Do you have your own website or maintain the website of the company you work for? Of course, to do this right, you need to keep a keen eye on the performance of your website. Google offers several tools to collect and analyze data of your website. You probably have heard of Google Analytics and Google Search Console before. These tools are free to use for everyone maintaining a website and can give you very valuable insights about your website. 

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In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the new Google Search Console. However, since not all features are included in the new version yet, we first tell about the features in the new version. After that, we’ll switch back to the old version. Of course, we’ll update this post when more features are migrated. 

Why everyone with a website should use Google Search Console

Google Search Console has been created to easily track the performance of your website. You can get valuable insights out of your Google Search Console account which means that you can see what part of your website needs work. This can be a technical part of your website, such as an increasing number of crawl errors that needs to be fixed. This can also be giving a specific keyword more attention because the rankings or impressions are decreasing.

Besides seeing this kind of data, you’ll get mail notifications when new errors are noticed by Google Search Console. Because of these notifications, you’re quickly aware of issues you need to fix.

Setting up an account

To start using Google Search Console, you’ll need to create an account. Within the new Google Search Console, you can click on ‘add a new property’ in the top bar:

However, the actual function of adding a property isn’t included in the new Google Search Console yet. That’s why GSC automatically switches back to the old version where you can add your website:

Clicking on the ‘Add a property’ button, you can insert the website you want to add. Make sure you add the right URL, so with ‘https’ if you have an https website and with or without ‘www’. For collecting the right data, it’s important to add the right version:

When you’ve added a website, you need to verify that you’re the owner. There are several options to verify your ownership. For WordPress users who use Yoast SEO we recommend using the HTML tag within the ‘Alternate methods’:

You can easily copy this code and paste it into the ‘Webmaster tools’ tab within the Yoast SEO plugin:

After saving this, you can return to Google Search Console and click on the ‘Verify’ button to confirm. If everything is ok, you’ll get a success message and GSC will start collecting data for your website. 

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Features in the new version of Google Search Console

Now you’ve set up your account what would be the next step? We don’t think it’s necessary to look into your Google Search Console data each day. Because of the email notifications, you’ll always be aware of errors right away. Below, we’ll explain more about all features. We’ll start with the new version of Google Search Console and we’ll end with the features which aren’t migrated yet. Sometimes you’ll need to switch between the new and the old version of GSC.

Performance

Within the performance tab, you can see what pages and what keywords your website ranks for in Google. In the old version of GSC you could see the data of a maximum of the last 90 days but in the new version, it’s possible to see the data up to 16 months. Keep in mind that the data is available from the moment you set up your account.

If you check the performance tab regularly, you can quickly see what keywords or what pages need some more attention and optimization. So where to begin? Within the performance tab, you see a list of ‘queries’, ‘pages’, ‘countries’ or ‘devices’. Each of those sections can be sorted by the number of ‘clicks’, ‘impressions’, ‘average CTR’ or ‘average position’. We’ll explain each of them below:

1. Clicks

The amount of clicks tells you how often people clicked on your website in the search results of Google. This number can tell something about the performance of your page titles and meta descriptions: if just a few people click on your result, your result might not stand out in the search results. It could be helpful to check what other results are displayed around you to see what can be optimized for your snippet.

The position of the search result also has an impact on the number of clicks of course. If your page is in the top 3 of Google’s first result page it will automatically get more clicks than a page that ranks on the second page of the search results.

2. Impressions

The impressions tell you how often your website in general or how often a specific page is shown in the search results. For example, in the GSC account of our own website, Yoast SEO is one of the keywords our website ranks for. The number of impressions shown after this keyword shows how often our website is shown for that keyword in the search results of Google. You don’t know yet what page ranks for that keyword.

To see what pages might rank for the specific keyword, you can click on the line of the keyword. Doing this for the keyword [Yoast SEO], the keyword is added as a filter:

After that, you could navigate to the ‘Pages’ tab to see what pages exactly rank for this keyword. Are those pages the ones you’d want to rank for that keyword? If not, you might need to optimize the page you’d like to rank. Think of writing better content containing the keyword on that page, adding internal links from relevant pages or posts to the page, making the page load faster etc.

3. Average CTR

The CTR – Click-through rate – tells you what percentage of the people that have seen your website in de search results also clicked through to your website. You probably understand that higher rankings mostly also lead to higher click-through rates.

However, there are also things you can do yourself to increase the CTR. For example, you could rewrite your meta description and make it more appealing. When the description of your site stands out from the other results, more people will probably click on your result and your CTR will increase. Keep in mind that this will not have a big impact if you’re not ranking on the first page yet. You might need to try other things first to improve your ranking.

4. Average position

The last one in this list is the ‘Average position’. This tells you what the average ranking of a specific keyword or page was in the time period you’ve selected. Of course, this position isn’t always reliable since more and more people seem to get different search results. Google seems to understand better and better which results fit best for which visitor. However, this indicator still gives you an idea if the clicks, impressions and the average CTR are explainable.

Index coverage

A more technical but very valuable tab within Google Search Console is the ‘Index coverage’ tab. This section shows how many pages are in the index of Google since the last update, how many pages aren’t and what errors and warnings caused difficulties for Google indexing your pages properly.

We recommend checking this tab regularly to see what errors and warnings appear on your website. However, you also get notifications when Google has found new errors. When you get such a notification you can check the error in more detail here.

