Google Search Console & Analytics - overview, tips and best practices

  • Felix Rose-Collins
  • 18 min read
Google Search Console & Analytics - overview, tips and best practices

Table of Contents

Intro

As the internet continues to grow, newer methods are used to measure how users engage with the site. But what tools are used to help make such data-driven decisions? Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

Throughout this guide, we want to help you become better at analyzing user activity. That way, your marketing team can focus their efforts and ad campaigns on the right people. Are you ready? Let's begin!

Chapter I - Google Search Console

What is Google Search Console (GSC)? Let's say you have a completed website for your brand. You'll need to know how it performs on Google Search. But how? That's where Google Search Console steps in.

Google Search Console is a free tool that helps webmasters track their website's visibility in Google Search rankings. It features multiple dashboards that give essential information on your website's performance and critical issues that need to be fixed. Keywords can be tracked on GSC, giving you further insight on which keywords are working correctly.

Google Search Console is an essential tool in any website owner's arsenal, and we'll show you how to set it up for your own webpage.

Google Search Console Dashboards

When using GSC, the dashboards act as performance indicators. Here are the most common dashboards you'll see when using GSC.

  • Performance: Gives an overview of your website's Google Search results.

  • Links: Displays what internal and external links are clicked on your site.

  • Removals: Used to block specific pages from Google Search results.

  • Sitemaps: This allows you to create a sitemap and view your previous submission issues.

  • Security Issues: Alerts you on potential security threats on your site.

  • URL Inspection: Provides information on Google's index.

Most of the time, you'll be looking at the performance report. Check the performance report to see how your user's interactions are in Google's Search Rankings.

What is a Performance Report?

In Google Search Console, a performance report displays the important metrics about your website. Metrics such as click-through rate, sessions, how often the site shows up in the search results; and special features (i.e., unique pageviews).

Performance reports have 3 main areas (Metrics Chart, Dimensions Tab, Top Filter) to help you configure the data to your preferences. The metrics chart shows the four main metrics to measure site performance (clicks, average position, impressions, average CTR).

  • Clicks - Measures how many users have clicked on your site.

  • Average CTR - Total Number of clicks on your website divided by the total number of impressions.

  • Impressions - Number of people who view your site.

  • Average Position - Total Change in Output/Total Change in input.

With these metrics, they give you insights into how your website is appearing on Google Search Console. When creating reports, the metrics will show your marketers what aspects of the site are working and what needs to be changed. Always find the important metric for your site, and use that as a base of understanding user activity.

What Are Metrics?

Metrics are quantitative measurements found in data. You use metrics to determine how much, what time, or how many users have interacted with your site. Metrics give you an accurate representation of how a process is working and give you base suggestions on where your site can improve.

Every business aspect has performance metrics that need to be monitored. Marketers have to track social media metrics such as program and campaign statistics. Use dashboard and analytic tools if you're trying to track business metrics.

Dimensions Tab

Unlike metrics, dimensions are used to describe the qualitative attributes of data. They are used to measure what the users have done or what has happened. For example, the dimension of a country such as the United States or Canada shows where your users are coming from.

To use the Dimensions tab, select the preferred dimension you'd wish to show up on the report. It will appear on the report table.

Top Filter

The top filter is the section that allows you to customize the data based on your parameters. It enables you to select the search dimensions, date range, and filter dimensions. Use this section when you're trying to separate data and find custom insights.

How Do I Configure the Report?

First, define what metrics you would like to see in the report. During this step, think about your business goals and what you're trying to achieve with your website. Once you've found your desired metrics, place them in the report.

Press +NEW on the filter button. This allows you to select the dimension you want to add to the table. You can add a search type filter to determine if users are interacting through web, image, or video.

Remember, when filtering search results, the information shown in the chart might not show up in the table. For example, if you make a query filter for your brand name, it won't add up to the chart total. This is because certain data cannot be shared due to privacy reasons. As a result, there is a limit to how many queries will show up on the report.

When using GSC data, part of the information is aggregated by the URL and the site. Besides basic data like top pages or top queries, the Performance Report gives you deeper insights into your website's performance.

What are Sitemaps?

Sitemaps are a file that lists the essential pages on your website. Google's web crawlers find these pages and crawl through them all. This makes it easier for your site to rank in Google's Search Engine.

As a website owner, you want Google's crawler to search through every page on your website. But in some situations, your pages might not have internal links directed to them. Sitemaps are used to help your website rank within Google's algorithm.

