How many times over the last few months have you logged into Google Search Console just to completely ignore the blue button at the top that says “Use new Search Console,” or better yet, ignored every single prompt to “Go to the new report?” Be honest. It’s okay; change is scary and I certainly refrained from embracing the new version for quite some time.
But I’m here to tell you that the new Search Console is not only snazzier than the previous version, but has just about all of your favorite features–and then some. You just need to know where to find them. After all, a “new look” shouldn’t stop you from understanding the state of your website’s health, what keywords are driving clicks to the site, where backlinks are coming from, and more.
So without further ado, here’s a handy guide for navigating the new Search Console:
Search Analytics = Performance
If search impressions, clicks, CTR, and average position for keywords and pages are what you are after, then have no fear. All of the Search Analytics metrics have made the move to the new version. You can now find this data under the Performance section. This is the where you want to be to see what keywords lead to clicks, which pages are performing best in search, and where you rank on Google for relevant keywords.
Better yet, you can now look at more than the last three months of data! The date range now extends to the last 16 months, so feel free to go wild looking at all this historical data that we knew Google really had the whole time.
Sitemaps = Sitemaps
If you’re looking for sitemaps, you should not have a problem finding this one. The name has stayed the same and the feature works in much the same way. Submit a sitemap or explore ones already submitted.
Reminder: Your website should not only have a sitemap, but it should also be submitted to Search Console. Sitemaps are important to SEO because they make it easier for Google and other search engines to crawl the website and find its pages.
Index Status & Crawl Errors = Index Coverage
In the old version, these two features were separate, but I’m lumping them together because they are now found under the Index Coverage section. Within this part of the new Search Console, you can check out a site’s errors, which include the always popular but never present 404s (pun intended), and indexed pages, which are simply labeled as “Valid.” In general, it’s ideal to see the total number of indexed pages increase over time. That indicates two positive things, 1.) that new content is being created for the website and 2.) that Googlebot is finding good reason to frequent your website and index the newly discovered URLs. If a page isn’t indexed it’s not going to be found in search, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve with search engine optimization.
Additional information you can glean from the Index Coverage section include “Valid with warnings,” which are pages that are indexed but have issues, and “Excluded,” which are pages that were intentionally not indexed. Feel free to hover over the little question mark icons for more information about each designation.
Links To Your Site = Links (External Links)
It’s important to browse a site’s backlink portfolio every now and then, and you still can with the new Search Console. Just go to the Links section and then check out the external links. Not only should you be looking for the quantity of links but also the quality. Are the links pointing back to your website relevant to your industry or local area? Are you seeing referral traffic in Google Analytics from these sources? Are your link building efforts paying off?
One thing to note about the new Links section / feature: unlike the old version, there is no “master list” of all links pointing back to the site. Instead, backlink information is on a page-by-page basis. This is great for a more granular look, but also more annoying if you just want to quickly peek to make sure there are not 18,000+ links from a website in Russia.
Mobile Usability = Mobile Usability
Like the sitemaps section, Mobile Usability has remained rather unchanged in both name and capabilities. Peruse the Error tab to see which pages have issues like “Text too small to read” or “Clickable elements to close together.” Or, take a glass-half-full approach and click on the Valid tab to see a list of mobile-friendly pages from your website.
Fetch as Google = URL inspection / “Inspect any URL in…” Search Bar
Ah, the Fetch as Google tool; every SEO specialist’s favorite feature when they are working under the gun to get a page up and indexed for something happening, like, yesterday. Don’t worry, you can still summon Googlebot to your site. Just click on the “URL inspection” button on the left-hand sidebar to get started or drop the page URL in the top search bar that says “Inspect any URL in [http://www.website.com]”. From there, Search Console will let you know whether or not the URL is on Google. If it is not, or if it has changed, you can then “Request Indexing,” which is the new way to Fetch as Google. In addition to being able to perform the above function, the URL inspection also provides coverage and mobile usability data for said URL. So, that’s convenient, it’s like a one-stop-shop.
HTML Improvements = N/A (Go to the old version)
I cannot confirm if this new version of Search Console is complete, but I do know that features from the old version have gradually appeared over time. That being said, one feature I cannot find in its new form is the HTML Improvements section. For now, you’ll have to click on the “Go to the old version” link at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar to review this information. I have to imagine at some point this feature will be migrated over or left behind, but until then just toggle between the two versions to find what you need.
See, that wasn’t too bad. Embrace the change and give the new version a go. With its new sleek design, emphasis on page-level insights, and a larger time frame of data to explore, there’s a lot to like about the new Search Console. Plus, it’s still one of the best free tools for SEO specialists to glean insights regarding the metrics we care most about like keyword attribution and backlinks.