There are many great paid tools out there to improve your SEO and online marketing efforts.
However, some of the best tools you can use to increase traffic to your site are free. We all know that Google Search Console offers a lot of great information about the traffic the world’s largest search engine sends to your site…but are you really getting the most out of it?
Good information only becomes useful if you can use it to create a great online SEO and content strategy.
Read on for five major strategies that you can use from Google Search Console to make your on-site content all the more effective!
1. Find Under Optimized Keywords That Are Already Ranking
Getting information about how individuals are finding your website is one thing. Understanding how to get the most out of it is another.
First, sign in to Google Search Console and select the website property that you want to look at.
You should start on an overview page that gives a general chart, similar to this:
Note: If you don’t see the average position line at the beginning of the position rankings on the lists below with Clicks and Impressions, make sure to check the box for “Average Position” at the top right above the line graphs. Since that box is white instead of orange when unchecked it’s easy to miss, but robs you of crucial data if you forget about it.
What we’re more interested in isn’t the overview. We want to scroll down to the options right underneath the chart and click on “PAGES” (between Queries and Countries) to see the specific blog pages that are getting traffic for us.
Under the lists of pages click on the one you want to optimize to get page-specific information straight from Google.
This brings you to a page that looks a lot like the general overview, but all the numbers and information focus on only that one page that you clicked on. You know you’re in the right place because under pages there will be only one URL listed – the one you clicked on.
Now click on queries.
This is where it gets good. Google Search Console gives you all the information on that page.
- The exact search queries that led visitors to that page
- How many clicks each search query gave you
- How many impressions Google counts for that search term in general
- As well as your page’s average ranking position for that keyword.
The top 10 search terms for the above page look like this:
There are a few strong rankings, but most of these are ranks 5-7. Those terms are only getting a trickle of the potential traffic they could be.
And sure enough, those terms are not optimized on the article ranking for them. Just an hour of editing work on this page could do wonders for the traffic numbers.
This would be a moderate win. There are definitely easy gains to be made there and plenty of traffic to be had.
The second highest traffic page on this site shows exactly why this strategy can be incredibly powerful:
This is the type of page where using Google Search Console strategy could be a game-changer for a small blog owner.
Yes, those are modest click numbers, but it becomes apparent why. Look at the average position. The BEST page is ranked 5th or 6th on average, and over half of this page’s best terms are Page 2!
That also means the site is on page two for search terms that are still delivering organic traffic from searchers willing to go the extra mile to find the information they need.
What do you think that would mean for traffic if the page was optimized to achieve high page one rankings across the board?
This is a solid review post, but it’s focused on the really specific brand names of the toys. Not these search terms, not common synonyms, not any questions or descriptions parents would use to find out what toys their kids are babbling about before Christmas.
These show exactly where there’s plenty of room to get some serious traffic boost from a little bit of editing, internal link building, on-page optimization, and even minimal SEO work.
All from information that Google Search Console is giving us for free.
Pro Tip: Set the Rows per Page to 25 or 50 to be able to get a better sense of keyword “groups” that are underserved but still doing well. The default setting is 10 per page which is a good start, but most find bumping it up to 25 or 50 gives a better overview of how to improve or optimize a page with the information given.
That’s the section literally right under the Overview on the right-hand side.
The Strategy: You’re looking for search queries for your selected page that are getting traffic, but are ranked at the bottom of page one or even page two.
Those are the pages with the most explosive growth potential. When you can move a 9 or 11 ranking already giving you traffic up to a top-three – that’s when the magic happens.
Now try to optimize for these queries that your page is already getting traffic from. You will often find search queries that you have not optimized for at all, or sometimes even mentioned in your article that is actually getting traffic.
Look at the search queries getting traffic for your selected page, then ask yourself:
- Are all those queries in headers in my blog post?
- Are any of those queries in the title of the post?
- Is there even a section on this, or was it just mentioned off-hand?
- Would this term make for a better page if I created an entire section around it?
- Optimize your title, headers, and even add a section where appropriate for some easy wins.
Although a very small hobby toy blog, even this site has a really good example of how you can scour Google Search Console to find some easy long hanging fruit with the potential to give good boosts in organic traffic.
The information Google gives you through Search Console tells us that there’s already traffic and demand for this information. You don’t need to guess at whether or not there are searchers for those terms. Google is giving you the green light.
Are these low-traffic examples from a small site? Sure. But this strategy applies to blogs and niche websites of all sizes.
If you’re driving traffic from the bottom of page 1 or from page 2, that tells you there’s not only demand for more information on those terms, but that the results at the top aren’t fully serving the searchers’ needs.
That means there’s a lot of room for more traffic.
Even better, Google is telling you with the impressions number the rough amount of potential traffic that is up for grabs with each term.
Summary: Optimize articles for terms getting traffic from the bottom of page one or top of page two rankings to move your article into much higher traffic positions.
2. Which Keywords Could Be Their Own Blog Post?
Look through the search terms that are getting your website traffic. Do all of them match a carefully crafted article? Or are you “incidentally ranking” for something?
The second strategy for using Google Search Console to get the information you need for boosting traffic numbers to your site is finding these new article opportunities.
The process is the same as step one – but this time instead of just optimizing an article you are looking for search terms that really could have a post of their own.
How to Locate These New Topics in Search Console
Usually, the search term showing potential is related to the main article, but not the major focus.