Example Case:

For example, let's say you're creating a boss. You can use XML sitemaps to help your audience find recent blog posts. You can start making a handful of posts and tags to start with. However, there might not be enough content to provide value to your visitors. Use an XML sitemap to show your users your best pieces of content while GSC shows that it has been properly indexed.

So how do you fix errors lying in your sitemaps? First, you have to dig deep into the reason why the errors occurred in the first place. It could be a simple typo that's causing issues to your pages. After finding the errors on the sitemaps, you can fix them so the website can start ending up on Google Search Index.

Here's a list of common design errors found in Google Search Console

  • Elements are too close together - If clickable buttons on your site are too cluttered, go back to your Site Editor and give them some more whitespace and room.

  • Content/Screen Issues - Remove the horizontal scrolling on your website. That way, your content will remain uniform and precise throughout the site.

  • Viewport is Not Setup - Make sure all of the pages have the meta viewport tag. This allows you to adjust your site's dimensions based on what devices your visitors use.

When setting up your website, fix the design issues to help your users navigate through your page. By doing this, your page will rank faster, and your visitors are more likely to convert.

Using the Removals Tool

The removals tab in Google Search Console is used to remove duplicate links on your website. During your SEO career, you will have a client that is suffering due to duplicate or thin content. With this tool, you can remove those excess attributes and help your page rank faster. It is divided into three sections.

Outdated Content

In the Outdated Content tab, you can see content removal requests made by the public. Here is where your site visitors will ask for changes in your current links. So any visitor can suggest updates if the right information is not available. You can see the outdated content within a six-month range.

SafeSearch Filtering

SafeSearch Filtering is a tool used to determine the difference between standard and adult-rated content. Use it to filter your content and provide more accuracy within Google's indexing system.

Temporary Removals

Want to remove unwanted links quickly? Try out the Temporary Removals tab. This feature allows you to temporarily remove links for a 6 month period. It takes a day to process your removal request, and it lasts up to 6 months.

You can block out bad URLs by having a 404 error or the robots.txt. Also, you can use the removals tab to remove the cached URL to remove your page description snippet. It won't make any changes until Google crawls the page again.

What is the Mobile Usability Report?

Since the invention of mobile websites, site visitors can view your site through multiple devices. However, mobile sites can be tricky to manage because their design and site layout are different from desktop websites.

With the Mobile Usability Report, you'll see what developmental and design issues are occurring on your mobile page.

What starts off as a great web design strategy can turn into an unclickable and confusing interface for your visitor. Mobile pages that are poorly designed have a higher bounce rate and zero leads. A poorly designed website leads to no customers and low organic traffic.

How to Verify Website Domain With Google Search Console

Before you can use GSC for your website, you have to verify it first. Your website domain needs to be verified so GSC's software can track it properly. First, go to the Google Search Console and press "Add Property." Next, select 'Domain' and type in your site's domain name.

After writing your domain name, "Click Continue" and copy your domain verification TXT record. Go to your preferred website hosting site and add the TXT record, domain name, and the TTL. Lastly, go to your Google Search Console and click "Verify."

It might take time for your DNS records to finalize the verification process. On average, it will take around 2-3 minutes. After a few minutes, your domain will be successfully verified!

Examples of Google Search Console?

Here are some specific scenarios:

Understanding Performance Drops

When having a website, there will be times where you'll have to measure performance. In reality, your users might show gaps in interactions as the months' progress. While your website can have 100 clicks in January, the total clicks can drop down to 50 in February.

How do you solve this?

Start by checking various dimensions to determine what caused the change in user activity. Sometimes the performance can be changed due to device issues, keyword ranking drops, or a change in the specific country.

TIP: You can create a comparison between two-time frames to see changes between a previous time period and the time period you choose. Go to Top Filter > Date > Compare and select the dates you want.

How to Determine CTR Optimization?

Knowing the click-through rate is a great way to measure the quality of your PPC ad campaigns. The click-through rate determines the rate users click your PPC ads.

Formula:

  • (Total Ad Clicks) / (Total User Impressions) = Click Through Rate

On average, a reasonable click-through rate is around 0.35% for display and 1.91% for search. However, the true percentage you need to measure is based on the industry you're attempting to target.

Thanks to Google Search Console, you can see the highest performing queries with low click-through rates. In most scenarios, you can increase the CTR by creating a better meta description or tag that ranks in the search query.

