How to do a one-page analysis in Google Analytics

I often get a request from our Blog team about one of their pages. Sometimes they want to know if the page has gotten more pageviews or they notice something weird and they want me to find out what’s going on. And this time they wanted more insight in the performance of one particular page. I want to share with you how I deal with this request.

So the other day I got a request to check the performance of our Blog homepage. We want to optimize that page so it fits better with the need of our audience. If you have an idea about that, you can leave your feedback in the comments section below this post.

Page level analysis

The first thing I had a look at is how ‘popular’ the page is and if it’s worth the effort to spend time and resources on this page. I went to the All pages report in Google Analytics, which you can find under Behavior –> Site content and did a cmd+F or ctrl+F search for the page https://yoast.com/seo-blog/. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for; it’s because it probably isn’t within the first ten results. So you need to expand your table first; you can do this on the right bottom of the table.

search for a page in Google Analytics

I notice it’s at position 32 if you look at the number of pageviews, which is a reasonably high position and thus worthy of further investigation. I also notice that in 6,327 of the cases it’s an entrance page, this means it’s in 35,3% of the cases the first page of the session (6,327 / 17,931 * 100).

You can also search for a specific post in the search bar to see just the metrics of that page but sometimes other pages show up as well.

Search for one page in Google Analytics

If the page is in blue letters, it means you can specify even further when clicking on it because it’s a link. Or you can use regex; regex stands for “regular expression”. Lunametrics made this fun regex guide that shows you how you can use regex in Google Analytics. It may sound a bit scary, but if you know the basics, it’s quite doable and will make your Google Analytics life a whole lot easier. Here’s how a regex would look if I just wanted the SEO blog homepage:

^yoast\.com\/seo-blog\/$

Use regex in the search bar in Google Analytics

But in this case, you can just as well click on the page to see just the metrics of that page. Try to understand what the metrics are saying and how it compares to the site’s average. In this case, for a page that’s built to guide people to blog posts of their interests, a bounce rate of 50.48% is fairly high. That means that in half of the cases, people didn’t do anything on that page! That’s not what the page is designed for.

I was also curious to see if this page gets a lot of mobile traffic, so I added a secondary dimension with the Device category. I then checked what the metrics told me.

Adding secondary dimension: device category in Google Analytics

About 10% of the page views come from a mobile device. You can see it has a higher bounce rate so checking the mobile experience is a good idea.

Trend analysis

And, I was curious to see how the page developed over time, so I added a wider timeframe to check if I saw something unusual. You can adjust the graph you’re seeing. Perhaps you’re interested if Bounce rate declined or not. You can select this metric and you’ll see the trend of the bounce rate of that page.

Adding a wider time frame in Google Analytics

Session level analysis

I then looked at this page from a page level. But, I had more questions about this page. If people are entering our site through this page, where are they coming from? So, I had a look from a session level perspective. I went to landing pages and did the same search as in the All pages report.

Finding a landing page in Google Analytics

It’s at position 65 and obviously has 6,327 sessions since we saw that in the All pages report at entrances. I once again looked at the metrics and tried to understand what they’re telling me. The number of pages per session, the bounce rate and the number of ‘new’ users. And I had a look at conversions.

I then dove in further, clicked on the page and added a secondary dimension: medium, so I could quickly see where traffic is coming from. I noticed that we have a lot of traffic that we don’t know the source of. So that’s something to explore further. In second position comes our plugin and third is organic search traffic. Which is interesting to see because I’m curious with what keywords people end up on that page and if we rank properly on that keyword or keyphrase. With that information, we can improve the SEO of that page even further.

Again, I had a look at bounce rates, pages per session, number of new users and possible conversions. Thinking about if the page is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Google Search Console analysis

I needed to go to Google Search Console to find information about the keywords or keyphrases the blog homepage ranks for. You go to your Google Search Console account and click on Search results. Then you set a filter that exactly matches the URL of your page, in our case: https://yoast.com/seo-blog/.

Adding a page filter in Google Search Console

You now see the queries and position of that page. Take a look at the metrics and try to understand what’s going on. It’s especially interesting if you have a lot of impressions but a low clickthrough rate (CTR).

Results of page filter in Google Search Console

Conclusion

What can we learn from this analysis? For one is that it’s worth the while to put some time and effort into this page. I learned that we can optimize the SEO of that page even further and that we can put some more effort into ranking for the keyword SEO blog.

I also noticed that it’s quite a popular page, but the bounce rate is too high for my taste. Especially when the goal of the page is to guide people to a blog post of their interest. So, there needs to be interaction with this page. We need to find out what people expect to find on this page. So, therefore, extra information is needed. That’s why we added a simple poll on this page, using Hotjar. We also created a heatmap with this tool to get a better understanding of how people behave on the page.

Combining data gives you a far more holistic view and will make sure you can draw more reliable conclusions. Data we can use to optimize the blog homepage even further. The perfect dataset doesn’t exist but we can try to get as far near perfection as possible.

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Where did my Search Console errors go?

If you’ve noticed that your Yoast SEO Search Console report looks surprisingly empty, it’s because Google have shut down the system which provides data about their crawl errors.

