11 Google Search Console features essential for SEO

Google Search Console is a popular tool for SEO professionals and website admins. Despite this, many businesses have never benefitted from the features it offers. We look at 11 Google Search Console features essential for SEO to help you boost your organic rankings.

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What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console logo

Google Search Console is a free online tool by Google that helps monitor a website’s performance and health. Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, it is an essential tool for many website owners and SEO professionals.

The insights Google Search Console (GSC) provides and the actions you can take are essential for boosting your rankings. The insights you can gain from GSC are vital for determining your online presence and providing opportunities to grow your organic traffic.

GSC is also helpful for pointing out indexing problems or site issues that can prevent your website from appearing in search results. Any manual penalties or actions against your site are also notified through GSC.

Why should you use Google Search Console?

A 3D person standing next to colourful arrows and the word SEO

If you’re a website owner who hasn’t used GSC yet, there are many benefits to your business and site. Here are just some of the reasons why you should use GSC:

  • Monitor and grow organic site traffic.
  • Helps you improve the crawlability and indexing of your site.
  • Discover web design issues affecting your SEO performance.
  • Help determine the success of your online marketing efforts.
  • Understand your website’s mobile compatibility.
  • Increase the number of users and leads on your site.

A strong online presence is vital for businesses to grow online. Without successfully incorporating Google Search Console features into your SEO strategy, you could be losing a lot of potential clicks.

Research by Backlinko found that websites that successfully integrate GSC into their online strategy can gain up to 30% more clicks than those without. So, now that we’ve covered why you should use GSC, let’s look at the 11 Google Search Console features for SEO.

Setting up Google Search Console

A quick side note before continuing with Google Search Console features for SEO is getting set up. You’ll need to set up your site if you’ve never used Google Search Console. Fortunately, this is easy and only requires site ownership verification.

First, go to the Google Search Console set-up page, enter your domain name into the domain property field, for example, dreamscapedesign.co.uk, and click continue.

The setup screen of Google Search Console

You’ll receive a pop-up to verify domain ownership. The verification to provide domain ownership will depend on your hosting provider. Follow the instructions provided and click start verification. You should then be ready to start using Google Search Console.

Domain verification instructions on Google Search Console

If you cannot verify your DNS through your hosting provider, add your site as a URL prefix instead. This method requires linking with Google Analytics or adding an HTML file to your desired location. Follow the verification steps and click Done.

Different verification options in Google Search Console

After set-up, you should be greeted with a screen like this:

The overview page on Google Search Console

You’re now ready to take full advantage of what GSC has to offer.

Google Search Console features

1) Sitemaps

Hands holding a computer screen

One of the first things you should do on your Google Search Console account is add sitemaps. A sitemap is a file that provides search engines with a list of all pages, images, videos, and other files on your domain.

There are different kinds of sitemaps:

  • Page sitemap provides links to all the different pages within your site.
  • Video sitemap provides information on videos found within your site.
  • Image sitemap provides all the images that are hosted on your site.
  • News sitemap lets crawlers find content that is approved for Google News.

Every website should have a page sitemap, at the very least. That’s because search engine crawlers, like Googlebot, can locate all the pages on your site. While existing sites with a large backlink profile may get away without a sitemap, new sites with a limited backlink profile cannot.

By uploading an XML sitemap to Google Search Console, you provide Google with a list of links to all your pages. That way, you can be sure the bots will have no problem finding everything.

To do this, click ‘Sitemaps’ in the left-hand column underneath Indexing.

Sitemaps in Google Search Console

Then, underneath ‘Add a new sitemap’, enter the URL for your sitemap location. Most CMS platforms, such as WordPress, will generate an XML sitemap for you. Typically, this is found at yourdomain/sitemap.xml. Click submit, and you should see the sitemap appear below:

Adding a sitemap in Google Search Console

2) Search queries

Have you ever wondered what search terms lead to someone clicking on your site? Well, wonder no more because the search console has the answers. By clicking on ‘Performance’ in the left column, you’ll be greeted with a wealth of data for your site.

To find search queries, scroll down past the clicks and impressions chart. You should see a table with all the top queries, the number of clicks, and the number of impressions.

Top search queries report in Google Search Console

The queries provided in the performance report are a great source for keyword research. From here, you can determine whether to create content around a certain keyword or if any low-performing queries could be a good long-tail keyword to focus on to improve conversions.

3) Top-performing pages

You can also use GSC to identify your top-performing pages alongside the top-performing queries. These are the pages that gained the most organic clicks from search results. This allows you to see the pages that perform well on your site and those that could require improvements.

4) URL Inspection

The URL inspection tool is ideal for discovering whether a page is on Google and whether enhancements are necessary. If a page has issues, GSC will provide you with the actions necessary to address them.

If there is an issue preventing a page from being indexed, you should seek to address it straight away.  Otherwise, the page won’t show up in search results. Some common problems that GSC might display include:

  • Duplicate content.
  • No user-selected canonical.
  • Redirect error.
  • URL blocks by robots.txt.
  • Blocked due to unauthorised request or access forbidden.

5) Removals

Another feature of Google Search Console features for SEO is removals. This can be found under Indexing in the left column. While it’s not a good idea to remove pages from search results, it may be necessary, for example, when high-performing content is no longer relevant.

