Many people make the mistake of believing that learning how to use Google Search Console (GSC) properly isn’t worth their time because there are more all-encompassing tools like Google Analytics out there. Others will point to issues around perceived data accuracy that make it less valuable for tasks like rank tracking or keyword research. However, even if GSC isn’t the perfect SEO tool, it’s still the center for Google’s search and indexing data about your site. Ignoring this information can put you at a competitive disadvantage, as some of the data on GSC can only be found there, and it can be used to directly impact your page rankings.
Google Search Console isn’t an all-things-to-all-people tool. It is, however, one of the best ways to do some very specific SEO tasks that would be difficult or impossible with any other tool. If you want to rank higher for more keywords, you need to use GSC to:
- Improve your site indexing
- Fix page experience issues
- Optimize pages for existing keywords
- Source new content opportunities
- Find internal linking opportunities across your website
By using GSC in these five ways, you’ll make it easy for Google’s crawlers to see that your pages are optimized for an ideal page experience, use relevant keywords, and demonstrate topical authority. GSC is Google’s way of giving you a peek inside how Google views your site. Learn how to use Google Search Console the right way, and you can send trust signals straight to Google and get an SEO boost in the process.
1. Improve Your Site Indexing
If there is one key function on GSC that no other tool can do, it’s indexing. Indexing is when Google uses bots to analyze the pages of the internet, understand their content, and then organize them so that they can be searched for later. This is not an easy process, so Google uses Search Console as a portal for webmasters to help Google understand what should and shouldn’t be indexed and to alert Google when new crawling needs to happen on their site.
The bottom line is that if your content isn’t indexed properly, it’s not going to be on Google. Use GSC to make sure Google knows everything you want it to know about your website.
Use GSC to index your website by:
- Adding an XML sitemap
- Checking that all of your current URLs are indexed properly
- Adding new URLs to the crawl queue
A sitemap is a file that will tell Google’s crawlers what content is on your website and how it’s connected, from individual pages to specific files or videos. Although you can use several file types for your sitemap, including RSS and TXT files, XML sitemaps are the easiest and most commonly used today. If you’re unclear on how to create a sitemap, follow our guide on the sitemap creation process. There are also plenty of free or paid tools online that can help you generate a sitemap—you can see our favorites in this list of the best sitemap generators.
From the dashboard, click on “Sitemaps” under the Index section of the bar on the left side of the screen.
The next page is the Sitemap report: From here, you can view, add, or remove sitemaps for your website.
To add a sitemap, simply input your sitemap’s URL in the bar and press “Submit.” If you can’t see the Submit bar, you may not have administrator privileges for this property on GSC.
Once you submit your sitemap, you will be able to see its status on the Sitemap report. You’ll get information like:
- The date it was submitted
- The date it was last read by Google’s crawlers
- The status of its submission
- The number of URLs it contains
This button will take you to the Coverage report (also accessible on the left side navigation bar). This report shows you how many pages have and have not been indexed by Google. Use the dropdown menu on the top left to cycle between sitemaps, all known pages, or all submitted pages.
This index coverage view will show you the total number of pages for your selection, as well as a breakdown of the status of these pages. The possible statuses include:
- Valid: Properly indexed by Google with no issues
- Valid with warnings: Pages indexed by Google that Google believes have been mistakenly indexed
- Excluded: Pages that Google has excluded from indexing intentionally (usually for duplicate pages)
- Error: Pages that could not be indexed on Google
Valid and excluded pages shouldn’t worry you, though you should double-check that the excluded list contains everything you want it to. Head over to our guide to Google Search Operators to learn how to search Google itself to find duplicate content on your site. You may need to update your robots.txt file, a file that tells the Googlebots which pages to crawl and which to exclude.
The error and valid with warnings notifications are what you should be concerned about. Errors mean that your page is not indexed, i.e., unfindable on Google due to crawl errors. Click on the “Errors” tab and scroll down to see the list of the current errors on your site.
Click on the specific error you want to investigate, and Google will tell you what kind of error your page is throwing (in this case, a server error) and which pages are affected. If you don’t know how to fix this error, the best way to solve the problem is to Google the specific error type or click on the “Learn More” button.
