If you’re looking for an easy and free way to track your eCommerce SEO site’s performance, Google Search Console (GSC) should be at the top of your list of resources. Designed specifically for monitoring and tracking your website, you’ll quickly find that GSC can help you to gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on on your website and where there might be room for improvement.
What is Google Search Console?
GSC is a free tool provided by Google that is centered around tracking the overall performance of your organic search visibility. This is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone running an eCommerce website. It allows you to see crawl errors, understand what information Google is indexing on your site, gives you information on what keywords you’re ranking for, and allows you to see technical enhancements that could be hurting organic search traffic coming to your site.
How to Set Up Google Search Console
You’ll want to start by gathering all of the necessary information, starting with your login information and your domain name server, or DNS.
- Go over to Google’s Search Console main page.
- Log into Google using your Google Analytics credentials or a Google Account that you want associated with this account.
- If you don’t have a Google account, you will need to create one. Please Note: Don’t tie it to a specific individual’s account but rather a general business account (e.g. – firstname.lastname@example.org) to avoid disruption in data collection.
- Once logged in, add a new website property by clicking the property selector drop down menu on your search console page in the top left hand corner above the Overview menu. Choose +add property and choose the type of property you want to add. You will have two options- a URL-prefix property, or a domain property.
5. Enter the domain of the website or URL prefix if tracking a single page and click Continue.
6. Next you’ll be prompted to verify that you own the site. You’ll have two options to verify ownership.
- You can either verify it immediately, or pause the process so you can verify it later. If you choose to verify immediately, you’ll need to sign into your domain name provider and copy the TXT code into the DNS configurations.
- If you can’t verify immediately, you’ll just want to click the Verify Later option so that you can save your progress. You should be able to return at your leisure to verify your site when you’re ready.
Needing to re-add a property? Not a problem! You should be able to add it as long as it’s still active and has at least one verified owner. Follow the same procedure as if it were a brand new property and you should be good to go!
How to setup Google Search Console on Shopify
If you are running on Shopify and have purchased the domain through them then you just have to:
- Log into your online store
- Go to > Domains > Manage domains > DNS Settings > Add custom record > TXT record
- Copy and paste the record to the txt value
- Make the Name of your TXT record @ and click save.
Image Source: Shopify Community
Why Use Google Search Console for Your eCommerce SEO?
For most people in an SEO role, their success is measured by improving how many organic site visitors they get year over year, how many non-branded keywords the site ranks for and how much revenue is generated from organic search.
That’s where GSC comes in. It provides you daily insights and performance reports so that you can make adjustments based on current data. Some SEO tools run ranking reports weekly, which can cause delays in how soon you respond to ranking fluctuations. You also have the ability to compare and look at data for the last 16 months, which will allow you to look at yearly trends so you can account for seasonality in search behavior.
Google will notify you of any major issues that come up as it crawls the site so that you can stay on top of any problems that could hurt your ability to rank and drive traffic to your site.
Let’s dive into some of the features that make this tool useful and helpful to site owners and SEO marketers.
Let’s look at some key features and use cases for GSC to help get you comfortable with what data you can collect and use to help you make decisions.
So what are some of the features provided by Google Search Console?
For starters, it gives you insight on your website’s performance, telling you how many organic impressions and clicks you’re receiving, average click-through-rate (CTR) and ranking position for a given keyword.
It will give you coverage information for your domain. This report will tell you how many valid pages you currently have on your website, as well as how many pages contain errors on your website.
Core Web Vitals Charts
Another great tool is Core Web Vitals. This will give your reports based on URL performance. It will be grouped by things like status and metrics. It can give you helpful insight on things like mobile vs. desktop usage, giving you some guidance on where to place your focus when it comes to SEO and site optimization.
A sitemap is a file on your site that tells Google what pages on your site are worth crawling and indexing. Adding your sitemaps to GSC is a great way to track your sitemap history, as well as tracking any potential errors that Google may have encountered with your sitemap. This is especially important to eCommerce sites since products often are short-lived and are replaced with new products.
It’s important to note that there are a few situations where your site automatically generates your Sitemaps. If you’re using a hosting service, such as Squarespace, Shopify, Magento and Bigcommece, it will most likely generate a sitemap for you. Additionally, if your site has less than 100 pages, it’s likely you won’t need a sitemap because you can easily navigate to all of the pages on the site.
5 Tips for Using Search Console to Gain Insights
Now that we’ve covered some of the different features on Google Search Console, let’s talk about how you can use it to gain insight for your eCommerce business.
1. Page performance Insights. Loss of keywords or click-through rate decline
Understand if you have a click-through-rate issue or a visibility issue. By using Google Search Console, you can see how pages perform year over year (YOY) to know what is actually impacting performance. By looking at the Performance > Search Results report you can look at specific areas of your site to see how they are doing currently versus compared to last year.
