Google Search Console is the new name for the previously known Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) that we have been using all these years. The name has been somewhat wrong until now, so Google renamed it to something better and more intuitive. Here’s what you need to know about.
Note: if you have been using GWT or are familiar with it then this article most likely is not for you. It is intended for new users to the tool.
Search console is in their own words:
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but doing so can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results.
Why is this tool so useful to website owners and administrators, including to hoteliers? Let me show you just a couple of quick screen-shots and you will see for yourself the value that it brings.
One of the most used and useful pages is the Search Analytics page. It displays all the search queries for which your website has APPEARED in search results, and not just the queries for which you got clicks. What this means is that you can discover a ton of search queries for which you show up in results but fail to entice the users to click on your website.
Another great thing about this information is that you can discover a lot of long-tail search phrases for which you show up in search results. So even though you might market yourself as a “hotel in Chicago”, you might notice that a lot of people search for “best hotel in Chicago during Summer”. It would be easier to target this long-tail phrase than to waste resources on a more difficult phrase like “hotel in Chicago”.
Getting Started with Google Search Console
To get started with Search Console all you need is a Google (Gmail) account. Start by going to http://www.google.com/webmasters/ and log-in with your Google account.
If you are only getting started then you will be greeted by this screen:
When adding a new property (website) you will be prompted to verify ownership of the website. This can be done by placing a special blank .html file in the root of your website. This is the easiest and recommended way of confirming ownership. You should keep the file on the server even after verification, as Google will occasionally check the existence of the file.
Please keep in mind that some stats will not be available to you immediately after verification. Generally you will see most of the information in about 24-48 hours, especially if your website is new.
Search Console – Popular Pages and Data
Google Search Console provides multiple tools and pages for the website owner, some of which are applicable to all websites, other pages are for specific websites, such as online shops, etc. Let’s explore some of the more useful pages for hotel website owners.
Search Appearance – HTML Improvements
On this page you will find very specific (automatic) tips and suggestions by Google after crawling your website.
On this page you can see some on-page problems that Google was able to find on your website, such as Duplicate Page Titles, too short or too long titles and meta descriptions, noindexed pages, etc.
You should pay a lot of attention to these suggestions as ignoring them will hurt your website’s search engine rankings.
Search Traffic – Search Analytics
As explained earlier in the article, for most website owners this page is the most important one. You can see all the search queries for which your website appears in search result pages (SERPS), you can filter these queries by device and by search type: web/image, you can also find content ideas on this page.
You might have written a post about a new waffle maker in your hotel’s restaurant and suddenly you get traffic from people searching for waffle recipes. Then you can write a post dedicated to the waffles made at your hotel, share a local or family recipe, something that in turn will bring even more traffic. Even if this traffic might not convert too well into bookings, you will increase your online presence and your brand awareness.
Search Traffic – Links to Your Site
Here you can review all the external links (backlinks) to your website that Google was able to find and index. This is a good place to find negative and low-quality links that you could disavow. Here you can read more about the process of Disavowing Backlinks.
Search Traffic – Mobile Usability
Mobile visitors represent a good part of hotel website traffic, many of which are last-minute shoppers. It is a poor decision to annoy them with some mobile usability issues, such as buttons that are too small or too close to each other. On this page you will be able to check if Google noticed any of these common issues. Of course if your website is not responsive (all our themes ARE responsive) then Google will report a great deal of issues and errors.
Google Index – Content Keywords
On this page you will see the main keywords that were spotted on your website across all pages. Basically this is how Google sees the topic of your website. Here you can revise some of the words that you use in the layout of your website, for example in the header of the footer of the site. Some of these often words might mislead Google into thinking that your website is about “Facebook” and not about a hotel.
Crawl – Crawl Errors
The older your website gets the easier it is to delete and forget about certain pages. Maybe you accidentally deleted a page that you thought was useless, maybe an unauthorized person did it on purpose without your knowledge, there are many scenarios. In any case this is a good place to spot missing pages on your website. Instead of deleting old pages consider redirecting them (read about 301 redirects) to a related page or to your homepage.
Crawl – Sitemaps
And finally the Sitemaps page. One of the first things that you should do on your website (especially if it is WordPress) is generate a XML sitemap and then point Google to it. This will speed up the process of indexing your site’s pages, even the deepest pages will be visible to Google.
Google Search Console (aka Google Webmaster Tools) is a super free service that any website administrator should use. It takes a couple of minutes to set-up and provides valuable data for years.
From monitoring your search rankings and code accessibility to spotting server downtime and malware injection, this tool is amazing.
What kind of experience have you had with Google’s Search Console? Feel free to add your tips and suggestions in the comments below.