Using Search Console Data in your SEO Audit

My last post was a brief overview of what a technical SEO audit looks like and covered some of the important questions asked and why one might be needed.

I now want to start looking in more detail at specifics, starting with Google Search Console.

Please keep in mind that this post is not an in-depth look at Search Console, but rather looking at why this data is included in each SEO Audit.

Google Search Console – Website Overview

There isn’t a specific way that you should audit your website, but having done this for so long now, it makes sense to create an order – something that you can refer to as you progress.

In this case, Google Search Console is a perfect starting point because you can get a steer on other issues before you even get to them.

Starting with the first page you are presented with, the main Overview page.

The beauty of this page is that it gives you a snapshot of what has happened to a website over the last months. It doesn’t tell you everything, of course, but you can look and start to formulate ideas.

  • Performance
  • Indexing
  • Experience
  • Enhancements

You might see other options here as well, depending on the site in question. For example, you might see a report on Shopping.

From here, you can click on each of the report overviews and go to view a Full Report

While we’re at the top of the page, let’s take a look at the Performance Report.

Google Search Console – Performance Report

You can also get to this report by clicking on Search Results in the left menu.

While auditing a website, you will spend some time here because there is so much that you can do and much of the data filtering is hidden away.

At the top, the default will be set to ‘Search Type’ and ‘Date’. If you want to drill down further into the data, there are many ways that this can be achieved by clicking on ‘+ New’.

The best way to familiarise yourself with all of these options is to try them. You can’t do any harm just by looking.

By digging down into the data, you can unearth a wealth of information. It might not give you everything you need to check as part of an SEO Audit, but without this, you would certainly miss important points.

Search Console – URL Inspection

You will undoubtedly want to look at individual key pages within your website, and this is where you will do that.

As you can see, each of the results here allows you to further inspect those areas simply by clicking on them. In ‘Page Indexing’, for example, you will see additional data related to ‘Discovery’, ‘Crawl’ and ‘Indexing’.

Remember that you can do no harm by looking at these reports, so I would urge anyone to look in here and learn exactly what can be uncovered.

It can be a little bit like a rabbit hole – the more you look, the further you go and additional important reports are shown.

Search Console – Search Results & Discover

Under the Performance heading on the left of the main Search Console page, you will see ‘Search Results’ and ‘Discover’.

We have already looked at the ‘Search Results’ above, but have not yet touched on ‘Discover’. Added in 2018, Discover ties in your site pages with a user’s browsing data and activity to show how your content relates to their interests.

It does this by looking at their previous searches and then recommending content to them.

You can learn more about how this works by checking out the Discover documentation provided by Google.

Search Console – Indexing

The Indexing reports cover Pages, Video Pages, Sitemaps and Removals. One of the most useful, I find, is the ‘Pages’ report. Clicking on this can unearth a wealth of information that helps you understand why pages aren’t being indexed.

Understanding why pages aren’t being indexed and served in Google can help you understand a lot about the makeup of a site and give you some very insightful reasons why issues may be arising.

The same goes for the Video Page Indexing. Pay close attention to the reasons why these are not being served in Google.

Sitemaps are pretty self-explanatory but do check them over for issues as problems will be displayed here.

Search Console – Experience

A website needs so much more than just good basic SEO – it needs to have a solid user experience. Something that is not going to hinder visitors and hopefully make them want to return.

As you might imagine, Google has a lot of data on this, so when auditing your website, do not ignore issues in this section. Google rewards websites with a good user experience as well as good content, so when you have both, you can tick those boxes and move on to the next.

Part of assessing Page Experience is understanding the Core Web Vitals report.

Right now, this is broken down into Poor, Needs Improvement and Good and covers the following:

  • CLS – Content Layout Shift
  • FID – First Input Delay (Soon to be changed (2024) to INP – Interaction To Next Paint)
  • LCP – Largest Contentful Paint

I won’t go into detail on what these mean as Google has already done that, and in great detail. Understand it and what it means for you. Please do spend some time making sense of them.

HTTPS is pretty self-explanatory and shows you if there are HTTP/HTTPS issues on the site.

Search Console – Shopping

You will only really ever be in this report if you run an e-commerce website, but if you do, you need to know how to interpret the reports.

Starting with Product Snippets. Google sums this up pretty well…

So you will probably see these in the SERP’s, but with improvement, you could end up with more product information being shown in Google.

The same goes for Merchant Listings – if you get all of your Structured Data right, there will then be a chance to get enhanced product listings into the Google search results.

Pay attention to why items are invalid and correct them – after all, who doesn’t want more chances to showcase products?

Search Console – Enhancements

Enhancements are really just somewhere you can check on the Structured Data on your site. If you are using these (and you should be) then this is where you will know if there are problems that are preventing aspects of your site from being displayed correctly.

It is broken down as follows:

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Discussion Forum
  • How-To
  • Q&A
  • Review Snippets
  • Sitelinks Searchbox
  • Videos

Each of these will have a piece of Structured Data that can help Google understand your page more clearly.

Search Console – Security & Manual Actions

This report hardly ever shows up for me with any site I am auditing.

Simply put, if Google thinks you have been doing something naughty that violates their guidelines, you might end up with a Manual Action. This means someone has been involved in this decision. You can’t get an opportunity to correct it though.

Search Console – Links

This is the final section that I want to talk about in this post.

The Links reports cover the following:

  • External Links – Top Linked Pages
  • External Links – Top Linked Sites
  • External Links – Top Linked Text
  • Internal Links – Top Linked Pages

Between the 4 reports here, you can gather information on sites that are linking to you, and how, as well as look at which are your most linked-to pages internally – great if you are covering internal links in your SEO audit.

I find this particularly helpful to also understand which anchors are being used the most to link to a site. Too many that are not branded or neutral can sometimes cause issues, but it can also be a lot more involved than just this as well.

So take some time to learn all of the report areas within Search Console – doing so will give you a solid start to your SEO audit and give you some initial ideas as to what might be going on with a website.