Select a data range (in the example below) I used 9/2/20 – 12/1/20 and compared it with the same date range the previous year. Once you have selected your date range you can filter by a section of the site.
Dig into your top pages that generate revenue to the site to get a sense of how their CTR has improved or declined year to year.
For example, when I filter to the category pages of this eCommerce site, I notice there are pages that have remained the same or improved substantially with their average positioning. However, their CTR has dropped substantially.
You will need to dive into each page to understand the types of keywords driving traffic to the page (e.g. – branded versus non-branded) but this will give you a starting point.
- Looking to improve your overall SEO performance: Check out our Guide to SEO for eCommerce Sites
2. New crawl reports offer more actionable data for crawl issues
Google recently announced the launch of their new crawl report. The goal is to help SEOs and developers to find problems with how Google is crawling and indexing the site. Keep in mind this data is limited so you have a smaller window than other reports but it is still useful.
The main status report shows you total crawl requests, total download size and average response time for a page to load.
This report will also give you the data you need on crawl requests. It’s broken down by file type of the fetched URL, response, what the purpose was of the crawl request, as well as Googlebot agent.
You’ll find example URLs for each type when you click on a row in the grouping table, as seen below:
This is very useful to see what pages are being crawled recently. In the case above. There are a handful of 404 error pages that Google has crawled in the last few days. If that is the case, you would want to build a plan around how to get these pages redirected if they are valuable product pages that no longer exist.
You’ll also find that certain hosting issues can be uncovered with this report. It will show you why Google had trouble accessing your site. Google shared that “host status details in the report let you check your site’s general availability to Google in the last 90 days.”
All of these reports are designed to help you understand:
- Can Google crawl your site?
- Is Google indexing the content and pages you want them to?
If you are finding as you dig into the reports that there are a lot of pages Google is crawling that should not be crawled (e.g. – search pages, dynamic URLs with parameters like ?=, filter pages, and others) then you will need to analyze those pages to see what is causing them to be crawled and indexed.
Some of the reasons for this include: lack of proper canonical tags, no exclusions in your robots.txt file, improper use of noindex/nofollow/index/follow tags. Auditing your crawl reports is a really good starting point.
3. Audit your backlinks and optimize those pages for SEO
Backlinks still play a large part in your website’s ability to rank. When you can show Google that high ranking websites trust you enough to provide a link back to your site, it can drastically improve your rankings. When considering backlinks for your site, you’ll want to be sure to track both external backlinks and referring domains.
This will show you what content on your website is generating the most backlinks, which in turn will tell you what is most successful on your site and what could use a bit more attention.
- You might also like our resource on How to Do a Backlink Analysis and Link Strategy.
Putting together a surefire digital marketing strategy is crucial to the success of your eCommerce site, and having a good idea of what’s going on with your backlinks is definitely something that you’ll want to monitor on a regular basis.
4. URL testing tool
If you have some bugs on your site that are impacting performance, don’t stress too much. This is a very common issue to run into, and there are solutions. One solution you could take advantage of is Search Console’s URL inspection tool.
This will give you information about Google’s indexed version of any particular page on your website. Simply click the URL inspection button on the left side of the page, and then type the URL into the search bar at the top of the page.
Use this tool to test core pages of your site. This is especially important when trying to do SEO for large enterprise sites or sites that have a lot of customization built into it. Oftentimes when a custom site update goes live, it can have a negative impact on other pages if canonical tags, noindex or other tags are added to the backend to clean up crawl issues. The URL testing tool is very valuable to quickly audit important pages for any indexability issues with large site updates.
5. Audit and optimize rich results for enhanced search performance
Rich results are playing a larger part in Google’s search results. Google is always testing the types of rich results shown for a given search query to provide a better search experience. Understanding how rich results adjust is needed in order to stay ahead of the competition.
Here are some steps you can follow to learn how to best optimize for rich results:
- As we have discussed earlier, you need to set up your pages to be indexed. This will allow you to ensure that your structure data is valid and it will allow Google to easily inspect your site so you’ll receive more accurate results from Google Search Console.
- Monitor your performance. Search Console gives you the ability to see the volume of people coming to your website from rich results. Here’s an example:
This can be beneficial in a few ways. It will allow you to inspect potential patterns in your reports and teach you a lot about how people behave before they get to your site. It also gives you insights into the types of information users want and the format they want it in.
Now that you have a better idea of what your performance is looking like, it’s a good idea to go a little deeper to see what possible issues there are that need your attention.
If errors or warnings are detected, account owners will receive an email with details on the issues. However, if the issue gets more serious, you will not receive an email, which is why it’s imperative that you consistently check in on your Google Search Console reports and results to see if there is anything that needs your attention.
Need a little help with your website or just have a question? Feel free to get in touch with us to see how we can grow your business!