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6 Best Niches for Affiliate Marketing in 2022 (Profitable and Uncompetitive)

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6 Best Niches for Affiliate Marketing in 2022 (Profitable and Uncompetitive)

Everyone knows that niches like fitness, travel and tech are lucrative affiliate marketing opportunities. But big broad niches like this are also fiercely competitive, making it hard for new sites to compete. 

For example, you’re hardly likely to outrank the likes of TechRadar, Wired, and The Verge anytime soon with your generic “tech” affiliate site. 

If you want to stand any chance at competing and getting traffic, you need to go narrower.

Here are a few affiliate niches that I think are crying out for a market leader: 

  1. Vacuum cleaners
  2. Hotels with jacuzzis
  3. Travel car seats
  4. Golf equipment
  5. Headphones and earbuds
  6. Zero waste

You’re probably already thinking that this niche sucks if you hate cleaning as much as I hate cleaning. But with an estimated 69K monthly searches for “best vacuum cleaner” according to Keywords Explorer, one thing’s for sure: this is a high ticket niche with plenty of traffic potential. 

Even better, competition is relatively sparse.

Here’s a DR25 site getting an estimated 37.7K monthly organic visits:

High traffic to a low DR vacuums affiliate site.

Who are the current players?

Most of the obvious keywords like “best vacuum cleaner” and “best robot vacuum” are hypercompetitive, with SERPs dominated by brands like Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, and Good Housekeeping. But there are plenty of sites getting decent traffic from lower competition long-tail queries. 

Here are a few of them: 

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Although the monthly organic traffic numbers for these sites aren’t astronomical, it’s mostly affiliate content attracting that traffic. 

For example, ~83% of the organic traffic to Home Vacuum Zone goes to URLs containing the words “best,” “vs,” and “review”:

A vacuum reviews website with 80%+ of its traffic to affiliate posts.A vacuum reviews website with 80%+ of its traffic to affiliate posts.

It’s a similar story for Popular Vacuums, with 84% of traffic going to the same kinds of pages:

Another vacuum reviews website with 80%+ of its traffic to affiliate posts.Another vacuum reviews website with 80%+ of its traffic to affiliate posts.

However, if you look at the sites themselves, you’ll realize that they’re far from anything special. Most of them are ugly and feature typical affiliate content from folks who haven’t used the products. 

Example of a typical, ugly affiliate site in this niche.Example of a typical, ugly affiliate site in this niche.

There’s a serious opportunity to become the go-to resource for vacuum reviews for anyone willing to put in the effort and actually test some of these products. 

How much can you earn?

Most of the affiliate programs for vacuum cleaners offer somewhere between 3-8% commission. 

  • Amazon: 3%
  • Walmart: 4%
  • Bed Bath and Beyond: 7%
  • Target: up to 8%

That might not sound like much, especially at the lower end, but remember that vacuums are high-ticket items typically costing anywhere between $50 and $1,000. As a result, even a measly 3% commission from Amazon would net you between $1.50 and $30 a pop. 

Promote Bed Bath and Beyond’s affiliate program, and that rises to $3.50-$70.

You only have to sell a few vacuums through your affiliate links to make bank here.

How to do keyword research for this niche 

Besides reverse-engineering some of the sites above in Site Explorer, you’ll want to use a keyword research tool like Keywords Explorer to find three types of keywords:

  1. General comparison keywords. These follow the format “best [product type]”. E.g., “best vacuum cleaner,” “best robot vacuum cleaner,” etc.
  2. Branded comparison keywords. These follow the format “product [a] vs product [b]”. E.g., “roomba i3 vs i7,” “dyson hp02 vs hp04,” etc.
  3. Product review keywords. These follow the format “product [review]”. E.g., “dyson v15 review,” “irobot roomba 692 review,” etc.

Here’s how to do it for this niche:

General comparison keywords

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter the terms “vacuum” and “vacuums”
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “best” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)
General comparison keywords for the vacuum cleaner niche.General comparison keywords for the vacuum cleaner niche.

