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How To Use Google Search Console

SEO best practices to outrank competitors & discover opportunity
  • Josh Nelson profile picture
    Product Designer
    Josh is a native Northern Californian Product Designer with a knack for creating beautifully clean designs and brand...

Have you ever wondered how people find your website? Or have you ever asked yourself if your website's content is really worth investing time to making improvements? 

Thankfully there's one simple and powerful tool that we use with our clients. It helps them understand their search engine ranking and find new opportunities to connect with the right people and further their mission.

That tool is Google Search Console.

In this Insight, we'll talk about how to use it to increase your organic inbound traffic and discover new opportunities. 


Google Search Console can help you understand how your business is found on Google. It's really that simple. There are numerous tools available within Google Search Console that can be used for Search Engine Optimization. But for the sake of this Insight, we will simply be discussing Search Performance Analytics. 

Note: If you are unfamiliar with the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO), we have some articles for you to catch up on. you can go over the basics here {what is SEO?}, and a more comprehensive understanding here: {SEO Audit - EvenVision Style}.

Google Search Console is an incredibly powerful tool. It's Search Performance Analytics breaks down what keywords/terms and word strings (long tail keywords) people are using to find your business. We'll walk through what this means a bit later. We must first define the four key metrics within "Search Performance Analytics" that we'll be referring to in this article.


Screenshot example - Google Search Console


Search Performance Metric 1: Clicks

It's as simple as it sounds. A click means that a person has clicked on a link that sends them to a website off of Google. So if someone clicks on a link to evenvision.com, that appears on Google that would be a "click" that would count. 

Search Performance Metric 2: Impressions

This is a simple concept, but it can be confusing. Google Search Console counts impression when web pages appear as a result for a specific search query. If a web page appears on the first page of search results, it gets an impression because everyone sees the first page of results. If your website appears on page 4, it only receives an impression when a user clicks onto the fourth page of results.

However, Google Search Console does not actively track a user's scrolling history. So if a web page is at the bottom of the second page, it may not actually be "seen" by the person making the search on Google.

This is why appearing at the top of page 1 of Google is the holy grail of search engine optimization.

Search Performance Metric 3: Click Through Rate (CTR)

This is a simple equations. It's calculated by taking the total number of clicks and dividing it by the total number of impressions. Generally speaking, the higher the Click Through Rate, the better.

However, this is not always the case. A search query can have a 100% CTR with only 1 impression and 1 click. This is not the same as a 3% CTR from over 20,000 impressions.

(total number of clicks) / (total number of impressions) = Click Through Rate.

Search Performance Metric 4: Position

This position metric is perhaps the most frustratingly complex metric in the batch. It has a series of subtle elements that affect it which is confusing if not understood. In general, it's safe to understand position as the location of your site, page or piece of content on Google.  However, it is affected by the following:

  • whether or not someone is provided localized results based on their search query
  • whether or not someone is using desktop vs mobile devices

There are other aspects that will affect your position metric, but there's only one thing you need to know right now. This position metric can determine where you are on the results page. Or in other words, how far up you are on the ladder.

Beyond these search performance metrics, there are also filters that can be used to separate content out. For the sake of brevity, we'll discuss only two: queries and pages. 

Filter 1: Search Queries 

Literally exactly what it sounds like. What individual words and string of words are people using to find your business online? This will provide you with a list.

Filter 2: Pages

The page filter provides you a breakdown of the key search performance metrics based on an individual page. 

Combined with search queries, you can find a specific page to see how well it is performing. Then you can add another filter for search queries on the top of this. It will show which words and sequences are people using that drive traffic to that page.

Here's an example.

Applying the filter for search queries to this specific page and we can see the following:

  1. importance of images in social media
  2. visual content marketing strategies
  3. how important is visual content
  4. visual content marketing statistics you
  5. types visual content you need

We'll talk more about how to use this information down below. For now, you can see how filters can be used to focus the data. 

 

Soar Above Your Competitors

 

Now you've been introduced to the key metrics of Google Search Consoles Search Performance Analysis. We can now start talking about how to use this information for Search Engine Optimization. 

It's important to first cover some key objectives of Search Engine Optimization:

  • Generate Traffic through organic discovery
  • Brand Development through focused content development
  • Reputation Management through positive link building
  • Targeted Customer Marketing through focused audience reach
  • Thought & Idea Leadership/Influencer through authentic content publishing
  • Competitive Market Position through position targeting
  • Long-term Artifact Development through content archiving

The important thing to remember about SEO is that our goal is organic positioning. What does that mean? It means that when someone searches for something, your website appears as a top result organically. This is opposed to ad-based/paid or "pay per click (PPC)" results. We emphasize organic search at EvenVision for the following reasons: 

There is a time a place for PPC, but it's amazing what can be accomplished through proper Search Engine Optimization Strategies. 

What drives SEO?

