As a blogger, if you are not using Google Search Console (GSC), you are missing out on an important tool that can help you improve the performance of your articles and blog posts. Previously called Google Webmaster Tools, this free tool gives website owners insight into how Google's search bots index their sites and provides a lot of information that can help you improve search engine optimization (SEO) and search performance. Also, you can also keep tabs on any malware or spam that might affect your site. And SEMrush integration with GSC helps you get an advantage of the On Page SEO Checker — a set of search optimization ideas based on the performance of your pages.
Getting Started with Google Search Console
Ok, let’s quickly get the basics. You will need to add and validate your site on GSC to get started, then link your Google Analytics account (to get richer search data). Finally, add a sitemap and submit it to Google from within GSC to complete the process.
The main sections of the GSC interface are:
Search Appearance, which shows you how your site looks in search results.
Search Traffic, which shows how your site performs in search results.
Google Index, which gives you information on individual URLs within your site.
Crawl, which shows you exactly what search bots find when they crawl your site.
There is also a section on security issues (such as malware) and a message section which gives alerts of any issues Google finds as its bots crawl your site. For an in-depth look at the interface, see the Crazy Egg Guide to Google Search Console.
But now let's look at how this tool can help bloggers with content optimization. Not only can GSC help bloggers improve their clickthrough rate (CTR) but it can also help boost search ranking for individual pages.
Find and Improve Underperforming Pages
First of all, you need to identify what pages to optimize. Though you might have an idea of what content deserves special attention first, it makes sense to promote those pages that have the most potential of getting to the top.
GSC can help you find the pages that need a helping hand. Go to Search Traffic - Search Analytics and click on Pages and Positions. You will get a list of pages with their average search position. Research shows that the top six positions in search results get the most clicks, so anything with a position between 7 and 15 is a good target for quick improvements.
Go through your content optimization checklist (try this one from Brian Dean or this one from SEMrush for a starting point). Check that content is relevant to what people are searching for. If necessary, update it by fine-tuning the content and adding images, media, and resources.
You can also check the specific URL by clicking on it. Click Queries, and you will get data on keyword rankings, CTR, and position - with this information it is easy to detect what keywords you should focus on in order to improve positions and impressions.
When you are done, share the content again via social media, your email newsletter, and any other key marketing channels. Also, go to GSC again to ask Google to recrawl the URL.
Improve Your CTR with Google Search Console
One factor that affects how your pages rank in search results is the clickthrough rate, and GSC can help with this. People click on your link when it is relevant to what they are searching for. So the more people that click on your site when they find it in search, the more relevant Google thinks it is. Since relevancy is an important Google ranking factor; a good CTR is good for your page rank.
In addition to CTR, engagement is important. You want to avoid pogo-sticking (people bouncing back off your page immediately after visiting it) as this will signal that the page is less relevant to searchers than it originally seemed. The more engaging your content is, the better its search position will be.
Google Search Console helps by allowing you to easily see the CTR for any page. In fact, you can compare the CTR for multiple pages in a handy table. To access this data, navigate to Search Traffic - Search Analytics, then select Pages and CTR from the available checkboxes. This will give you the average CTR for your whole site as well as the CTR of individual pages. It's a good way to see which pages are performing the best and which have a low CTR.
Once you have identified under-performing pages with GSC, there are several areas you can tweak to improve CTR.
1. Optimize Titles
I will start with the example. I recently achieved a 31% increase in click-through rate in two weeks by changing the page title from this:
SEMrush Study: 11 Most Common On-site SEO Issues
11 Most Common On-site SEO Issues - SEMrush Study
Conclusions? The change puts the information most people are searching for at the beginning of the page title, rather than in the middle to end. This gives them the most relevant information immediately and makes it more likely they will click. Plus, on mobile devices, where titles may be truncated, people will still know what information the link will give them, which I am sure is a factor in the improved CTR.
Some ways to improve headlines and titles include:
Using numbers to stop eyes from wandering away from your content.
Making sure that the headline is simple and descriptive so that readers know exactly what they are getting.
Including "how", "why" or "what" in the title as these words make people click.
Using the right trigger words and creating urgency.
Check out our guide to writing perfect headlines for more help with this tip.
2. Optimize Descriptions
As well as optimizing page titles, it is important to look at other metadata. Go to Search Analytics and scroll down to the list of queries. Click on the external link symbol at the end of each query to see how the results appear in search.
Pay attention to the page descriptions that appear under the titles in search results. As well as the titles, the descriptions give searchers context so they can decide what to click on. Our previous research found that 30% of sites have duplicate meta descriptions and 25% have no description at all, which is a problem not just for SEO but for CTR. Creating the right meta description will improve CTR, as Brian Dean of Backlinko found: one site increased organic traffic by 48.7% simply by improving titles and descriptions.