Find Keywords That Can Rank Easily

When using GSC, you'll notice some keywords that might not be optimized. Here's how you can find keywords that can enhance your site's SEO. Go to the dimensions table and use a filter to find the search queries your site is ranking for.

After that, go to the Pages tab to view what keywords are ranking on the page. See if you can improve the current page that has the keyword. Alternatively, you can make a new piece of content that uses the keyword.

Desktop vs. Mobile Device Performance

Not all website users are the same.

They have different devices and methods of viewing your site. With Google Search Console, you can measure the difference between the user's desktop vs. mobile performance. After receiving the data between your desktop and mobile users, you can make decisions to help further optimize your site.

Benefits of Using Google Search Console

Whether you're a website owner, marketer, or a CEO of your business, GSC is crucial to track your Google Search visibility. But there's so much more that this tool provides. Here are some of the benefits:

Website Messaging

Websites can have hidden issues when they're in use. Wouldn't it be nice if Google sent you alerts when these website issues occur? With GSC, it will send you messages when your page web crawlers are inactive.

With GSC's website messaging feature, you can know potential issues before they become a major issue. It allows you to create messaging forwarding and get notifications sent to your email.

After receiving website notifications, it's important to take heed to them. It's easy to ignore the notification update, but these are major improvements that need to be made on your website.

Organic Search Traffic

You can use GSC to improve organic search traffic. Organic search traffic is traffic that is earned when a user enters your site. Traffic data is a good way to gauge your marketing initiatives and website.

When creating website content on a regular basis, you can use the organic search traffic data to measure results and see if they correlate to actual ROIs. Through Google Search Console, you can measure the traffic through long-term intervals.

SEO Performance Index

Google Search Console has a Search Analytics feature that helps with seeing how your site appears in Google's search results. This allows you to view your organic and paid traffic and see where they are coming from.

Also, you'll learn what pages have the best CTRs and which search queries are made via smartphone. The Search Analytics section is one of the more popular features that are on GSC. This tool helps marketers assess their website's search performance and make changes as needed.

By understanding what pages and search queries result in the most conversions, you can focus on what is already working and remove the methods that aren't. Plus, knowing what queries are being made via smartphone gives you the ability to focus efforts on what works and stop processes that aren't bringing in the proper conversions.

Since your user's search queries are through the smartphone, you can use the data to enhance the mobile user experience on your site's pages. Look through the 'Search traffic' tab to the right of the dashboard.

Utilize Google Index

Google's Search Index is used to help users find important information on your site. It is algorithmic-based because Google uses web crawlers (web spiders) to view the information of your site.

When in use, the crawler visits your web page and collects information. The data that is found becomes converted to Google's index.

GSC allows users to determine what web pages are in Google's index. This tool will enable you to determine what web pages are showing up in Google's search results. Also, you can use Google Search Console to monitor links you don't want to be indexed.

With this information, use Google Index's report information to remove the unwanted URLs from your site. This report will show the blocked resources and content keywords. With this information, you can fix unwanted resources on your site and increase your content's keyword usage.

Google Analytics Integration

Did you know that Google Search Console can be integrated with Google Analytics? Having both platforms will help you boost your analytics efforts. This allows you to see your Google Search Console information in Google Analytics reports. As a result, you'll keep all of your data in one place.

It's best to use both Google Analytics and Google Search Console in conjunction. GA views a total number of search queries, while GSC gives you the most critical information found on your site. Google Analytics will tell you if your website users are converting, Google Search Console will provide you information as to why. Every successful marketing campaign uses both platforms, thus making integration a beautiful thing.

  • Go to the GSC dashboard and choose which site you want to link.

  • Select the gear icon located in the upper left corner.

  • Click the "Google Analytics Property" you want to send the GSC data to.

  • Select the Google Analytics account and click "Save."

In our next section, we'll go in-depth with Google Analytics. With both Google Search Console and Google Analytics, you'll have the SEO and Analytics tools needed to make data-driven decisions out of your user activity.

Chapter II - What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free tool used to track user engagement on your website. Each time a user interacts with the site, Google Analytics tracks, and reports that data in their software.

While Google Analytics is a powerful web reporting tool, beginners find it very overwhelming. When opening a GA account, you’ll notice many tabs and reports displayed right in front of you.

