It provides valuable insights into how SEO can lead users to find our site quickly, while also providing us with a platform to monitor and resolve any issues Google has with our site at any time.
Originally known as Google Webmaster Tools, the search console has benefited from some major upgrades over the past decade. Still, it's far from perfect, and few would argue that it offers a complete package in its current form. Numerous industry updates, especially those affecting mobile rankings, have left the search console's feature list in need of a complete overhaul.
As such, Google has recently announced some ongoing and upcoming platform changes that have been warmly welcomed by the SEO community. These changes are not just cosmetic, but should help site owners identify and correct issues affecting their performance. There are also some exciting new features coming to the fore before the end of the year.
So, what has changed?
Google split the initial Search Console changes into the following groups: Insights, Workflow, and Feedback Loops.
Within the Insights category, Google's new feature Latest Mailing Database aims to identify common "root causes" that hinder the crawling and indexation of website pages. These features will be integrated into tasks, allowing users to monitor progress and see if any patches they submit have been recognized by Google.
This is very beneficial for website owners and developers as it accelerates the progress of their big projects on the platform.
On a broader level, this aligns with Google's efforts to leverage machine learning to automate some laborious tasks and simplify the time people spend making the most of their products.
The second area of development is organizational workflow, which, while not the most glamorous part of SEO work, should also bring some benefits and make our lives a little easier.
As part of the search console update, users can now share ticket items with different team members in the platform. Considering how many people are typically involved in identifying and correcting technical SEO issues, often on a different team or even domain basis, this change should have an immediate and positive impact on the SEO workflow.
Historically, these workflows have existed in other packages, similar to what happens directly in the search console, so everything within the platform is a reasonable process.
The third statement is about feedback loops and aims to address a long-standing problem with Search Console. It's hard to get everyone involved in a technical fix, but the time delays we experience in verifying that the changes work makes it all the more difficult. If the changes don't work, it will take a few days to realize this and we have to go back to the drawing board.
The reason for this lag is that Google historically needs to re-crawl a site before any updates to the source code can be considered. While this is still true in terms of impacting performance, site owners will at least be able to see an instant preview of whether their changes will work.
Feedback on code changes is also provided, so developers can iterate and tweak details very quickly until issues are resolved.
All of the above upgrades will help bring SEO to the center of business discussions and allow teams to collaborate quickly to improve organic search performance.
In addition to these confirmed changes, Google also announced some interesting beta features that will be rolled out to a wider audience if users receive positive reviews.
New BETA Features
Google has announced two features that will be tested with a small group of users: Index Coverage Reports and AMP Repair Streams.
The screenshot below shows what the Index Coverage report looks like and demonstrates Google's commitment to providing a more intuitive interface in the Search Console.
As Google concluded when it released this new report:
"The new Index Coverage Report shows the count of indexed pages, information on why some pages cannot be indexed, and example pages and tips on how to fix indexing issues. It also supports a simple flow of sitemap submissions, as well as indexing all Override the ability to filter data to any submitted sitemap.”
Once again, we see the goal of going beyond simply showing information into a deeper level and explaining why these problems occur. The last, and most challenging step, is to automate the suggested prescriptions to solve the problem.
Other platforms have dabbled in this space in the past, with mixed success. SEO relies on many other contingent factors, and hard and fast rules tend not to apply in most cases. As a result, automated recommendations may be too vague to be used directly, or they may provide specific recommendations that do not apply to the site.
However, technical SEO is more receptive to black and white rules than other industry rules, so there's reason to be optimistic about this new Google update.
The second test feature is AMP fixed flow. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is Google's open source initiative to improve the loading speed of mobile pages by using a trans HTML code.
Backed by one of the world's largest companies, AMP has taken over more and more industries and will soon expand its reach between e-commerce and news publishers.
Google is betting on AMP features to reduce threats from companies like Facebook and Snapchat, so it makes sense that they want to help webmasters get the most out of its features. Any new coding initiative will bring a new set of challenges, and some developers will find issues as they convert content to AMP HTML.