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How To Use Google Search Console

SEO best practices to outrank competitors & discover opportunity
  • Josh Nelson profile picture
    Marketing & UI Designer
    Josh is a native Northern Californian UI 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 into making improvements? 

Thankfully there's one simple and incredibly powerful tool that we use with our clients to help them understand their ranking and find new opportunities to connect with the right people and further their mission. That tool is Google Search Console and in this Insight we'll be talking 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 simplicity in this Insight, we will simply be discussing Search Performance Analytics. 

Note: If you are unfamiliar with the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO), before going any further in this article I'd highly recommend familiarizing yourself with 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 essentially breaks down what keywords/terms & word strings (long tail keywords) people are using to find your business. We'll be walking through what this means a bit later because to start off we need to 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 there is some potential for confusion. An impression is counted by Google Search Console if your website has a page that appears as a result of a search query. However, this could mean that your website is appearing on page 4 of Google, and thus doesn't define if it's actually "seen" by the person making a search on Google. 

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

Search Performance Metric 3: Click Through Rate (CTR)

This is a simple equation that is 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. If for instance, your search query only has 1 impression and 1 click than it is not a good term in comparison to a 3% CTR from over 20,000 impressions.

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

Search Performance Metric 4: Position

The position metric is perhaps the most frustratingly complex metric in the batch and has a series of subtle elements that affect it which can cause confusion if not understood. Generally speaking, it's safe to understand position as the location that your site, page, or piece of content appears 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 to simplify this section you only need to know that the position metric can be used to determine how far down you are on the results, in comparison to 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 break down 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, and then subsequently add another filter for Search Queries on top of this to show which words and sequences are people using that drive traffic to that page. 

Example: https://www.evenvision.com/articles/importance-visual-content

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, but now you can see how filters can be used to focus the data. 

 

Soar Above Your Competitors

 

Now that 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, as 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 based on the standard of "Good Content" (Authoritative, Relevant, Fresh). This means your content will naturally include keywords that will lead to ranking on Search Engines. 

Note: Do not let keywords drive your content. If keywords are driving your content it's very easy to produce bad content that will become a major distraction once someone arrives 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?

Once you've got a site rich with content you can use Google Search Console to perfect your ranking on keywords, key search sequences and the like. Here's an example from EvenVision's website:

Example: https://www.evenvision.com/articles/what-do-i-want-logo

This is an article that I wrote a while back for EvenVision, that 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, a stable amount of clicks and a position that can be improved with relative ease to 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. Pageview 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 Consoles Search Performance Analytics we will begin by filtering the data for that specific page. Once we've done this we will switch to search queries to find out what people are typing into to Google that is causing our article to appear in the results.

While reviewing the results we want to look for items that stand out for having a combination of high impressions & 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 & in the medium position range, but performing a quick qualitative analysis of the search query I determined that these two search queries where the best to focus on for two 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, which means that there is plenty of forward movement available. 

Sidenote: There is a desire among people to chase the first position in Google. It's possible but typically there is a point of diminishing returns; at which point you're investing so heavily to move from 2nd or 3rd position to first that it doesn't ultimately matter cause 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 your 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. What I discovered when I did this on our article is that the term only appears once as part of the Authors bio summary, which is an indication that the article is appearing based on Google placing our company within that Geographic zone. 

Step 2: Review the content strategy, goals and objectives

Before haphazardly applying keywords to your article 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, and also introduce them to a little bit of our thought process. It's not so much designed to have people find it and hire us, as it is for people that are already in talks with us to gain more insight into our process and understand what they are embarking on. 

What this means is that the way I should integrate the keywords should be tailored towards encouraging confidence in our process along the lines of the content. Immediately I think about incorporating a few "real world" examples into the article of past logo's that we've worked on which follow the principles documented in this article. 

Step 3: Incorporating Contextualized Keywords

The next step is to start incorporating 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 keywords in 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 cause them to 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, but 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 to a Proactive Content Development strategy. This allows you to stretch your wings and explore new areas and new terms that can draw people into your business. Which leads 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.

Sidenote: We preach content marketing and inbound marketing strategies because there is some really 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 simply because your producing good content. 8 of EvenVision's top 10 pages based on impressions are Blogs style insights. That said, Google Search Results do not necessarily mean engagement, as a quick review of Google Analytics shows that while our blog posts get the most impressions they don't even crack the top 10 for engagement on our website. However, 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 sometimes 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 (which is in itself 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 is of Japanese Plants. 

This article was originally published as a newsletter in May of 2015, but 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, but 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 when it comes to the drawing people into the website from Google. 

Google Analytics Verification:

  1. The blog post ranks #14 on the site for pageviews
  2. The blog post ranks #6 on the site for Unique pageviews
  3. Average time on page = 4:21 mins
  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 that are in the article.
  3. Work on decreasing the bounce & exist rate 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 and 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 contextualized keywords that provide significance and value to visitors.

Remember, the goal of search engine optimization is not simply to be found but to further the goals and mission of your business and organization.

 

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