What could this look like?
Maybe if you see terms for “timber rattlesnake” driving traffic to an outdoor website post that’s just about venomous U.S. snakes in general, or the dangers of hiking in a certain area.
That tells you that there’s enough demand for information on “timber rattlesnake” that you might want to make that topic its own article.
You might find an aging blog with an article about arthritis is getting a lot of traffic for “arthritis-friendly coffee mug” even though you just mention that once or twice in the large post.
The great thing about this strategy is that you can use data you already are getting from Google to see what they view your site as being an authority on.
The benefits of this strategy are clear:
- You focus on terms you already KNOW have some degree of traffic
- You’re working on a topic Google already sees you as having some authority in
- Internal linking is easy – you already have a one-page ranking for the topic you’re writing on, after all!
- If you were ranking for a side topic that wasn’t fully optimized, chances are good there’s some weak competition that will be easy to beat with your new articles
This is a great way to figure out some of your next article topics and increase your chances those will be “hits” as opposed to “misses.”
Summary: Find keywords you’re already getting impressions for that work as stand-alone articles and write that new optimized content!
3. Optimize for Google Discover
This might be one of the most vexing strategies for many website owners, but it’s still one that is worth hammering on because of the explosive traffic potential if you get it right.
Discover is the equivalent of Google’s foray into social media. This is especially prevalent when on mobile. If an article appears on Google Discover you’re likely to see a potentially huge spike in traffic.
These are usually 48-hour or 72-hour spikes that go away, but those spikes can mean a burst of new visitors to your site.
Trace Back From Your Successes
If you have had various articles that have been picked up by Discover then you will want to look at which of those posts have done that. Then try to reverse engineer why.
Look for patterns. This might be similar topics, similar styles, or times you wrote a post in response to something instead of a set content plan.
If you spot patterns or any similarities between the posts that have been promoted by Google Discover in the past then you want to concentrate on copying those.
Write your new blog posts in the style, format, and on the topics that have worked for you before. This strongly increases your chances of being picked up again.
What If You Haven’t Had Anything Picked Up By Discover?
Finding the “magic formula” for getting an article picked up by Google Discover is something no blogger has seemed to consistently figure out yet.
Or if they have, they’re being very quiet about it.
Most articles talking about optimizing for Google Discover aren’t too helpful. They give nuggets like “Practice basic SEO” or “Write quality content.”
After a lot of digging, there do seem to be a few things you can do beyond the basics that at least give you a bit more of a chance to get picked up by Discover.
While this isn’t a guarantee, doing these things beyond the SEO, EAT, and content quality basics at least increase your chances.
- Focus on really high-quality images (Google mentions this multiple times as a big factor)
- Look at what Google says about Discover
- Write on topics your site is related to that could add value to a breaking news story or event (when possible)
- Learn about, and use, open graph metadata (read this if you’re confused)
- If you can make high quality, high-resolution video, consider adding that to your post
Summary: Find any pieces of your content that have been picked up by Google Discover and replicate common themes. Optimize for Discover to give yourself a chance at those big bursts of traffic.
4. Make Sure Your Core Web Vitals Are in Order
Google wants to provide the best experience for its users. That means they are more than willing to provide information to site owners to help them create a better functioning site that Google wants to see.
Who do you think Google is more likely to rank? A site that follows all the guidelines that Google provides or one that does not?
Even if your website is doing well, you might be surprised what the Core Web Vitals shows. Sometimes Google spots issues well before they actually penalize them. Google is also always tinkering with its business.
That can mean your site is perfect according to Core Web Vitals one month but then a year later the same posts register an error.
Case in point. This site had a very active November that went back and forth before landing on there being 39 recorded URL “Needs Improvement” issues. These may or may not be affecting the website negatively right now.
But at some point, they will almost certainly become a potential problem. Ask any webmaster who saw hundreds of errors in their core web vitals for a full year before the infamous schema updates wiped out 90% of their traffic overnight.
Your core web vitals section of Search Console is going to show any issues that Google sees with your website.
Considering that Google has been openly discussing a MAJOR update in May 2021, now is the time to make sure absolutely everything is fixed and in working order before the update takes place.
See what Google Search Console has to say about your site so you can fix any potential issues before they become actual problems.
Summary: Make sure to regularly check the web core vitals section of Google Search Console, especially prior to announced updates from Google.
5. Make Proper Mobile Usability a Priority
The days of mobile being optional are long gone. Long, long gone. This shouldn’t be big news to anyone. However, many people are surprised to learn just what percentage of searches are on mobile devices versus computers.
If you group tablets in with mobile devices, the ratio many sites are reporting is 4:1. 80% of searches being on mobile devices or tablets versus actual desktop computers.
The small site used earlier as an example holds those numbers up. Look at the clicks to see how those numbers do indeed seem to bear out.
Mobile used to be a side consideration, but those days are past. Google is a mobile-first search engine and you need to make sure your website is set up appropriately.
It’s not a coincidence that the “Mobile Usability” section is located right under the “Core Web Vitals” section.
Ideally, you like to see that 0 “No Issues” setup under the error section. If there are errors of any kind, even if it’s just a single one, then you need to address that. Fix any errors so mobile users (aka the majority of your audience) have a quality issue-free experience.
Summary: Google is a mobile-first search engine so you need to make sure your mobile setup is 100% up to date, error-free, and functioning normally.