Unless you’re really lucky or working with an experienced SEO copywriter, you won’t publish a new blog post on your website and see it skyrocket to the top spots in Google search results. To get there for a competitive keyword, you’re going to need to play the long game.
That means waiting, but it also means making changes over time to improve your SEO. But how do you know what changes to make? There are plenty of SEO tools out there, but the most useful — and least expensive — one is Google Search Console.
This free SEO tool comes straight from the source, and it can provide a wealth of information. With a little knowledge, you can turn that information into actionable insights to improve the SEO of your business website.
Read on to learn five ways to use Google Search Console to improve your SEO.
1. Optimize to Boost Current Rankings
When you publish a new piece of content on your website, you may track its ranking for a particular keyword you targeted in the content. A real estate firm, for example, may want a blog post to rank well for “homes for sale in Texas.” But that is not the only keyword that blog post will rank for.
Using Google Search Console, you can see every search query users have entered that called up your blog post in the search results. In other words, you can see everything your post is ranking for. That real estate blog post may rank for dozens of related keywords, such as “lakeside homes for sale Texas” or “Austin Texas homes for sale.”
Here’s how this information can help your SEO: if you see a strong keyword that your post is ranking for, but the post is ranking poorly (anywhere below the first 10 results), you can optimize the post for that keyword to try to improve the ranking.
Let’s stick with the Texas real estate example. If you saw that your post was ranking on page three for “lakeside homes for sale Texas” and realized that might be a great keyword to rank on page one for, you would take a look at the published copy. Search for opportunities to add the keyword you want to rank better for or put the keyword in a header tag, where search engines will give it more importance.
2. De-Optimize to Eliminate Irrelevant Keywords
This method is essentially the reverse of the first method. In some cases, you may see in Google Search Console that your content is ranking for keywords that aren’t really relevant. For some keywords, this may not be a problem. But in other instances, an irrelevant keyword could be bringing irrelevant traffic to your website. That means your bounce rate is likely to increase and the average time users spend on your site will decrease — both negative signals that can harm your search engine rankings.
If you saw in Search Console that this Texas real estate blog we’ve been talking about was ranking on page one for, say, “Levy Park Houston TX,” you might have a problem on your hands. People who type that query into Google are looking for the park or information about it — not a blog post about real estate. If Search Console shows that people are clicking through to your site on that query, you’re getting irrelevant organic traffic.
The good news is that you can use Search Console to fix the problem. Check the blog post for anything related to the keyword you don’t want it to rank for any longer. You will likely find the culprit quickly. In the example above, it might look something like a brief section on why Houston is a great place to buy a home that mentions Levy Park. Remove or significantly reword the offending text, and your problem will likely be solved in a couple of weeks or less.
3. Change Meta Titles to Improve Organic Click-Through Rate
Google Search Console will show you the number of times you have appeared in search results for particular keywords, as well as the number of times an individual page has appeared. These appearances are called impressions, and you can use information about impressions to improve the click-through rate (CTR) you get from organic search.
If you see that a particular keyword, page or post on your site is getting a ton of impressions and very few clicks, that tells you that people are seeing your content in search results, but they aren’t clicking on it. If you are ranking relatively well for this keyword or page, you may need to change what Google users see in the search results to improve your CTR.
What they see is the meta title and meta description. Google often rewrites these, but you can set them in your content management system and be reasonably confident that what you write for your meta title and description will often be what Google users see.
Does your current meta title capture attention and give readers a reason to read the rest of the content? Does it accurately address what the searcher is likely looking for? If the answer to either of these questions is no, change your meta title and see if you start getting more clicks on the page you’re optimizing.
4. Check Your Internal Link Structure
Internal links are links that point from one page of your site to another page of your site. They’re a big factor in how well you rank for particular keywords. You can look at internal links in two basic ways: the number of links and the anchor text you use for them. To rank well, you need plenty of internal links pointing to important pages on your site, and you need the anchor text to be highly relevant and keyword-rich.
But once you have more than a handful of pages and posts on your site, keeping track of anchor text and internal link numbers gets pretty tricky. Google Search Console provides a solution.
In the Links report, you can filter for internal links (as opposed to external links, which in this case are backlinks from other websites to yours). Take a look at the report — look for a page or post that has been struggling in the rankings. How does its number of internal links stack up to that of other pages on your site?
If you see that the struggling page could use a few more internal links, go into some of your better-ranking content and look for relevant anchor text you could use to insert a link to the struggling page. Do that several times, and track the performance of the target page.
5. Find Out Which Pages and Posts Aren’t Indexed
If your content isn’t indexed, it’s not ranking for anything. It’s not showing up in Google search results, so how could it? Without Google Search Console, it can be tough to tell which pages aren’t indexed, and it’s even more difficult to understand why. But with Search Console, you get a tidy little list of all of your pages, which ones have been excluded from the index and a general reason why.
In the Coverage report, you can filter Valid and Excluded pages. And when you drill down on the excluded pages, you can see a brief explanation of why the page has been excluded from the index.
If the reason why your page isn’t indexed appears to have something to do with the quality of the content, you know what you need to do: make the content better. But after you’ve done that, you can expedite the indexing process by using another handy feature of Google Search Console: the Request Indexing tool.
Find the page in your coverage report, click it and ask Google to “inspect it.” After a few seconds, a popup window will appear with an option to request indexing. Clicking this signals Google to give this page indexing priority the next time it crawls your website.
Need Help? Reach Out
Google Search Console is free, and the strategies we’ve described here are relatively simple in the context of some of the more advanced SEO tactics you can try. But that doesn’t mean everyone has the time or technical knowledge to actually do what needs to be done.
For that, you might need some help. And you can find that help at Hire a Writer. Our copywriters have in-depth experience with Google Search Console and similar tools — with razor-sharp writing skills to boot. If you’re looking to boost your search engine performance, reach out.