3. Optimize URLs
While you are looking at the descriptions, take a look at the URLs that appear under the titles. Is it easy to tell what the content is about from the URL? If not, there is some work to do. As Moz points out when people can read and understand your URLs, they are more likely to click. So, replace incomprehensible strings of numbers with relevant keywords instead. (And if you change URLs, remember to avoid the redirect issues in tip #13 here.)
4. Add Schema Markup
Schema markup is another way to improve your site's performance in search. Schema markup uses microdata tags to generate rich snippets in search results. This helps Google to answer readers' queries better, rather than simply to provide links. Again, if your site has markup that makes it more relevant to a search query, it is more likely to be displayed.
Google Search Console can also help with this. To get started, go to Search Appearance - Structured Data and see what the data for your site looks like. If you get a message that there is no structured data, use the Data Highlighter tool to get the ball rolling.
Click on Start Highlighting, then input a URL that's typical of your site content (such as your latest blog post). Use the tool to:
Choose a content type, such as article, reviews, video or others
Highlight the publication date and author
Highlight the title
Indicate any images
Then GSC will try to tag the rest of your content the same way, using a sample batch of pages. Check all of them, and make sure the content is highlighted appropriate. Click done, and GSC will apply the same markup to the rest of your pages. Use Synup's Schema Scanner to see if everything looks right.
Utilizing Organic Traffic Insights
Lucky for any blogger you can utilize more than just Google Search Console data to see how what is happening with your blog post traffic. You can now sync your GSC with the Organic Traffic Insights to get a complete view of your keyword traffic, including those “not provided” keywords.
Not only can you analyze these not provided keywords but you can now find potential traffic growth points and correct your SEO accordingly.
Utilizing your Google Search Console with Organic Traffic Insights brings you all of your traffic data in one place. This will save you time as you will no longer need to switch back in forth between tabs in order to get a look at how a page is performing organically.
So how can a blogger use this information to leverage their visibility in search? Well, the first thing you can do is analyze which keywords are bringing traffic to your page. If your blog post is within the top 50 landing pages on your site, you can simply look for a blog post you want to analyze under the landing pages section and click on the corresponding keywords. This can be done for both SEMrush keywords, as well as those found in GSC.
After you spend some time analyzing these keywords, you will be able to get a better idea of which of these keywords are going to be best suited in increasing the presence of specific page. You could shift your focus to the keywords that are getting a large number of impressions but a lower number of clicks. This shows that these keywords are being seen by a large number of users but aren’t resulting in clicks to your page.
You can then filter out your SEMrush or GSC keywords by specific data sets such as traffic share to find the keywords that are driving the highest percentage of traffic to your blog. This can help show you what users are searching for directly before they find your posts.
How to Automate the Process with On Page SEO Checker
Bloggers who use SEMrush have an additional advantage. SEMrush On Page SEO Checker provides a structured list of prospective improvements you need to improve your web pages rankings — for every URL-Keyword pair, it provides suggestions for content, backlinks, and technical SEO.
You will be able to export pages URL-Keyword pairs from GSC. All pairs can be sorted by keywords with the highest number of clicks, Impressions, CTR, and Positions. Also, you can use filters by country; include or exclude keywords, containing certain words.
So, whenever you import all these pairs into On Page SEO Checker, a big amount of URLs will be checked for different SEO elements within a couple of minutes. As a result, you will get a list of actionable tips from various areas of search optimization which you can use right away. After importing these URL and Keywords from GSC into On Page SEO Checker, you will get the following ideas:
Strategy Ideas — this section provides you with insights on your overall SEO strategy and shows whether there are pages that require your attention before others. It also checks for the signs of keyword cannibalization; if there are pages that have higher rankings for the same keywords, you will see them on the list.
Backlinks Ideas — by analyzing your top-10 Google rivals, this section shows where your competition gets their best-performing backlinks and suggests to obtain it on the same referring domains.
Technical SEO Ideas — here you can find a list of all the tech SEO issues that make your page underperform: missing <title> and <meta> tags, duplicated content, missing internal links and page crawling issues.
UX Ideas — provides insights on how the users interact with your website and notify if the bounce rate and time spent on site differ from the expected values. Here you can also see how long the page loads and whether it influences the user experience negatively.
SERP Features Ideas — if some of your analyzed pages have a chance of getting into a featured snippet or should get a star rating, you will see a notification here.
Semantic Ideas — here you will see ideas on how to enrich your content with semantically related words that are used by your competition who rank for the same keywords.
Content Ideas — here you will see suggestions regarding the length and readability of your texts, keyword density insights, and correct usage of keywords in <h1>, <title>, <meta> and <body> tags.
“Don’t think that your content is ‘done’ whenever you hit publish button” - I am a longtime supporter of this statement. Publishing is just the beginning. Google Search Console is a great (and free!) source of important data bloggers can use to identify underperforming content and fix it. Please share your techniques for improving your content performance!