New Google Search Console out of beta – but is it better?

We take a look at some of the features in the new Google Search Console to assess whether the updates are for better or for worse.

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Earlier this year Google launched the beta version of its ‘new’ Search Console platform. As well as looking a lot nicer, the new reports came with better data and more of it. The most notable improvement comes in the form of the Search Performance report, which now provides up to 16 months of historic search data, a vast improvement on the 9 months worth provided in the old version.

However, at time of launch the new and improved Search Performance report – along with a Coverage report which essentially replaces and improves upon the old Crawl errors and Index Status reports – was the extent of the tool’s offering, which meant users were forced to navigate between the new and old versions when undertaking any extensive analysis. Google did however promise that more reports were on the way, and in August they finally delivered by rolling out some new features, which included:

A new Links report

The new Links report combines the functionality of the old “Links to your site” and “Internal links” reports from the old Search Console, and presents them as a single tool. Boasting a vastly improved interface, the new Links report provides an array of useful link data, including:

  • Top linked pages – shows which pages are being linked to the most, and who’s linking to them
  • Top linking sites – shows which sites link to your site them most
  • Top linking text – shows which link (anchor) text is used in sites that link to your site
  • Top linked pages (Internal links) – shows which of your pages is linked the most from within your own site
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Mobile Usability report

In today’s mobile-first world it is critical that websites are ‘mobile-friendly’. The new Mobile Usability report alerts you to any mobile usability issues, and now also allows you to submit a validation and reindexing request when an issue is fixed.

The update also brought with it a simplified Sitemaps tool for submitting and managing XML sitemaps, and a URL Inspection Tool for debugging and fixing issues on a page or confirming whether a reported issue still exists on a page.

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Bye bye, beta!

Following the updates above, earlier this month Google announced it was graduating the new Search Console out of beta: “Today we mark an important milestone in Search Console’s history: we are graduating the new Search Console out of beta! With this graduation we are also launching the Manual Actions report and a “Test Live” capability to the recently launched URL inspection tool, which are joining a stream of reports and features we launched in the new Search Console over the past few months.” – and with that, that they would be retiring the old version in due course.

The new-new version of Search Console will also show Manual Actions and Security Issues alerts directly on the Overview page, ensuring these critical alerts aren’t missed. The new manual actions report specifically has had a makeover and will provide details for any pending Manual Action and, if needed, allow users to submit a reconsideration request.

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Out of beta, but is it better?

The new Search Console is certainly different to its predecessor, but is it actually any better? In a word, yes. Firstly, the improved design and layout make the reports much more accessible and far less intimidating, which is great news for casual users and those new to website management. Google has also made it easier to manage sites and users directly from the settings page, in a move which it said will “make the new Search Console feel more like home”. As a whole, the new version just feels more Google-y and more in line with its other tools and services.

Secondly, and most importantly, the quality of the data is vastly improved. As previously mentioned, the extended date range within the Search Performance reports is a game changer, while having all link reports under one roof makes analysis much easier.

But it isn’t perfect… yet. There are still some reports missing from the new Search Console, such as the Robots.txt tester tool, which means flipping between the old and new versions is still a necessity for regular users. However, Google has said it will continue working on moving more reports and tools as well as adding exciting new capabilities to the new Search Console, so it’s likely that any missing reports will be added soon.

If you haven’t yet got a Search Console account set up for your website, you can get started here.


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