Errors that could appear in this section: a new URL that you’ve added is set to no-index, a redirect doesn’t seem to work correctly, Google ended up on a 404 error trying to index an URL. Clicking on the link, you can analyze the error more in depth to see what specific URLs are affected. When you’ve fixed the error you can mark it as fixed to make sure Google will test the URL again:

AMP

Below the ‘Index coverage’ you can find the ‘AMP’ tab. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages: lightning fast mobile pages. If you’ve set up AMP for your website you can check for errors in Google Search Console. Within this section you can see the valid AMP pages, the valid ones with warnings and errors:

Below the chart, the issues are listed. If you click on one of the issues you can see the affected URLs. Just as in the index section of GSC you can validate your fix if you’ve fixed an issue.

Job Postings

Job postings are new in Google Search Console. Within this tab, you’ll be able to list your job openings and to track their performance. If there are any errors, you’ll see them in here. It’s not the most important feature of GSC but it can be valuable for specific companies or websites.

Sitemaps

An XML sitemap is like a roadmap to all important pages and posts on your website. We think every website would benefit from having one. Is our Yoast SEO plugin running on your website? Then you automatically have an XML sitemap. If not, we recommend creating one to make sure Google can find your most important pages and posts easily.

Within the XML sitemap tab of Google Search Console you can add your XML sitemap:

We recommend everyone adding their XML sitemap to GSC to make Google find your sitemap easily. In addition to that, you can quickly see if your sitemap gives errors or if some pages aren’t indexed, for instance. Checking this regularly, you’re sure Google can find and read your XML sitemap correctly.

Missing features in the new version of Google Search Console

As you might have noticed not all features are integrated yet into the new version of Google Search Console. Google explains that this could have 2 reasons: they may have found a better way of presenting the data or they’re still in the process of migrating the feature to the new version. As said before, we’ll update this post when there’s progress made in the migration.

The old version of GSC is still available for everyone. So, why should you switch back to the old version once in a while? We’ll list the features that are missing in the new version, but that seem valuable to keep an eye on, below.

Search appearance

From the ‘Search appearance‘ section of the old Google Search Console, we miss the following features in the new version: ‘Structured data‘, ‘Rich cards‘, ‘Data highlighter‘ and the ‘HTML improvements‘.

If you’ve added structured data to your website we recommend checking the structured data tab of the old version regularly. Here you’ll see if all structured data is recognized by Google and errors will be listed. If you’ve added structured data meant for rich cards, you can check for errors in the rich cards tab. The data highlighter can be used to markup your pages without having to code yourself. You can read more in-depth about Google Search Console and structured data here.

In the last missing feature of the search appearance tab, the HTML improvements, you can easily check, for instance, for duplicate titles or quite short titles which can be improved. These listings can be an easy pick: optimizing your titles and meta descriptions might increase your rankings and CTR.

Search traffic

An improved version of the ‘Search analytics‘ tab is included in the new version of GSC. However, all other features within this tab aren’t included yet. We’re talking about ‘Links to your site‘, ‘Internal links‘, ‘Manual actions‘, ‘International targeting‘ and ‘Mobile usability‘.

Within the links to your site section, you can see how many links from other sites are pointing to your website. Besides, you can see what websites link, how many links those websites contain to your site and lastly, what anchor texts are used most linking to your website. This can be valuable information because links still are very important for SEO.

Within the internal links section, you can check what pages of your website are most linked from other spots on your site. This list can be valuable to analyze regularly because you want your most important pages and posts to get most internal links. Doing this, you make sure Google understands as well what your cornerstones are.

The manual actions tab is the one you don’t want to see anything in. When your site gets hit by a Google penalty, you’ll get noticed in here. If your site is affected by a manual action, you’ll also get a noticed in your messages and by email.

The international targeting tab is important for websites who have pages in different languages and who target people in different countries or regions. When you’ve implemented hreflang to your website, you can check for errors within this section of GSC.

Lastly, the mobile usability tab within this section shows you usability issues with your mobile website or with specific mobile pages. Since mobile traffic is rising all over the world, we recommend checking this regularly. If your mobile site isn’t user-friendly, lots of visitors will leave it quickly. 

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Google Index

The index status is already migrated to the new version of GSC. There are 2 reports left in this section: ‘Blocked resources’ and ‘Remove URLs’. The blocked resources tab shows pages which Google couldn’t enter completely. It’s important to remove those blocking elements to make sure Google can ‘see’ your pages completely. In the remove URLs tab, you can add URLs that you want to remove from the search results temporarily.

Crawl

In the crawl tab, you can find the sections ‘Crawl errors’, ‘Crawl stats’, ‘Fetch as Google’, ‘Robots.txt tester’, ‘Sitemaps’ and ‘URL parameters’. It seems that you can find some crawl errors in the new index coverage tag but if we look at our account, we don’t see all crawl errors in the new version. This means that it’s important to check your crawl errors still in the old version of GSC. When you’ve fixed a crawl error you can mark it as fixed. The crawl stats aren’t included yet so you can find those stats in the old version. The crawl stats tell you something about how many pages are crawled per day, how many kilobytes are downloaded per day and how many time was spent downloading a page. If one of the graphs seem to decrease, you know it’s time to do something about it.

The fetch as Google feature gives you the opportunity to see if Google can access a specific page correctly, how it exactly renders the page and if there are blocked resources on the page. You can test your pages both for desktop as for mobile to see the differences between those.

The robots.txt tester is made to add your robots.txt and to test if any errors or warnings seem to appear. You can also add specific URLs to check whether they’re blocked or not.

The sitemaps are already moved to the new version of GSC so it’s time for the last feature of the crawl tab: URL parameters. In the URL parameters section, you can add parameters for your website and ‘tell’ Google how they should be handled. If you want to use this, we recommend reading the guidelines carefully. Don’t just add some parameters to see what happens. This can cause serious problems with your site’s SEO.

