little to no value on its own. However, if you combine it with the number of pages that are indexable in total on your website, you can spot any inefficiencies in terms of crawling for your website.

Crawl Stats Charts shows number of crawled pages per day, kilobytes downloaded per day and time spent downloading a page.

For example, we can see that for the website we use as an example here, Google is crawling 5,082 pages on average per day. Now, imagine if that website had, say, 40,000 indexed pages on Google. That would mean that Google crawls only 12.5% of the website’s pages on average every day. 

That could indicate a technical issue or the fact that many of the website’s indexed pages are not considered as important by Google and thus aren’t crawled often. 

Needless to say, to get the most out of this report, it’s always recommended to give context by combining data from various sources.

Messages

In Messages, you can find messages such as Google’s monthly performance or coverage issues detected by Google. 

Old Message Panel Overview of Website’s Performance in Google Search Console.

Think of Messages as your Google Search Console inbox, where you’ll receive messages from Google about your website’s performance. In the new version of GSC, you can see your messages by clicking on the button in the top right corner, as shown below. 

Message Overview of Website’s Performance in Google Search Console.

URL parameters

URLS parameters are yet another legacy feature from GSC’s old version. This allows you to exclude certain URLs from search results based on specific (insignificant) URL patterns. 

For example, let’s assume you have multimedia content on your website and in different versions. For example:

  • example.com/pdf?version=one 
  • example.com/pdf?version=two 
  • example.com/pdf?version=three

Author’s Note: In most cases, we don’t recommend removing PDF or any other kind of multimedia content from the search unless there’s a solid reason to do so. This is just an example we’re using to make a point about what it means to exclude certain URL parameters using Google Search Console.  

If you have only three variations of these pages, this might not be as big as a problem. However, imagine if you have hundreds of such variations. Then, blocking crawling for some of these variations would a) make sense and b) allow Google to crawl only the pages on your website that are really important. 

According to Google, you shouldn’t be using this feature unless you fulfill all of the below requirements:

URL Parameters Tool Requirements in Google Search Console.

Image Source: Search Console Help

Misuse of this tool can “cause Google to ignore important pages on your website.” Thus, it’s always recommended to have someone experienced handle these parameters for you. 

This is something that mostly only large eCommerce websites or enterprise websites have to deal with. Moreover, the truth is that most of these parameters can also be addressed through the robots.txt or by adding no-index to specific pages on your website. 

In any case, again, we recommend seeking professional help to deal with these issues.  

Web tools

Web tools includes a set of testing tools and reports, some of which are very important to improving your search performance. 

Ad Experience Report in Google Search Console Web Tools.

For example, with the Structured Data Testing Tool, you can audit your website’s Schema Markup implementation and make decisions on what to optimize and why. In general though, you won’t find anything in this report that you can’t access from elsewhere.  

Links

As you can imagine, the Links report in GSC is all about links. This report covers both internal and external links for a website. On the overview page, you can see the total number of external and internal links… 

Total Number of External and Internal Links for certain Url.

As well as the top linking sites for your website… 

Top Linking Sites Overview of certain website in Google Search Console.

And the most used text (anchor text) for links from other websites back to your website. 

Top Linking Text Overview in of certain website in Google Search Console.

External links

According to Google, this report shows you the “total number of unique links to the current property from outside the property.” It shows you how many referring domains link back to your website and what the most linked pages are on your website. 

Total Number of Top Externally Linked Pages of certain website.

We always recommend using this report in combination with backlink reports from third-party tools (e.g. Ahrefs or Majestic) to gain a broader view of your backlink profile. 

Internal links

As mentioned above, this report shows you the pages on your website with the most internal links. 

Total Number of Top Internally Linked Pages of certain website.

Very often, this report can help you identify mistakes in your internal linking structure—for example, by linking many times to a page with little to no business value (e.g. Terms & Conditions page). 

Once again, make sure to use this report in combination with a third-party tool like Sitebulb to give you a broader view of your internal linking structure and any issues you may have.

Top linking sites

This isn’t a report we at MINUTTIA use as part of our processes. Put simply, tools like Ahrefs give us better intelligence when it comes to the websites that link back to our clients’ websites. 

We get much better insights into our clients’ backlink profiles by monitoring the Referring Domains chart from Ahrefs, than taking a look at the top linking sites report on GSC.

Referring Domains Chart from Ahrefs.

You can still use that report to double-check data, but we don’t generally recommend it as a way to monitor your link acquisition performance. 

Top linking text

This is a report that, once again, doesn’t give us the insights that we need when it comes to the anchor profile of our clients’ websites. In these cases, we use tools like Ahrefs’ Anchors report, which gives us a much broader view of our anchor text profile. 

Ahrefs Anchors Text Report Details.

Alternatively, you can use Majestic, as this also gives you useful insights into your anchor text profile. 

Settings

Settings is the final option in GSC’s main menu. It basically gives you general information regarding your user status (e.g. delegated owner, verified owner), allowing you to add/remove users and change the address of your website in case of a website migration. 

User status overview showed in Setting Option in Google Search Console main menu.

Let’s wrap this up and close with some final thoughts. 

Wrapping Up

If you’ve made it this far, you’re now familiar with most of GSC’s features. You need to keep in mind that Google Search Console can be a great tool, but only if used correctly. Having said that, you don’t need to log in to your GCS account every day to make sure everything is working as it should. 

What you need to do is build processes and use the tool in the context of these processes. After all, using Google Search Console more often doesn’t mean you’re increasing your organic traffic. There are many factors involved in improving your search performance, and GCS just happens to be one of the tools that helps you do that. 

Note: We’ll be updating this guide regularly as Google adds more features to Google Search Console.