A truly great tool which is provided completely free by Google: Google Search Console. This tool helps website owners maintain, track, and troubleshoot their site’s presence in Google search engine result pages (SERPs). This super handy utility which Google continues to release updates on can not only help you understand how Google views your site, but it can also help you improve its technical performance.
Search Console is especially handy since Google’s search engine is constantly updating its algorithm to improve the experience of millions of users. The ability to provide the best possible answers to any search query is the perpetual goal.
10 Great Google Search Console Features
1. Keyword Analysis Through Search Queries.
One crucial data component Google Search Console offers is the performance report. That report offers the keywords that your site and its pages rank for and calls them “queries.” See the image below on how to access “Queries” in Google Search Console.
2. Assess User Interaction.
The performance report within Google Search Console also gives you total clicks, total impressions, average CTR (click-through rate), and average position. The four metrics let you know what users are doing on your website.
3. Page Positioning in Search Results
With this metric, you can see where each page of your site ranks for specific keywords. You can also use it to track your rankings after making any on-site adjustments and optimizations.
4. Site Coverage
With the coverage report, the number of pages that you’ve submitted using an XML sitemap can be compared with the actual number of pages indexed by Google. This is incredibly helpful for larger sites.
5. Submit Pages for Indexing
The URL inspection tool within Google Search Console allows you to submit pages that haven’t yet been indexed by Google.
6. Errors and Unindexable Pages
Google logs errors for you in the coverage report. You can learn what hasn’t been indexed and why so you can make corrections.
7. Sitemap Submission
If you use sitemaps, you can submit them directly to Google using the Search Console.
8. Mobile-first Indexing
With the rising number of Google users on mobile devices, it’s incredibly important that your website is indexed for mobile. Google Search Console allows you to click on mobile usability. If portions of your site aren’t optimized for mobile, the utility will tell you why.
9. Links to Your Site
The links report shows you which sites have linked back to yours. It also reveals which of your pages have the most links.
10. Penalty Reviews
If at any point Google decides that you’ve violated its guidelines for quality, it can take a manual action against your site. That means your site and its rankings can be removed from the search engine. Usually, these actions are caused by the use of bought backlinks, low-quality content, keyword stuffing, or sly redirects. If someone you hired to work on your site did something that caused the manual action, it still sticks. Penalties can also be given if your website was hacked.
Google and Early SEO Practices
In the early days of the internet, Google’s popularity grew rapidly. It didn’t take businesses and marketing experts long to realize that getting listed on the very first page of results was ideal for raising your website’s visibility and its rankings. It was the wild west in those early days with many tactics used to grab spaces on that coveted first results page.
Some of those early tactics are still allowed today by Google policy. Optimizing your website’s pages to make it easier for Google and visitors alike to read and analyze? Still a viable tactic.
Other early tactics were not only unethical, but they also came to be called black hat SEO in the digital marketing world. Google realized that these tactics were still being utilized and put measures into place to deal with them. They made a few algorithm changes and began slapping sites that violated Google’s quality guidelines with stiff penalties.
Google’s algorithms are so efficient that sometimes they detect honest mistakes on websites and slap those sites with penalties too. Not only do the penalties do serious damage to your SEO efforts, but they are also hard to reverse. That’s why when penalties are received, they should be dealt with as quickly as possible.
What’s a Google Penalty?
Google devised penalties for those who use deceptive practices on their websites to try and cheat the system and rank their website higher in Google’s search engine results. The penalties effectively punish those who use these practices and discourage others from giving it a try.
The penalty is that Google removes all search rankings from the website on Google search. Outside of getting hacked, it’s the worst thing that can happen to your site.
If you have a great rank on Google search, ranking highly on a number of keywords, and Google hits you with a penalty? You’d lose it all instantly. The day after the penalty is assessed, you may not even be able to rank for your own business name when you search.
What Consequences Can a Google Penalty Have on a Website?
The impact on a website’s organic traffic can be catastrophic. The penalty can cause sites to lose a good portion of their organic traffic and can cause perpetual damage until it’s dealt with.
The penalties have consequences for sites of all sizes, not just the sites of smaller companies or businesses.
Because of a penalty received from Google for link buying, Expedia saw their stock prices drop 4.5%.
A penalty in 2013 against Rap Genius, a music lyrics website, caused it to lose 700,000 unique visitors from its daily totals.