You can also add the word “for” to the Include filter to hone in on keywords aimed at a specific demographic or task—which tend to be low competition. 

Low competition general comparison keywords for the vacuum cleaner niche.Low competition general comparison keywords for the vacuum cleaner niche.

Branded comparison keywords

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter vacuum cleaner brands like “miele,” “roomba,” “dyson”
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “vs” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)
Branded comparison keywords for the vacuum cleaner niche.Branded comparison keywords for the vacuum cleaner niche.

Product review keywords

The process here is the same as for branded comparison keywords. Just add the word “review” to the Include filter instead. 

Product review keywords for the vacuum cleaner niche.Product review keywords for the vacuum cleaner niche.

According to Keywords Explorer, there are an estimated 41K monthly searches for “hotels with jacuzzi in room” in the US. And the top-ranking page for this keyword gets an estimated 150K monthly visits:

Estimated traffic to the top-ranking page for 'hotels with jacuzzi in room.' Estimated traffic to the top-ranking page for 'hotels with jacuzzi in room.'

That’s an awful lot of people looking for hotels with jacuzzis, and there are also many searching for much the same thing in other, less competitive ways.

Who are the current players?

Quite a few low-authority sites are getting decent traffic in this niche:

See also  7 Important Ways to Get Your Online Business Ready for the Holidays

If we check the Top Pages report for one of these sites, we see that pretty much all traffic goes to pages for specific locations: 

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Estimated traffic to location-focused hotels with jacuzzis posts.Estimated traffic to location-focused hotels with jacuzzis posts.

Most of these pages are pretty much the same content-wise. They list a few hotels with hot tubs in the area, show a few photos, give a brief description, and link to an affiliate for “more information and prices.” 

One of the current players in the hotels with jacuzzis niche.One of the current players in the hotels with jacuzzis niche.

Other sites in the niche do almost the same thing:

Another player in the hotels with jacuzzis niche.Another player in the hotels with jacuzzis niche.

As with vacuum reviews, none of these sites look particularly nice or have much of a recognizable brand. They’re about as basic as it gets. This spells opportunity for any ambitious affiliate marketers out there. 

How much can you earn?

Many travel sites are quite secretive about their commission rates, with some simply stating the percentage of commission you get on their commission. This isn’t particularly useful, as who knows what their commission is? 

Nonetheless, here are a few popular travel sites with affiliate programs:

  • Agoda – 5% commission 
  • Expedia – up to 6% commission
  • Hotels.com – 4% commission
  • TripAdvisor – 50% commission (on their commission)
  • Kayak – 50% commission (on their commission)
  • Booking.com – No commission rate is stated, but most of the current players in this niche are promoting this program.

How to do keyword research for this niche

Most of the opportunity in this niche comes from searches for hotels with jacuzzis in various cities and states. Here’s how to find these in Keywords Explorer:

  1. Enter ‘hotel’ and ‘hotels’
  2. Go to Matching Terms report 
  3. Add ‘jacuzzi’ and ‘hot tub’ to the Include filter (make sure to select “Any word”)
  4. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)

It’s then simply a case of skimming the ideas for popular locations:

How to do keyword research for the hotels with jacuzzis niche. How to do keyword research for the hotels with jacuzzis niche.

You can also reverse-engineer current players in Site Explorer, as these have pretty much done the work for you already.

Although this might sound like a super small niche, there are tens of thousands of searches for travel car seats every month. Just look at the traffic potential for “travel car seats” alone: 

Estimated traffic potential for the keyword 'travel car seats' via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer.Estimated traffic potential for the keyword 'travel car seats' via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer.

Who are the current players?

Despite the seemingly limited nature of the niche, quite a few low-authority sites are attracting a good amount of monthly search traffic:

If we check the Top Pages report for the first site (which gets the most traffic), we see that it has fewer than 100 pages in total. Yet it gets over 75K monthly organic visits: 

Estimated traffic to one of the current players in the travel car seats niche. Estimated traffic to one of the current players in the travel car seats niche.