In this case, removing the page from search results may be a good idea. Submitting a removal request is valid for six months and will clear your site’s current and cached snippets. To do this, simply click ‘New Request’ and enter the URL.

Removals request form on Google Search Console

You can also view outdated content and anything filtered by SafeSearch under the removals section of GSC.


A globe and a mouse cursor pointing to HTTPS

Nowadays, websites need to use HTTPS for secure data. Implementing HTTPS on your site prevents the risk of attacks and data breaches. To do this, you must install an SSL certificate for your site on the server and configure your site to run HTTPS.

Implementing HTTPS on your site will, most of the time, not produce any errors, but things can go wrong. GSC can identify any HTTPS errors on your site. Click on HTTPS underneath Experience in the left column.

You’ll then see a chart displaying pages with and without HTTPS. If any pages have issues, GSC will tell you the error and the affected pages. Examples of these include:

  • HTTP marked with canonical tags.
  • HTTPS has an invalid certificate.
  • HTTPS has a redirect.
  • HTTPS URL is roboted.
  • HTTPS is not evaluated.

You can check the Google Support page on HTTPS errors to find out how to resolve an HTTPS issue. Once you’ve fixed the error, click Validate Fix on GSC to see if it is resolved.

7) Links

The word SEO spelt out in a link chain

Links are one of the top SEO factors for growing your organic rankings. Monitoring your website links is important, whether the link is internal or external. With GSC, you can do this easily.

You’ll see a report on your site’s link profile by clicking on’ Links’ in the left column. You can see all the external backlinks, internal links, top linking sites, and top linking text from here. This allows you to see whether any backlinks align with your SEO strategy.

However, one major pitfall of the links report is that it doesn’t give insight into how each link helps your site’s ranking. Another downside is that the report will only show the domain of a link, not the source page.

9) Clicks and Impressions

You will probably spend most of your time in the performance section of GSC. We already covered the queries and page reports you can get, but you can also view other stats about your site’s performance.

The performance report provides a chart to indicate the total clicks and impressions your site gained over a certain period. You can also identify the average CTR for pages and the average position of your site.

This can be viewed for web, image, video, and news search types. The data given in the performance report is vital for determining the success of your SEO strategy. You can use the data here to identify any pages that need optimisation to grow their ranking potential.

8) Manual Actions

Has your site’s ranking taken a slump lately? If so, one reason could be Google’s action against your site. Google can take action against your site if it violates the guidelines. The most common cause for this is attempting to manipulate the search index.

Google can implement two types of penalties: algorithmic and manual. GSC will not display algorithmic penalties; you can only view manual penalties, which a human reviewer imposes at Google.

You can view manual actions by clicking on ‘Manual actions’ under ‘Security & Manual Actions’.  If you are fortunate, there should be a nice green tick.

Viewing manual actions in GSC

However, if there is a manual action against your site, the manual actions report will tell the affected pages. You should address any issues flagged against your site as quickly as possible. Then, submit a Request Review. However, it can take time (several days or weeks).

9) Security issues

A person pointing to a computer screen displaying a padlock

The Security Issues report is another Google Search Console feature for SEO. Any security issues from a Google evaluation will show up here. For example, if your site was hacked or there is a security risk to users when visiting your site.

Some examples of security issues are hacked content, malware, and social engineering (psychologically manipulating someone to take action or divulge personal information). The GSC report will show any security issues for your site.

If there are any security issues, a description and possible fix will be provided. Follow the steps to address issues as soon as possible, and then request a review. You will receive an email once a decision has been made.

10) Shopping tab listings

Anyone who has looked for products online will have seen the Google Shopping snippets at the top of search results. If you are an e-commerce site, getting your products to appear in Shopping Snippets is a great way to grow clicks and boost sales.

If you have Google Merchant Centre set up, you can link it with GSC to gain insights into your shopping tab listings. Some of the insights you can gain include:

  • Issues with listings, such as expired offers.
  • Reasons for disapproved listings.
  • Tips and suggestions for boosting the performance of listings.

Acting on the insights and suggestions in GSC for your shopping listings can make a big difference to your visibility, CTR, and conversions.

11) Page experience

One more Google Search Console feature for SEO is the page experience report. Since Google implemented the page experience update in 2021, positive website user experience is crucial for gaining higher rankings.

The page experience report (under ‘Experience’) combines user experience and technical metrics to determine how much your site matches Google’s page experience criteria. The stronger your page experience, the better for your users and rankings.

The main focus on improving page experience is through Core Web Vitals. This includes metrics for measuring user experience. Examples of Core Web Vitals include loading speeds, mobile friendliness, safe browsing, interactivity, and visual stability.

From the page experience report in GSC, you can view the total percentage of URLs with a good experience alongside those that require improvement. Improve any poor or need-improvement URLs to ensure you deliver a positive user experience.

Discover how you can use heatmaps to improve user experience

Even though we covered many features, Google Search Console has much more to offer! So, get set up and benefit from the features available to help boost your SEO performance. Without it, you’ll struggle to gain valuable higher rankings, essential for driving organic traffic and users to your site.