Security issues

Last but not least: within the security issues tab you’ll get a notification when your website seems to have a security issue.

Do you already use Google Search Console for your website? If not, we definitely recommend creating an account so you can start collecting data of your website. Do you think something is missing? Feel free to leave a comment!

Read more: ‘How to make your site stand out in the search results’ »

 

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If you want to measure the success of your content SEO strategy, you first need to establish what your goals are. What’s the purpose of your content SEO strategy? Do you want higher rankings? More traffic?

In order to evaluate your Content SEO strategy, you should identify what success means to you! Once you’ve established your goals, you can measure the success of your content SEO strategy. In this post, I’ll help you define your goals and give you tips on exactly how to measure those goals and the success of your content SEO strategy. 

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What’s your ultimate goal?

What do you really want to achieve with your SEO strategy? Lots of people SAY that they want to rank higher in Google. But is that really what they ultimately want to achieve? Or do they want to attract more traffic from Google to their website? Perhaps, they actually want to sell more stuff. Or, to have more return visitors. These are all different goals and these goals require different metrics to evaluate.

Ranking higher in Google for a particular search term will probably lead to more traffic. But not necessarily. We used to rank really high on the term [Google Analytics]. Most of those people were just looking for Google Analytics when they typed in [Google Analytics] in the search bar though – that was their search intent. So although we were ranking sky-high on a major competitive search term like [Google Analytics], it didn’t bring us any traffic.

In most cases, people probably want more organic traffic instead of higher rankings. And, if you have an online shop, you probably want to make more money: you’d like to attract people to your website that have a larger intent to buy. Your content SEO strategy should focus on attracting those people to your website.

Set up a content SEO strategy that fits your goals

Once you’ve established your goals and know what you want to achieve with your content SEO strategy, you should come up with a strategy that actually fits your SEO goals. If you want articles to rank higher, you should update and improve your best articles. If you want to attract more traffic to your website, you should consider a long tail keyword strategy. And if your goal is to sell more items, you should think of ways to attract buyers to your website.

Read more: ‘What is search intent?’ »

How do you measure those goals?

Once you’ve established your ultimate goal and figured out your content SEO strategy, you’ll be able to measure it. If you really want to know whether your content SEO strategy was successful you need to measure at least twice. You need to know just how you were doing before your content SEO strategy kicked in and you need to know how you’re doing afterwards. Let’s look at various goals and ways to measure them.

Higher rankings

Check the positions of your articles. For which terms are you ranking pretty well and which articles need an SEO boost? Rewrite and write new content. Add links. Do your content SEO magic! After some time, you can check your rankings again. If your articles appear in higher positions than they did before you started your content SEO strategy, your rankings will have increased. To keep track of your rankings, you can use Google Search Console.

More traffic

If your goal is to attract more traffic to your website, you should focus on the number of unique visitors you get on a weekly or monthly basis. If the organic traffic – visitors that come to your site using the search engines – increases, your content SEO strategy is paying off. It means more people click on your snippet in the search engines. You can use Google Analytics to keep track of the visitors on your site.

More sales

Increasing the number of purchases on your site could also be the ultimate goal of your content SEO strategy. It’s hard to measure the direct effect of your content SEO strategy on your sales. A decent content SEO strategy will need some time to have an effect. Still, Google Analytics has a lot of options on just how to attribute value of sales to certain pages. If you want to dive into that, read Annelieke’s post on how to measure the success of a Black Friday sale.

Other goals

A content SEO strategy could have other goals as well. It could be aimed at making people stay longer on your website and read more articles. The time spent on site is the metric you need in that specific case. Perhaps you’d want people to come back to your website: measure the number of return visitors. A totally different goal of a content SEO strategy could be making sure people find the information they need on your website, so they don’t need to make a phone call to your call center anymore. In such a situation, you need to measure the number of received phone calls – before and after your content SEO strategy.

Always keep in mind when you’re measuring something like this: try not to change other variables – things that influence, for instance, the amount of calls you get – during your test period! Otherwise your data won’t be reliable, and you’re still in the dark about the effect of your content SEO strategy.

Conclusion

How you should measure the success of a content SEO strategy largely depends on the goal of that specific content SEO strategy. What do you want to achieve? Specify your goals, find the metrics you need, define a test period and determine whether your content SEO strategy was a success. Good luck!

Keep reading: ‘Content SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

 

The post How to measure the success of your content SEO strategy? appeared first on Yoast.

Whenever you make some big changes to your website, for instance to your brand name, you’re probably eager for these changes to show in the search results. Unfortunately, it can take a while for Google to crawl your site again and until then, it will show the indexed version of your site in the results, without the changes. Of course, when people click to your site they see’ll the changes, but you want them to be visible in the results pages too.

So, is there anything you can do to help or speed up this process? And is there anything else to bear in mind when making these changes? Let’s get into that in this Ask Yoast!

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Jolene Moody emailed us her question on this topic:

“I recently changed the name of my business. We have changed it in the WordPress dashboard too. But I didn’t see the change yet in the search results. How long does it take Google to show this change?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Helping Google pick up changes on your site

“It depends on how often Google visits your site and you probably don’t know how often that is. Now, what you can do is go to Google search console and go to ‘Fetch & render’ and then fetch and render your homepage. Then, after it’s done, there’s an option to submit to index. At that point, Google will have already crawled your site and will use that data to show your site in the index, so when people search for your brand, at least your homepage will have the proper brand name.

