Using Google Search Console as a Keyword Ranking Tool

Google Search Console is a great way to start optimizing the keywords on a website for both beginners and SEO professionals. Many keywords on your site are probably ranking just a bit too low to generate meaningful traffic, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing in there you can use. Your website is probably sitting on a gold mine of keywords. This is where keyword research tools come in handy, as they can give you a great understanding of search demand and help you find new content opportunities to target. In this post, our SEO agency in Chicago will help you improve your traffic by using Google Search Console as a keyword ranking tool. By the end of this article, you will be able to make quick and informed optimizations and reach more users.

Using Google Search Console as a Keyword Ranking Tool

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free web service that allows search marketing professionals to monitor their websites’ health and performance in the Google search engine. Examining an overview of search performance metrics allows marketers to improve their websites in order to generate more traffic. The most important features of Google Search Console are:

  • Monitoring indexing and crawling
  • Identifying and fixing errors
  • Search performance metrics
  • Requesting indexing of updated pages
  • Reviewing internal and external links

How to get started with Google Search Console

Let’s check the steps you need to take to add your website to Google Search Console and use its features.

The first step is verifying website ownership. There are several ways to do this depending on whether you are attempting to verify a website, a domain, a Google-hosted site, or a blogger-hosted website.

Google-hosted websites are automatically verified once you add them to Google Search Console. If your website is not registered with Google Domains, you can use one of the following methods:

  • HTML file upload
  • Meta tag
  • Google Analytics tracking code
  • Google Tag Manager

Though some hosting platforms have certain limitations regarding things that can be uploaded, most of them provide a comprehensive guide through the verification process.

Verifying website ownership

There are two common ways to verify website ownership for sites that are not hosted on Google, such as WordPress websites:

  • HTML file upload
  • Meta tag

HTML file upload

The first thing you need to do is enter the Google Search Console and open the Property sector dropdown menu in the top left corner.

Navigate to Select Property Type, enter your URL, and click Continue.

Now, choose the HTML file upload method and download the HTML file. The next step is to upload the HTML file to the root of your website.

Note that the root of your website is https://example.com/. With that in mind, if the file you downloaded is called verification.html, the uploaded file should be located at https://example.com/verification.html.

The only thing left to do is to click on Verify in the Google Search Console.

Using Google Search Console Features

In this section of our article, we’ll explore various features of the Google Search Console and explain how to benefit from each.

The Performance Report

The Performance Report lets you see how your website performs in the Google search engine. You have the option to explore the following search types:

  • Web
  • Image
  • Video
  • News

The web search type is shown by default, but you can change the type by clicking on the Search Type button. 

Once you do that, a pop-up menu will appear where you can choose the search type to preview.

You can even compare the performance of two different search types. You’ll notice four metrics at the top of the Performance Report. These are:

  • Total Clicks
  • Total Impressions
  • Average CTR (click-through rate)
  • Average Position

Note that Total Clicks and Total Impressions are selected in the chart below by default. You can change the metrics displayed in the chart by clicking on the dedicated tabs.

Impressions

Impressions represent the number of times your website appeared in search results. However, if your website is ranked near the bottom of the page, it still gets an impression even if the user didn’t scroll to that section. To fully understand the significance of impressions, we need to explore the Clicks and the Average Position metrics.

Clicks

As the name suggests, the clicks metric represents the number of times users clicked on your website in the SERP. You should aim at the high number of clicks combined with the high number of impressions. Having a high number of impressions and a low number of clicks usually means that your website needs improvements to attract more traffic.

Average CTR

The percentage representing the average CTR shows how often users clicked on your website from the SERP. The higher the percentage, the better the website is performing.

Average Position

This metric shows your website’s average position in the SERP. If your website takes average positions from 1 to 10, it ranks exceptionally high. Websites that take average positions between 20 and 29 appear on page two or three of the search results. While these are not bad ranking spots, you should look for ways to improve your website performance to get it closer to the top 10.

