Knowing your website ranking in the search engines is critical to understanding how well your content is doing and seeing where you can improve it.
Using the Google Search Console you can get some great insight into your Google keyword ranking for your website as well as click thru rates (CTR) which can help you understand where you need to work to improve your content.
While there are other ranking tools that will give you some of this data – they are typically too pricey for most website owners. We typically utilize Ahrefs.com and SEMrush to grab this kind of information for our clients, but wanted to share a free option that will help you on the road to ranking success!
The methods outlined below are just 1 of our strategies we use to help our clients improve in the search engines, but before we dig into the how to, there are a few important things you should now about the Google Search Console.
What is Google Search Console?
The Search Console by Google – formerly called Webmaster Tools is a must have if you run a website. If you have not setup your website to work with the Search Console, we recommend you do that immediately. Here is a beginners guide to setting it up!
Here is a list of some of the data/services you can get out of the Search Console:
1) Check your indexing status
2) Find websites that link to you
3) Get alerts if there any issues with your website like a hack, indexation issues and more
4) Fetch as Google tool to submit new pages faster
5) Get keywords and positions
….these are just some of the more common uses, there are many more great things you can do with this toolset.
Why your position being shown in the Search Console is not exact!
Before we jump into the how-to stuff, we want to talk about 1 important thing, keyword position. The keyword position that is being shown in the Search Console is not where you currently rank – but an average of where you have ranked over the time you have filtered your reports for. So if you left it at 3 months, the position is an average of where you were in those 3 months.
You MIGHT actually be in the position that it shows – but if not there are a few reasons why.
These are a few of the variables that can affect your keyword rank position:
1) Where the person is doing a search from (country, state, county etc)
2) Whether they are logged in or or out of Google
3) Have they visited your website before
4) The browser being used
5) Google algorithm changes
6) Device the searcher is using
7) Your result may be in images, snippets, video carousels and more
There are rumors of many other things that can affect these variations in rank as well – so as you can see it would be impossible to say “you rank #4 for “this keyword”.
Here is a great example of a keyword we rank #1 for!
You can see below for our Meta Description post it is showing we rank for the term “photo description example” in position 1 – but when I look in the search results for that term, I am as of today at 18.
But, when I clicked on over to the images results in Google – bam, there we were #1!
So you may have to do a little digging sometimes to see where you may be ranking if it not obvious.
We do know is that Google takes an AVERAGE among ALL QUERIES where your site appeared. So if your keyword returns a result in Organic, Local, Knowledge Graph or on mobile or desktop – all of these things are averaged together.
You can read more about position values as written by Google to help you better understand these calculations.
Search Console Overview
Below are the steps to getting to the Search Console and an overview of what you are seeing on the landing page.
1) Go to the Google Search Console
2) In the left menu bar click SEARCH RESULTS under the performance area – you will then see a page that looks like the below.
What is all this exactly? Let’s do a quick review!
- Total clicks is how many clicks to the website there has been in the time frame you are filtering for. (default is 3 months)
- Total impressions is roughly how many people laid eyes on your links the search engines for the time frame you are filtering for. (default is 3 months)
- Average CTR is how many of the total impressions were a click to the website for the time period you are filtering for. (default is 3 months)
- Average position is the average of all your keywords that rank over the period of time you are filtering for. (default is 3 months)
None of the above are EXACT! They are averages based on more variables than you can imagine.
Below that you will then see a table of your keywords and that is where the magic is. By default only the Total clicks and impressions filter options are applied as seen below with the blue highlighted boxes.
We recommend you also click the Average CTR and Average Position buttons so you have that data as well.
You can also change the type of search you want the data for (web, image or video) and then set dates or compare dates to analyze your data for a specific time frame.
Search Console Table
The table area of the Search Results features tabbed areas that include:
- Queries which is the listing of all the keywords your website ranks for
- Pages which is a listing of all of your pages that have keywords ranking
- Countries which is showing you a list of the countries sending you traffic
- Devices tells you if you get more mobile, desktop or tablet traffic
- Search Appearance shows you an special items you may rank for
The Queries Tab
Now that you know how to view the list of keywords your website ranks for – we will cover what to look for.
Analyzing the Queries
When you click the Queries tab you will see the list of all the keywords Google shows you ranking for. You can sort by CTR, Position, Clicks, Queries or Impressions to better analyze your data.
Most will want to start by filtering by position so they can see what queries they rank highest for. But we like to use the filter tool to further refine what we see so we can quickly find what we call “low hanging fruits” to gain more organic traffic and clicks.
