Google Search Console Keyword Ranking: Why SEOs Love It
Monitoring your site performance to assess your current SEO campaigns can be difficult. Most tools, for example, will show you how much traffic came from organic search… but not which keywords drove users to your site, or which factors are impacting your ability to rank well.
That’s where the Google Search Console comes into play.
Because while Google Analytics is a phenomenal tool for general audience and site traffic analytics (prioritizing information on how your audience behaves once they get to the site), Google’s Search Console focuses on-site performance in and of itself.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are different, and you need both.
SEOs love Google’s Search Console tool, and in this post, we’re going to look at why it’s potentially the most powerful SEO tool on the market, how you can benefit from using it, and how to use it for keyword research.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console is a free tool available to all website owners, which allows them to manage different technical SEO site elements of their site and to monitor these behind-the-scenes aspects of site performance.
And when it comes to search engine optimization, there’s almost no better tool out there (and certainly not for free).
It comes with a wide variety of different reports, so no matter how you want to optimize your site to improve its search ranking potential, the Search Console can help you do it.
The 4 Benefits of Using Google Search Console for SEO
There are multiple benefits of using Google Search Console for SEO. Let’s take a look at the four most significant advantages and how you can leverage them to your benefit.
1. Checking that Google Understands the Keywords You Are Targeting
One aspect of the Google Search Console allows you to see which keyword queries are actually bringing traffic to your site.
And while everyone automatically assumes that the keywords they’re working so hard to target are going to be the same ones that you’re ranking for… that’s not always the case.
In many cases, you may very well be surprised to discover that your top traffic-driving and impression-catching keywords weren’t keywords that you were targeting at all. We’ll look more at how to use this information later on in the post, but it’s important to see if you’re actually showing up for the keywords you’re targeting and understand why you may be showing up for completely irrelevant keywords that you aren’t.
2. Checking that Google is Properly Crawling and Indexing Your Site
You may have optimized the living daylights out of your website only to find that you’re still not ranking for any of your target keywords or generating any traffic from organic search.
Or maybe you highly suspect that you’re not driving enough traffic given all your efforts and SEO work.
This can happen… and when it does, it’s may be because Google hasn’t been properly crawling and indexing your site.
Google’s bots need to crawl pages of your site to understand what you have to offer so they can ensure it shows up insearch. If there’s an issue with crawling, those pages just won’t show up accordingly. And keep in mind that Google has desktop and mobile bots— both matter.
Under “Settings” in Google Search Console, you can find your “Crawl stats.” This will show you everything you need to know about your site’s crawlability.
You’ll also want to make sure that Google is indexing individual pages on your site. This is a vital part of showing up in search. If one of your pages isn’t generating traffic or if you’ve recently added a high-value page and want to see if it’s been indexed, you can use the “Inspect URL” feature to take a look.
3. Troubleshooting Technical Errors
Technical errors can derail your SEO campaigns extraordinarily quickly, keeping you from ranking well.
Technical errors may include:
- Slow site loading speeds due to a variety of different factors
- Broken internal or external links resulting in “404 page not found”
- Duplicate content
- Errors in language declarations using the hrflang tag (allowing you to show the copy in multiple languages based on your audience location or preference)
As you’re checking on your site’s “Core Vitals” report in the Search Console, you can identify and troubleshoot any of these essential technical issues that can be holding you back so you can fix them promptly.
4. See Existing CTR For Keywords & Pages
Google Analytics will tell you how much traffic you have coming in on certain pages, but Google Search Console is going to show you how many clicks and impressions you’re receiving for individual keywords and pages.
They’ll also show you the average CTR and average position overall (both of whic are crucial SEO metrics), and the exact CTR and average position of individual keywords.
The ability to track your CTR is a vital clue at how relevant your pages are in the search results they’re appearing in. And of course the higher your pages appear, the more likely users are to click, so keeping a close eye on both metrics can be important.
It can help you track the impact of your SEO campaigns overtime, and it may help you to flag some keywords that may not be working for you for one reason or another.
Want to boost your click-through rate? See how to increase your CTR.
Can I Use Google Search Console for Keyword Research & Ranking?
The simple answer is yes— but maybe not the way that you’d think when you first think of a conventional keyword research tool.
Google Search Console wasn’t designed to be a keyword research tool in the same way that Google Keyword Planner was. It can and does, however, serve a different purpose when used for keyword research.
The Keyword Planner was created with Google Ads in mind but can be used for organic search, and can help you discover new keywords and assess their potential based on competition levels, trends in popularity, and monthly search volume. Many other tools (which we’ll look at later on) also offer similar features.
Google Search Console, however, shows you which keywords you’re already ranking for and what search queries are bringing people ot your site. You can also see how this data changes over time. This gives you so much opportunity to understand how your SEO organic keyword strategy is actually working for you and how to optimize it accordingly.
How to Use Google Search Console as a Keyword Ranking Tool
There are several different ways to use Google Search Console as a keyword ranking tool, which helps you assess what you’re ranking for and how to optimize your site further.
