Update 19 April 2016: Google Webmaster Tools became Google Search Console not so long after I published this piece. There have been some feature and navigation changes, too. It’s time for an update!
If you’re not a techy, you may not have heard of Google Search Console (GSC). If you’re a writer and have, you may well have dismissed it as being outside your remit.
To some extent, you’d be right. They are the natural domain of techies, but you’d be wrong to ignore GSC. It can really help with your SEO copy.
And, like Google Analytics, GSC is free, so you have nothing to lose. Give it a go with my Writer’s Guide to Google Search Console.
Laurel & Hardy
Someone – I can’t remember who – put the idea in my head that Google Analytics and Google Search Console were the Laurel and Hardy of websites. Analytics is the large, slightly bloated one and Webmaster Tools the thin one.
Not many jokes from the Google pairing, but together they make a winning team.
I’m going to assume you already have Google Analytics installed.
You may find this article helpful if you haven’t.
Setting up Google Search Console
To make things easy, use the same Google account for GSC as you have for GA (if you have neither set up, then still make sure you associate both of them with the same Google account). You’ll find it easier to set up, and easier to use.
Open your GSC account (you will need to be logged into the Google account you want to use).
Now add a site.
Enter or paste in your site’s URL and then click on Add A Site (see red button, above).
Now you need to verify the site is yours. If you’ve used the same Google account for GSC that you use for GA and you’re using asynchronous tracking code on your site, this is easier than an easy thing.
Click on the Alternate methods tab and choose Google Analytics.
Click Verify, and GSC will be set up for the site. Job done!
Google has a Recommended method here, where you’ll need to use FTP to upload a small file to your server. You may have to use this – or one of the alternatives – if you’re not using the asynchronous tracking code.
Click I’m not a robot. Then click Verify to make sure GSC is set up properly.
Just one more thing… You need to set up the Default View as All Website Data (unless your GA account has other views set up and you have good reason to use one of them).
Now link Google Search Console to Google Analytics
In Google Analytics, go to the Reporting tab towards the top of the screen, then the Acquisition menu on the left. Then click on Search Engine Optimization and Queries
Click on Set up Search Console data sharing and you’re good to go.
But you may need to contain your enthusiasm. If you’ve had to install these services, you may need to wait a week or two while they accumulate sufficient data to be worth analyzing. Have a look now, but come back later if there’s not much to see.
What’s important for a content writer?
The one section, more than any other you’ll love is the Search Analytics section. It’s where you can overturn many of those Not Provideds you find in Analytics. While these aren’t quite as accurate as the old Analytics data from a few years back, they’re indispensable for your content marketing efforts.
So log in to GSC and find the Search Traffic menu. Click the little triangle to open it out, and choose Search Analytics. You’ll see the key phrases people are using to find your site, plus the number of Impressions (the number of searches your site has appeared in, the number of clicks that have led to a visit to your site, the click through rate (CTR) and the average position in the SERPs.
And, since you’ve linked GSC with GA, this data is available there, too, in the Queries section you visited above.
What else can help you as a writer?
Although it’s titled rather dauntingly HTML Improvements, this report can help you check your Meta descriptions and Title tags are OK with Google and if Google has detected any non-indexable content.
Click on any of the links, and you’ll get more detailed information. Here’s what clicking on Non-informative title tags shows:
Try to put everything that appears in this report right – especially any issues with Non-indexable content.
OK. Those are the two most important areas in GSC for writers. That’s not so say you won’t find other sections useful. Once you’ve got to grips with these, I’d say take some time to explore GSC. You can’t do any harm to your site.
If you’re a writer, I’d like to know how you use Google Search Console, and what you think of the Writer’s Guide to Google Search Console.