In the below screenshot you can see 3 lines with the word filter rows beneath it, this allows you to filter the queries by an array of options. For this example we clicked Queries, then sorted them by Position and then created a filter to show only those keywords that are in position 5 or higher.
We want to see if there are opportunities to quickly improve rank for a keyword! Moving a keyword from position 5 to even position 2 can greatly affect your traffic!
Below we see “meta tag description example” which gets about 260 searches a month. We currently are averaging position 5 and have a click through rate of 2.2%. That is not a click through rate we are happy with at position 5 – and we are also not happy being at position 5, so this is definitely a phrase we will want to do better with.
But before we make ANY changes we will want to double check how the term has been doing more recently. So we will click on it and get more data – we talk a little bit more about this below.
Now, let’s take our term “meta tags example” as shown in the screenshot below.
It looks like we received 19 clicks in the last 3 months from results returned for that term and that our average position is 7.7.
We are not thrilled about a 1.5% CTR when we are at position 7 so that is something we will want to look at.
So when we type that term into Google the first thing we notice is that for this term we are actually result #12 (we are logged in to Google and using Chrome) your results may vary if you search for that keyword.
But this would make me feel better about a 1.5% click through rate since I know most people rarely get to page 2.
From the screen above we can click the term “meta tags example” and then you will see a screen that looks like the below. Now we are analyzing details just about this specific term. If you look at the purple line you can see that the term “meta tags example” with an average position of 7.7 has fluctuated a bit over the last 3 months. It looks like we ranked as high as 5 at one point and as low as 13 at another, which is how they get the average of 7.
You can also see the other lines as well for clicks, impressions and CTR and how you did over the last 3 months.
RECOMMENDATIONS: So for this keyword we see there is an estimated search volume of 1,000 – and the term is 100% relevant to our article so I would definitely want to update this post to try and get it to rank higher so we can grab more of those clicks!
The Pages Tab
This is one of our favorite parts of the tool and the one we use the most.
In the tabbed area you will see a tab called PAGES – if you click this option instead of queries you will receive a list of all of your website pages that have received impressions and then you can view the clicks, impressions, CTR and position on a per PAGE basis!
This is important for determining your most popular pages and where you can find room for improvement.
In the below screenshot – you can see we checked CLICKS, IMPRESSIONS, CTR and POSITION in the top filter area.
Then we selected PAGES and chose a date range of 3 months to get the results below.
We sorted our data by clicks so we can see what pages are receiving the most clicks in the search results.
Our winning page as seen below is about Meta Descriptions as it delivers the most traffic to our website.
Viewing all the keywords a page ranks for.
So I now know that my Meta Description post is the most popular but I want to see all the words or phrases it ranks for and see if I can find some I can improve on.
I just click the page url in the page above, the select the Queries tab and I will see a screen that looks like the below.
You will see the following information:
- Total clicks to the Meta Description page for the last 3 months is 6.500K
- Total impressions for the last 3 months is 247K
- Average CTR for the last 3 months is 2.7%
- The average keyword position is 27
Below that data you will see the list of queries that the page ranks for and you can see “meta description example” is the top keyword for the page delivering 1,347 clicks to the website in a 3 month period.
From here I will review the list of all the keywords that appear to see if I can find keywords that are ranking but not getting a good click through rate, or maybe find new keywords that I can further optimize my post for!
The Countries Tab
This tab shows you the countries that refer the most traffic to your website. Since we are based in the US we would expect that highest amount of traffic to come from the US – and it does!
The Devices Tab
This tabs shows the devices and how much traffic you get from them. In our case we get the most traffic from users on desktop by a very large margin. This is important to keep an eye on so you can ensure your user experience is perfect for the device that sends the most traffic your way!
Search Appearance Tab
This is a newer tool that will allow you to see different types of search results you may have like snippets or AMP pages.
Search Console Video Tutorial
Remember, this is just an overview of the data relevant to your website. Nothing in these reports are EXACT given all the variables – but this data can help you tremendously. There is a lot more to review in the Search Console and we will do future posts to help you further refine your data.
Once you have this data – you can download it for use in other tools you may use and to analyze the data in other ways. There is a download button at the bottom of every page of data so you can get an Excel or Google spreadsheet. Doing a monthly review and downloading the data can help you evaluate progress and future work that needs to be done.
Jill Caren brings over 12 years of WordPress and SEO experience to help you improve and grow your website. She has spoken at several events on SEO and has been published in several top SEO publications. You can contact Jill here.