People are looking for you, information about your legal services, and solutions to their legal issues in Google. The steps to ensure that your pages are properly crawled, indexed, and delivered are really table stakes for marketing a law practice in the digital age. This is the realm of technical search engine optimization (SEO). While some aspects of technical SEO might seem difficult to grasp, fortunately, there’s Google Search Console to provide insight into some of the most important technical SEO factors of our pages.
What Is Search Console?
From Google’s own documentation:
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but doing so can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results.
Basically, it is a diagnostic tool for identifying problems that can hurt your pages’ performance in Google search results.
Why Use Search Console?
Search console is one of the best ways to spot SEO problems with your pages. Contrary to the folks who proclaim that SEO can be reduced to, “just write stuff online,” there are a variety of technical issues that can impede your visibility in search results. Search Console is one of the most effective tools for quickly identifying and fixing the majority of these issues.
Let’s dive into each section of Search Console.
Search Console’s Dashboard provides an overview of four important sections:
- Crawl Errors
- Search Analytics
We will explore each of these sections in more depth below. The Dashboard is a quick way to see overall health of your site and any recent messages from Google.
The Messages section lists messages from Google that relate to your site’s health. Here are a few common examples:
- Disavowed links updated
- Reconsideration request for http://yourdomain.com/
- Your site http://yourdomain.com/ is now linked to a Google Analytics web property.
- Improve the search presence of http://yourdomain.com/
- Increase in “404” pages on http://yourdomain.com/
- Fix errors on your AMP pages
- New geographic target set for http://yourdomain.com/
- Changes to sitelinks for http://yourdomain.com/
- http://yourdomain.com/: Unnatural inbound links
Messages can range from relatively benign updates, to severe problems (like Manual Action penalties or severe indexation issues).
I recommend that you don’t delete these messages (or at least keep a running list of them). If you ever need help diagnosing problems with your site, having a full record of Search Console messages can be quite useful.
Clicking the small “i” next to Search Appearance in the Search Console menu displays the Search Appearance Overview window. This provides general information about some of the major elements of your page from the perspective of search engines. These include examples of:
- Search within a site
- Event – Rich Snippet
- Product – Rich Snippet
Clicking into any of these example elements provides more information about how to influence the feature. Where applicable, it will also list where to find these features in Search Console.
The Structured Data report lists information about your pages Structured Data such as:
- The number of top-level structured data elements found in your html code.
- Data Types (i.e. legal services)
- The number of pages on which items were found.
- Items with Errors
This report is useful for identifying and fixing errors with structured data markup. Structured data errors may limit your pages’ ability to show search features like review snippets (the star ratings that show up for pages in search results).
Rich cards provide data to Google about things like events, products, or opportunities on your website. Google uses rich card data to display a variety of special formats which can earn attention and help drive traffic to your pages. Law firms should specifically focus on rich card data for local business, events, and reviews.
The Data Highlighter tool is intended to provide a more user-friendly way to submit structured data to Google. Frankly, I prefer to add structured data markup by hand. But if you’re not familiar with marking up pages, you might find this tool useful.
Next up we have the HTML Improvements report. This report lists content issues detected by Google. Common problems you might find here include duplicate or missing title tags and meta descriptions. This report will also list non-indexable content.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) report is a relatively new Search Console report. Here Google will show issues related to your AMP pages including the number of successfully indexed AMP pages and AMP-specific page errors.
In my opinion, the jury is still out whether or not AMP will be persist over the long-term. In the short-term however, more and more AMP pages are surfacing in legal search results. Therefore, it’s probably worth considering implementing AMP pages and using Search Console to monitor and fix any AMP issues.