But it’s very important, if you change the name of your business and people are still searching for the old name of your business, that you also have the old name of your business on your site somewhere. That way people can still find you for that, when they don’t know that you’ve renamed your business. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘SEO Basics: What is Googlebot?’ »

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One of the most frequently asked questions by fellow SEO consultants probably is: “What online marketing tools do you use?” In the ever-changing SEO world, it was time for us to update our list with the present day tools we use on a very frequent basis in a variety of projects. Some of these tools are mainly for SEO use, but they all come in handy for every website owner. Use them to check on your site’s health, improve communications and keep track of your traffic. And these are, of course, all important aspects of online marketing. So let’s dive straight in!

Google Analytics

The heart of many a search engine optimization/search engine marketing campaign is Google Analytics. You can use it to track the clicks on your website and the impact of the things you change over time. It is, for example, effective to track how successful your advertisements, email blasts, and SEO campaigns are.

To install Google Analytics on your site you have to put the Google tracking code on every page of your site. If you use a CMS like Joomla, Drupal or WordPress to create your site, you should find this easy to do, using one of the freely available extensions, like MonsterInsights.

Online Marketing tools - Google Analytics

Page Analytics by Google

This handy little Chrome extension is an online marketing tool that will help you read your Google Analytics data on a per page basis. There are more extensions like it, but this one is from Google. You can use it for any site that you have Google Analytics access to.

Online Marketing tools - Google Analytics extension chrome

Google Analytics Tracking Code Debugger

If you want to take your Google A=/=nalytics tracking to a more advanced level, the tracking code debugger extension for Chrome is very helpful. It allows you to see what Google Analytics tracks for the current page.

GetClicky

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Get Clicky is another great online marketing tool for analyzing the traffic on your site. Especially if you’re one of those people that don’t want to use Google Analytics. It has one nifty feature that GA doesn’t have: you can watch users navigate your site in real time. This means you can see what pages they land on, what they click on, what they download and where they leave. Using the Spy tool you can even track a given IP address on your site in real time. This will help you check what content on your site is attractive to people, and what content they ignore.

Tip: There’s a free WordPress plugin for Clicky (by Yoast) that makes it easy to install on every page.

Clicky Screenshot

Google Search Console

Google Search Console has many useful options for analyzing and evaluating your site’s performance. It’s still underused by people all over the web. We have written several articles about Google Search Console, so go read if you want to learn more. You’ll also find a few articles about Bing’s webmaster tools there, by the way.

Search Console Structured Data

A nice section to check is the Structured Data section, under ‘Search Appearance‘. See if your shop is well-configured in terms of structured data. This helps search engines understand your site, you can read more about that here. You can also check out our online course about Structured Data for more insights.

Fetch as Googlebot is one of our favorite features, because it allows you to fetch a page exactly the way Googlebot would. It then shows if there are any issues that prevent Googlebot from accessing your content.

Google Cache (Text Only Version)

To check how Google sees your site you can also search for your page, then click the small triangle next to the URL in the search results and click ‘cached’.

This will show you a (hopefully) recent version of your page. Click on ‘Text-Only version’, in the upper left corner of your page (in the gray area), to see the text on your page as Google sees it.

Google Cache

When indexing your site, Google looks for keywords in the domain name, in the Title tag, in the Heading (H1, H2, H3…) tags, etc. So check how Google sees your site to ensure that everything is clear. If you want to sell Motorcycles on your site, but all the keywords are Sales, Training and Special Offers, Google won’t send you much traffic. Also, when your content is buried under loads of paragraphs about other stuff, it won’t work well for your online marketing.

Wirify

Wirify allows you to see the relationship between text and graphics on a page. This is practical when you’re looking at complex pages and you want to see the relationship between the number of graphics and the amount of text on a site. Wirify lets you see where these elements appear respective to one another in a schematic way. It’s also a useful tool if you just want to use the layout of another site as inspiration for your own site. 

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To use this tool, just visit the Wirify page, drag the Wirify by Volkside link into your bookmark toolbar. Visit any page and click the link to see a wireframe version of your site.

MajesticSEO

MajesticSEO lets you see all the people who link to your site. Incoming links from other relevant and well-linked websites are crucial to ensure that your page will rank well in Google listings. This tool is also useful to see who links to your competitors. Checking that will give you new people to contact for your link building. Recently, we interviewed Dixon Jones, Marketing Director of Majestic, and he shared his views on link building and using Majestic. You can read it here.

Alternatives are Open Site Explorer and aHrefs.

Google Trends

Some search terms are just better than others, and search term value changes over time. Google Trends lets you rank keywords against each other, allows you to see their performance over time, by geographic location if desired.

Online marketing tools: Google trends

From a marketing perspective, the best thing is to have a website that focuses on a keyword that is starting a meteoric rise. For example, if you are the only cell phone accessory store with content about the iPhone, the week the new iPhone is announced, and your site is equipped to close sales, you’ll likely draw a lot of traffic and sell loads of products.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Another important tool for evaluating the usefulness of keywords is to examine them with Google Adwords Keyword Planner. You input a series of search terms and Google shows you how many people searched for those terms, and related terms, both globally and locally. Click on the headings at the top of the table to sort by keyword, by the number of searches or by competition.

Keyword Planner Google AdWords

Competition is a measurement of how many people are actively marketing that term through Google Adwords. This gives you an idea of how hard it may be to rank for the term.

BrowserStack

Online marketing tools: Browsershots

As time goes by, the number of browsers people use to surf the Internet increases. Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Mozilla, IE, Opera… and for every browser a dozen or more versions. BrowserStack (free trial) makes it easy to see how your page looks in all these browsers, highlighting any issues that may make the site unusable.