There’s no need to worry, though – we knew this was coming, and we have plans for the future. Your Search Console report won’t show any information for now, but nothing on your site will break, and you don’t need to take any special action.

The good news is that we’re already building our own, brand new systems for error reporting and management. We think it’ll be even better and more useful than the old Google Search Console integration.

What happened?

If you actively manage your website’s SEO, then you’re probably familiar with Google Search Console. It’s a great way to discover and manage any errors which Google may have encountered when crawling and reading your site.

A snapshot from yoast.com’s own Google Search Console account. We should fix those errors!

Until recently, Google provided us with a way to extract information from their systems. That meant that we could show you Google’s crawl errors and issues right inside your site’s admin area, via the Yoast SEO plugin.

Help! What is an API?

An API is a system which allows software to talk other software. The Google Search Console API allows websites to connect to Google’s systems, and to request information about your website. It used to provide information about crawl errors, but no longer does so.

Having those issues listed inside your side admin area made it easy for you to fix those issues ‘on the fly’. You could set up redirects, tweak pages, and mark individual issues as resolved – without ever leaving your website.

Unfortunately, Google have removed the API which powered this system.

That means it’s no longer possible for us – or anyone else – to get information about your crawl errors. The only way to get this information (at the moment) is for you to manually visit your Google Search Console account.

What does this mean for me?

Nothing will break on your website, and you don’t need to take any action. You’ll just find that if you visit your Search Console admin page in your WordPress website, you won’t see any errors. You’ll see something like this empty table:

You won’t find any errors in your Search Console report, as it’s no longer possible to retrieve them from Google.

That empty table doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have any errors – it just means that we can’t fetch or show them to you.

If you want to go and check your errors and issues, you’ll need to go directly to your Search Console account. If you’re not sure where to start, you can follow this handy guide to using Search Console.

Creating and managing redirects

We know that many of our premium users rely on our Search Console integration to create redirects for broken pages and URLs.

If you’ve set up redirects through the Search Console section in the past, don’t worry – nothing’s been lost, and your redirects still work.

In the future, you’ll just need to use the ‘Redirects’ section to create them, instead.

You can create redirects for broken pages or URLs in Yoast SEO premium, via the Redirects system

We knew this was coming, but we expected a replacement system

We’ve known that Google planned to remove support for error reporting from their Search Console API for a while. It provided data from the ‘old’ Search Console system, which has been gradually replaced or removed as they moved people to the ‘new’ Search Console system. As such, we knew it had a short lifespan.

We’d hoped and assumed that they’d replace the API, in the same way that they’d moved or replaced other functionality from the old system.

What we didn’t expect was for them to simply ‘turn it off’, without providing an alternative or updated solution. We’re a little disappointed about how this has been handled by Google, but, we have some options.

What happens next?

For now, you don’t need to do anything.

We’re chasing Google for updates, and once we hear more from them about what they have planned – if anything – we’ll update our information to reflect that.

Their documentation and communications have hinted at planned future capabilities and support, but there’s nothing out there yet. So we’re waiting, watching, and asking questions about what’s in the pipeline (we’ve particularly high-hopes for Google’s SiteKit WordPress plugin, which is currently in beta).

In the meantime, we’re considering alternative options, processes, and ways in which we can replace or supplement this data. We already have some exciting plans:

In the short-term: We’ll be building an import tool, which lets you upload error reports which you’ve manually downloaded from Google Search Console. We’ll also support uploads from some other tools, which we’re excited about. We’ll share more news that soon.

In the mid-term: We’ll be looking to partner and integrate with a wide variety of your favourite SEO tools and platforms, so that we can import their data about your website’s errors and crawl issues. That’ll give us much richer, more diverse, and more interesting data than ever.

We’ll keep you updated with our progress, and we’ll let you know if we hear back from Google about their plans.

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Live indexing for Bing & Google coming to Yoast SEO

As we announced at YoastCon, we’re working together with Bing and Google to allow live indexing for everyone who uses Yoast SEO. In an update currently planned for the end of March, we’ll allow users to connect their sites to MyYoast, our customer portal. After that we’ll roll out live indexing, which means every time you publish, update, or delete a post, that will be reflected almost instantly into Bing and Google’s indices.

How does this work?

When you connect your site to MyYoast, you’ll authorize it to send messages back and forth. One of the types of messages that will be sent will be when you publish, update or delete anything on your site. We’ll pass that notification on to Bing, and Bing will check the changes within approximately one minute of you hitting the button.

You will not need to connect your site to Bing Webmaster Tools to do this. It’s all handled automatically. For Google the details on this are not entirely determined yet, but a Google Search Console account will probably be required.

We do, of course, recommend making use of both Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console as they can give good insight into why your site is or is not performing well in the search engines.

If you’re reading this on Thursday (Feb 7, 2019), you might still catch one of Bing’s principal engineers, Arnold Overwijk, discuss this live at YoastCon through our live stream on Friday.