This button will take you to Google’s own documentation on what this error means and how to fix it. When you’ve remedied the problem, click on the “Validate Fix” button on this screen. This tells the Googlebots to recrawl this webpage so that it can be properly indexed.
The last way to use GSC for indexing is to add new or modified web pages to Google’s crawl queue using the URL inspection tool. Crawling the internet for new content takes time; notifying Google that changes have been made to a specific URL will speed up that process.
To add a URL to the queue, put the URL into the search bar at the top of the screen and hit “Enter.”
The next screen will tell you the status of this specific page.
If the URL is not on Google or if you’ve made major changes to the URL, such as a page refresh, you can hit the “Request Indexing” button to have Google queue your page for crawling.
When new pages go live, make adding them on GSC one of the first things you do so that they can start getting search traffic ASAP.
2. Fix Page Experience Issues
In the last few years, Google has focused more and more on page experience metrics when ranking content. These signals are important to Google because it only wants to recommend pages that give users an ideal search experience.
GSC is where Google will alert you to page experience issues on your webpages—things like mobile usability, core web vitals, and page security—so it’s also the best place to let Google know you’ve fixed those issues and improved your page experience.
All page experience metrics for Google can be found on the new Page Experience report located on the left-side navigation bar.
The Page Experience report is a central hub, letting you see what percentage of your pages are deemed good and which pages don’t quite hit the mark.
The signals that Google is looking for can be split into five categories:
- Core web vitals: Concerned primarily with page speed and stability
- Mobile usability: How well the page has been optimized for mobile use
- Security issues: Any flagged security problems that could be a threat to a user’s data like malware
- HTTPS: Whether or not your pages are secured with HTTPS instead of HTTP
- Ad experience: This data for ad experience not included in the Experience report, but a warning about poor ads affecting page experience is explicitly stated
If the page does well in all of these areas, then it will be added to your list of pages with “good page experience.” Chances are, your website will not be perfect. To explore any page experience issues, click on the square you want to explore, and GSC will take you to a detailed report on pages with those issues.
For example, on the Mobile Usability report, you can see which pages have been flagged for issues when being viewed on mobile. Currently, our mobile pages have problems with text that’s too small for mobile devices, clickable elements that are too close together, etc.
Much like with indexing errors, the next step for usability errors would be to click on the individual issues to see which pages are affected, learn more about the problems, fix them, and then validate those fixes.
It’s imperative that you fix page experience issues as they pop up, as page experience metrics are a known ranking factor for Google’s algorithm. Letting them fester will only hurt your rankings. Try to double-check the Page Experience report periodically to ensure there are no new problems.
3. Optimize Pages For Existing Keywords
There are a number of useful keyword research tools on the internet, and although GSC cannot replace all of them, it does have unique data that no one else does. Most importantly, GSC can show you how many impressions and clicks your pages are getting from specific search terms. You can use this information to optimize for these keywords so you can rank high enough to start pulling in more traffic to your pages.
Under the Performance section of the navigation menu, click on “Search Results” to get started. The Performance report tells you how well your pages have been doing on Google Search, including the number of clicks your pages have gotten, number of impressions, average CTR (click-through-rate), and average position.
Although interesting, this data ranges from unhelpful (average position) to nice to know in a macro sense (everything else). The real goldmine is when you scroll down and start to look into individual pages. Start by hitting the “Pages” tab, and then select the page you want to optimize.
Google will now take you to a Performance report that has been filtered to only this one page. On top of giving you a sense of how the page has performed over time, this data can tell you which search queries it has appeared for. This is the information you want for keyword optimization.
If it makes it easier, you can also export this data to Google Sheets, Excel, or as a CSV file by hitting “Export” in the top-right corner.
From this data, you can see how many times this page has appeared in search results (Impressions metric) and how many times it has been clicked on (Clicks). The best way to use this data is to optimize for keywords that Google believes are relevant to this page that you never intended to rank for.
For example, our Advanced Search Operators page was intended to rank for “google search operators,” and we currently pull in our second-highest click totals for this post with that keyword.
However, we get over 20x the impressions from the keyword “google advanced search,” so we could optimize this page for that keyword instead. According to our data at SpyFu, we are currently ranking 6th overall for that keyword; we could boost our traffic a lot by optimizing for it and increasing that rank in the SERP.
