Google Search Console can provide you with a wide range of insights if you know what to look for and where. It is one of the best tools that you can use to optimize your digital marketing strategy. But, many digital marketers get confused as to which report or issue matters the most and when.
Here in this post, we will shed light on the five most important GSC issues that you should focus on.
1. Website Indexing Issues
The index coverage report in GSC lets you see how many of your website’s pages are indexed by the search engine and may appear in the search results.
The report provides you with indexing state of all website URLs that Google successfully visited or tried to visit.
The report also provides information on why a certain URL has a particular status (e.g. submitted website URL not found or 404 errors).
The URLs are grouped by their status such as –
- Error: The website URL has not been indexed. Learn more about the error by studying specific error descriptions and fix it on a priority basis.
- Warning: The website URL has been indexed but there’s an issue that you should know about.
- Valid: The website URL has been indexed.
- Excluded: The website URL has not been indexed; it could be because the website URL is a duplicate of a canonical URL or you’ve intentionally excluded it by a noindex directive.
The index coverage report can point out crawl or duplicate content issues.
For example, if the number of URLs shown in the index coverage report in GSC is too high or low in comparison to actual live web pages on your website, it can be due to a wide range of issues and result in reduced visibility and lower rankings.
Therefore, fixing indexing issues should be your priority number one.
In the video shown below, Daniel Waisberg from Google briefly explains index coverage status in GSC.
YouTube Video: Source
2. Common GSC Errors
The most common errors that you should focus on are:
- 404 Error: It occurs when a page is not accessible. It may no longer exist or its URL may have been changed. You can either fix the issue that’s causing the 404 error or redirect the page; be sure to use 301 permanent redirects instead of 307 temporary redirects. Redirect to a page that has content similar to the one that no longer exists.
- Redirect Error: It occurs when redirect to a page isn’t working correctly. You need to check your .htaccess file and redirect rules to identify the root cause of the problem.
Soft 404: This happens when a page could not be found. Check if it’s happening due to a bug.
- Crawl Issue: Crawlers may be blocked from accessing certain URLs as per the rules defined in your robots.txt file. However, this may not always be the reason why a URL has a crawl issue.
Resolving such errors that hinder SEO may require one-time help from a web developer, especially if there are hundreds of web pages with issues. With time, however, you can develop a list of best practices for your content and digital marketing team to follow.
3. Page Speed Issues
Google takes user experience (UX) seriously; fast web experience has for long been an important UX factor.
Google started using ‘page speed’ for ranking as a signal (focused on desktop searches) way back in April 2010.
In July 2018, Google formally announced that page speed would be a ranking factor for mobile searches as well.
A ‘Speed Report’ was first made available in GSC in Nov 2019. In this report, Google classifies your pages as being, ‘Fast,’ ‘Moderate, or ‘Slow.’ The report also tells you about the specific issue that caused a slowdown for a particular page.
The report is based on data pulled in from Chrome User Experiences Report.
Website owners, SEO professionals, and analysts can use this report in GSC to identify potential performance issues that require immediate attention to speed up a website. You can also use this report to track fixes that you made to deal with page speed issues.
The page speed report links to Google’s Page Speed Insight Tool, which offers guidance on how you can optimize page speed for various pages.
Page speed is not just important for SEO but also important for your potential customers. Also, if you want to improve conversion rate or have been experiencing abysmally low conversion rates, you cannot afford to ignore page speed issues highlighted in the GSC report.
4. Mobile Usability Issues
Mobile usability report in GSC shows which pages in your website have usability issues when accessed through mobile devices.
Based on this report, you can quickly identify pages that aren’t mobile-friendly, view details of a specific issue, and get the information on how to fix it.
GSC’s mobile usability report can point out errors such as:
- A page uses an incompatible plugin (e.g. Flash or other animation) which is not supported by modern-day mobile browsers.
- The page does not scale properly according to a user’s screen because the ‘viewport’ property has not been defined.
- The page is not mobile-responsive because the ‘viewport’ property is not set to ‘device-width.’
- Users need to ‘pinch to zoom’ to read the text in small font-size on a page.
- Users cannot easily tap on touch elements such as buttons, navigational links, etc. because they are too close to each other.
You can prioritize mobile usability issues based on the report and tell Google to re-crawl the pages that you have fixed.
The search engine giant has been mobile-first for some time now.
The company published a list of mobile-first indexing best practices in 2018 and started
notifying websites that began migrating to mobile-first indexing via GSC.
Starting July 1, 2019, mobile-first indexing was enabled by default for all new (new
launches or previously not crawled by Google) websites.
Google has made it clear that getting indexed this way does not offer a ranking advantage but having mobile-friendly pages/content is advantageous to those looking to get better results in mobile searches. Yes, it’s a bit confusing.
Google may still rank a page higher up in the SERPs if it’s an excellent match for a search query, even if the page is not mobile-friendly or has page speed issues. Barring these rare exceptions, it is clear that Google is seriously factoring in mobile-friendliness to prioritize one website over the other in mobile searches. Mobile usability is also important if you want to boost mobile conversions.
So, make sure to follow the best practices and fix issues pointed out by the mobile usability report in GSC on a priority basis.
5. Manual Actions against Your Website
You can check the ‘manual actions’ report in GSC to find out if a manual action has been issued against your website.
Such actions are issued by a human reviewer if your web pages violate Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. Manual actions can be due to cloaked images, user-generated spam, structured data issues, hidden text, keyword stuffing, thin content, unnatural links to/from your site, suspicious mobile redirects, etc. Holding on to SEO myths popular in yesteryears can easily lead to manual actions being issued against your website.
Most issues reported under the manual actions report in GSC will result in sites or pages being ranked lower. Certain sites or pages may even be omitted from search results altogether!
So, it is important to fix all issues listed in this report as soon as possible and request a review.
YouTue Video: Source
Google may take up to two weeks to complete ‘reconsideration review.’ Webmasters are informed via email when the review is complete.
A free service from Google, GSC can help you identify potential issues that can affect your website’s ranking as well as user experience. Fixing issues outlined above should be a priority for anyone investing in digital marketing in order to promote a website. The process is somewhat complicated for a beginner but it’s completely worth the effort!
Simon is one of the founders and head of operations at 405 Ads. Simon serves as an online marketing manager to businesses and agencies worldwide. His overall business and marketing experience has helped hundreds of business owners get their presence done right when it comes to today’s online world.