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What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console (or ‘GSC’ for short) lets webmasters monitor and manage their websites through an official portal, and is crammed full with useful statistics. Having access to tools and data provided directly by the search engines can make optimizing your website much easier!

It’s a communication channel

Search Console accounts are the main, and official way in which Google communicates with individual site owners. By having a registered account, Google can send webmasters information about site issues, errors, or even penalties. It also provides some limited tools to allow you to contact them about site issues and feature requests.

It’s a control center

If you’re actively optimizing your website, you’ll understand that SEO is never ‘finished’. You need to be continually improving your content, refining your site settings, and minimizing your errors.

Search Console provides tools which help with this day-to-day management. It lets you do things like submit and monitor your XML sitemaps, ask Google to (re)evaluate your errors, or see how Google sees particular pages and URLs on your site.

XML Sitemap management in Google Search Console

It’s a performance dashboard

Your GSC account is full of useful information about how your website is shown and performing in search results. From mobile usability reports to visibility and clickthrough tracking, and much more.

If you’re serious about managing and optimizing your website, your GSC account is your nerve center for understanding when, where and how your site is appearing in Google.

Performance overview in Google Search Console

It’s a data source

Most of the data in Google Search Console can be extracted and integrated into other systems, like Google Analytics, and Yoast SEO!

That means that, if you’re running a Yoast SEO plugin, you can integrate some of your GSC data directly into your website. This can make it much easier to manage your errors, analysis, and redirects!

Check out our great guide on how to get that hooked up, and how to take advantage of the integration.

Ready to get started?

Anybody who runs or manages a website should be able to access a Google Search Console account, for free.

There are a few different ways to create and authorize your account, but the easiest is to integrate through Yoast SEO – just follow this quick guide to get things running!

Once you’re all set up, why not take a tour around Google Search Console with our great beginner’s guide?

The post What is Google Search Console? appeared first on Yoast.

The beginner’s guide to Google Search Console

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.

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 need 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:

Google search console - add property

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’ method:

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.

Features in Google Search Console

Now you’ve set up your account what would be the next step? Well, it’s time to look at some of your data! We’ll explore some of the reports and information available in the rest of this article.

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:

Google search console - performance

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:

Keyword 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 the 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.

Index coverageWe 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.

You may find that errors are caused when, e.g., a redirect doesn’t seem to work correctly, or Google is finding broken code or error pages in your theme.

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:

Submitted URL not found (404)

There are a few things you should always look for when checking out your coverage reports:

  • If you’re writing new content, your indexed pages should be a steadily increasing number. This tells you two things: Google can index your site and you keep your site ‘alive’ by adding content.
  • Watch out for sudden drops! This might mean that Google is having trouble accessing (all of) your website. Something may be blocking Google; whether it’s robots.txt changes or a server that’s down: you need to look into it!
  • Sudden (and unexpected) spikes in the graph might mean an issue with duplicate content (such as both www and non-www, wrong canonicals, etc.), automatically generated pages, or even hacks.

We recommend that you monitor these types of situations closely and resolve errors quickly, as too many errors could send a signal of low quality (bad maintenance) to Google.

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:

AMP errorBelow 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

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.

Events

This section provides useful feedback on your structured markup for events. Events can be complex to tag up correctly, so this can be an extremely helpful report for finding out where you need to tweak details like dates and location!

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 tell Google where your XML sitemap is located on your site:

Add a new sitemap

We recommend everyone entering the URL of their XML sitemap into GSC to make Google find it 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.

We recommend regularly checking the XML sitemap section in our plugin to manage which post types or taxonomies you’re including in your sitemaps!

Links

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.

Mobile usability

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.

Manual Actions

The manual actions tab is the one you don’t want to see anything in. If your site is penalized by Google, you’ll get more information in here. If your site is affected by a manual action, you’ll also get messaged via email.

There are a number of scenarios which can lead to these kinds of penalties, including:

  • You have unnatural/bought links
    Make sure from and to your site are valuable, not just for SEO. Preferably your links come from and link to related content that is valuable for your readers.
  • Your site has been hacked
    A message stating your site’s probably hacked by a third party. Google might label your site as compromised or lower your rankings.
  • You’re hiding something from Google
    If you’re ‘cloaking’ (that is, intentionally showing different to content than to users, for the purposes of decieving either of them), or using ‘sneaky’ redirects (e.g., hiding affiliate URLs), then you’re violating of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Plain Spam
    Automatically generated content, scraped content and aggressive cloaking could cause Google to blacklist your site.
  • Spammy structured markup
    If you use rich snippets for too many irrelevant elements on a page, or mark up content that is hidden to the visitor, that might be considered spammy. Mark up what’s necessary, and not everything is necessary.

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 two 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 seems 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.

International targeting

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.

Crawl stats

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 about your website. Do you think something is missing? Feel free to leave a comment!

Read on: How to make your site stand out in the search results »

 

The post The beginner’s guide to Google Search Console appeared first on Yoast.

Google Search Console and structured data

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’ »

What is an XML sitemap and why should you have one?

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’ »

Ask Yoast: why connect GSC with Yoast SEO?

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’ »

Google Search Console: Search Appearance

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 ’ »