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How best to use Google Search Console for B2B marketing

By John Woods  |  May 2, 2024
Last time, we introduced Google Search Console (GSC) and explained its importance for B2B digital marketers. In particular, we explained how GSC is not just for SEO specialists, but also offers a valuable safety net for detecting and managing technical and content issues. 
In this follow-up article we look at some of the best practices and governance that you should put in place around GSC, to ensure your B2B marketing team is set up to take advantage of the important features it offers. 
TL;DR – the next sections on user access management and governance are IMPORTANT, especially in a larger or fast-changing organisation. But it’s not the most gripping subject matter. We won’t be offended if you want to skip ahead. But don’t say we didn’t warn you if you have a PR crisis that needs some urgent content deletion and can’t find anyone with the right GSC permissions! 

GSC user access management 

If you’ve followed the process in the last article, you’ll have GSC set up and available to your organisation. But you still need to make some choices about which people will have access and how that access will be managed and controlled. 

For starters, everyone who logs in to GSC will need to do that via a Google Account. We’ll assume you understand about that for the purposes of this article. (A reminder that you can register an existing, non-Gmail, company email address as a Google Account if you need to.) 

If you work as part of a team, you’ll need to decide whether each person in the team will use their own individual Google Account (like sam.brown@yourcompany.com) to access GSC, or if you will share a Google Account (like marketing@yourcompany.com).  

Your organisation may already have policies about this. Typically, we recommend individual user accounts, but note that you will then have to apply some proactive governance to the list of users. 

For a simple tool, GSC has quite a complex user access model: 

  • Verified owner: an account that has directly established its ownership of the website (via one of Google’s verification methods). You must have at least one verified owner. Verified owners have full access and full control over all of the functionality of a property in GSC – including some things that could be quite damaging in the wrong hands (like the right to delete content from Google’s index)! A verified owner has the ability to invite other users to become delegated owners, full users and restricted users. 
  • Delegated owner: an account with the same powers as a verified owner, but which is not directly verified with Google. Delegated and verified owners can also allow other users to become Full and Restricted users of a GSC property. 
  • Full user: has access to most functions, but not some of the most powerful and dangerous ones. 
  • Restricted user: can read most of the data in GSC but can’t access most other functions. This level of access might be appropriate for, for instance, an SEO agency partner. 

One becomes a verified owner by verifying a property with Google, and one becomes one of the other user types by being invited by an owner. 

Note that Google will allow you to become a verified owner of an EXISTING property by following the verification process again – even if there is already another verified owner. 

So, if disaster strikes and you lose access to your GSC account, you can use the verification process to get back in. 

GSC user governance 

The best approach to GSC user governance will depend on your organisation’s exact structure and setup. But here are some general considerations. 

  • Remember that GSC is a powerful tool that not only contains commercially sensitive data but also provides access to Google functions that are capable of doing significant damage to your organisation’s online presence if misused. Bear this in mind when deciding who should have access at which level, and how to manage that list of users over time. 
  • Your organisation’s IT, legal, or HR teams may already have policies about user access to tools like GSC and Google Accounts. If so, it’s best to stick to them! 
  • It is pretty much essential to have at least one verified owner at all times. Otherwise you won’t have full access to everything in GSC. (There are some things that only a verified owner can do.) You might choose to have two or more verified owners, as a contingency. If you accidentally lose your last verified owner, you can repeat the Google verification process to reinstate a verified owner or set up a new one – but this might be time-consuming and you might need access to systems like your DNS that could be controlled by someone outside your immediate team. So best not to rely on that. 
  • If your organisation’s public profile is important, remember that GSC access might be needed urgently in a technical or content emergency – like a PR crisis or if your website is hacked. You should make sure that at least one person with owner access (verified or delegated) is available pretty much any working day, and you might want someone with this access on call out of hours. You’ll need to allow for holiday and sickness cover when you choose your list of users. 
  • You will need to proactively add and remove access for team changes (new starters, leavers etc). 
  • You might need to grant access to GSC to people outside your organisation. For example, an SEO agency might need access. Make sure that access is removed if the agency relationship ends! 

GSC email alerts 

By default, GSC will send out email alerts for a range of issues to each GSC user. You can opt out of some or all of these emails (User settings -> email preferences). Care is needed here: these opt-outs apply across ALL of your GSC properties. So, if you manage more than one website in GSC and turn off alerts for one of your properties, you’ll also turn them off for all the others. 

GSC email alerts are useful. Google is pretty sparing with them – most notifications are about something important, and some are about VERY important things (notably, if Google thinks your site has been hacked). We’d recommend allowing all email alerts. It’s worth setting up a rule in your email system to put them into a folder. 

If you have several GSC users, each user will receive every email alert. That’s great for making sure someone gets the message but creates ambiguity about who should take action. So that’s something to address in your governance processes: 

  • Who should receive GSC alerts 
  • Who should take action, for each type of alert 

It’s also important to check that your GSC email alerts are actually reaching their target inboxes. You don’t want a critical security alert to be missed because of an over-zealous spam filter! 

Checking GSC reports: how often is…often? 

We’d like to recommend that you look at some of your GSC reports daily. But let’s be honest, we’re all busy people. There may not be time in your daily routine for extra monitoring tasks, and if your business is relatively slow-moving (like many B2B businesses), daily checks of GSC aren’t absolutely critical. And there are other things in GSC that definitely don’t need frequent checks.  

We suggest the following guidelines: 

Check “often”: daily if you can, or weekly, or at least a couple of times a month. 

Check “regularly”: once a month or so, at least once every three months. 

