Google search console enables you to monitor and maintain your site’s presence on Google search results. It’s your window to understand how Google views your website and optimise the site’s performance for search results.To understand how your site performs in search results you can use the search analytics report.
This report allows you to filter and group data by a search query, page, country or device on Google Search Console. You can use this report to view how your search traffic changes over time, search queries made by device and click-through rate for pages.
Before you start analysing your website’s performance on Search Analytics Report familiarise yourself with the metrics used and how Google calculates them.
Google Search Console Metrics & How They Are Recorded
A URL records an impression every time it appears in the search result. For example, let’s say in a basic Google search result that includes your website. The link associated with search results records an impression when its viewed in the search result. However, if the visible URL under the search result is not the actual URL then the site only records an impression when the URL pointed to by the link opens the page containing the result.
If a single search element includes several links, impressions are recorded differently for site and URL. For example, let’s say a knowledge graph includes five URL’s to your website then data grouped by the site will only count one impression while data grouped by page would record five pages with one impression each.
You will notice subtle differences in how impression gets recorded for different search elements like carousal, AMP page, featured snippet, rich card, app install link, image and job postings. We recommend you read further on search result element details to understand this subtle differences.
Any click that sends the user outside of Google search results page is counted as a click. If on clicking the search result the user stays inside the search result it is not considered as a click. For instance, if you search for “Angelina Jolie Movies” the result might include a gallery of photos with a list of movies featuring Angelina Jolie. Clicking one of the images in the gallery performs a new query for the chosen movie. Google refers to this as query refinement.
If you click on a link within primary search results that performs a new query, it is categorised as query refinement. If a link in the search result is a query refinement link, then clicks and impressions are not counted for that link.
A basic search result page in Google includes many search result elements. For example, the below diagram shows a search results page with four blue link sections (1, 3, 4, 5), an AMP carousel (2), and a Knowledge Panel card (6). Position for each element is calculated from top to bottom on the right side of the page, then top to bottom on the left side of the page. All links within a single search element have the same position.
The location of the search result element can vary based on device type. Position is a complicated metric which can appear to mislead if you don’t understand the subtle differences. Position number could mean different things in different situations. For example, in the above diagram knowledge graph in position 6 has the most prominent position on the page.
Average position indicates the topmost result for your site. For example, if your site has four results at position 2, 4, 6 and 8, the position is reported as 2. If the second query returned results at positions 4, 6, 8 and 10, your average position would (2+4)/2=3.
Also, if the search analytics report shows your page is on position 5 it is suggesting the page’s average position for all searches. Position values tend to vary based on search history, location and other variables.
To arrive at Click-through rate divide the click count by the total number of impressions. If a row of data has no impressions, then the CTR will be shown as a dash (-) because CTR would be division by zero. The click-through rate and average position will be higher when grouped by the website if multiple pages from the same website appear in the search results, due to different accounting methods used.
For example, imagine that search results for “Animal soft toys for kids” returns only the following three results, all from the same website, and that users click each of them with equal frequency.
In metrics aggregated by site, all clicks for the site will be combined resulting in click-through-rate of 100%. For metrics aggregated by page, the click-through-rate will be 33%, 1/3 of clicks to each page.
How to Use Search Analytics Report Data?
Now that you have familiarised yourself with the most commonly used metrics on Google Search Console let’s see how we can use this data to improve your website’s performance. For this exercise, we will use goals that you can set to improve the performance of your website.
Goal #1: Improve CTR
Search analytics report shows you pages with the highest and lowest click-through rate from Google search results. For queries with high search volume, even a minor improvement in click-through rate will result in substantial improvement in website traffic.
So let’s say your goal is to improve click-through rate to enhance the website’s performance. Download the report for data aggregated by site and filter based on the below criteria.
Remove search queries after average position 8: If your website ranks on keywords or phrases which have commercial intent, then the first two positions in the search result will be occupied by sponsored ads. For example, if your website has an average position of 9 for a certain keyword or phrase with commercial intent, then it will be visible only on the 2nd page of search result.
If your website doesn’t rank on a keyword or phrase with commercial intent, then you can consider the average position as 10 to filter the search analytics report data.