Even more interestingly, over half of this traffic goes to just 29 affiliate pages with the words “best,” “review,” or “vs” in their URLs:

Estimated traffic to affiliate posts for one of the current players in the travel car seats niche.Estimated traffic to affiliate posts for one of the current players in the travel car seats niche.

Most of the other 70 pages are informational guides, such as this list of tips for flying with a car seat. This is a good sign as it means you only need to create a handful of affiliate pages to attract targeted affiliate traffic. 

How much can you earn?

Like in most niches, you can promote Amazon, which gives 3% commissions on baby products. There are also other superstores like Walmart that offer slightly higher commissions. But commissions really jump when you start looking at affiliate programs for specific brands and products. 

Here are a few of the options available: 

  • Amazon – 3% commission for baby products
  • Walmart – 4% commission
  • Saferide4kids.com – 10% commission
  • MiFold – 10% commission (with up to 12% for special offers)
  • Wayb.com – 10% commission

How to do keyword research for this niche

Like with vacuum reviews, you’re looking for three types of keywords to target in this niche: general comparisons, branded comparisons, and product reviews. Let’s look at how to find those in Keywords Explorer.

General comparison keywords

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter terms like “car seat,” “car seats,” “booster seat,” “booster seats,” etc.
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “best” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)
General comparison keywords for the travel car seats niche.General comparison keywords for the travel car seats niche.

Branded comparisons

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter car seat brands like “uppababy” and “bugaloo”
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “vs” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)
Branded comparison keywords for the travel car seat niche.Branded comparison keywords for the travel car seat niche.

Product reviews

The process here is the same as for branded comparison keywords. Just add the word “review” to the Include filter instead. 

Product review keywords for the travel car seats niche.Product review keywords for the travel car seats niche.

The golf equipment market is worth an estimated $6.51 billion, so unsurprisingly, there are hundreds of thousands of monthly searches for the best golf equipment. 

For example, there are 54K monthly searches just for “golf simulator,” and most of the top 10 results are affiliate posts listing top picks. Some are from relatively low-authority sites too: 

See also  Protecting Rankings & Traffic During A Rebrand: SEO Expert Tips
Top-ranking pages for 'golf simulator.'Top-ranking pages for 'golf simulator.'

Who are the current players?

Like with previous niches, most of the current players are typical low-to-medium-end affiliate sites with “okay” content at best. Here are a few of them:

Besides Golfalot and MyGolfSpy, none seem to be testing products firsthand but rather researching tech specs and customer reviews.

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Excerpt from a top-ranking affiliate post.Excerpt from a top-ranking affiliate post.

There’s nothing wrong with this per se. Golf equipment is seriously expensive so you can hardly expect your average affiliate marketer to review everything firsthand. Nonetheless, it seems there’s an opportunity for someone serious to come in and create the goto site for golf equipment recommendations—either by reviewing products firsthand or going to town on the research. 

How much can you earn?

Like most niches, you can promote Amazon, which offers a 4% commission rate on golf equipment. But commissions are way higher from dedicated online golf stores. Here are just a few of them: 

Remember, golf equipment is expensive, so even commission rates of 4% can result in decent commissions.

How to do keyword research for this niche

Most of the opportunities revolve around the same three types of keywords we already covered. So let’s look at how to find them in this niche.

General comparison keywords

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter words like “golf,” “fairway wood,” “putter,” “putting,” “wedge” etc.
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “best” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)
General comparison keywords for the golf equipment niche.General comparison keywords for the golf equipment niche.

Branded comparisons

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter golf equipment brands like “callaway,” “pxg,” “srixon,” “taylormade,” “titleist,” etc.
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “vs” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)
Branded comparison keywords for the golf equipment niche.Branded comparison keywords for the golf equipment niche.

Product reviews

The process here is the same as for branded comparison keywords. Just add the word “review” to the Include filter instead. 