Ultimately keywords are important, but only when they are considered in the appropriate order. Google Search Console can help you understand what terms are being used and help you structure yourself. However, Search Performance Analytics are meaningless if there is no content backing that data.

Here's the pecking order:

Brand Strategy > Content Strategy > Content > Keywords = Success!

Notice that keywords are dead last. Why? Because if your brand strategy is strong, and your content strategy is sound, then your content will be developed organically. It will meet the standard of "good content" (authoritative, relevant, fresh). This means your content will naturally include keywords that will lead to ranking on search engines. 

Don't let keywords drive your content. If they are, it's very easy to produce bad content. This will become a major distraction once someone arrive on your site. Remember, search engine optimization may help drive traffic, but it won't help them stick around and convert. It's a subtle distinction but incredibly important to remember.

How Can I Use Google Search Console for SEO?

So, you have plenty of quality content. You can now use Google Search Console to perfect your ranking on keywords and key search sequences. Here's an example from EvenVision's website:

This is an article that I wrote a while back for EvenVision. It explains how we as web designers tackle the problem of designing a logo. When I review the information on Google Search Console I know the following key metrics:

  1. Clicks = 35
  2. Impressions = 5,905
  3. CTR = .6%
  4. Position = 29.8

What this data shows me is that there is a high number of impressions and a stable number of clicks. More importantly, it shows a position that can be improved with relative ease. It will encourage more visitors to discover the page and click through.

Additionally, there are other reasons for picking this specific page that is driven through a review of Google Analytics.

  1. Page view ranking = 14th - this is the 14th most visited page on our website.
  2. Unique page views = 90% of page views - this means there is a high percentage of unique page views.
  3. Entrances = 84% - this means that people are entering our site through this page.
  4. Average time on page = 3:52 minutes - this means that there is a high level of engagement for this page. In fact, this page is the 4th highest on our website for bringing people to our site.
  5. Historical data - Originally published July 1st, 2016

For these reasons, it's an excellent page to focus on.

Switching back to Google Search Console's Search Performance Analytics, we will begin by filtering the data for that specific page. Next we'll switch to search queries. You can find out what people are typing into Google that makes our article appear in the results.

While reviewing the results, we want to look for items that have a combination of high impressions and medium positions. Here are a few select items:

  1. California Logo Design Company - 291 impressions, 29.1 average position
  2. California Logo Design - 440 impressions, 39 average position
  3. Logo Design California - 505 impressions, 49.5 average position

Now there were other results that were high on impression and in the medium position range. However, a quick look at the search query shows which search terms are the best to focus on. This is for a couple of reasons:

  1. Search Query Intent - The searcher is most likely looking for a logo designer and using geographic zoning as a method for filtering results. 
  2. Search Query Focus - The queries have similar words and medium positions allowing me to target all three with a couple select keywords. 
  3. Easy Movement Forward - These queries are positioned in the 20's, 30's, and 40's. This means that there is plenty of forward movement available. 

 A quick side note.There's a desire among people to chase the first position in Google. It's possible, but typically there is a point of diminishing returns. This is when you're investing so much to move from 2nd to 3rd position to first that it won't actually matter. The costs of doing so outweigh the benefits.

Page 1 of Google matters. Being near the top matters. But trying to be the first position shouldn't be your primary focus to begin with. Remember the cost benefit analysis.

Applying your Search Result Knowledge.

Now that we're armed with data, we can start putting this information into practice and apply your new knowledge.

Step 1: Review your Page for Term(s)

The first step is to simply take a look at your page and search for the keyword/keyword sequence. Here's what I found when I did this on our article. The term only appears once as part of the author's bio summary. This indicates that the article is appearing based on Google placing our company within that geographic zone. 

Step 2: Review the Content Strategy, Goals and Objectives

Haphazardly applying keywords to your article can make things worse, not better. Make sure to review the original goals and objectives of the content and your overarching content strategy.

For us, this article is designed to help people understand what to look for. It also introduces them to a little bit of our thought process. It's not so much designed to have people find it and hire us. It's for people that we're already talking to. It helps them gain more insight into our process and understand what they are embarking on. 

What this means is that I should integrate keywords tailored towards encouraging confidence in our process throughout the content. Immediately I think about using a few "real world" examples into the article. Some of past logos that we've worked on follow the principles seen in this article. 

Step 3: Using Contextualized Keywords

The next step is to start using these keywords into the article. Here's a couple do's and don'ts of keyword integration:

Do's of Keyword Content Integration

  1. Focus on content strategy
  2. Consider searcher intent
  3. Think context, not simply keywords
  4. Write real content
  5. Make use of content structure

Don'ts of Keyword Content Integration

  1. Do not place quantity over quality
  2. Do not keyword stuff - think contextually
  3. Never use "hidden keywords"
  4. Avoid excessively broad or overly narrow keywords

So here's an example of how I would incorporate the keywords into our logo design article.


