SEO FAQs: Setting Up Your Google Search Console Account
Before we start discovery work with a new SEO client– before we’ve even signed a contract — we will usually ask if you have Google Search Console set up for your site(s). If the answer is no, please do that ASAP.
Google Search Console data is critical for a variety of tasks related to SEO strategy and reporting.
Keep reading to learn the basics of why every site should have a GSC account, as well as a few examples of how we were able to secure immediate wins for clients based on access to their GSC data.
Setting Up Google Search Console (GSC)
What: Google Search Console is a free tool (developed by Google to help website owners) that gives you organic search performance data. This is separate from Google Analytics. Ideally you’ve had this running for at least several months, collecting data from your current site. If not, we strongly advise getting this set up ASAP.
Why: Having one or more GSC accounts is important because it gives us detailed data that we can use to better inform SEO strategy and recommendations. Only Google Search Console can give you data on keywords, rankings, impressions and click-throughs — this data is not collected by Google Analytics.
How: First, double check if you already have an account and who has access. If this exists already, great! If you don’t have an account, please follow these Google Search Console instructions:
We recommend setting up a property for all your subdomains AND also a domain property. For very large sites or multi-language sites, we recommend also creating separate properties for important sections/directories or your language-specific sections.
When: ASAP. Data is not available retroactively, so the sooner this is set up the better the data you’ll have moving forward. There’s no reason to wait until we begin the engagement — you don’t need to share it with us yet, but you want the data to begin collecting immediately.
How Google Search Console Data Helped Recent Clients
Client 1: Discovering a Site Hack
As soon as a recent nonprofit client set up their GSC account, it was obvious that their site was hacked. Practically speaking, the only visibility the site had in Google’s search results was from hacker-injected pages that were attracting NSFW keyword traffic.
While the client was actively monitoring their Google Analytics data, this information wasn’t visible there because the injected pages were purposefully not tagged with Analytics code. GSC data surfaced this immediately because impression and click-through data comes from Google and didn’t rely on on-site tags.
Armed with information we gleaned from GSC, the developer was able to patch the security hole that allowed the hack and then remove the spam pages. We then used the “URL removal” tool inside Google Search Console to purge the nasty spam pages from Google’s index and stop associating the site with those keywords.
Client 2: Seeing What Untracked Content Was Most Visible in Google
An association client was in the process of redesigning their site and a relaunch was already imminent by the time Orange Spark Digital was called in to review the SEO risks. In addition to catching a few missed opportunities in the developer’s plan, we were able to dig into existing historical Google Search Console data; we identified that a great deal of organic visibility came from years’ worth of PDF documents.
Organic traffic to PDF documents does not get recorded in Google Analytics (because PDFs do not fire the Analytics pageview tag), so the client did not realize how popular this content was among their search engine audience.
This insight led to a better understanding of the actual traffic that would be lost without a proper SEO migration strategy. The client could then better serve their audiences’ needs by migrating the most popular PDF content to the new site or redirecting deprecated information to more current resources.
Client 3: Using Query Data to Better Align Copywriting with Search Intent
A small-but-mighty services site offered great technical content to educate prospective customers, but the information was hard for a layperson to navigate and understand. Insights from GSC’s top queries reports helped us inform a strategy for organizing and rewriting this information to closely align with how users phrased their Google searches and more clearly answer common questions. The result of this one-time work was immediate doubling of traffic and sustained growth in organic visibility, organic clicks, and on-site engagement.
Ready to learn how Orange Spark Digital can help turn data into actionable insights for your organization? Contact us using the form below.