Google Search Console for Dummies- Part 1

Google Search Console or GSC for short (former Google Webmaster Tools, or GWT)  is a free service provided by Google to manage your website’s search functionality. The search console is a collection of reports and tools that help you to see errors as well as make plan and optimize your search engine rankings.

Anybody who is somebody in SEO needs to use Search console or as it is said, Google Webmaster tool. This series of write-up will help you to use and understand this tool and this can be used as a step-by-step guide.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 10.52.07 AM

As you log in to Webmaster tool  Search console will present the whole list of all website added in it. If you want to know how a website is added to search console, I will write another article for that process. if you have multiple websites of the same genre that you want to track and manage together you can go ahead and create a property set.

Select a property and you will be presented a dashboard for the website.

Dashboard

Google search console menu is divided into sections and then sub-sections, each part of this series will explain a section each.

Search Appearance

Search Appearence

Search Console Menu

The Search Appearance section helps you visualize what your website would look like in the search results.

There are many code snippets such as rich cards, rich snippets, and different types of the  framework such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as well as the usual HTML corrections that can help your website stand out and look impressive in search results.

Let’s see  each element in this section and how it can be used to your search advantage.

Structured Data

Structured data is in the form of rich snippets, which are  programmed into the HTML code. It marks up your content so that Google can categorize and index it better.

Google uses it to serve up “rich” results. Visually, rich results will help you bring in the traffic.

 

Google supports rich snippets for the following:

  • Articles (AMP)
  • Local Businesses
  • Music
  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • TV & Movies and Videos.

For eg. I searched for “Coconut cookies recipe” and the results look liked this , the reviews, rating and cooking time even calories are shown are the result of structured data added to the site.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.20.49 AM.png

How to use Structured Data for SEO: Ask your developer to build rich snippets into all of the mentioned features available on your website. Ask them to refer to Schema.org for code snippets and help.

How to use GSC > Search Appearance >  Structured Data section?

It tells you where you have gone wrong with your rich snippets coding and provides you with a tool that helps you test live data (see the blue button in the image below).

image03-2

Image source: https://www.quicksprout.com/

Rich Cards

Rich Cards are a new invention by Google. They work like Structured Data  but are visually more appealing.  This image tells the clear difference between rich snippets and rich cards. The details can be read in my previous post about rich cards 

image08

When your content is visually appealing, it may translate to heavy user engagement, thereby increasing your traffic and sales. Google currently allows users to deploy rich cards for Recipes and Movies.

How to leverage Rich Cards for SEO: As in the case with rich snippets, ask your developer to build rich snippets into either recipes or movie information, if you host such information.Refer this page for sample code snippets.

How to use  GSC > Search Appearance >  Rich Cards section ?

It tells you where you have gone wrong with your rich cards coding and informs you how many cards you can enhance. Like in the rich snippets section, Google equips you with a tool that helps you test live data.

enhanceable-rich-cards

 

Data Highlighter

The Data Highlighter is an excellent substitute for Structured Data, and if you don’t have a developer to write the code snippets in your HTML, it marks up the same content that Structured Data does. This tool has limitations, you have to write the tags individually per URL. and if you have thousands of pages on your website, it would be not so easy to do.

How to use Data Highlighter for SEO

  • Click on “Start Highlighting.” A pop-up will appear.
  • Enter your URL, and choose the data you want to highlight (articles, events, reviews, local business, movies, products, restaurants, TV shows, etc.).
  • Once you’ve made your selection, Google will render the page in GSC and allow you to highlight the relevant data.
  • You now have to select the text or images per page that you want to highlight. You can highlight titles, images, category, and ratings.
  • Google will then prompt you to highlight data in other pages as well and help create page sets.

Here’s a helpful video for a tutorial on this feature:

 

HTML Improvements

The HTML Improvements page shows you potential issues Google found when crawling and indexing your site.

Here is a list of issues that may be included in this report:

  • Duplicate/long/short meta descriptions
  • Missing/duplicate/long/short title tags
  • Content non-indexable by Google

How to use HTML Improvements Report for SEO:

It’s simple. Just fix the problem areas that Google has reported.

Here are some basic SEO rules that you may already be aware of:

  • Ensure titles are up to 70 characters long (or up to 612 pixels in width).
  • Ensure descriptions are about 160-165 characters.
  • Each page must be supported by a unique title and description.
  • Google should be able to crawl all pages you want to rank in SERPs. Ensure that critical content is not blocked by robots.txt or .htaccess files.

Sitelinks

Sitelinks are automatically generated by Google. You can’t necessarily change these because Google uses its algorithm to decide when and how to display them.
If you don’t want a page to appear as a sitelink, you can demote it in the Sitelinks feature.

Here’s how sitelinks appear on SERPs:

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.59.40 AM

 

To encourage Google to add sitelinks below your URL in the SERPs, keep adding relevant, helpful, and meaningful content to your website.

When your content reaches critical mass, Google will automatically display your categories as sitelinks.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are lightweight pages designed to load quickly on mobile devices. AMP-compliant pages use a subset of HTML with a few extensions.

How to use AMP for SEO:

Embrace the technology. Ask your developer to get up to speed on AMP, and then convert your regular HTML into AMP HTML.

Google provide recommendations to help you and our users take advantage of AMP’s benefits.

  • Design: Create web pages according to the AMP specification.
  • Discovery: Make your AMP discoverable.
  • Validation: Test that your page is written in valid AMP HTML.
  • Structured data: Mark up your content with structured data.
  • Status: Monitor your AMP report on Search Console for errors.

The Google Search Console provides an AMP status report, which shows a list of successfully indexed AMP pages on your site and any AMP-specific errors found.

This is all for the section 1 of the search console, in the next part of this series, I will explain section 2  i.e Search Traffic, the most important part of webmaster tool.
If you have any question please  Ask a Question
Please subscribe if you want to know when the part 2 will be published (I will not Spam you …….Promise)

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  1. Pingback: Google Search Console for Dummies- Part 2 – Go Digital

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