Hi friends! Today we’re getting a little more into the nitty-gritty numbers than we have in my past few blog posts, so buckle up: it’s about to be a fun ride 😏 I am OBSESSED with data, tracking, and insights, and I believe that in order to find the most success in anything you do – whether it be blogging, publishing content on Pinterest, or even creating a workout routine in your own life – you absolutely have, have, HAVE to collect data. It’s the only way to monitor your performance over time, adjust your routines/strategies as needed, and make improvements for the future!
This is going to be focused on the ONE tool you should set up as soon as you start blogging: Google Search Console. It’s my absolute favorite tool for simple, easy, and user-friendly insights into your organic performance on Google – a.k.a. how your website is performing in the search results! A.k.a. the entire purpose of blogging.
I’m going to keep it to the basics for you, because I know it’s easy to get confused AF when it comes to throwing around a bunch of numbers that you don’t understand. This is NOT a guide to every single little tool and metric available within GSC, but rather a beginner’s guide to getting started with GSC and using it to help their organic web performance – especially for all of my friends in the photography industry & creative world. I don’t want you to leave this blog post feeling like this when you look at all the numbers:
You should walk away from this blog post with a solid understanding of:
✔️What Google Search Console is
✔️Why you should use it
✔️How to set it up
✔️What numbers to pay attention to
✔️What those numbers mean
✔️How to make the most out of Google Search Console for your creative business
Let’s get into it, shall we?
If you’re thinking, “Woah woah woah Danielle, I’ve never even HEARD of Google Search Console” – that’s totally okay! As Julie Andrews/Maria VonTrapp would say (sing), let’s start at the very beginning 🎵
Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google to help websites monitor their performance on + optimize their websites for, well, Google! Until 2015, it actually used to be called “Google Web Master Tools,” so if you’ve been in business for a while, that might sound familiar. From the GSC website, its official purpose is to help you “monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results.”
Google Search Console has a LOT of capabilities, many of which I haven’t even touched for my clients and don’t use on a regular basis – so don’t be overwhelmed by all the different features when you log in for the first time!
Here’s are the main things that Google Search Console can help you do, that I’d recommend paying attention to:
It’s very possible that up until this point, you’ve been thinking of Google Analytics and not Google Search Console – a very common point of confusion among creatives who aren’t often monitoring data like this so closely! Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two completely different things, both free services offered by Google to monitor your website.
The main difference is that Google Analytics is more focused on how people find, move through, and take actions on your website, whereas Google Search Console is more focused on search engine behavior & organic performance, a.k.a. people finding your website via organic methods.
Google Analytics gives you insights such as:
Google Search Console ONLY focuses on that segment of your audience that finds you through organic search, and helps you optimize your content for them & future users like them
Now this sounds like an overthinking-type question 😉 But no judgement here! All you have to do is go to this URL, and you’ll be taken to the main GSC page.
Setting up Google Search Console isn’t as hard as it might seem, I promise! Here are the steps to follow to get your Google Search Console all set up & ready to go.
Orrr if you’d prefer to watch a quick video tutorial, click here!(specific to Google Domains)
Whereas to set up Google Analytics, you have to paste code into the header code of your website, Google Search Console requires you to add what’s called a “meta tag” via your domain host/provider.
If you’re not sure where your domain is hosted through, here’s a list of popular ones that might refresh your memory:
If it’s been a WHILE and you still have no clue where your domain is hosted, or if maybe somebody else set it up for you, that’s okay! You can use a tool like this one from ICANN to find your domain host, or try searching your inbox for terms like “domain,” “Google Domains,” “GoDaddy,” etc. and see if you can find any receipts or proof of registration.
Once you know your domain host, go ahead and log in (and reset your password if you need to)!
Now that you’ve got a grasp on the basics of Google Search Console, let’s take a peek at what the dashboard looks like once you’re all logged in & set up!
A chart showing the total amount of clicks from a web search that your site has received over the past 3 months
This is the one I’d recommend paying the most attention to if you want a super quick glance at your website’s recent organic performance!
For the sake of keeping it simple & easy as a beginner, I’d ignore this section for now.
Aaaand ditto again.
When you go over to the left-hand side of the dashboard you landed on, you’ll see a menu of all the different pages you can explore in Google Search Console.
Below are the most important pages that I’d recommend paying attention to from now on!
This is just your dashboard that we already took a look at 🙂
Thisssss is the prime rib, the mac daddy, THE most important page you should start looking at ASAP! This is where you’ll find all the key metrics you want to use to monitor your website performance, including total clicks, impressions, average CTR, queries, and more. You’ll get a quick & easy look at how your organic traffic has changed over time, and you can adjust the time period you’re looking at (the furthest you’ll be able to go back is to the day you set up your GSC). I’ll go deeper into wtf all those terms & numbers mean in the next section of this guide!
The “Pages” page gives you insights into how many pages on your website are what’s called “indexed.” When a page is “indexed,” it basically means that page has been successfully added into the Google index, a.k.a. Google’s library of content that it shows to its users. You WANT your pages to be indexed so that they will show up in the search results and be visible to your clients! If a page is NOT indexed, then it won’t show up anywhere on Google – somebody would have to directly type in the URL, or find it through another page on your website.
