If you’re like most people who own or manage a website, you get countless proposals each week describing how there’s a “problem with your site” and promising to “fix” your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) problems for you. What many entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that there are amazing, free tools already available that enable you to do much of the work yourself. One of those tools is Google Search Console. In this post, we show you some simple strategies for using Google Search Console to understand what keywords are driving traffic and how to leverage that information to write better content for your website.
Set up an account
Chances are you already use a Google application of some type, such as a Gmail, Google My Business or Google Analytics. If so, use the same login credentials you use for any business-related Google applications so that all your Google tools can be accessed through the same account. Then, log into one of your Google applications, do a search for Google Search Console, and click Start Now.
To use the Search Console, you’ll have to verify you are the owner of your website. If you already have a Google Analytics account, you’ll simply need to enter your domain URL and the system will cross-reference the accounts. If you don’t have an Analytics account, you’ll need to embed some code into your website and then use the “verify” process for Google to read that code. It’s sounds more complicated than it is, especially because most web platforms now have fields where you can copy and paste the code. If you’re not sure how to do it, ask a friend, your web developer or contact Google Support.
Submit your site map
Next, you’ll have to generate and submit your site map through the Google Console interface under the Sitemaps tab. A sitemap is basically a listing of all the page URLs on your website. A sitemap usually follows the same format, which is yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml There are many free sitemap generators available on the web.
Once your sitemap has been submitted, give yourself at least two full weeks for the system to start analyzing your site traffic. Ideally, you’d wait longer – up to two full months – so that you capture a robust set of data before you begin to plan your content strategy.
Strategies for optimizing your content
Books have been written about the sophisticated and diverse strategies for improving SEO. Google Search Console can help you with many of them, but we’re only going to touch on four of them here, including:
- Identifying underperforming keywords
- Ranking higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
- Achieving higher click through rates (CTRs)
- Getting more backlinks to your content
Analyze keywords and content that drive traffic to your site
Here’s where the real fun begins. Once you have sufficient data to analyze, log into your Google Search Console account. There are many tools in Console that can help you make improvements to your website, such as page load speed, but for now we’re going to focus on content-related data.
Start by clicking on the Performance tab on the left. Note the filters in the upper left part of the page. Be sure to choose Web and your desired date range. The following example is for a business in the paddling industry. If you look at the Query tab, you’ll see over the last three months this website generated 6,194 impressions from the phrase “oar paddle” and of those, users clicked on the content 484 times. Next, jump down to the fourth line down that reads “kayak cart.” That term generated 14,788 impressions, but just 213 clicks.
By clicking on each keyword phrase in this initial list, Google Search Console will take you deeper into the data. For example, we learn that “oar paddle” has a click through rate (CTR) of 7.8% and an average SERP position of 1.1. The phrase “kayak cart” has a CTR of just 1.4% and a SERP ranking average of 8.2. If you go no further than simply identifying what keyword phrases are bringing people to your site and understanding the rate at which they click through to content for different phrases, you will have already gotten value from Search Console.
Using the example above, we can identify that “kayak cart” as an underperforming keyword phrase. The content associated with it gets a healthy number of impressions, but the information that shows up in search results isn’t compelling enough for users to click through to that content. Google also tells us it averages 8.2 on SERPs.
The Search Engine Journal reports that 28.5% of users click on the first link of SERPs, and 15.7% and 11.0% for spots two and three, respectively. Clicks drop off drastically after the fifth position. Therefore, any strategies that can either generate more click throughs and/or drive the SERP position further up will be beneficial to SEO.
Content Tip 1: In response to findings like these, there are several options available. We could test out different page or article titles, tweak the meta descriptions associated with them, or use more internal links between our existing content. Since we know the phrase “kayak cart” gets a lot of searches, we could create content around that topic, such as blogs, video demos, feature snippets, infographics or pictures that include the alt tag “kayak cart.”
Over time, these strategies will result in better CTRs and an improved SERPs position. Please note, however, that it may take weeks or even months before you see meaningful movement.
Investigate your most visited pages
Next, click on the Pages Tab where you’ll find the number of clicks and impressions for all of your pages. In this example, we filtered the search by “impressions” which lets us know that while the blog post about Kayak Roof Racks received more than 188,000 impressions over three months, it only generated 2,397 clicks, a 1.2% conversion rate.
If we click on that blog page link, and then click Queries tab again, we see a list of terms that generated those impressions and clicks. Here’s where we really find some great content ideas. In this example, quite a few different phrases led users to this particular web page, including verbatim questions like “How to strap a kayak to a roof rack.”
Content Tip #2: Find the keyword phrases that generate traffic to your site and create new content around them. You might not be able to gain much traction on the more general terms or if there’s a lot of competition in your category, such as “athletic shoes,” but you can use the other keyword variations to create new blogs posts, H1, H2, H3 headlines on your website, or videos that explore these issues in greater detail.
You may also find that that are dozens of variations of your main keywords that will bring people to your site. For instance, the website in our example doesn’t rate that high for the term “kayak paddle” even though that’s what they sell; there’s simply too much competition. However, the unusual pairing of the words “oar paddle” brings them substantial visits.
Maximize your backlinks
Backlinks are another important strategy for maximizing SEO. It makes sense. The fact that lots of people are linking to a piece of content is generally a sign that the content itself has value. Therefore, the more backlinks you can get to your site, the better Google will rank you.
Our final tip for using Google Search Console, therefore, is scrolling down the menu on the left and finding the tab called Links. Data from this page will show you who’s linking to your content, what content they’re linking to, and what internal links you are using on your own site.
Content Tip #3: Analyze what sites are linking to you and see if there’s a pattern. For example, you may find that your blogs receive a lot of traffic, but not your product or service content does not. Perhaps you can consider writing more blogs. Or maybe you published a study or some other tool, like an infographic, that are very popular. You can consider sending out a brief email request to others in your industry asking them to also link to that resource.
Go ahead, give it a try
We recognize that writing content that will raise your visibility, generate online traffic and convert customers isn’t an easy, but it’s good to begin somewhere. We think Google Search Console is a great place to start. And, if you’d like more help generating traffic, reach out to us anytime. We’d love to help.