An alternative online marketing tool with the same purpose is BrowserShots, see screenshot.

Contrast Ratio Calculators

For anyone who creates websites, Contrast Ratio Calculators are critical. These allow you to check colors, and indeed entire pages, to conform to international accessibility standards. One such test is Lea Verou’s Contrast Ratio. It will instantly tell you if two colors are a match or not.

Contrast Ratio test

Remember when choosing colors for your website that a pretty large percentage of men around the world is, at least partly, color blind. Having good, contrasting colors in your design is important for them!

Quix

Quix is an extensible bookmarklet, developed by Joost himself. It allows you to easily access all your bookmarks and bookmarklets, across all your browsers, while maintaining them in only one spot. All you have to do is remember the shortcut for the bookmarklet.

Basically, it is a command line for your browser. So you can type ‘bitly’, and bring up a tool to shorten with bit.ly, etc. If, like most developers, you have fifty browser-based analysis and editing tools you use every day, Quix will save you many clicks and key strokes.

Share your tools!

The web is always coming up with new tools, new techniques, and new utilities, but this list provides a quick overview of things we use and refer people to regularly. We hope it proves useful for your online marketing efforts. Of course, we understand that this list might be a bit basic if you’ve been doing SEO for years. So feel free to drop your suggestions in the comments. Thanks!

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Google Search Console is an incredibly important tool for website owners. This tool shows you how your site appears in the Google search results. It also shows you what to improve to make the most of your listings in the results. One of the many cool features of Search Console is the structured data analyses found in the Search Appearance section. Let’s dive into that!

In this post, we’ll cover the Structured data tab in GSC, the Rich Cards tab and the Data Highlighter. If you don’t have Search Console yet – and you really should -, sign up on Google’s website.

Google search console home

Search Appearance

First, log into Search Console. On the left-hand side of your screen, you’ll find the Search Appearance menu item. This tool gives you insights into how your website appears in the search results. You can click any item to see how Google treats your site.

Structured Data

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In this post, our main focal point is structured data, so we’ll jump to the Structured Data section of GSC. Clicking on Structured Data will show you an overview of all the pages that have some kind of structured data attached to it. This could be in any form, like RDFa or Microdata, but usually, it will be in JSON-LD.

Structured data is all the extra information you give search engines to understand what a page is about. For instance, as the writer of this article, I am both a Person and an Author. If I add this data to the source code of this page, search engines can use that data to do cool things. If you sell products, you can enhance your search listings with reviews and ratings, prices and availability. These might all become visible in the search results.

Rich snippets products

Google Search Console shows a red line for the pages on your site that have incorrectly implemented structured data. Red indicate items with errors. You’ll notice that Search Console automatically sorts the list by the number of errors on a page. This way, you can start by fixing the most important issues first.

Google search console graph

Click on the lines in the table to see which pages have errors with the selected data type. Use these errors to prioritize your work. The big graph shows the progression of your structured data implementation as seen by Google. Let’s see how that works.

We’re going to take a closer look at the data. Above the graph, we see how many structured data items Google has found on how many pages, in this case, 218 items on 56 pages. Look closely at the left and right-hand side of the graph. The left side – in blue – goes from zero to 240 and this shows the number of pages with structured data items. The right side – in red – goes from zero to sixteen and shows the number of errors. At the bottom of the image, you see all the different data types Google has found on your site and all the items that have errors.

Errors

Now that we’ve analyzed all the different data on the structured data tab, it’s time to look at our errors. So click on an item with errors.

Google search console errors

After clicking on an error you’ll see this screen. This is where all the errors are listed individually. It’s the same kind of information as the screen before this one, so I won’t cover it again. However, now click on the individual error to see what happens:

Google search console popup

When we clicked on the individual error, a pop-up appeared. It shows information of the domain we’re on, information about the data item that gives an error and a button to test it with the Structured Data Testing Tool. Try to test with live data because GSC might give you an incorrect message. Also, the Structured Data Testing Tool allows you to tweak the code until it doesn’t give an error anymore. This way, you can safely test and improve on the error. Let’s move on to Rich Cards.

Rich Cards

Rich cards are new ways of presenting search results. These results are often amended with special, rich search features that make the results more interactive. For instance, a recipe site might get swipeable cards in the search results or a restaurant might get an option to immediately reserve a seat from the results. These are just a couple of examples. And since this is one of the areas Google is increasingly focussing on, you’ll see a lot more of these in the coming years.

Rich cards aren’t that different from structured data types. You can see structured data as the language used to describe the content on a page, while a rich card is a visually compelling way to present search results. And yes, more often than not, rich cards rely on the structured data that Google finds on a page. That’s why the Rich Cards tab is kind of complementary to the Structured Data tab instead of it superseding it. 

By the way, these are all the rich cards Google creates.

Add structured data to your site, validate it and you’re ready to get rich cards. If Google deems your site the best possible result, that is. In Search Appearance, you can check if your implementation is correct and if Google has already awarded you rich cards.

Google search console rich cards overview

Click on the Rich Cards tab and you’ll see a graph like the one above. On top of the graph, you can tick and untick the boxes. We’ve got invalid cards, cards that can be improved and correct cards. You can probably guess that each box shows a different graph. Also, our issues are sorted by severity. First, we’ll try and find out what our critical issues are by clicking on them.

Google search console rich cards

Now we see all the individual URLs with errors. We know that these are all image-related problems because that’s mentioned in the previous screenshot. Just click on one of the URLs.