Don’t worry! Setting up Google Analytics is not difficult. You have to add a tracking code to the %3Cbody%3E section of your web page.

If it’s your first time using Google Analytics, go one step at a time. After using and experimenting with data, you’ll get the hang of the platform.

Google Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics is divided into two different versions. Developed in 2012, Google Universal Analytics (UA) is the “classic” version.

While it does have good reporting and data tracking, it’s starting to become obsolete. The data that’s processed in UA won’t be sent to a machine-learning algorithm. Google Analytics 4 allows you to track data from websites and mobile apps, giving it an edge over its previous version.

If you are currently using Google UA, you can transfer your data into Google Analytics 4. To do so, go to the Admin tab, select the Property and then select GA4 Setup Assistant. Doing this allows you to link your UA data to GA4.

Google Analytics 4 was revealed in 2020. One of its main advantages lies in its machine learning algorithm. Conversion Data on GA4 can be sent to a machine-learning algorithm that gives you better insights and recommendations for your site. You can still use UA, but it's best to set up GA4 on your pages so it can use Google’s latest analytical features.

Google Analytics Data

Data is presented in multiple ways in Google Analytics. After creating a Google Analytics account, you’ll be sent to the Home dashboard.

The home dashboard gives you a basic overview of your user’s activity on your site. For more details, there are five different categories to give you specific data insights. They’re all located on the left tabs,

Real Time

Real-Time data is measured live. It will only show data of user activity within the last 30 minutes. If you’re planning on launching a site, real-time data is accurate at tracking who is interacting with your site.

Engagement

Previously known as the behavior tab, Engagement measures how your users are interacting with your website. The overview tab will show what events were triggered when they entered your landing page. Use this tab to see how your visitors act and make data-driven decisions to help increase their engagement.

Monetization

Are you planning on running a paid campaign? The Monetization tab shows how visitors are increasing your page's earnings. For E-commerce campaigns, you're going to need this tab to help determine what products your customers like the most.

Retention

The retention tab describes how well you are at keeping your users on your site. With user retention, you want to see what dates showed a gap in activity. By finding these gaps and improving your page, you'll increase the user retention rate throughout your website.

User Demographics

The user demographic section gives a breakdown of your website’s users by gender and age. For instance, let’s say you have a Facebook Ads Campaign that has users click on your website.

The demographics tab would show their age groups, and you realize that the 18-24 age group has the most conversions. As a result, you use your future ads to target 18-24-year-olds and maximize your campaigns.

Data Segmentation

With Google Analytics, you can divide your data into different parts. Data Segmentation allows you to separate your users into more specific segments (i.e., country, device, etc.).

Date Range

Date Range compares data from a start and end date. If this is your first time using an analytics tool, the date range is a great way to find historical data on on-site interactions. By viewing data in different time frames, you can better understand how your site is utilized.

This is a simple option that helps find results faster.

Secondary Dimension

As its name suggests, the secondary dimension is added onto a primary dimension in a data report.

Google Analytics 4 Reports

While Google Analytics has a complex array of report types, we’ll go with the basics in this section.

View Page User Interaction

You’ll want to track what users are doing with your site. To do so, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. The All Pages report gives you a clear overview of user behavior and how much traffic is directed to your page. This feature allows you to see what users are interested in when viewing your website.

How to View Top Page Interactions

The first 30 seconds are important to any web page. To view your top-performing pages, go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. This is a good report when you’re trying to measure which pages are getting the most traffic and conversions.

How to Find Your Best Traffic Sources

The Acquisition page helps determine where your new site visitors are coming from. Go to Acquisition > All Traffic to view this information.

  • Source/Medium: Find where your traffic originates from and the source category (i.e Facebook/organic, email/organic).

  • Referrals: View the top pages that are referring users to your site.

  • Channels: View the traffic percentage by your most common channels.

For instance, let's say you’ve noticed an increase in organic traffic. You can go to the source/medium report and compare different time periods to see the largest user increase compared to previous time periods.

Knowing Your Visitors

Google Analytics gives you insights into your website visitors. Location (countries) and demographics (gender, age) are the best ways to determine what type of people are viewing your site.

What Are the Most Important Metrics?

Usually, this will depend on what your analytics team is trying to track. When doing analytics, try to find the one metric that’s the most important to your site. Here are some metrics that are tracked via Google Analytics:

  • Goals or Achievements (Conversions)

  • How visitors engage with your website (Behavior)

  • Website Traffic (Acquisition)

User Acquisition Metrics

While the acquisition page is the most used, a few terms still confuse new users.