There are a few reasons one might want a specific page on their site to be what’s called “noindexed,” or not added into the Google index:
Otherwise, you always want your pages to be correctly indexed. It can take time for a new page or blog post to be added into the Google index correctly, especially if your website is fairly new.
I recommend using Search Console’s URL Inspection tool to check if a blog post or a new page has been indexed a week or so after publishing. You can also simply go to Google and type in “site:”, then the page URL, and if it shows up in the search results, it’s been indeed! If it doesn’t show up, then it hasn’t been indexed. (e.g. I’d go to the Google search bar and type in site:defycreativeco.com/blog/insert-blog-title-here)
If you do notice that a page hasn’t been indexed yet, you can submit that page to be indexed – basically reminding Google that “Hey, this page exists and you should put into the search results!”
Sooo you’ve got GSC all set up, you know what each page is and which pages to pay attention to – but what in the goddamn hell do those numbers & terms you see actually mean?! And which ones should you actually care about?? Allow me to provide a mini Google Search Console dictionary for you, my friend 😘📘
You can look at all of this data for your website as a whole, OR you can click into specific pages in the “pages” section down below. In that section, you’ll see which of your website pages are getting the most impressions + clicks, and then when you click into it, you’ll get a whole new chart specifically for that page’s insights.
You’ll also see a section with “queries,” which shows you what searches your website is ranking for, as well as which ones get the most clicks + impressions.
Now you know what the terms mean, and what each – but how do you actually analyze those numbers? How do you use those numbers to tell if a blog post is performing well?
One of the most important stats to look at is your average CTR, or click-through ratio. This number will help you see how well your page are actually converting to views once users come across them on Google search results – because it’s great to have a high number of impressions, but if barely any of those people are actually clicking on your website, then it doesn’t really matter. Impressions is a bit of a vanity metric as they don’t lead to potential clients landing on your website, but it IS a helpful metric to monitor how many eyes are seeing your website in Google and could potentially turn into clients.
By knowing which pages on your website are attracting the most users and bringing in the most potential clients, you can determine which pages are most effective & successful. You’ll be able to notice what blog topics are reaching your target clients the most, so that you can create MORE blogs on that topic, and which ones aren’t bringing in potential leads that you may want to adjust/make improvements to.
The most common issue I see in clients’ Google Search Console is a high number of impressions, but a low number of clicks (a.k.a. A low CTR). It means that the page is showing up in front of lots of eyes (yay!), but it’s not hooking them in enough to want to click.
On the other hand, if you have a low number of impressions, and a high number of clicks (a.k.a. A high CTR), that’s much better! It means that you’re converting most of your impressions to clicks, which is the goal – especially for niche keywords. You don’t need thousands of impressions in order to find your target clients!
Before I wrap this up, I wanted to give you a quick look at a new tool that Google Search Console is testing out, Search Console Insights. You’ll find it at the top of your “Search Performance” page in GSC, and it’ll say something like “take me to Search Console Insights (Beta).”
I don’t have much info on this yet, but it looks like it’s going to be a really cool tool that you can use to get quick, simple, user-friendly insights, instead of having to dig through pages, queries, etc. to find out what’s going on with your website! So far, I see a section for:
We’ll see how it develops in the near future, but I think it’s going to be super handy for those of you who just want to be able to log in to your GSC and get a very easy glimpse at the most important insights.
Aaand last but not least, HOW do you go about tracking these insights?! Yes, you can log in and look at them, but what’s the easiest way to monitor your growth over time and actually see changes happening for each specific piece of content you publish?
I could NOT find a tool that would help me easily track the most important GSC insights for each of my blog posts in a concise, simple way, so I made my own 😉 Allow me to introduce the Blog Planning Hub, a Notion* template for creative entrepreneurs who want to simplify their blogging workflows & keep everything in ONE, organized place!
Say goodbye to storing all of your blog ideas in 5 different Google Docs, 10 different notes on your phone, and those 3 different journals from Target sitting on your desk that you randomly switch between – and HELLO to one place to store it allll: ideas, planning, publishing dates, tracking, & more!😍
Inside of this Notion template, I created a simple table within each blog post where you can track only the most important insights from Google Search Console over time, as well as Google Analytics and Hotjar (which I’ll be blogging about soon!). I know I’m totally biased, but I’m fucking obsessed with this Notion hub and truly believe that it’s the PERFECT way for creatives like me to have allll their blog shit in one easy place. No more random Asana boards or messy Excel sheets, baby!! 🙌
And because you made it all the way through this blog post & I’m so proud of you, I’ve got a special lil’ discount code just for you – use the code “DEFYBLOG” for 25% off the template 🎉
*Notion is my personal favorite program that I use for so many things in my business, from taking notes during Zoom meetings to planning out my content to setting goals throughout the year. 10/10 recommend using it if you don’t already – it’s super user-friendly, has SO many capabilities, and is free to use unless you want special capabilities. Create a Notion account here!
CONGRATS – you made it to the end! I know that was a whole lotta nerdy number talk, but I hope I broke it down in a way that it’s all starting to make sense to you now. Google Search Console is seriously such a killer tool that’ll help you start understanding how your content is performing STAT, aaaand it’s free – win-win. Feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any questions regarding this blog post, and I’ll do my absolute best to answer them! 💕