What is Google Search Console?
We’ve been contemplating adding Google Webmaster Tools which has now been rebranded to “Search Console” for a while. For one it’s a free tool whereas the other tools we’ve looked at you have to pay for. For another its made by Google, rather than trying to reverse engineer Google. But Search Console has really become a very useful tool and is probably now at a stage where it can replace paid for tools for some users.
The key thing about Search Console which is different to other tools we’ve compared is that it only gives you data on your own domain, not your competitors. To use it you have to verify you own the website by linking to your Google analytics account or uploading a file or meta tag onto your website. By doing this you unlock lots of useful and free data from Google.
Inside Search Console you’ll find a number of useful tools for both analysing your site and reporting information back to Google about your site (sitemaps, international targeting, disavow links). For this review we’re going to concentrate on some of the features of Search Console which overlap with the features you might be paying for from other tools to help you decide whether its possible to switch away from paid tools to Google’s free tool.
To understand the SEO tools that Google offers, we’ll look at each of the three different marketing interfaces: Analytics, Search Console, and Ads.
Google Analytics is designed to help you quickly track how your website is performing. At a glance, you can see how many users are on your website right now, where those users are located, and what type of device they’re accessing your site with. All of this is displayed in a series of simple tables and graphs, which you can click on to get more detailed information.
Just as importantly, Analytics gives you insight into the historical audience for your website. You can define a custom date range to pull visitor data from. Then, you can dive into demographic data like the age, gender, and interests of your site visitors.
Another useful aspect of Analytics is that you can see how visitors are behaving on your website. The platform offers a flow chart that illustrates where visitors go after landing on your homepage and how much time they spend on each page. This is extremely helpful for finding specific pages or content areas that are causing visitors to leave your website.
Analytics particularly shines if you’re running an ad campaign. You can easily compare traffic characteristics before, during, and after the campaign. If you send visitors to a custom landing page, you can also easily monitor whether they’re converting into sales after arriving on your site.
Google Search Console
If Analytics is designed to help you monitor your site’s performance, Search Console is designed to help you improve performance. You can find information about what search engine keywords users were entering into Google to arrive at your site. Search Console also lets you know how many people see your website in search results and how many of those impressions are turning into site visits.
One of the important things that Search Console tracks is how many times your website is backlinked, both internally and from other sites. This plays a major role in your website’s SEO rankings. Search Console also highlights any code errors on your website that could be negatively affecting your search engine ranking.
What Search Console doesn’t tell you, though, is how your website is actually ranking in search results for specific keywords. That’s a critical omission, especially if you’re thinking about using a keyword-based ad campaign to boost your site’s visibility.
Google Ads is a platform to help you design ads that appear on the Google search engine. These ads are essentially text with a link to a chosen landing page, so setting them up is relatively simple. Importantly, you can choose specific keywords that trigger your ad to show as well as limit your ads to people in specific geographical areas around your business.
One of the key parts of Ads is setting your budget. Google automatically places your ads using a bidding system, which ensures you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Ads will give you an estimate of how many clicks you’ll get for a given budget, but results can vary widely.
To see how your ad is doing, you’ll need to rely on Analytics and Search Console. Ads itself doesn’t offer much in the way of performance analytics, although you can monitor your current campaigns and spending.
Plans and pricing
Using Google’s SEO tools is completely free—all you need is a Google account. Buying ads through Google Ads does cost money, though. You can spend as much or as little as you want, but on average you can expect to pay between $1 and $2 per click-through to your website from search engine ads.
The trifecta of Google Analytics, Search Console, and Ads is an extremely powerful combination for website owners. The three tools together allow you not only to monitor your website traffic, but also to build more traffic through organic and paid search results. The only major thing that Google’s SEO tools are lacking is information about how your website is ranking in search results for specific keywords. Still, given that Google doesn’t charge anything for its SEO suite, it’s pretty hard to complain.