A Beginners Guide To SEO: How To Optimise Google Search Console & Analytics

Posted on January, 10, 17

Google’s Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools) and Analytics are both incredibly valuable tools for optimising your site and monitoring its SEO success. Here’s the basics on getting set up and making the most of Search Console and Analytics.
Step 1: Sign into/set up a Google account

Head over to Google.co.uk and click ‘Sign In’. If you don’t already have an account, click ‘Create account’ and follow the steps to set one up.
1Step 2: Create a Search Console account

Visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and log in to your Google account. Click ‘Add a property’.

2Enter the full URL of your website, including HTTP or HTTPS, then click Add.

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Step 3: Verify ownership of your website

There are four ways to verify that you own a site:

1. Upload a file to your server
2. Add a meta tag to your site’s HTML
3. Add a new DNS record
4. Connect with your Google Analytics account

If you’d like to use one of the first three options, talk to your web designer or site administrator to find out how it’s done. Uploading a file to your server is perhaps the simplest option, but since we’re going to outline some Google Analytics basics in this tutorial too, we’ll use this method for verifying your site in Search Console. If you already have Google Analytics set up, simply check the relevant box for verification and skip step 4 and 5.

Step 4: Create a Google Analytics account

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Go to https://www.google.com/analytics/ and click ‘Sign In’, following the instructions to get started.

Then, select ‘Create a new property’ in the PROPERTY column. Choose ‘Website’ and then input the name of your site – this helps you identify your site if you add multiple properties to Google Analytics in future.

Next, input your site’s URL, choosing from HTTP or HTTPS before inputting your domain – be sure not to add any extra characters or trailing slashes after your domain.

Then, choose the Industry Category your site falls into, choose a Reporting Time Zone, then click ‘Get Tracking ID’ to finish setting up your website.

Step 5: Set up your Google Analytics tracking code in your website

You can find your Analytics ID and tracking code by clicking on the Admin tab, choosing your account, selecting the relevant property, and clicking Tracking Info then Tracking Code. There a few different ways you can add your Tracking ID to your site.

The first is including the JavaScript tracking code snippet (which you can find along with your Tracking ID in Analytics) in the header source code of each page you want to track on your site – this option is best suited to static websites.

The second option, which is best for dynamic websites, is to include the JavaScript code snippet into a new website file, then include that file in your site’s header.

Thirdly, if you use a web hosting service such as GoDaddy, Magento, Shopify or WordPress.com, you can look for a compatible plugin which will allow you to set up the code using just the Analytics tracking ID.

Note that it takes 24 hours for data to appear in your Google Analytics account, so don’t expect to see any statistics on traffic as soon as you’ve set up your tracking. Check back the next day to make sure your tracking ID is working correctly. You can also go ahead and verify your Search Console account via Google Analytics.

Step 6: Configure your Google Analytics

Google Analytics is split up into three tiers – account, properties and views.

You can have multiple accounts within Google analytics, which is a useful feature if you’re likely to be sharing data with other people and want to keep some data private. For example, let’s say you have a business website and a personal blog. You might want to give your marketing team access to data for the business site, but not for your personal blog. In this case, you’d create an account named something like ‘My Blog’ and a separate account named after your company. You would create properties and views in each account separately, and give other users access to the business account only.

Properties are found within each account, and represent a website or app. So if you have multiple websites or apps for one particular brand, they should all be contained within one account.

Views are subsets of reporting data and allow you to add different filters or report functions so that you can, if you want, assess your Analytics data in a variety of ways. For example, you could create a view with filters and goals set up to provide data most valuable for your Marketing team, and another that has data most useful for tracking SEO efforts. It’s recommended that you also create a Master View that contains all data for a property so that you always have access to a complete set of data to assess overall website performance should you need to.

Key features of Search Console Google Analytics to use for SEO

Both Search Console and Google Analytics have a huge range of features to help you sift through your website data and figure out how your site is performing, and you’ll find a variety of resources online, particularly from Google, to help you unlock their valuable features. However, for now, we’re going to focus on the key elements of each tool that will help you with your SEO efforts.

1) View backlinks and internal links

Link earning is key to SEO, the right links give you a ranking boost, and the wrong ones potentially harming your optimisation. Search Console allows you to view Links to Your Site,

whilst Analytics has a Referral Traffic report, Reporting>Acquisition>Referrals, so that you can pinpoint key referrers and see how much traffic they’re bringing to your site.

Search console also has an Internal Links report which is really handy if you’re reworking the structure of your site, changing URLs or deleting links and want to prevent or identify broken links.

2) Submit a Sitemap to Google

If you wondered where to submit a sitemap to Google to speed up the site crawling process and a method for checking indexation levels.

The Search Console is where you do this, and it’s also the place where you can find crawl errors and figure out if there are any problems preventing Google from properly indexing your site.

3) Discover the queries people use to find you

Search Console and Analytics allow you to view queries for which your pages have ranked. Search Console allows you to see the impressions, clicks and click-through rate for each query and provides you with the average position in the SERP that your site appeared.

This feature not only helps you to keep track of how you’re performing for key queries, but it can also help you figure out which queries you should be targeting.

4) Check mobile usability

User experience is key for ranking well for mobile search, and the Mobile Usability report in Search Console shows you any errors that may be harming your optimisation.

5)Test your robots.txt files

If you’ve been having indexation issues, the robots.txt Tester in Search Console can help you pinpoint any errors which may be preventing Google from properly crawling your site.

You can even test individual URLs to see if they’re blocked from Googlebot, which is a handy tool for double-checking when you do want to block spiders on some pages.

6)Assess the search appearance of your site

The HTML Improvements report in Search Console helps to point out potentially problematic content, such as duplicate or missing title tags and meta descriptions which may be hindering your success in the SERPs.

The Structured Data tab is a great tool for those who want to tag their content and increase the chances of their content being displayed in dynamic search results. There’s also a section for Rich Cards which shows you how Rich Cards look if you’ve correctly used Structured Data across your site.

7) Assess the performance of your landing pages

Landing pages are the URLs a user lands on when first entering your site. In the Search Console > Landing Pages report in Search Analytics, you can see how your landing pages are performing by browsing data such as impressions, clicks, click-through rate, and average position in the SERPs. By looking carefully at this data you can figure out where improvements can be made to increase your search position and improve the performance of a page.

You can also use this data in combination with data in Google Analytics > Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages.

For example, if you have high click-through rates and high bounce rates, it suggests that your landing page content isn’t as engaging as it could be, or wasn’t found to be relevant to the user’s search intent. Or, if your click-through rate is low but impressions are high, it could be that you title tag and meta description isn’t compelling enough for users to click.

Matt Cayless is the Director of SEO at Bubblegum Search. He is an expert in Search Engine Optimisation having worked on campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands and has a passion for helping businesses grow online. When he’s not chasing the Google algorithm he can be found training for his next marathon. Follow him on Twitter 

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