Product review keywords for the golf equipment niche.Product review keywords for the golf equipment niche.

5. Headphones and earbuds

As of 2019, the global earphones and headphones market is worth an estimated $25.1 billion. It’s also expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.3% from 2020 to 2027. 

Unfortunately, affiliate marketers often overlook this niche because high-volume keywords like “best bluetooth headphones” are incredibly competitive. This keyword has a Keyword Difficulty (KD) score of 76, and huge brands like TechRadar and Wired dominate the SERP:

Top-ranking pages for 'best bluetooth headphones.'Top-ranking pages for 'best bluetooth headphones.'

But if you dig deeper, there are plenty of lower competition keywords with traffic potential to make this an interesting, low-hanging niche.

Who are the current players?

Most of the players in this niche focus on headphones but also review other audio equipment. Here are a few of them:

If you’re wondering why Headphonesty gets such a huge amount of traffic, it’s because most of its traffic goes to informational guides. This one on how to find a lost or stolen AirPod case gets an estimated 41K monthly search visits alone:

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Estimated monthly organic traffic to a top-ranking post from a current player in the headphones niche.Estimated monthly organic traffic to a top-ranking post from a current player in the headphones niche.

However, it also gets plenty of traffic to affiliate pages. 

In fact, URLs containing “best,” “review,” and “vs” get an estimated 209K monthly search visits:

Estimated traffic to affiliate posts for a top-ranking affiliate site in the headphones niche.Estimated traffic to affiliate posts for a top-ranking affiliate site in the headphones niche.

It’s a similar story for the other players. Headphones Pro Review gets an estimated 86K monthly search visits to the same kinds of pages—which is ~60% of its total traffic. And there are only 106 pages attracting this traffic, too.

27-affiliate-posts-traffic-headphone-review-site27-affiliate-posts-traffic-headphone-review-site

However, take a look at these sites and it’s the same old story: they’re nothing special. With the exception of Headphonesty, most of the affiliate content is bog-standard stuff based on research rather than firsthand reviews. (You can always tell when this is the case as the sites use stock product images only).

This isn’t necessarily bad; some of these sites’ articles seem well-researched. But again, it presents an opportunity for an ambitious affiliate marketer to come along and steal the show.

How much can you earn?

Given that I’ve bought my last three pairs of headphones from Amazon, my purchasing habits lead me to believe that this is where most people buy headphones these days. Unfortunately, Amazon’s commission rate on headphones is just 3%. 

Luckily there are a few other affiliate programs with better commissions:

  • Target – up to 8%
  • 1more – 8%
  • B&H Photo Video – 8%
  • Adorama – 2% (yes, this is lower than Amazon, but they have a $500 average order size)
  • Walmart – 4%

Some of these sell other audio equipment too, so there’s plenty of scope to expand beyond headphones further down the line. 

How to do keyword research for this niche

It’s the same old story with this niche; you’re looking at targeting general comparison, branded comparison, and product review keywords. Here’s how to find them.

See also  13 Inexpensive Small-Business Marketing Ideas That Actually Work

General comparison keywords

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter words like “earbuds,” “earpods,” “headphones,” “headsets,” etc.
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “best” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keyword
General comparison keywords for the headphones niche.General comparison keywords for the headphones niche.

You’ll notice that many of the low-difficulty keywords here relate to the best headphones for a specific task or certain type of person. So you might want to add “for” to the Include filter to hone in on these.

General comparison keywords for the headphones niche including the word 'for.'General comparison keywords for the headphones niche including the word 'for.'

TIP

If you see a lot of keywords like “best buy headphones” and “best buy wireless earbuds,” add the word “buy” to the Exclude filter to clean up the report. 

Branded comparisons

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter headphone brands like “1more,” “airpods,” “beats,” “jabra,” “skullcandy,” etc.
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “vs” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)
Branded comparison keywords for the headphones niche.Branded comparison keywords for the headphones niche.

