POV

Google Introduces Search Console Update

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Background

Google recently unveiled updates to its Search Console platform, a free collection of tools and resources to help monitor website performance in the Google search index. The move comes as a benefit to marketers, providing deeper insight into Google’s indexation data, with a thorough view into how Google crawls a website, which pages it chooses to index, and how various queries drive impressions and clicks.

In August of 2017 Google released the new, limited release beta version of Search Console to a handful of domains. Now, this beta version has been widely released to all verified websites. While only three tools are included in the new release, Google estimates the full migration will take place “over the course of the year” with full functionality potentially not available until 2019 or later.

How it Works

The Google Search Console (GSC) provides monitoring, maintenance and communication tools for webmasters regarding a website’s performance in organic search results. Previously called Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console is the direct-from-Google source of organic search data for digital marketers. The new platform also provides a point of contact with Google when errors and alerts are found.

The updates include a redesigned user interface with up to 16 months of search performance data, and a comprehensive view of Google’s indexing of pages on a website. The redesign includes three main tools:

1. Search Performance Tool
2. Index Coverage Tool
3. Search Enhancements Tool

While these new tools will eventually replace older tools in Google Search Console (specifically Search Traffic, Index Status and Search Appearance), all tools will live side-by-side until Google has finished migrating the remaining GSC tools to the new version.

Breaking Down the Updates

Search Performance Tool: This tool replaces the legacy Search Analytics report. As the only source for keyword-level organic traffic data, it is invaluable (Google ceased passing it through to web analytics platforms several years ago). Previously, the Search Analytics report provided 90 days of historical data; in contrast, the new Search Performance report enables users to access up to 16 months of past data, making year-over-year comparison of keyword-level performance far easier than before.

Index Coverage Tool: The updated Index Coverage report provides webmasters a deeper and more complete view of how Google indexes pages on a website. The tool displays correctly indexed URLs, as well as those that have been excluded intentionally or due to errors. Warnings about other potential issues are also displayed. For SEO specialists, the tool provides a deeper insight into Google’s indexation and makes drilling into specific issues and isolating errors alongside affected URLs much easier. By clicking into an affected URL, Index Coverage will display page details and links to diagnostic tools to help webmasters further diagnose and remedy the issue. In general, indexation problems fall into two categories: server issues (e.g. 5xx errors, 4xx errors) and directive issues (e.g. canonical tags, noindex tags, robots.txt rules).

After an indexation issue has been fixed, webmasters can check their solve by selecting the flagged issue and clicking “validate fix.” The affected page will then be recrawled and processed by Google with a higher priority.

Search Enhancement Tool: This tool gives webmasters details into warnings and errors that were identified by Google across AMP and Job Postings. More structured data and search enhancement types are expected to be added in the future. However, users will need to continue leveraging the legacy Search Console for insight on errors relating to other forms of structured data markup (e.g. product or reviews markup).

Resolution POV:

GSC has long been considered a vital insight into how Google views their website in terms of troubleshooting issues and understanding the performance of content. For clients and SEO specialists, the updated Search Console provides deeper insight into Google’s indexation data, with a thorough view into how Google crawls a website, which pages it chooses to index, and how various queries drive impressions and clicks. The GSC represents an efficient way to monitor site health by reducing the need to combine multiple reports to diagnose issues, while also providing a complete and unprecedented view of how Google evaluates a site.

Resolution ensures that all websites have a verified GSC account in place for each version of their domains, and that it’s frequently referenced as part of an ongoing SEO strategy development, as well as monitoring and reporting for ongoing success in Google Search. Please reach out to your Resolution team to learn more.