You don’t need to only look for big keywords either—you can find smaller long-tail keywords in the Performance report and consider adding them to your page to make it more comprehensive. This could mean adding a sentence or two or even an entire section to the original piece.
For example, many searchers seem to be looking for a complete list of search operators.
We could write a new section that’s a quick reference guide, telling you only what the search operators are and what they do.
By optimizing in this way, you can have your current top posts rank for more keywords, higher up on the SERP, driving more traffic overall to your pages. The same trick can also be used on under-performing pages. Look for search queries that these pages are getting impressions for and try refreshing them with these keywords in mind.
4. Source New Content Ideas
GSC is not just for making older posts better; it’s also there to help you find new content that addresses the topics people are searching for. As you did earlier, you’ll use the Performance report, but this time you’ll want to search through the data to find valuable keywords that don’t fit well on an existing page. Since these keywords already have some impressions (and maybe some clicks), it should be easier to rank for them than keywords you are going after from scratch.
To start, head back to the Search Results Performance report. Then, you’re going to export data from GSC into a spreadsheet to make it more usable. If you have a large website, you’ll want to filter some of the results by focusing your data around a single short-tail keyword.
For example, if we want to do some ideation on keywords for SpyFu, we can start by adding the query “keyword” to our performance data. Click on the “+ NEW” button above the Clicks and Impressions metrics, hit “Query,” and then type in your keyword.
After the filter is in place, export this data by clicking on the “Export” button in the top-right corner.
Once your data is inserted into a spreadsheet, add columns for volume and keyword difficulty (KD).
Finally, clean up your spreadsheet by doing a spot check for any irrelevant keywords. For example, we don’t have a keyword generator as part of our suite of tools, so we can get rid of “amazon keyword generator.”
Now use a keyword tool like SpyFu to look up the KD and volume of each keyword you might be interested in ranking for.
As you work, notice any patterns that emerge. Are there topics that continuously come up that you haven’t addressed? Are there keywords with higher traffic than you expected?
Ideally, what you want to find is a keyword (or keyword cluster) with low difficulty and a high volume relevant to your site.
For example, in our research, we found the keywords “google keyword planner” and “keyword planner” have high impressions but low clicks. The KD is high, but it would be worth trying to capture these keywords with new content.
This kind of keyword research takes time and effort, but it can also uncover the sort of content ideas you need to continue bringing in new traffic to your website.
5. Find Internal Linking Opportunities Across Your Website
Backlinking often gets all of the attention, but internal linking can be just as important, and crucially, you can make it easy with GSC.
Internal linking is a quick, easy way to improve the rankings of a post, as internal links can show Google the strength of your topical authority. By linking all 30 pages you have about keyword research, Google can more easily see all of the good content you’ve created on this topic and consider you an expert, boosting the rankings of all of that content in the process. The issue is that as your website grows, it can be challenging to remember to link back to all of the relevant content you have.
Use GSC to check which pages are linking to your important hub pages in your topic clusters. Start by navigating to the Links report on the sidebar.
Next, click on “More” under the internal linking subsection.
Now, start to explore each of your pages, beginning with the most important ones to your website. Click on the page you want to explore, and you’ll get a list of all of your web pages that are linking back to it.
Now consider which keyword cluster or clusters this page relates to. In this case, our negative keywords post is related to our keywords cluster, and we want it linked to any time we reference negative keywords. We can then use Google search operators to scour our website for pages where keywords or negative keywords are mentioned.
Make sure that every page on this SERP has proper links to your content by cross-referencing the pages on your GSC report with every page in this Google search. Repeat this process as much as you can. If you have a very large site, consider focusing on only your top-ranking pages or go after pages with the fewest internal links and build up those specific pages.
How to Use Google Search Console as a Specialized SEO Tool
Google Search Console may not be the tool that can do everything, but what it does do, it does exceedingly well. The trick is knowing how to use GSC effectively, namely for indexing, page experience errors, keyword data, and internal linking opportunities.
Once you have GSC mastered, it might be time to take a look at Search Console’s big brother, Google Analytics. These two SEO tools complement each other, with Analytics excelling at picking apart the searchers visiting your website. Luckily, Google has free courses that can teach you how to make the most of Google Analytics—we discuss the advantages of these courses in our article on Google Analytics certifications.