Product reviews

The process here is the same as for branded comparison keywords. Just add the word “review” to the Include filter instead. 

Product review keywords for the headphones niche.Product review keywords for the headphones niche.

Interest in living a more sustainable zero-waste lifestyle has ballooned in recent years, and so have searches for zero-waste products. Here’s the trend for “zero waste products” since 2004 via Google Trends:

Google Trends graph for the keyword 'zero waste products.'Google Trends graph for the keyword 'zero waste products.'

That said, this isn’t the biggest niche ever. However, it still has decent earning potential and isn’t overly competitive. 

Who are the current players?

Here are a few of the folks in this niche: 

If we check the Top Pages report for one of these sites, Sustainable Jungle, we see that they’re getting ~75% of their traffic to affiliate pages:

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Estimated monthly organic traffic to affiliate posts on a current player in the zero-waste niche.Estimated monthly organic traffic to affiliate posts on a current player in the zero-waste niche.

However, most of that traffic goes to just one page about the best online thrift stores. There are still some affiliate links in this post, but even if we ignore it, the site is still getting ~27K monthly visitors to other affiliate posts.

In terms of the content itself, it’s the same old story: the affiliate reviews are seemingly all based on research rather than firsthand experience. This once again presents an opportunity to easily beat the competition when it comes to content quality by reviewing products yourself. It would probably also be quite easy to get many zero-waste brands to send you products to review for free—especially once you’ve built a bit of a following. 

How much can you earn?

The best thing about this niche is that tons of eco-friendly brands with affiliate programs offer generous commissions. Here are just a few of them:

How to do keyword research for this niche

You guessed it; it’s all about those general comparison, branded comparison, and review keywords.

General comparison keywords

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter words like “eco friendly,” “plastic free,” “zero waste,” etc.
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “best” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keyword
General comparison keywords for the zero-waste niche.General comparison keywords for the zero-waste niche.

Branded comparisons

  1. Go to Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter golf equipment brands like “who gives a crap,” “reel,” “cloudpaper,” etc.
  3. Go to Matching Terms report 
  4. Add the word “vs” to the Include filter 
  5. Set the KD filter to a maximum of 20 (optional – this filters for low-difficulty keywords)
Branded comparison keywords for the zero-waste niche.Branded comparison keywords for the zero-waste niche.

Product reviews

The process here is the same as for branded comparison keywords. Just add the word “review” to the Include filter instead. 

Product review keywords for the zero-waste niche.Product review keywords for the zero-waste niche.

How to find more affiliate niches

Most of the niches above were found using Content Explorer, a searchable database of billions of pages. Just search for pages with the word “best” in their titles and add these filters: 

  • English
  • Website traffic: 10K+
  • Website traffic value: 20K+
  • DR: 20 max
  • Filter explicit results
  • Filter for one page per domain

Sidenote.

Thanks to everyone’s favorite YouTuber, Sam Oh, for this tip.

Here’s what the results look like:

Searching for affiliate niches in Content Explorer.Searching for affiliate niches in Content Explorer.

It’s then simply a case of sifting through the results looking for affiliate niches. 

For example, this is how I found the golf equipment niche:

Example of an affiliate niche found in Content Explorer.Example of an affiliate niche found in Content Explorer.

You can find hundreds of lucrative niches using this method; it just takes a bit of time.

Final thoughts

Most of these niches might seem relatively narrow and limiting, but that’s a good thing. It means you won’t be competing with and struggling to outrank the big players. And remember, you can expand and broaden your horizons once you build some authority.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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A Complete Google Search Console Guide For SEO Pros

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A Complete Google Search Console Guide For SEO Pros

Google search console provides data necessary to monitor website performance in search and improve search rankings, information that is exclusively available through Search Console.

This makes it indispensable for online business and publishers that are keen to maximize success.

Taking control of your search presence is easier to do when using the free tools and reports.

What Is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free web service hosted by Google that provides a way for publishers and search marketing professionals to monitor their overall site health and performance relative to Google search.