Remove search queries which include your brand name: Brand search queries usually have higher click-through rates which could skew your data. You can apply a filter for queries not containing your brand keyword before downloading the data aggregated by the site to achieve this.
Remove search queries with low or zero clicks: To arrive at your actual CTR, you need to remove search queries with less than 30 clicks. You also increase this number to 100 clicks or less depending on how popular your website is.
Once you have filtered the data based on the above criteria, you can plot the average CTR, and average position in a scatter x-y chart. Select “Position” column and plot that against the “CTR” column with positions set on the bottom x-axis. Add a trend line to the data. While none of the trend lines really fit the predictive CTR model for Google’s search engine rankings but you can use an exponential or power based trend line as it is a close fit.
Tick the “Display Equation on chart” box to see the equation for the trend line. Now it’s clear which results are better than average and which ones are below than average. This equation can also be used to calculate the expected CTR for queries.
The above exercise will help you to arrive at your actual average CTR and average position. For keywords or phrases which have below average CTR, you can optimize meta description to improve the performance. If you repeat this exercise every few months, you can improve your CTR. Do not modify the page title or URL even if the page has below average CTR as it leads the page to be reindexed in search results.
You can, however, modify the SEO title to improve the CTR. SEO title allows you to use a slightly different keyword string which you can take advantage of. We recommend you to read Siege Media’s title tag best practices to understand how can optimize titles to improve CTR.
Goal #2: Brand vs Non-Brand Searches
For most established brands, brand searches dominate search analytics report on Google Search Console. They generate higher clicks, impressions and CTR’s.
If your “non-branded terms” are not performing as well as “branded terms,” then that means that these terms are performing well for other companies. Brand affinity positively impacts search because when people know your brand, they will search for you and the product you sell.
Non-branded search queries suggest the pre-existing preference of the market. If you don’t rank well for non-brand queries, focus on building branding affinity in your space. To improve your performance on non-brand queries you need to target users before they search for your stuff. Target higher funnel queries in organic search that help in the education process and brand recall.
Goal #3: Monitor Device Traffic
Search analytics report on Google Search Console allows you to group results by the device making the search. If you have separate desktop and mobile sites, the metrics for each will be reported separately in search analytics.
You can monitor the impressions, clicks, CTR and position for your website on mobile devices. The search analytics report also allows you to filter further selecting the AMP non-rich results filter. AMP non-rich results include pages with structured data which appear in top carousel results.
Goal #4: Identify Search Intents
Most users have some intent while they search for something. It could be finding the location of a restaurant or a better price for a smartphone. The commercial intent search usually triggers shopping ads which group together a selection of related products.
You can segregate your search queries gathered from search analytics report into four different search intents:
Informational search queries are non-transactional and non-commercial. Searches contain words like: what, when, where, how, who, definition, define, news. This can be classified as higher funnel queries which enable you to brand affinity.
Research & Discovery
Research and discovery queries help in assisted conversions. Search contains words like review, compare, best, features and benefits.
Commercial search queries have an explicit intent to complete an action. Searches contain words like buy, purchase, order, shop, coupon, cheap, cheapest, expensive, pricing.
Location searches that contain words like near, nearby, from, directions, how long to, how far away from, how fast, train station, airport, ferry, route, highway, toll, plane tickets, flights, maps, driving directions.
The list of keywords and phrases will serve as a repository of topics you can use to meet your customer’s needs. In the above graph we have not only intended search queries but also mapped the pages by content format used. You will not be able to serve all customer needs using the same content format hence when optimizing to rank well on non-brand searches also keep a tab on which content formats you use.
Google Search Console Reporting Template
Now that you have learned about the metrics and the goals to be monitored. It’s time to create a Google search console reporting template that is easy to use and provides in-depth coverage of your performance. Our reporting template developed does just that so that you can focus on what’s important – improve your site’s performance.
We have listed four goals that you set for your website based on the data available in Search Analytics Report in Google Search Console, but depending on your business and search marketing you can do a whole lot more. To get started, being by asking yourself what goals or objectives do want to achieve.