In May this year, Google announced the rebranding of Webmaster Tools to Google Search Console to better reflect the diversity of titles belonging to the users that utilize the platform. Whether you’re a webmaster, a business owner, a marketer, or an SEO specialist like myself, it’s useful to become familiar with Google Search Console and the powerful tools it has to offer so that you can use this information to improve the performance of your site.
Your Google Search Console dashboard is a nifty view that shows you important information about the health and performance of your site.
Your dashboard informs you of (1) any important messages regarding your site, and gives you a snapshot of your site’s (2) crawl errors, (3) search analytics performance, and (4) sitemap functionality. That’s really cool! – but not useful unless you know what this information means. Thankfully, tons of SEO experts have written articles that cover the dashboard tools and how to set up Google Search Console for your site.
Now that you’ve got the basics down – let’s get into the nitty gritty tools that will take your site from basic to BOSS.
The Secret Weapons
Search Appearance: Structured Data
By now you should know that structured data is a big deal. It allows more control over branding and enables rich search results that can add value to your SERP real estate and increase your organic traffic.
After the appropriate markup has been incorporated into your site, you can verify and check for errors with the Structured Data report. This report displays (1) the number of structured data elements present on your site, and (2) how many errors, if any, exist.
(3) Click through an item to view error details – then correct these to improve page and site performance. Remember: data is only powerful when it’s actionable.
Search Traffic: Mobile Usability
On April 21st, the internet experienced a shift that came to be known as ‘Mobile-geddon.’ We survived the mobile-pocalypse but will forever be weary of our sites’ mobile UX.
Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool is handy for spot-checks but impractical when a full-site assessment is warranted. Enter the Mobile Usability report. Search Console’s Mobile Usability report provides a list of usability errors within your site – click through to see which pages are affected and work your web dev magic (or summon your web dev wizard) to make peace with mobile users across the land – and also to earn that sweet ‘Mobile-friendly’ badge on your search results.
Google Index: Blocked Resources
A lot of effort went into creating your website, so it would be counter-productive to block important resources that may be essential for the proper rendering and indexing of your pages. How do you know if resources are being blocked? You check the Blocked Resources report, of course!
The top-level of Search Console’s Blocked Resources report will display a list of (1) any resource providers whose resources are being blocked by robots.txt, and (2) how many pages are affected. Keep in mind that your website may use resources hosted on sites other than your own, so don’t be surprised if multiple domains appear here.
Clicking through a host will display a list of the specific resources being blocked, and clicking through a resource takes you to the most granular level of the Blocked Resources Report, which shows the individual pages of your site affected by the blocked resource.
Now you know what pages are being affected by which blocked resources provided by which hosts. That’s great, but now what?
Crawl: Fetch & Render and The robots.txt Tester
From the Blocked Resources report, clicking through an affected page will open a toolbox, allowing you to Fetch & Render the page as Google, so you can view how the blocked resource affects the way Google ‘sees’ a page versus how a user would see it through a browser. Using the Fetch & Render tool, you can decide whether action is required.
If the blocked resource negatively affects Google’s rendering of the page, use the robots.txt Tester to update the robots.txt file and remove lines of Disallow that are blocking the necessary resources. Test and submit, and TA-DUH! Keep in mind that if the blocked resource is hosted on another site, you must have ownership of that site, otherwise you will need to contact the site’s webmaster to request the unblocking.
Search Console’s Fetch & Render and robots.txt Tester are standalone tools that can also be found by using the left-hand navigation and expanding the ‘Crawl’ menu.
Add these secret weapons to your arsenal, and conquer web errors in structural data, mobile usability, page rendering and indexation, and more. Understanding the reports provided through Google Search Console provides you more power to improve your website.