The Basics of Google Search Console (GSC) for SEO

Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool provided by Google with useful insights for SEO.

Keep in mind that data is just a snapshot, not the full picture.

However, if you know how to interpret the data correctly and implement respective updates on your website, in combination with a great keyword strategy and content creation,  you could notably increase the visibility of your website.

Julia-Carolin Zeng

Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool provided by Google with useful insights for SEO. You can for example find out about:

  • indexation issues on your website
  • technical issues
  • rankings and insights of how your website is performing in search.

Keep in mind that data is just a snapshot, not the full picture. However, if you know how to interpret the data correctly and implement respective updates on your website, in combination with a great keyword strategy and content creation, the visibility of your website in search could look like this too:

GSC Website Visibility

Please note that in order to achieve the above, we not only worked through GSC, but implemented a very comprehensive SEO strategy over a longer period of time. Fixing any technical errors that GSC flags is an important first step in this process – Google can’t rank your website if it can’t crawl and index it.

The access to GSC is always via a Google account, meaning access rights need to be granted for this particular account. There are different ways to get access or verify an account. You will have the highest level of access if you are a “verified owner”. It will look like this in the settings:

GSC verified owner

Navigating through Google Search Console

There are two types of navigation in GSC: There is a smaller menu in the upper right-hand corner, and then the main menu on the left side.

The menu in the upper right-hand corner is mostly used to navigate to other apps within your Google account. It shows any notifications you received in Google Search Console. Those notifications are also sent to the email address in your Google account, and you can see them there. The below example has 45 unread messages:

GSC top navigation

What you will be mostly using is the navigation on the left. Please note that this navigation can look a bit different for some websites, as it depends on certain search features that might or might not be triggered. There are 4 main sections with several sub-sections:

  • Overview
  • Index
  • Experience
  • Enhancements

GSC left navigation

There are additional sections for “Security & Manual Actions”, “Legacy Tools and reports”, and “Links”. These are either legacy tools that are no longer in use or more advanced features. If you are just looking at GSC for the first time or starting in SEO, you should not have to deal with manual actions or backlink audits and disavows.

Overview, Performance & URL inspection

The “Overview” allows you to get a glimpse of the available data in your account. You can also reach more detailed reports from this section by clicking “Full Report”.

GSC Overview


The Performance section is where you get useful insights into your website, including:

  • Clicks: This is how often users clicked on your website from Google search. (Please note that it won’t match with your actual traffic data from analytics tools.)
  • Impressions: This is how often your website appeared in Google search (no matter in which position.)
  • Average CTR: This is the click-through rate based on clicks and impressions.
  • Average Position: This is the ranking position in Google.

You can change the period shown in the graph or even compare two different periods. The default shows the last 3 months. Please note that the data will only go as far back as your GSC account has been set up, and that there is always a slight delay in available data.

GSC Performance

You can also click on the boxes in blue, purple and orange to make the line appear or disappear in the graph. Below the graph is the corresponding data table.

You can filter the data by clicking “+ New” at the top and select either a specific URL or a specific keyword to only see rankings for that particular part of your website or you could filter by country or device.

All this data can be imported into Excel by clicking “Export” in the upper right.

Search Results, Discover & Google News

For some websites, the “Performance” section could be split into sub-sections; e.g. “Search Results”, “Discover” and “Google News”. In this case, “Search Results” is the equivalent of what we’ve seen above under “Performance”. The “Discover” tab is shown if any of the website’s content has appeared at any point in Google Discover.

Google News will appear in this list if the website has been submitted and approved for Google News. Publishers need to actively apply for this, and there are some strict guidelines for content to be eligible in Google News.

GSC Google News

URL Inspection

If you click “URL Inspection” in the left sidebar, you will notice that it won’t load a new report, but it emphasizes the box at the top of the page. To inspect any URL on your website, you simply copy and paste this URL in that box and hit “enter”.

This will then give you details about crawling and indexing of that particular page, and you would see if there were any errors. In the below case, everything is okay with the page:

GSC URL Inspection

If you just published a new page on your website, it probably won’t have been crawled yet. In this case, or if you just made a change to a page you hadn’t updated in a long time, you can click on “REQUEST INDEXING”. This will add the page to the queue and Google will crawl it soon. This does not mean though that the page will be indexed and ranked in Google; it just makes the crawler come a bit quicker.

