What is Google Search Console (GSC), a.k.a Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)?

GSC image

Google Search Console is a collection of very powerful tools that every WordPress site owners should use. Considering Google is the most dominant search engine in many countries, having access to a set of tools that not only allows you to know what Google thinks about your site but also lets you to communicate with Google is invaluable.

What to expect from this Google Search Console (GSC) guide?

The guide is largely divided into two sections.

In the first section, we created a list of videos for each function in GSC for you to get a good general idea of what each tool does. If you are not familiar with any of the tools this would be a good starting point.

In the second section, we attempt to answer some of the commonly asked GSC related questions as well as how GSC can be used to solve SEO issues.

Google Search Console Guide table of contents

TopicsVideosPosts
Introduction
Overview of Google Webmaster Tools
Search Appearance
Search Appearance Tools Overview

Structured Data

Data Highlighter

HTML Improvements

Sitelinks
Search Traffic
Search Traffic Tools Overview

Search Analytics

Links to Your Site

Manual Actions

Internal Links

International Targeting
Google Index
Index Status, Content Keywords, Remove URLs
Crawl
Crawl Errors

Crawl Stats

Fetch as Google

Robots.txt Tester

Sitemaps

URL Parameters
Security Issues
Overview
Other ResourcesStructured Data Testing Tool
Structured Data Markup Helper
Email Markup Tester
Google Places
Google Merchant Center
PageSpeed Insights
Custom Search

How to use Google Search Console to solve SEO issues

There are so many things that GSC can do it’s just unbelievable!

Some commonly asked Google Search Console questions

What is Google Search Console? What is it used for?

Google has done a great job incorporating many features in Google Webmaster Tools for site owners to access search data as well as tools to communicate with Google. Think of it as a collection of tools to help you communicate with Google about your website and to rank higher.

Are there alternatives to Google Webmaster Tools?

It really depends on which aspects of Google Webmaster Tools we are talking about.

For example,

  • There are many site audit tools out there that could provide better recommendations than the HTML improvements that GWT provides.
  • There are tools out there such as SEMrush.com that could partially substitute search queries data but those tools can never substitute GWT because they use estimation rather than actual data provided to you in GWT.
  • Moz.com, Majestic.com and Ahrefs.com can potentially substitute the back link data in GWT and in fact these services are much more powerful.
  • Applying Schema code is a much better alternative to Data Highlighter since Schema code is supported by all major search engines (Bing, Yahoo, Yandex).
  • Screaming frog can be used to find 404 errors, but not to the extend Google could because some errors are found by Google tracking back backlinks from other websites, whereas Screaming Frog crawl links within your site only.

On the other hand, Sitelinks, Crawl Stats, Sitemaps, URL Parameters are tools used for you to communicate with Google about how to process your site and for Google to show you how they are processing it.

In summary, there are some tools that could partially substitute GWT but not all of them.

What is the difference between Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics?

Google Analytics tracks visitors to your site and tells you where your site visitors are from and how they navigate your site, whereas Google Webmaster Tools are a set of tools to help you maximize your website’s search visibility on Google.

We strongly recommend all of our members to set up both services since they are both very powerful tools and free to obtain.

Would you recommend beginners to SEO to start with Google Webmasters Tools?

Disregard to beginner or not beginner, Google Webmaster Tools provide powerful information for you to rank your site higher. If you own a website and Google is the main search engine in your country, having a GWT is a must.

How does Google Webmaster Tools compare to Bing’s Webmaster Tools?

They both do a good job reporting very useful information respectively to each search engine. Having said that, “Index Explorer” from BWMT shows your site in tree structure, which GWT does not have.

Are impressions in Google Webmaster Tools search queries for exact, phrase, or broad match?

They are exact match. Say someone search for “buy Nike shoes in NY” that will appear as the search query. The reason you may not see such long string search query is that GWT only shows top 2000 search queries for your site.

How accurate is the search query data in Google Webmaster? – Note: Search Query is now Search Analytics

Let’s just say it is not 100% accurate but accurate enough to help you make SEO decisions.

The Search Query report is now called Search Analytics report (Sounds like Google Analytics – confusing?…. I know) and the data is calculated differently.

Below is a list of things that are different

Comparison with old Search Queries Report data

Data in the Search Analytics report is much more accurate than data in the older Search Queries report, and it is calculated differently. Here is a summary of the differences:

  • Individual page impression counts merged. The old Search Queries report counts every single page in the search results as an impression; the new Search Analytics report counts all links to the same site as a single impression (unless you group, filter, or compare by page).
  • Search properties and devices separated. The old Search Queries report has an option to filter by Web, Image, Mobile and Video, where Mobile means web searches from a mobile device. Mobile and desktop search metrics were combined for both images and videos. In the new Search Analytics report, the device type and the search type are separate.
  • Coverage and partial counts differ. The old Search Queries report and the Search Analytics report have different thresholds for how much data to store. This means that data coverage might not be the same for both reports, and summed values might be different between the two reports.
  • Image click count reduced. The new Search Analytics report counts only clicks on an expanded image (or on the “visit page” link) in an Image Search result that points to your page. The older Search Queries report counted any click on an image, expanded or not, in both Web Search and Image Search. This means that the click count will be lower, but more meaningful, in this new report.
  • Data consolidated by full domain. If you own multiple hosts in a domain (for example, www.example.com and example.com), you might see your click and impression counts drop for each host. Why? The old Search Queries report often assigned click, impression, or other data by domain name, where a domain might span multiple hosts. So, for example, a click on a link to www.example.com might be counted for both www.example.com and example.com accounts. In order to avoid this double counting, the new Search Analytics report now assigns all click, impression, and other search data to a single, complete host name. So, for example, a click or impression on www.example.com will only be counted toward www.example.com, and not to m.example.com, example.com, or any other variations. As a result, you might see lower totals for a specific account, but this does not reflect changed search traffic or user behavior, only an accounting change that ensures more accurate information for each account.

As a note, just like any analytics tools, there is not tool that can give you 100% accuracy but as long as the data sampling method is consistent, it is a reliable enough data to make decision upon it.

Why does Google Webmaster Tools show so many 404 broken links generated by JavaScript?

It is because the JavaScript generated URLs that do not lead to appropriate destination and Google detected it as a 404 error.

Does Google Webmaster Tools counts clicks on PPC results to calculate CTR for your website?

No it does not. All the data presented in GWT is organic search related only and no paid search data is included.

Do I need to submit a sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools if I am using XML Sitemaps on WordPress?

It is a good practice, even though you can also add it in Robots.txt to notify Google and other search engines where the XML Sitemaps are located.

Googlebot activity in the last 90 days gone down, should I be worried about it?

Maybe. It really depends on what you mean by down. Did you move to a new server so Google can download your site faster? Did you create more content recently? Maybe your site is down so often that Google cannot access?

This is a very good example of why joining our membership is beneficial. If you see something abnormal, let us know and we can help you find out the cause.

It’s time to gather more information to answer that question!

Do I have to add both www and non-www version in GWT ?

If your site has a redirect in place to ensure only one version of URL gets indexed by Google then there isn’t really a point in adding both. However, if your site has had both versions before then it’s a good idea to add both versions for monitoring purpose. Also, carry out site audit to ensure there is no duplicate content issue caused by www. and non-www. versions of your site.