Google search console cards popup

A pop-up will appear, similar to the one in the Structured Data tab. It gives you the option to test your live data and read the card documentation. You always want to double check your live data with the Structured Data Testing Tool. As said before, you can edit the code right away and see whether your changes validate. All good now? Great, you can start to implement your new code.

Data Highlighter

The Data Highlighter is a tool within GSC that allows you to markup your pages without any knowledge of coding. There are a couple of things you need to know before you start marking up your structured data with Google’s Data Highlighter. Firstly, your highlighted data is stored in Google’s databases, not on your site itself. Since the data is stored externally from your site, other search engines won’t be able to benefit from it. Ask yourself if you want this. Secondly, Data Highlighter only offers a limited set of schema you can implement. So it won’t be for everyone.

The Data Highlighter does make fixing the issues you’ve found in the Structured Data section easier. For instance, choose one of the URLs that had a faulty Structured Data setup and tell GSC what kind of information you want to highlight.

This will bring you to a live view of that page and you’ll be able to select any element on the page. By selecting an element you’ll be given a choice of what you want to highlight that specific element for. For example, for a Product, you’ll be given these markups to add to the corresponding element on the page:

google search console data highlighter

This makes adding Structured Data, for Google at least, as easy as a few clicks.

You can find the Data Highlighter under the Search Appearance section. Click on the “Start highlighting” button and you’ll see a new screen. Now we can fill in the URL (a product page, for example), select the type of markup we’d like to implement (Product Schema.org) and select if we just want to markup this single page or similar pages like it as well. We’ll only show multiple pages because marking up single pages shares the same core functionalities – only with fewer steps.

You can easily select elements on a page. Google automatically shows the available Schema.org you can select, see the first arrow. Once selected, you’ll see an overview of the data items on that page, check the second arrow. When you’re done, you click on finished – it’s the big red button in the top right corner.

google search console data highlighter save

In the end, Google shows you random pages from your selection to check the implementation. You can verify whether the information holds true for all of your products:

● Did Google unexpectedly include a page it shouldn’t have? Click Remove page.
● Did Google mistakenly apply the wrong Schema? You can correct it by selecting the element and change the Schema.
● Did Google do it right? Just click Next.

The Google Data Highlighter is just one of the tools that helps you implement structured data with Schema.org. It is, however, fully tied into the Google ecosystem and might not be the best option when you want to keep full control over your data.

You’ve reached the end…

Structured data gives you an excellent opportunity to open a conversation with search engines. By adding structured data, you make your site instantly comprehensible for engines. This way, they can use your data to present your content in innovative, highly visible ways that are guaranteed to catch the eye of your customers or readers.

Structured data is becoming so important that we’ve developed a course to educate you on this subject. In this course, we’ll show you exactly what structured data encompasses, what it can do, how to implement it using JSON-LD and Google Tag Manager, and how to check its performance in Google Search Console. This course will be available from June 29.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Keep an eye on yoast.com for more articles on structured data and SEO. And don’t forget to sign up for our brand new Structured data course!

Read more: ‘Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »

A good XML sitemap is a roadmap to all important pages of a website. This roadmap guides Google to all main content on a website. Having an XML sitemap can be beneficial for SEO, as Google can retrieve essential pages of a website very fast, even if the internal linking of a site isn’t flawless. Here, we’ll explain what XML sitemaps are and how they help you with your rankings.

What are XML sitemaps?

You want Google to crawl every important page of your website. But it can happen pages don’t have any – internal – links to them, which will make them hard to find. You can use an XML sitemap to make sure Google can find and crawl all pages you deem essential on your website. An XML sitemap contains all important pages of a site to help Google determine the structure of it:

XML Sitemap Yoast

The XML sitemap of Yoast.com

 

The XML sitemap above shows the XML sitemap of the Yoast website, which the Yoast SEO plugin created. If you read further down the article, we’ll explain exactly how our plugin helps you create the best XML sitemaps. If you’re not using our plugin, it could be that your own XML sitemap looks a bit different but it will work the same.

As you can see the XML sitemap of Yoast shows several ‘index’ XML sitemaps: …/post-sitemap.xml, …/page-sitemap.xml, …/video-sitemap.xml etc. This categorization makes a site structure as clear as possible. If you click on one of the index XML sitemaps, you’ll see all URLs in that specific sitemap. For example, if you click on ‘…/post-sitemap.xml’ you’ll see all the post URLs of Yoast.com (click on image to enlarge):

XML Post Sitemap Yoast

The post XML sitemap of Yoast.com

The date at the end of each line tells Google when we’ve last updated the post. This is beneficial for SEO because you want Google to crawl your updated content fast. When a date in the XML sitemap changes, Google knows that there is new content to crawl and index.

Sometimes it’s necessary to split an index XML sitemap because of the number of URLs in it. The limit to the number of URLs in one separate XML sitemap is set to 50.000 URLs. This means, for example, that if your website has over 50.000 posts, you should add two separate XML sitemaps for the post URLs. So, you’re actually adding another index XML sitemap. We’ve set the limit to 1.000 URLs in the Yoast SEO plugin to keep your XML sitemap loading fast.

What websites need an XML sitemap?

If we look at Google’s documentation, they say that XML sitemaps are beneficial for “really large websites”, for “websites with large archives”, for “new websites with just a few external links to it” and for “websites which use rich media content”.

We agree that these types of websites will definitely benefit from having an XML sitemap. However, at Yoast, we think an XML sitemap is beneficial for every website. On each website, you want Google to easily find the most important pages and to know when you’ve last updated those pages. That’s why we’ve added this function to the Yoast SEO plugin. 

