What You Need to Know about Changes to Google Search Console

by | Mar 2, 2018 | Marketing Technology, SEO

Google fully rebuilt Search Console from the ground-up, helping website owners, webmasters, and marketers better manage the performance of their sites in Google Search.

Does it seem that every time you’ve finally grasped, or perhaps even mastered the latest and greatest search tools (like Google’s Search Console) to ensure your content ranks high, everything changes? Get ready, and don’t fret—we have news for you. And it’s all good news for your content-driven marketing and SEO strategy!

It’s time to get up to speed again on changes made by the dominating force in the search market. (Yes, we’re talking about Google – they have over 64% market share in the search space). Don’t worry, this time the changes are for Search Console – and we think you’ll like these changes as much as we do.

Changes to Search Console were made as a result of feedback from A/B split testing that involved more than 30,000 users. The improvements include many features that site owners have been giving feedback on and requesting from Google. With the new Search Console, you can now easily and effectively monitor your rankings, address indexing issues, optimize mobile pages, and manage job listings.

Here’s an overview of the changes you’ll see:

Search Console is Stand-Alone

Google’s Search Console has long been a staple tool for website owners, webmasters, and marketing professionals. Search Console has historically been located within Webmaster Tools, where it lets site owners monitor and manage their site performance in Google’s search engine results pages.

With the former version, site owners were directed to a dashboard that featured:

  • Crawling Errors
  • Search Analytics
  • Sitemap Management

The reports and tools for each of these were essential to every content marketing project, but the information provided didn’t contain everything site owners wanted or needed. While good, there were gaps in some data, the reports were cumbersome to navigate, and the features were limited. There was room to improve, and that’s what Google has done.

The new Search Console is no longer part of Webmaster Tools. It is now on its own platform: search.google.com. Google published a blog post highlighting the new platform on February 6, 2018, announcing it’s now available for all site owners.

Although released to the general public, the new Search Console is still under development. Most notably, users may find that some reports are missing. As Google explains, these reports either haven’t been brought over to the new platform yet, or are being replaced by reports that are more accessible.

For now, Google will support both the former version found in Webmaster Tools and the new, stand-alone version.

Clean Reports and Easy Navigation Menus

The first thing you will notice is the platform’s clean look. The appearance mimics Google Analytics (which was also redesigned over the past year). The reports are clean and easily digestible, and the navigation menus are intuitive and simple. Without removing important data, Google made the platform much easier to use and understand for both new and seasoned users.

In total, there are four main reports that deserve your attention, so here’s an overview:

  • Search Performance Report
  • Index Coverage Report
  • AMP Status Report
  • Job Postings Report

Search Performance Report

The new Search Performance Report is similar to and serves the same function as the Search Analytics Report in Webmaster Tools. This report features four metrics that users can track to monitor website performance in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs):

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Click-through-rates
  • Average positions

The differences between the former and new version of the report aren’t in these metrics, as both display all four measurements. Instead, the improvements are seen in how detailed and comprehensive the new report is compared to the older one.

The new Search Performance Report goes into more depth, allowing users to drill down by query, page, country, and device type. It also offers more comprehensive data on web image and video search results, and it displays data for up to 16 months.

Among these improvements, the metrics on image and video results, as well as the data display for up to 16 months are especially noteworthy.

As web users continue to show an increasing preference for visual content, the image and video search performance details will become more and more important. We discussed this in our recent writeup on the updates to Google AMP Stories. As for carrying data back for up to 16 months, that allows site owners to perform detailed year-over-year analysis that takes trends into account—something the former version of the report didn’t allow.

Index Coverage Report

The new Index Coverage Report replaces Webmaster Tools’ Index Status Report. This report continues to show how well Google is indexing users’ sites. As the name suggests, though, there is a distinct—and helpful—shift from showing a site’s status at a specific moment-in-time to showing how easily Google’s spiders are covering the site.