Check “occasionally”: ideally every three months or so, and at least once a year. 

Things to check “often” in GSC 

Some examples of things to check every day, or every few days, if you can! 

  • Any critical alerts e.g. for malware – these can be covered by a suitable process for monitoring of GSC’s email alerts, but if you are not confident of your email monitoring setup you can always see any alerts within the GSC interface. 
  • Look at page and search term reports to see if there have been any sudden, unexpected changes – e.g. a sudden surge in searches for your brand name. This might indicate an underlying PR or reputational issue.  
  • Review MoM keyword data by linking GSC to your regular reports (e.g.customised Looker Studio reports).  Grouping keywords into themes and being able to see ‘at a glance’ trends can help you identify new opportunities and address concerns where rankings may take a sudden dip. 
  • If you are creating or maintaining content for SEO purposes, check that any newly created content is correctly appearing in the Google index. If you have new content that is time-sensitive, consider using GSC to manually submit the new URLs for indexing, to make sure that Google picks them up as quickly as possible.  

Things to check “regularly” in GSC 

If SEO is important to you, then “regularly”, i.e. monthly or thereabouts, is a good cadence for a detailed retrospective SEO analysis, looking at search terms and volumes and their trends over the past few weeks and months. 

But even if SEO isn’t a focus for your team, there are a number of things in GSC that should be checked from time to time. These things are still important, but they shouldn’t change very often – so checking every few weeks or so should be enough for most B2B business. Some examples: 

  • Look at the breakdown of your search appearance by country. Are there any new geographic patterns? Does the pattern of geographic interest still align with your business’s commercial priorities? 
  • Look at page and search terms reports and see if there are any anomalies. For example, you might see an “unimportant” page suddenly pop up as getting a large number of search impressions.  
  • Check that your verified owners are still verified! Verification isn’t a once-and-for-all process, rather Google will check from time to time that the verification conditions are still met. Verification status might be lost because of an accidental site content change or over-zealous tidying of DNS settings. 
  • Refresh your user governance. Are there enough users with each level? Have you removed any users who have left the company or who otherwise don’t belong? 
  • Check that coverage of the Google index matches your intended content map and that no important content is missing. 
  • Also check that there’s nothing in the Google index that SHOULDN’T be there! For example, if you use a subdomain for specialist landing pages, you probably want to exclude those pages from Google search results. But Google’s crawler is pretty inquisitive, and it might have found those pages, unless you have the right settings in place! GSC reports will show you if the wrong subdomains have crept into the Google index. (Note you’ll need to verify a DOMAIN property for this to work.) 
  • Sometimes there are notifications from GSC about technical issues that need action, but which can be tolerated for a while. For example, if GSC reports that some of your pages have invalid structured data (like the Event metadata we discussed last time), you might decide that you can live with that for a while. But you don’t want to ignore them forever. Perhaps a fix can be included in your next scheduled website update sprint, for example. This monthly-ish checkpoint is a good time to review any of those longer-standing technical issues and make sure you have an appropriate action plan in place. 

Things to check “occasionally” in GSC 

Examples of tasks that can be done just once in a while. 

  • Download and archive any GSC data that you might want to use for long term tracking or trend analysis. GSC only keeps 16 months’ worth of data! So if you want to refer back to this year’s search performance data in, say, two or three years’ time, you will need to archive it. GSC has flexible features for exporting and downloading its data. You’ll need to put in place some governance about how the exports are stored and archived for your team’s future use. 
  • Spend a bit of time on a long term analysis, perhaps comparing this year’s search performance with last year’s (if you remembered to archive the previous report!) and looking at long term trends and changes. 

Extra GSC checks for special projects 

If you are making a big change to your web presence – for instance, launching a new website, switching to a new CMS or carrying out a mass reorganisation of content – you should proactively use GSC around that change to ensure that Google’s view of your digital presence isn’t compromised.  

Check BEFORE you make the change – to establish a baseline. For example, keep a record of how many pages are present in the Google index. 

Check again 1-2 days AFTER you make the change – to make sure that nothing has gone immediately wrong. You should be able to see some of your new content making its way into the Google index. 

AFTER the change KEEP checking every 1-2 days until you are fully confident that Google’s view of your new setup matches your intentions. For example, are all of the pages indexed at their new URLs (and no longer present at their old ones)? Some changes may take a few weeks to completely run their course through Google’s indexing system, so keep checking until you are sure all is well.  

A closing thought on GSC-related roles and responsibilities 

We hope we’ve shown you that GSC is an important tool and given you an idea of the sorts of processes you should have in place. With appropriate processes, all the excellent information that Google provides in GSC will help you improve your digital presence and mitigate a lot of technical and content-related risks. 

The roles and responsibilities around GSC sit oddly in many organisations. Indeed, the old name for GSC was “Google Webmaster Tools”, referencing the peculiar technical/marketing hybrid role of “webmaster” from the early days of the commercial internet. Should GSC be “owned” by the marketing team? By IT? By PR or legal? 

We think it’s still an issue today that functionality that is potentially crucial to an organisation – like early detection of a hacked website, or speedy removal of content from Google’s index during a PR crisis – sits in a rather obscure technical tool that doesn’t have an obvious organisational owner.   

It’s great for marketers to build connections across organisational boundaries. So a final thought on GSC – is there anyone else in your organisation, outside the marketing team, who needs to know about it and to be included in the associated governance processes? There might be a chance for you to make a new connection with your colleagues in PR, IT or legal. 

If you need help with Google Search Console or any other aspect of your B2B digital marketing, please get in touch. We offer a free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation.

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