Websites that average positions lower than 30 often need significant improvements. It may be the case that the website ranks for many low-ranking keywords and a few that rank high. That’s when you need to check your content in search of a gap. The content gap appears when the content that ranks for a specific keyword is not strong enough. Usually, a dedicated web page devoted to that keyword does the trick here.

Performance report dimensions

As you scroll down the Performance page, you’ll notice six Dimensions of a website’s performance data. These are:

  • Queries: The top search queries along with the number of clicks and impressions for each keyword (this is the dimension we are the most interested in).
  • Pages: Your top-performing web pages with their clicks and impressions.
  • Countries: Top-performing countries with associated clicks and impressions.
  • Devices: The devices that generate the traffic to your website are segmented into mobile, desktop, and tablet.
  • Search Appearance: This dimension shows the different types of rich results in which your website was displayed. You can also check if Google displayed your website using Web Light results (optimized for very slow devices) and video results along with associated clicks and impressions.
  • Dates: This dimension displays your clicks and impressions by date, whether in descending or ascending order.
Keywords

We have finally navigated to the Performance Report section containing our article’s main topic: keywords.

The keywords are featured in the Queries dimension of the Performance Report. This part of the report displays the top 1,000 search queries that drove the traffic to your website. Here, we should pay special attention to those low-performing queries.

While some queries display low traffic because they are rare (also known as long-tail traffic), others are simply associated with web pages that need improvement.

Make sure to always inspect low-performing keywords. Some of them may have untapped potential for quick wins that can significantly increase traffic to your website if the issue is addressed correctly. That brings us to our next topic.

How to use Google Search Console as a Keyword Ranking Tool

Find Valuable Keywords With Lower Ranks

It often happens that your website pages are filled with valuable keywords ranking just a bit too low to get clicks. New content opportunities are always a great way to get more visitors, so finding keywords that are only within striking distance is significant. This is where metadata and on-page copy edits are constructive, as they can boost their ratings and generate clicks. To do so, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Open Google Search Console
  2. Click on Search Results (located under Performance tab)
  3. Click “Average CTR” and “Average Position” (the data should populate below)
  4. Scroll down and sort by CTR (low to high)
  5. Choose those keywords that are ranking well but not getting many clicks
  6. Make metadata and copy edits targeting these words

Optimize Relevant Long-Tail Keywords

Although Google Search Console is not best known as a keyword research tool, it sure can serve as one. Besides telling you which keywords get clicks for which pages, The Queries Report in GSC can also tell you which long-tail keywords are already related to your page, so you can further optimize them within your content. Here is how you do that:

  1. Open Google Search Console 
  2. Click on Search Results (located under Performance tab)
  3. In the filter row click “+ New,” then select “Page…”
  4. Enter the URL you want to optimize and click “Apply.”
  5. Scroll down to look for keywords for which your page has shown in Google search results
  6. Look for long-tail keywords to further optimize
  7. Make metadata and copy edits targeting these words

Find Competing Keywords Ranking on Multiple URLs

If a keyword ranks for multiple URLs on a website, then these pages compete with each other for visibility. This can affect both pages’ organic keyword rankings. You can use Google Search Console to find such pages and edit the on-page copy and metadata to help search engines favor one page over the other. Here are the instructions on how to do this:

  1. Open Google Search Console
  2. Click on Search Results (located under Performance tab)
  3. Click “+New” in the filter row, then select “Query…”
  4. Type in a valuable target keyword
  5. Scroll down and click the “Pages” tab (located next to Queries. Countries etc.)
  6. Look for competing pages
  7. Make metadata and copy edits to optimize the keywords on the most appropriate page
  8. Remove these keywords from other pages if possible

Our SEO experts in Chicago believe that these approaches are a quick and easy way for keyword optimizations. Just by following these simple steps, you can maximize your keywords ranking, enhance your keyword research and reach more users.

Brian Djordjevic
About The Author

Brian Dordevic

Brian is Marketing Strategic Planner with a passion for all things digital. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or schedule a consultation call with him.

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