Let’s take a look at each.
Identifying Valuable Keywords
Perhaps the most valuable way to use Google’s Search Console as a keyword ranking tool is to find out what keywords you’re actually ranking for and which are most valuable to you.
On my own site, for example, it’s clear that “ana gotter” is the most effective keyword that I could optimize for. It’s relatively low competition (no one else is optiziming for my name) and high-intent individuals who may want to hire me are going to use it. It’s no surprise that I’m ranking first for this particular keyword— which is essentially a branded keyword— and that its CTR is sky-high.
I also know, however, that existing clients have found me using “business writer” and “PPC copywriter.” Even though I got fewer impressions and clicks, these are still valuable keywords.
You can also use this to discover which keywords you are sometimes placing for but that you’re not getting clicks from. This could reveal new keywords that you do want to optimize for.
Let’s look at my Search Console data again. I’m not currently getting any clicks on the following queries:
Some are not relevant, like “oberio” or “home page background.” “What is a business writer” may make a good blog post, but could be a mixed bag for the traffic it sends. “Professional content marketer” and “professional ghostwriter,” however, are high-intent and may help me attract clients. Those would be worth optimizing for.
Analyzing your existing queries in Google Search Console is something every business should do. You can see the individual queries that are triggering your site to show up in the SERPs. You can also see your average position for those individual queries, along with how many impressions and clicks you get on each. We saw this above.
One thing that we want to note is that not all queries are going to be high-value even if they’re actively bringing traffic to your site. And while clicks are great (and mean that your getting great visibility and that your meta description and SEO page title are engaging), not all clicks are bringing you high-value clients.
But here’s the downside: I know from first-hand data (which is one of our five principles of our Customer Generation Methodology) that most people who contact me mentioning healthline do not want to hire me.
They want me to answer a question based on a medical-related blog post I’ve written in the past (sorry, not a doctor) or they want me to place their product in a post I’ve written (also a no). They are not high-value potential clients, because they rarely are potential clients at all.
It’s no different with SaaS brands. Maybe you know that “cheap social media software” brings you users who consistently complete a free trial but then never convert because they can’t afford your tool. Or that users find your tool searching for a specific feature or use case you don’t offer.
It’s important to analyze your queries for search intent and potential value. That will help you determine which you should spend more time optimizing for, and which to let slide.
Further Optimizing Pages with Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords can be an SaaS brand’s best friend when it comes to organic marketing. And we’re all about SaaS results through SEO.
Users who are making long-tail keyword searches are telling Google exactly what they want to find. If you niche down and optimize for them— whether through your core site pages or through blog posts— you’ve got a great chance of connecting with that search intent.
Here’s a great example. “Ghostwriting vs copywriting” is a query I’m not currently getting any clicks on, but it’s one that’s immediately relevant to my business. These are two services I offer, so this would make an exceptional blog post that could bring relevant traffic to my site while letting me demonstrate my expertise.
Long-tail keywords can be used for product pages (“enterprise-grade scheduling software” / “scheduling software for remote teams”) and for blog posts (“why remote teams need scheduling software”). Discovering potential options through your Search Console can help set you on the right track.
Comparing Performance Overtime
As someone who is extraordinarily goal oriented, keyword ranking can be migraine-inducing for me sometimes. I love the rush of seeing that a blog post or page I’ve written has hit the top 5 or top 1 slot on Google… but I have that stomach-sinking feeling when I remember that this could change at any moment.
As a result, it’s absolutely crucial to track how you’re ranking for high-value keywords and queries overtime. The Search Console’s “Compare” tool in the Performance Reports section is invaluable for this purpose.
You can see how how your number of impressions, clicks, CTR, and average positions are changing over time. This can be week to week, month to month, or year over year.
Google Search Console vs. Other Keyword Research Tools
Many marketers rely on paid, third-party SEO keyword ranking and research tools.
Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush are a few common examples, and they’re all exceptional tools with advanced features that can help you identify new keywords and see how you’re ranking for existing keywords that you’ve already targeted.
Many also offer competitor-focused tools to see how you stand up against your competition.
While many of their features are undeniably helpful (with an extra shoutout to those competition-monitoring features!), there are also limitations.
They scrape the SERPs to gather ranking data, which means the data can be incomplete or may be slightly out of date. Google, meanwhile, has all of the update to date data in nearly real-time.
The tools also only see a small portion (under 50%) of your total keyword rankings and queries, and this is because they crawl a limited number of search engine results pages and potentially not daily.
So these tools are helpful. I use some of them myself. They have exceptional features. But they should not be used in place of Google Search Console, especially since it’s free and easy to use.
If you want to step up your SEO game and build on the momentum that you already have, Google Search Console is your must-have resource. It’s going to give you everything you need to know about your current site performance and provides plenty of insights for what can be improved or optimized moving forward.
And all that data is coming directly from Google itself. It doesn’t get better than that.
Want to learn more about how we help SaaS brands leverage data in our customer-led approach to grow their brands? Check out our Customer Generation Methodology here.