The Google Search Console (abbreviated: GSC, formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a free analysis and service tool from Google. Using the Google Search Console, numerous settings can be made for websites or apps, statistics can be viewed and optimization actions can be implemented. Moreover, it issues warnings about unnatural back links or malware, which has been installed on the website. The Google Search Console data is not partially public, unlike the data from Alexa. The metrics from the Google Search Console can be linked with Google Analytics for data enhancement.
It is very important to Google that websites are solidly programmed and that the number of errors is kept within limits. This intention is definitely not just altruistic. For one, the Mountain View company wants to ensure that its search results show the highest possible quality targets and secondly, the optimization of websites is of course important to keep up a high level of quality of landing pages for advertising via Google AdWords or publisher websites for Google AdSense.
At the same time, it can be assumed that Google receives additional insight into the design and relevant website data through data management with Webmaster Tools.
Requirements for use
To use the Google Search Console, the page in question must first be registered. A valid Google account is required. After registration, the owner must verify the page. There are four different recommended methods of doing this:
Alternatively, the web page can also be verified through a valid Analytics account, through the domain name of the provider, an HTML tag, or the Google Tag Manager.
Once the verification has been completed, the tool displays data relevant to that web page and it’s common features can be used.
The Google Search Console contains a large number of functions that can be used for analysis and optimization of a website. These functions are briefly outlined here:
- Storing an XML site map: All URLs of a website can be transmitted to Google through the XML site map. While this is no guarantee for future indexing, the possibility is raised that even page elements that are difficult to access will still be crawled. Additionally, you can also set up a separate images site map or a video site map. The tool analyzes each site map after upload for errors.
- robots. txt-Tester: If a robots. txt file is stored, it can be analyzed with the Search Console. New instructions for the bot can also be tested there.
- Site settings: You can select your preferred country, as well as the information on the desired default domain format (with or without www) and set the crawl speed up to two server requests per second. If you do not know your server performance, you should let Google do the settings automatically.
- Disavowing of back links: One of the most discussed tools in the SEO scene in recent years is the GWT disavow tool. Incoming links can be declared invalid if a webmaster is of the opinion that these links are more harmful than beneficial. Many SEOs believe that Google uses the data of this tool to uncover link networks. The tool can be found here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main
- Ignore URL parameters: SEOs and webmasters can use GWT to void individual parameters of a URL. You can determine whether the parameter has an influence on the content or is, for example, a tracking parameter such as “utm.”
- Removing URLs from the index: An important feature of Webmaster Tools is the temporary removal of URLs from Google’s index. This is useful when individual subpages are listed unintentionally in the index. This function does not replace exclusive indexing via tags such as noindex.
- Data Highlighter: This function allows you to mark relevant positions of a web page so that Google can identify structured information, such as office hours and prices.
- Retrieved as if by the Googlebot: With this function you can view a website like a spider and discover syntax errors. It is also possible to render the page completely.
- Send URLs to the Google Index: After a website has been retrieved with "Retrieved as from Google", it can be sent directly to the Google Index and the URLs associated with it. You can index multiple URLs at once.
- Control of structured data: When a website uses microformats or other Structured Data, it can be verified that a website is tagged with the Google Search Console.
- Control of Rich Cards: If a website uses Rich Cards, these can be checked with the GSC.
- Check AMP pages: If a web page has been implemented as AMP, the implementation can be controlled with the Search Console.
- Test mobile device friendliness: The GSC indicates whether URLs are suitable for mobile devices.
- hreflang-Test: If a website is internationally oriented and has several language and country versions, they can be labelled with hreflang. The GSC can control these tags.
- Blocked Resources: Google Search Console shows users when important resources on a web page cannot be loaded or when they prevent the Googlebot from indexing.
In addition to the “active” features, the GSC provide an extensive database with statistics.
- Dashboard: Webmasters can get an overview of the DNS status, crawl errors, search queries, the validity of the robots.txt and errors in URLs and the site map.
- Searches: Similar to Google Analytics, the GSC also provides an overview of searches, CTR and clicks, and rankings of individual keywords. These statistics can be downloaded or limited to a specific period. However, this data will only be shown in the GCS for 90 days.
- Incoming links: The GSC provides users with an overview of incoming links that Google has registered. Unlike paid backlink tools, GWT do not crawl as deep and the listing of back links is usually shorter.
- Internal links: Google offers a useful overview and shows how many internal links exist from the specific sub-pages. This is an important aspect of on-page optimization.
- Indexing status: This shows you how a web page was indexed. This metric is very useful for finding possible Penalties. The Search Console also shows how many pages of a web page have been indexed and which pages have been removed.
- HTML improvements: Google provides possible optimization potential for meta descriptions and titles with this feature.
- Crawling error: The Search Console informs users about 404 errors or Soft 404 errors, both in the desktop and in the mobile version.
If you registered your website in the Webmaster Tools, you will get notification from Google if there are problems with crawling. Google also notifies webmasters if there are server problems or for certain software updates (such as WordPress). Google also reports any spam or hacking via the Security Issues feature. If Google detects unnatural links or copyright infringement, messages can be sent to webmasters via the manual action item.
Further web tools
Originally, new analysis tools were introduced as beta versions via the former Google Webmaster Tools and could then be tested by the users. Today, the Search Console provides links to other tools such as a "Ad User Friendliness Report" - an email markup tester or a tool for creating and testing structured data.
Benefits for SEO
If the keyword status is “not provided,” SEOs can use the GSC as a supplement to Google Analytics. Thus, the consoles provide concrete data on access via keywords. But the tool also has many advantages apart from this topic. The possible applications can basically be divided into two levels:
- Practical auxiliary tool: the Google Search Console facilitates the management of a website for the Google search. Webmasters do not need to be experts in terms of handling the source code or server. A good example is the option to select a preferred version of the website (with or without www) with the GSC. Authorship markup, for example, can be set with the Data Highlighter without any programming knowledge in order to preserve the ability to display rich snippets.
- Comprehensive tool for optimization: By saving the XML site map, all subpages of a domain will be relayed to Google. Notifications about errors in the site map, or about malicious links, and analysis of the meta-information are also helpful.
If you want to always get the latest news and tips about the Google Search Console you can read up on it regularly in Google Webmaster Central. After signing up for the Google Search Console you can also subscribe to receive any new information as an e-mail. The alert function for “unnatural links” shook up the SEO scene more than once in 2012 after the Penguin update.
Since May 20, 2015, the Google Webmaster Tools are now officially called Google Search Console. Once Google got more information from the users of the Webmaster Tools, they found that only some of them are actually “webmasters.” Google decided to rename this product in order to appeal to all users that use the tool, such as small business owners, amateur users, SEOs, etc.