Google isn’t just synonymous with search but also analytics, thanks to the popularity of their statistics software, Google Analytics (GA). Google Search Console (GSC) and GA are similar in the sense that they both provide analytical data. However, they serve different purposes, which is why you should probably use both.
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GA helps Webmasters monitor and analyze the performance of their website but doesn’t directly include SERPs (search engine results pages) data. GA doesn’t give you enough information to fix SEO ranking problems but provides consumer behavioral insights.
The core function of GA is to serve as a tool for aggregating or collecting internal traffic stats/data, though it has other highly useful perks. Though you can use traffic tracking plugins, Analytics provides more precise insight into who's visiting your website and has the added benefit of not adding load time to you pages. Popular tracking plugins like Jetpack are notorious for adding bloat to WordPress websites.
Keep in mind that there is other free analytics software on the web such as Matomo that give GA a ‘run for its money’, but many operate on the freemium model, meaning you get the basics for free, but the best features cost money.
Why is GA Important?
The obvious reason is that you need to know what’s happening on your website but there’s more to it all. GA and other analytics tools provide access to key data. Information that can be used to take the right actionable steps necessary to improve your website.
Here are some of the types of info available via GA.
- Know how many people visit your site daily, monthly, quarterly, etc.
- You’ll know exactly where your visitors are coming from such as country, city, and state.
- Compare mobile and desktop traffic to focus your resources accordingly. For example, a company can properly budget the amount of money they can spend on their mobile website re-design.
- Check referral traffic to see which websites are sending you the most visitors. You can focus on increasing your activities on those websites.
- See which marketing initiatives are yielding the most results. You’ll need to set up some simple tracking in GA.
- Find out which pages are performing better than others. Perhaps, you can publish more content like those on your site.
- Track lead conversions and sale acquisition.
- Follow your visitor’s journey to see the paths they took to arrive at certain pages.
- Get information about what’s slowing your site down such as processes that take too long to execute.
Good analytics software like GA can do much more than what is above but those are the most important ones for website owners.
Google Search Console
As noted earlier, Search Console monitors SERP statistics and provides tools that Webmasters can use to fix SEO issues. Issues relating to crawling, indexing, specific page errors, and others can be resolved by analyzing data from Search Console. The platform also allows Webmasters to submit information directly to the search giant such as a sitemap.
Why is Search Console Crucial?
The main reason is to improve SEO and search engine results. Search Console monitors organic traffic and provides clues that can be used to optimize your website’s rankings.
Google is the biggest source of free or earned traffic on the web. The data found in Search Console helps you make informed decisions that can influence your site’s overall performance like keyword targets.
SEO professionals can do the following with Search Console.
- Make sure Google can crawl and index their website.
- Fix common issues that hinder performance on the SERPs.
- Know how much web traffic is coming from Google.
- Receive important alerts such as security notices, indexation errors, and manual actions or penalties.
- View, analyze, and download or export your backlinks. In addition, you can submit a Disavow file to discount certain links that point to your site.
- Check mobile usability to make sure everything is good from a UX (user experience) standpoint.
Search console is also useful in the following ways, not just SEO.
- Website administrators can use some of the information in Search Console to resolve server errors.
- Web designers and developers may use Search Console to resolve rendering issues or properly implement things like structured data.
How to Set Up GA For Your Site
Firstly, you’ll need to register for Google Analytics or use your Google account (e.g. Gmail) if you have one. 1 account lets you access other services like Google Docs, Calendar, and Drive.
You’ll be presented with simple steps to follow in order to start using GA after signing up. Enter all the applicable information about your website or mobile app in the appropriate areas.
Scroll down to find ‘Data Sharing’ settings once your site info is entered. Usually, the default setting is fine but de-select anything that you don’t want. Finally, click ‘Get Tracking ID’ to get your code.
Copy the tracking code provided by GA. Place it within the head section (<head> </head>) of your web pages. The code should be installed on every page. You can use an insert header and footer plugin to do this with WordPress.
How to Setup Search Console
The process for setting up Search Console is very similar to GA. You can use the same Google account as GA to sign up. Click ‘Sign In’ from the homepage to get started. Click ‘Add a Property’, which is located on the top right.
Enter your website address on the box that appears and click ‘Add’. Google will then ask you to verify ownership of the domain. There are four primary ways to verify that you own or are an administrator of a domain. Choose the one that is best suited for your situation and follow the instructions accordingly.
Verification options include the following methods.
- HTML file upload
- Add an HTML tag to your document
- Add info to your DNS record
- Verify using your Google Analytics tracking ID or code
All in all, GA and Search Console are an awesome combination. Some Webmasters prefer to use other Analytics tools in conjunction with Search Console. This is often because they want to limit the search giant’s access to their internal data, though it can also simply be due to preference.
Nevertheless, GA is more sophisticated than a lot of other free software analytics tools, so, it’s best to use it unless you’re really doing a lot of shady things that won’t look good if noticed by Google’s systems.