Identifying Penalties Using Google Search Console
If your website shows a loss of organic traffic in a short span of time, you just might have been penalized from Google. And Google Search Console gives you a quick and easy way to verify that.
Start by checking for a manual action penalty that occurs when a human reviewer has reached the conclusion that something on your website is not in compliance with Google’s quality guidelines. It’s easy to spot in Search Console as you’ll see a notification at the top of the home screen of the utility. If it’s not there, check “Manual actions” on the sidebar.
You can also detect them by looking at historical data from your site and compare it to Google’s algorithm updates. Several tools will help you find these types of penalties. The best one is another powerful tool Google offers, Google Analytics.
3 Common Google Penalties and How to Fix Them
The more common Google penalties stem from Panda and Penguin, both main algorithm updates. Penguin penalties are levied against websites using black hat link building tricks. Thin or scraped content penalties are Panda penalties.
1. Questionable Link Building
Building good links is one of the foundations that good SEO is built on. High-value links go a long way in increasing the visibility of a website in Google’s search results and increasing its standing on PageRank. In a quest to get the most links they can, some take it a little too far. Google calls these “link schemes.” You can’t buy or sell links. Google is very clear about that. Their guidelines prohibit websites from buying or selling links.
You also can’t have your website be part of a Private Blogging Network (PBN). Such networks are meant to build links between your site and other sites in the network for the purpose of building rank in the search engines. Why wouldn’t this work? The most relevant links are from sites that are similar in content and have a good amount of traffic. Sites that meet those characteristics will go far in helping raise your site’s visibility in Google’s search engine.
If you have links to your site from several irrelevant sites in such a network, it’s going to be pretty obvious what you’re doing and you’ll draw a penalty from Google for it.
To Fix It
If you should find you’ve been penalized for link schemes by Google, there are things you can do to remedy the situation. Within Google Search Console, you’ll find a list of suspect links. You’ll need to go through the list and remove any bad links to your site. If you happen to own a PBN, you can do this easily. If you need links back to your site removed from sites that you don’t have access to, you’ll need to send some awkward email requests.
You’ll then need to disavow the unnatural and harmful links to your website. You do this by sending a disavow file listing the links back to your site from sites you don’t approve of to Google. You can submit the file through Google Search Console.
2. Scraped or Thin Content
When you get this penalty, the problem is with your site’s content. Scraped content is content that’s literally taken or incredibly similar to content from another website. It’s then republished on your site and offers no new information or value. Thin content barely has usable information and is low in quality.
To Fix It
You’ll want to immediately delete or revise any thin or scraped content on your website. If the page in question is necessary, heavily revise it. It’s important that if you do remove a page of your site, either use a 410 “gone” page or redirect it.
There are some great tools available that can help you identify such content on your site for you. Tools like SEMrush can review certain metrics like bounce rates and the average amount of time the user spends on the site to find such content.
Once you’ve addressed the content issue on your site, you can send a reconsideration request within Google’s Search Console.
3. Keyword Stuffing
One of the original black-hat SEO strategies, keyword stuffing ls loading up a webpage with keywords that are just redundant and don’t add any value to your site.
Sometimes people will put out content that’s not readable by the user on the site. White text on a white background. They also use font size 0 to try and get their content indexed without being easy to detect. Google knows the tricks better than they do.
To Fix It
Avoid doing this. If you want to rank for a keyword on a given page, then put together the best content on that page that uses that keyword in a way that makes sense and provides value for a visitor to your site.
If you get hit with a penalty for this, go through the page in question and remove the spammy appearances of the keywords. To check at any time, use the Search Console fetch and render tool to have Google re-index your site.
If you want to do well in Google search, know what you’re allowed and what you’re not allowed to do. Then, tailor your site and its content to your target audience and not the search engines. Provide original, valuable content for your visitors. Once the users find and return to your site, Google notices.
Google’s Search Console can help you manage and track your site and its metrics. It’s immensely helpful in ranking your site for keywords and greater visibility. When problems are detected, you’ll find out quickly and have a way to remedy the situation quickly. And you’ll want to deal with penalties quickly because it only takes a few days to lose all of your past SEO efforts when Google strips your site of its rankings.
Has your website been penalized by Google? Are you looking for help in optimizing your website? We can help. Contact us today.