  • Pageview: Every time a user visits a page, Google Analytics tracks it as a pageview. If the visitor has seen the same page multiple times, GA4 still tracks their interaction.

  • Sessions: Think of sessions as the time period where a user browses your site.

  • User: Users are people who visit your webpage. Users are unique, meaning that if a repeat user visits the site, it won’t be tracked as a new user.

Session Duration

When a user starts a session on your site, GA tracks their activity until they leave the page. However, it's not a good idea to draw large conclusions based on these metrics.

What is the Bounce Rate?

The bounce rate measures how many website visitors left your page without taking any action. In most cases, a low bounce rate is good as it means your visitors are still looking at your page but aren’t taking too long to interact with it.

What Are Events?

Events are user interactions that can be tracked through Google Analytics. The events are triggered when a user clicks a button on your site or does any form of activity. In Google Analytics, you have to set up events to see how users are performing on your website or mobile app.

Use Events to Track User Interaction

With events, you can tell Google Analytics what activities your users are performing. You can create custom events to measure user signups, shopping cart purchases, etc. After configuring the events, the data will take at least 24 hours to show on Google Analytics.

But don’t just stop with custom events. You’ll still need to track what user interactions will lead to conversions. To do so, go to the Configure tab> Conversions > and click on the event you want to mark as a conversion.

After making a conversion event, the data can be sent to Google’s machine learning algorithm. This helps with future Ad campaigns as you’ll have the information needed to target your audience faster. For simplicity, create 1-2 conversion events on the most important user action on your site.

Chapter III - Rank Tracking

What is Rank Tracking?

Rank tracking is a process where URLs are tracked on a webpage. The URLs are tracked to detect user trends and understand the impact of SEO customization. Think of it as a way to see how your inbound and outbound links are viewed in Google’s search results.

Using rank tracking will help you see what strategies can improve organic traffic and site rankings if you're a website owner. In terms of Google Analytics and Google Search Console, rank tracking is easier to use.

Rank tracking is important for any SEO marketer’s workflow. To track keyword positions, you can use Google Search Console. If you’re planning on using a third party rank tracking software, here are some features to look into:

  • Historical Data

  • Organic Traffic

  • Keyword Positions

  • Daily Data Updates

  • Search Volumes

For best practices, you’ll want to track the progress of your keyword positions and see how they impact your overall traffic. Look at your keyword positions' current and historical data and make any adjustments if you notice a drop off in user behavior.

Chapter IV - Analytics Best Practices

Before starting an analytics project, here are some best practices:

Send Weekly Data Reports

Take the time to create reports out of the data you’ve seen. The rest of your marketing team can use this data to learn in-depth information about their users. When sharing reports, add explanations on data points and information that might be confusing to them.

Understand The Context Behind Your Data

Think like a detective when working with any analytics tool. You’ll want to find the root cause of a problem that could be affecting your site’s user engagement.

For instance, there can be internal and external reasons why there is a drop-off in user activity.

  • Website outage or technical issues

  • Wrong metrics are tracked

  • Errors within the rank tracking tool

When using Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and a rank tracker, you’ll have more useful insights on their behavior and demographics.

Send Alerts

When working with data, it’s always good to be alerted to drastic changes in user activity. Most analytic tools have a feature that sends email alerts if certain conditions are met. Having email alerts is a great way to stay on top of your data without constantly staring at data tables.

Create a Measurement Plan

Before starting any analytics project, you’ll want to make a measurement plan. Ask your marketing team the following questions:

  • What metrics are we looking for?

  • What user interactions can be turned into custom events?

  • What date range are we trying to measure?

Then create an Excel sheet for further organization. In this sheet, you can write down what metrics you’re planning to track and the current status of it. Doing so will ensure that your important metrics are tracked and gives non-technical users an idea of what you’re doing.

Survey Your Site Visitors

The best way to get feedback is to speak to the users that viewed your webpage. You can call them to ask them what their reasoning was on viewing your page and what needs to be changed. Finding user testimonials also increases user retention, as your site visitors are more likely to come back.

When surveying them, keep the questions open-ended. Try to walk them through your site’s navigation and see what insights they have. By surveying your visitors, you’ll get first-hand analytical feedback and extra ways to improve your page’s rankings.

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