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Which pages should be in your XML sitemap?

How do you decide which pages you need to include in your XML sitemap? Always start by thinking of the relevancy of a URL: when a visitor lands on a specific URL, is it a good result? Do you want visitors to land on that URL? If not, that URL probably shouldn’t be in your XML sitemap. However, if you really don’t want that URL to show up in the search results you’ll need to add a ‘noindex, follow’ tag. Leaving it out of your XML sitemap doesn’t mean Google won’t index the URL. If Google can find it by following links, Google can index the URL.

Example 1: a starting blog

Let’s take the example of a new blog. The owner wants Google to find new URLs of the blog fast to make sure his target group can find his blog in Google. So it’s a good idea to create an XML sitemap right away. The owner has created some describing categories for the first posts and he has written the first posts. He has also set up some tags to start with. However, he doesn’t have enough content yet to fill the tag overview pages with. Since these tag overview pages contain “thin content”, it’s not valuable to show them to the visitors yet. It’s, therefore, better to leave the tag’s URLs out of the XML sitemap for now. In this case, the tag pages could also be set to ‘noindex, follow’ because you don’t want people to land on those URLs from the search results.

Example 2: media & images

Another example of an unnecessary XML sitemap – in most cases – is the ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap. Since your images are probably used within your pages and posts, the images are already included in your ‘post’ sitemap or your ‘page’ sitemap. Adding a separate ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap would be redundant. We recommend always leaving this one out of your XML sitemap. Only when images are your main business you can make an exception. When you’re a photographer, for example, you probably do want to show a separate ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap to Google.

How to make Google find your XML sitemap

If you want Google to find your XML sitemap fast, you have to add it to your Google Search Console account. You can find the sitemaps in Search Console by navigating to ‘Crawl’ and then clicking on ‘Sitemaps’. You’ll immediately see if your XML sitemap is already added to Search Console. If not, click on the ‘Add/Test sitemap’ button which you see on the right of the arrow in the image below.

Google Search Console XML Sitemap Yoast

The XML sitemap of Yoast is added to Google Search Console

 

As you can see in the image, adding your XML sitemap can be helpful to check whether all pages in your sitemap are really indexed by Google. If there is a big difference in the ‘submitted’ and ‘indexed’ number of a certain sitemap, we recommend analyzing this further. Maybe an error prevents some pages from being indexed or perhaps you should just add more content or links to the content that’s not indexed yet.

Yoast SEO and XML sitemaps

Because of the importance of XML sitemaps, we’ve added this functionality to our Yoast SEO plugin. XML sitemaps are available for both the free and the premium version of the plugin.

Yoast SEO creates an XML sitemap for your website automatically. You can find it by clicking on ‘XML Sitemaps’ in the sidebar of your WordPress install:

Yoast SEO tabs in WordPress backend

The XML Sitemaps tab in Yoast SEO

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the screen that follows you can enable or disable the XML sitemaps of your website. In addition to that, you can click on the ‘XML sitemap’ button to check your XML sitemap in your browser:

XML Sitemap settings in Yoast SEO

XML sitemap settings in Yoast SEO

In the tabs below the ‘enabled’ or ‘disabled’ toggle, you can find the different sitemaps you can in- or exclude from your XML sitemap: Users/Authors, Post Types and Taxonomies. On top of that, you can also exclude specific posts from the XML sitemap if you think the content of that post isn’t valuable enough.

Check your own XML sitemap!

Now you’ve read this complete post, you know it’s important to have an XML sitemap, because having one can help your site’s SEO. Google can easily access your most important pages and posts if you add the right URLs to your XML sitemap. In addition to that, Google can also find updated content easily, so they know if a certain URL needs to be crawled again. Lastly, adding your XML sitemap to Google Search Console helps Google find your sitemap fast and, besides that, it allows you to check for sitemap errors.

Now go check your own XML sitemap and see if you’re doing all of this correctly!

Read more: ‘WordPress SEO tutorial: definite guide to higher ranking’ »

If you use our Yoast SEO plugin you’ve got the opportunity to connect it to Google Search Console (GSC). With GSC you can monitor the SEO health of your site, while Yoast SEO helps you to optimize your site. Connecting the two, so they can work together, will allow you to be more efficient when maintaining your site.

In this Ask Yoast we’ll give you the answer to the following question:

“How does implementing Google Search Console in Yoast SEO help me to optimize my site?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Google Search Console in Yoast SEO

Read this transcript to learn how you’ll benefit from connecting GSC to Yoast SEO:

“Well, honestly, connecting the two doesn’t help if you don’t make any mistakes on your site. But you’re human, right? So you’re going to make mistakes. GSC tells you when Google has found errors on your site that you should fix. 

By implementing GSC in Yoast SEO, you’ll see those errors in Yoast SEO. It makes it possible for you to very easily fix those errors and make sure that your site is as error free as possible. This is the best thing you can do for your site’s SEO.

So, if you don’t make any mistakes ever, then it’s not going to help you. If you do make some mistakes sometimes, even if it’s only a couple of mistakes over the years, it really helps to find these errors, fix them, and then be done with them.

Good luck!

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we help you with your SEO question! Did you get stuck on an SEO issue? Are you in doubt between two SEO strategies? Don’t fret, just ask us your question! You can send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘Google Search Console Crawl’ »

There are a lot of ways to check how your website’s doing these days. The most common one people use is probably Google Analytics. Google Analytics is definitely a great tool for monitoring your site. However, since the ‘not provided’ development, it’s become pretty hard to monitor your SEO efforts. And unfortunately, most tools that can monitor your SEO efforts come at a costly price. Today I’ll be highlighting one of the free tools; Google Search Console.