It offers an overview of metrics related to search performance and user experience to help publishers improve their sites and generate more traffic.

Search Console also provides a way for Google to communicate when it discovers security issues (like hacking vulnerabilities) and if the search quality team has imposed a manual action penalty.

Important features:

  • Monitor indexing and crawling.
  • Identify and fix errors.
  • Overview of search performance.
  • Request indexing of updated pages.
  • Review internal and external links.

It’s not necessary to use Search Console to rank better nor is it a ranking factor.

However, the usefulness of the Search Console makes it indispensable for helping improve search performance and bringing more traffic to a website.

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How To Get Started

The first step to using Search Console is to verify site ownership.

Google provides several different ways to accomplish site verification, depending on if you’re verifying a website, a domain, a Google site, or a Blogger-hosted site.

Domains registered with Google domains are automatically verified by adding them to Search Console.

The majority of users will verify their sites using one of four methods:

  1. HTML file upload.
  2. Meta tag
  3. Google Analytics tracking code.
  4. Google Tag Manager.

Some site hosting platforms limit what can be uploaded and require a specific way to verify site owners.

But, that’s becoming less of an issue as many hosted site services have an easy-to-follow verification process, which will be covered below.

How To Verify Site Ownership

There are two standard ways to verify site ownership with a regular website, like a standard WordPress site.

  1. HTML file upload.
  2. Meta tag.

When verifying a site using either of these two methods, you’ll be choosing the URL-prefix properties process.

Let’s stop here and acknowledge that the phrase “URL-prefix properties” means absolutely nothing to anyone but the Googler who came up with that phrase.

Don’t let that make you feel like you’re about to enter a labyrinth blindfolded. Verifying a site with Google is easy.

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HTML File Upload Method

Step 1: Go to the Search Console and open the Property Selector dropdown that’s visible in the top left-hand corner on any Search Console page.

Screenshot by author, May 2022

Step 2: In the pop-up labeled Select Property Type, enter the URL of the site then click the Continue button.

Step 2Screenshot by author, May 2022

Step 3: Select the HTML file upload method and download the HTML file.

Step 4: Upload the HTML file to the root of your website.

Root means https://example.com/. So, if the downloaded file is called verification.html, then the uploaded file should be located at https://example.com/verification.html.

Step 5: Finish the verification process by clicking Verify back in the Search Console.

Verification of a standard website with its own domain in website platforms like Wix and Weebly is similar to the above steps, except that you’ll be adding a meta description tag to your Wix site.

Duda has a simple approach that uses a Search Console App that easily verifies the site and gets its users started.

Troubleshooting With GSC

Ranking in search results depends on Google’s ability to crawl and index webpages.

The Search Console URL Inspection Tool warns of any issues with crawling and indexing before it becomes a major problem and pages start dropping from the search results.

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URL Inspection Tool

The URL inspection tool shows whether a URL is indexed and is eligible to be shown in a search result.

For each submitted URL a user can:

  • Request indexing for a recently updated webpage.
  • View how Google discovered the webpage (sitemaps and referring internal pages).
  • View the last crawl date for a URL.
  • Check if Google is using a declared canonical URL or is using another one.
  • Check mobile usability status.
  • Check enhancements like breadcrumbs.
See also  12 Actions That Help Improve Your Google Keyword Rankings

Coverage

The coverage section shows Discovery (how Google discovered the URL), Crawl (shows whether Google successfully crawled the URL and if not, provides a reason why), and Enhancements (provides the status of structured data).

The coverage section can be reached from the left-hand menu:

CoverageScreenshot by author, May 2022

Coverage Error Reports

While these reports are labeled as errors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. Sometimes it just means that indexing can be improved.

For example, in the following screenshot, Google is showing a 403 Forbidden server response to nearly 6,000 URLs.

The 403 error response means that the server is telling Googlebot that it is forbidden from crawling these URLs.