Example: Incorporating Keywords in Context

"Real World Example

Jacobszoon & Associates INC,

Logo Design - Minimalist Combination Mark Logo Design - Ukiah, California

Here's an example of a logo design that we did for a company based in Northern California. The logo has a design that is based on a combination mark, making use of both an Icon and Wordmark. This logo is actually designed to be a brand system and allows for strategically pulling the logo apart and using its various features and key branding elements..."


Notice that I was able to drop the keywords: "California, Logo, Design" all over this paragraph of text within context. This is a way of dropping in keywords that is driven through the content strategy and content development. It's also the best way of providing content that is engaging in itself. So, that when someone arrives on site, they aren't just presented with a stuffed paragraph of keywords that will make them leave.

Retrospective Data Review vs Proactive Content Development

There is so much power behind knowing how people are looking for your business and how you are appearing. However, it is important to remember that Google Search Console's Search Performance Analytics is retrospective. In other words, you're looking back on historical data.

This means that while you can optimize your search ranking from it, it will only tell you what's already happened. If your business is truly growing and evolving, then it's best to keep a proactive content development strategy. This allows you to stretch your business wings and explore new areas and new terms that can draw people into your business. Which leads us directly to our last section in this insight.

 

Opportunity Must Be Discovered and Taken

 

One of the most useful applications of Search Performance Analytics is the ability to discover new opportunities. It's very possible that there are pages or terms that are drawing traffic to your website without you actually knowing the exact value of them. 

Here are some things to look for when reviewing search query:

  1. High Impressions & High Positioning
  2. Low Clicks & High Impressions

Furthermore, you want to keep a close eye on which pages have the most impressions.

A quick side note. We preach content marketing and inbound marketing strategies because there's hard evidence that shows the power of simple blogs. Blogs are typically rich in content and have a wealth of keywords that draw people in. This is simply because your producing good content. 8 of EvenVision's top 10 pages based on impressions are blog style insights.

That said, Google search results do not necessarily mean engagement. A quick review of Google Analytics shows that our blog posts get the most impressions. However, they don't even crack the top 10 for engagement on our website.

This is website specific as you can see in the real world example below. Remember to review all variables when considering strategies for your website.

After reviewing search queries and page impressions, you can discover some really simple items that could potentially drive your business forward. Consider the following real-world example:


Real World Example Opportunity Discovery: 

Singing Tree Gardens

McKinleyville California

Singing Tree Gardens has a blog/digest on their site that features duplicates of past newsletters. By the way, this is an amazing way to capitalize on your newsletters for SEO. One of their digests has to do with a passion of the owner, and that's Japanese Plants. 

This article was originally published as a newsletter in May of 2015. However, it wasn't until December of 2017 that the contents of that newsletter were duplicated and put on his website under the digest. This is the process of archiving digital artifacts so that they have a dedicated home on your website. 

Without Analytics data or Google Search Console, it would be impossible to prove how successful this article has been. With both these resources, it's easy to see that this article is a smash hit.

Google Search Console:

  • Search Query Results
    • #1 for impressions "Japanese plants"
    • Position 6.5
  • Page search results "singtree.com/digest/plants-japanese-gardens"
    • #2 for page impressions 
    • #3 for clicks
    • Position 10.1

From these results alone, it's clear that this little blog post is a huge smash hit. It easily draws people into the website from Google. 

Google Analytics Verification:

  1. The blog post ranks #14 on the site for page views
  2. The blog post ranks #6 on the site for unique page views
  3. Average time on page = 4:21 minutes
  4. The blog post has a 91.66% entrance rate
  5. Bounce rate = 85.4% 
  6. Exit rate = 85.36%

What this confirms is that people absolutely are engaging with the content in the blog post. However, it shows us that once people have seen the blog post, they are leaving the site. That said, this highlights some amazing opportunities for their business. Here's a brief list of what we've recommended to them through this discovery:

  1. Make a dedicated section on his e-commerce website for Japanese plants
  2. Spruce up the article with links to go check on some of the plants on his website.
  3. Work on decreasing the bounce and exist rate. They can do this by providing dedicated pathways at the end of the article to direct people to more plants or other articles. 
  4. Continue writing about rare and unusual plants and put out more regular digests/blog posts.

There is a lot of opportunity for Singing Tree Gardens to capitalize on the results from Google Search Console. They can provide people with pathways that encourage them to purchase and engage more with the business. This is just one very simple example of how data can drive decisions that can lead to success. 

 

In Summation:

Google Search Console is an incredibly powerful tool. You can use it for search engine optimization and opportunity discovery. Through simple strategies, you can refine how people find your website and focus on key terms that can drive your business forward. However, do not forget that "Content is King." Without content, there can be no context for keywords that provide significance and value to visitors.

Remember, the goal of search engine optimization is not just to be found. It's to further the goals and mission of you business and organization.

 

  • Looking for SEO Help?

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