This is actually the first post in a series on Google Search Console. We’ll be going over every major menu item in Google Search Console, starting with Search Appearance.

What is Google Search Console?

Before going into Google Search Console, you might be wondering, what is it in the first place? Google themselves explain it the following way in their meta description of Google Search Console:

“Google Search Console provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google.”

This is definitely true, but it’s leaving out quite a lot of other things. Google Search Console looks at a lot more than ‘just’ your pages’ visibility on Google. It looks at everything that’s causing that visibility, such as backlinks, crawling (errors), robots.txt, sitemaps, etc. And on top of that, Google Search Console actually still shows you quite some search query data.

You can find your own Google Search Console by logging into your Google account here. And if you haven’t set up your GSC yet, you can follow the steps here.

On the 20th of May 2015, Google announced that the name Google Webmaster Tools did not cover the user base of the tool anymore. Only a part of the user base could indeed be called ‘webmaster’. For that reason, Google renamed the tool Google Search Console (GSC)

Other posts in this series

Search Appearance

search_console_-_dashboard_-_https___yoast_com_-1

The Search Appearance menu item gives you a lot of insight into just that: what your website appears like in the search results. You can actually click the ‘i’ for more information on the search appearance:

Google Webmaster Tools - Sitelinks

You can select every part of a search result to get more information on that specific part and how to influence how it looks.

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Structured Data

Under Structured Data you’ll find a number of all the pages that have some kind of structured data attached to them, such as schema.org or RDFa. Structured data means you give certain elements on a page a sort of label, such as ‘Product‘.  This will make it clear to the big search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) that there’s a product on this page. On top of that, you can add things such as ratings or prices of your product that might also show up in the search results. We recommend to add schema.org data using JSON-LD.

Google Search Console: Search Appearance - structured data

If any pages on your site don’t have the structured data set up right, Google Search Console will give you a red line named “Items with Errors”. GSC automatically sorts by the number of “Items with Errors”, so the most important faults will be on top. To view what specific pages have these errors, just click one of the lines in the table. This will take you to a list of all the specific pages that have errors with the Data Type you selected. You’ll probably be able to create a nice list of to-do’s for your site, just based on these URLs.

Rich Cards

Sometimes Google tries to answer the user’s question right in the search result pages. It does that by presenting the user with so-called Rich Card. That could be a recipe, restaurant listing with a rating, or even a product result that has just that bit of extra information on availability or pricing. These are just examples.

If your website is set up the right way, it’s using structured data to set up these rich cards. In Google Search Console, under Search Appearance, you’ll find any and all errors Google has found in the data you provided for this. That is if Google has detected any rich card structured data on your site. These errors are divided into three levels:

  1. The top level lists a sum of errors or recommendations. These are conveniently grouped by card type and you can click a row for more details.
  2. second level in the report gives you a list of all the critical (errors in required fields) and non-critical errors for a selected card type. Again, you will find more details after clicking a row.
    There are three kinds of statuses here: Invalid (critical, fix now), Enhanceable (nice to fix) and Fully-Enhanced (job well done).
  3. The third level allows you to view all pages with cards of a selected type affected by the selected rule. After clicking a row, you’ll find a suggested fix.

Data Highlighter

The Data Highlighter actually makes fixing the issues you’ve found in the Structured Data section a lot easier. For instance, choose one of the URLs that had a faulty Structured Data setup and tell GSC what kind of information you want to highlight:

Google Webmaster Tools Data Highlighter

This will bring you to a live view of that page and you’ll be able to select any element on the page. By selecting an element you’ll be given a choice of what you want to highlight that specific element for. For example, for an Article, you’ll be given these markups to add to the corresponding element on the page:

Data Highlighter Tagger

This makes adding Structured Data, for Google at least, really as easy as a few clicks.

HTML Improvements

This page is really straight forward. This basically checks all your website’s meta descriptions, title tags, and content that wasn’t indexable. If Google Search Console finds meta descriptions that are too long, too short or duplicate, it will show a number of pages higher than 0, and the link will become clickable:

The same goes for missing, duplicate, too long, too short or non-informative title tags and for any content that GSC thought was non-indexable. Clicking the linked word will take you to a list of meta descriptions or page titles that are faulty. You’ll be able to find on which pages exactly this is happening. Some more to-do’s to add to that list! If you find writing decent meta descriptions hard, read this post to learn how!

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, is a way to make your pages easier accessible on mobile devices. Note that for AMP to work properly, you need to create matching, valid AMP pages with the right schema.org markup. And you need to make sure these AMP pages are properly linked. We have written a number of articles on the subject:

Go read these. While it might seem like you need to set up a second website, there are obviously tools that will help you keep up with the possibilities and future development of AMP.

Search Console: accelerated mobile pages

In Google Search Console you will find a debug report for your AMP pages. Google set up this report as the first layer of information about your AMP pages: there is more to come in this report. The current report provides a quick overview of your AMP errors, which you can analyze per specific error type and URL. It will help you find the most common AMP issues on your website, so you can fix these.

Optimize your search appearance!

So you see there’s a lot you can do about what your search results in Google look like and a lot to optimize to make it more clear for Google. Optimizing your search appearance might only have a minor impact on your ranking, but it will definitely increase the click-through rate from Google. And that’s worth a little effort!

What do you think? Do you have experience using Google Search Console like this? Or do you have some additional tips? Let us know in the comments!

Read on: ‘Google Search Console: crawl ’ »