This new report shows which of a site’s URLs are properly indexed and which ones have issues. For the ones with issues, the report contains warnings and sometimes explanations of why the URLs aren’t indexed. Furthermore, the report can be adjusted to display indexing changes over time so that site owners can monitor progress and trends. All of this information can be viewed within Search Console or exported for deeper analysis.

In addition to the extra details and historical coverage, the Index Coverage Report also has a group of tools that make getting non-indexed URLs crawled by Google faster and easier. Running checks for errors automatically brings up diagnostic tools that will address certain issues and then submit fixed URLs for indexing.

Indexing is the gateway to ranking sites in Google’s SERPs, and getting sites indexed can take a frustratingly long time. By providing details on indexing issues and bringing up tools to fix certain issues, the Index Coverage Report promises to help you save time. The good news here is that you can now spend less time investigating and addressing individual indexing issues, and more time actually improving your site.

Like the case with the former Index Status Report, the new report is most useful when sitemaps are used. Google noted in its February 6 post that this particular report “works best for sites that submit sitemap files.” Once a sitemap is uploaded, there’s a sitemap filter that can be applied to the report, which gives site owners a precise list of URLs on which to focus.

AMP Status Report

The AMP Status Report is specifically for sites with accelerated mobile pages, which Google favors over traditional sites for searches conducted on mobile devices. (Note: there was an algorithm update on February 1, 2018 that requires AMP content to match what is published on the corresponding traditional site. Teaser pages are no longer favored.)

Within the AMP status report, there are a variety of errors and warnings that detail issues with AMP URLs. The report displays which of these URLs have issues and what those issues are. It also includes tools to help users address issues and retest URLs after known issues have been fixed.

Most exciting, users don’t have to go through individual URLs within the AMP Status Report. When an issue is identified, a fix can be applied across multiple URLs that have the same problem. They can then all be tested to confirm that the fix worked properly. After testing is completed, Google will give the URLs a higher crawling and processing priority.

Being able to apply a fix to multiple URLs is an obvious time-saver. Hopefully, this feature of the AMP Status Report is the start of a trend that lets you better manage and manipulate several URLs at once.

As is the case with other reports, the AMP Status Report can be exported for external or more detailed analysis.

Job Posting Report

The Job Posting Report is a brand new report that doesn’t have a Webmaster Tools counterpart.

This report treats individual job postings similar to traditional web pages, displaying statistical information and indexing details for each job posting published on a site. The report is still being fully rolled out, but users can expect it to function similar to the Index Coverage Report and AMP Status Report. The main difference is the report is specific to job postings.

Although the Job Posting Report will only be used by a small percentage of sites that publish job postings, the report is extremely significant. To start, the sites that do publish postings now have an easy way to monitor their indexing and address related issues. For these sites, the report will be invaluable.

Perhaps more significantly, this report represents what might eventually reflect a transition within the Search Console. While far from ‘friending’ someone on Facebook or following a Twitter user, job postings are more social than traditional web pages. Postings are designed to link people together, which web pages don’t necessarily do. For further evidence of the social nature of postings, just look to LinkedIn — where job postings, social networks, and a few articles are all intermixed.

In the future, the inclusion of job postings as an independent section within Search Console may prove to be the first move toward a more socially oriented SERP-tracking platform. Admittedly, Google has made no official statement or hint that social reports will soon be included in Search Console. As social media becomes even more popular and continues to be a ranking factor, the platform might become more socially aware. There’s no promise that such a transition will happen, but this could be the first move toward a different orientation.

Requests for Feedback

As mentioned, Search Console is now available to everyone, yet remains under development. Google has actively requested feedback from users so the platform will meet users’ expectations and needs in the best ways possible. Here’s some guidance on the best way to provide that feedback.

Utilize the New Search Console

Ultimately, the new Search Console is more user-friendly, powerful, and efficient. There’s every reason to use it. If you manage your own SEO and indexing, make the switch to the new platform. If you don’t have the time, resources, or background needed to effectively manage this aspect of your site, MESH can help you get started. We specialize in this type of work and use all of the latest tools that are available. Put our digital agency to work for you so you can focus on the tasks you do best.

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