However, it is better to not rely on this feature. On a healthy website, Google should crawl and index new content automatically within a few days. If you are reliant on this feature in GSC, it might indicate a wider issue —for example, low crawl budget or poor internal linking.

If you had previous technical issues with a page that you believe are fixed now, you can also use the “TEST LIVE URL” button in the upper right and it will show you whether Google is able to crawl your page now, or if there are still problems.

If you click on the arrow on the right side of “Page is indexed”, you will get more information about the crawl path and when Google last crawled this particular page. This section would also give an indication about the reasons why a page might not be indexed. For example, if it shows another URL as the “Google-selected canonical” it means that it sees this page as the duplicate of another page.


The next section that provides useful insights is “Index”. Please note that the sub-items in this menu can be a bit different for each website. The ones that you should always see and use are: “Pages”, “Sitemaps”, and “Removals”.


In the section about “Pages”, you get an overview of how many pages on your website Google has found, crawled and indexed:

GSC Pages

The number of pages that you see here should match the number of pages on your website. If there are any noticeable discrepancies, it could indicate an issue. Also, if the graph shows the number of indexed pages declining, but you haven’t removed anything from your website, this should be investigated.

Below this graph is a list of reasons why pages might not be indexed by Google. You can click on any of the issues and download the affected URLS (up to 1000) to analyze them separately. Please note that it will only show you those items that are relevant for your website. It could be the following:

  • Blocked by robots.txt: Pages that Google previously crawled, but that are disallowed in the robots.txt file. This could mean that you accidentally disallowed pages that you wanted to be in Google. It could also be correct in which case you can ignore this point.
  • Page with redirect: Pages that Google crawled on your website that are not indexed because they redirect. This is not an issue unless the numbers in this section are very high. If there are high numbers of redirects on your website, you should review your internal links to optimize your crawl budget.
  • Excluded by ‘noindex’ tag: Pages that Google found on your website but did not index due to no-index tags. This could be correct; however, it is recommended to review this list to ensure the pages listed here are really meant to have this tag.
  • Alternative page with proper canonical tag: This could be a duplicate of another page on the website. You should analyze them one by one.
  • Not Found (404): Pages that Google crawled that returned a 404 error. It should be reviewed if those pages were meant to be removed from your website without a redirect. You should also review and update any internal links pointing to these URLs.
  • Soft 404: Pages that Google crawled which returned a 200-response code, but don’t render correctly or have no content. You should review these.
  • Crawled – currently not indexed: Pages that Google crawled but did not index. This could indicate issues with content quality or duplication. You should review these pages.
  • Discovered – currently not indexed: Pages that Google found on your website but did not crawl. This mostly happens if you suddenly released a huge number of new pages on your website and it was too much for Google to crawl it all immediately. You should keep an eye on this, as it could indicate technical issues (e.g. your CMS creating hundreds of parameter URLs, user-generated content getting out of hand etc.)

Please note that there can be false positives in this list, and it might also be that some of those issues have already been fixed. The list of indexation issues in GSC is not always up to date.

Once you have addressed these issues, you can click “Validate Fix” for Google to recrawl these pages.

Sitemaps & Removals

The Sitemaps section is where you can submit the link to your XML sitemap. It will also tell you if there have been any issues reading your sitemap.

In the Removals section, you can submit any URLs that you would like to remove from Google’s index.


This section in Google Search Console is split into three further sub-sections: Page Experience, Core Web Vitals, and Mobile Usability. They provide an overview of the number of pages on your website which have good Core Web Vitals, have effective load speed, and are mobile-friendly.

Please note that this is only an overview. The section does not provide many details, nor does it show stats for the whole website. If your website is still young or quite small, there might not even be any data in this section.

GSC Experience

If you see any URLs marked as ‘failing’ in this section, a further analysis outside of Google Search Console is needed. You are likely to use third-party tools for this.


This is the section that will look very different for every account. This is mostly based on the structured data markup that has been implemented on a website or whether there is an AMP-equivalent or not.

This section shows which of your markup has been picked up by Google and whether any issues have been detected.

GSC Enhancements

GSC invalid items

is best used in tandem with other tools which allow you to analyze the results further. Also remember that it’s possible to get some false positives in GSC, so diligently review the results and use your best judgment to address potential problems.

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