Coverage report showing 403 server error responsesScreenshot by author, May 2022

The above errors are happening because Googlebot is blocked from crawling the member pages of a web forum.

Every member of the forum has a member page that has a list of their latest posts and other statistics.

The report provides a list of URLs that are generating the error.

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Clicking on one of the listed URLs reveals a menu on the right that provides the option to inspect the affected URL.

There’s also a contextual menu to the right of the URL itself in the form of a magnifying glass icon that also provides the option to Inspect URL.

Inspect URLScreenshot by author, May 2022

Clicking on the Inspect URL reveals how the page was discovered.

It also shows the following data points:

  • Last crawl.
  • Crawled as.
  • Crawl allowed?
  • Page fetch (if failed, provides the server error code).
  • Indexing allowed?

There is also information about the canonical used by Google:

  • User-declared canonical.
  • Google-selected canonical.

For the forum website in the above example, the important diagnostic information is located in the Discovery section.

This section tells us which pages are the ones that are showing links to member profiles to Googlebot.

With this information, the publisher can now code a PHP statement that will make the links to the member pages disappear when a search engine bot comes crawling.

Another way to fix the problem is to write a new entry to the robots.txt to stop Google from attempting to crawl these pages.

By making this 403 error go away, we free up crawling resources for Googlebot to index the rest of the website.

Google Search Console’s coverage report makes it possible to diagnose Googlebot crawling issues and fix them.

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Fixing 404 Errors

The coverage report can also alert a publisher to 404 and 500 series error responses, as well as communicate that everything is just fine.

A 404 server response is called an error only because the browser or crawler’s request for a webpage was made in error because the page does not exist.

It doesn’t mean that your site is in error.

If another site (or an internal link) links to a page that doesn’t exist, the coverage report will show a 404 response.

Clicking on one of the affected URLs and selecting the Inspect URL tool will reveal what pages (or sitemaps) are referring to the non-existent page.

From there you can decide if the link is broken and needs to be fixed (in the case of an internal link) or redirected to the correct page (in the case of an external link from another website).

Or, it could be that the webpage never existed and whoever is linking to that page made a mistake.

If the page doesn’t exist anymore or it never existed at all, then it’s fine to show a 404 response.

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Taking Advantage Of GSC Features

The Performance Report

The top part of the Search Console Performance Report provides multiple insights on how a site performs in search, including in search features like featured snippets.

There are four search types that can be explored in the Performance Report:

  1. Web.
  2. Image.
  3. Video.
  4. News.

Search Console shows the web search type by default.

Change which search type is displayed by clicking the Search Type button:

Default search typeScreenshot by author, May 2022

A menu pop-up will display allowing you to change which kind of search type to view:

Search Types MenuScreenshot by author, May 2022

A useful feature is the ability to compare the performance of two search types within the graph.

Four metrics are prominently displayed at the top of the Performance Report:

  1. Total Clicks.
  2. Total Impressions.
  3. Average CTR (click-through rate).
  4. Average position.
Screenshot of Top Section of the Performance PageScreenshot by author, May 2022

By default, the Total Clicks and Total Impressions metrics are selected.

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By clicking within the tabs dedicated to each metric, one can choose to see those metrics displayed on the bar chart.

Impressions

Impressions are the number of times a website appeared in the search results. As long as a user doesn’t have to click a link to see the URL, it counts as an impression.

Additionally, if a URL is ranked at the bottom of the page and the user doesn’t scroll to that section of the search results, it still counts as an impression.

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High impressions are great because it means that Google is showing the site in the search results.

But, the meaning of the impressions metric is made meaningful by the Clicks and the Average Position metrics.

Clicks

The clicks metric shows how often users clicked from the search results to the website. A high number of clicks in addition to a high number of impressions is good.

A low number of clicks and a high number of impressions is less good but not bad. It means that the site may need improvements to gain more traffic.

The clicks metric is more meaningful when considered with the Average CTR and Average Position metrics.

Average CTR

The average CTR is a percentage representing how often users clicked from the search results to the website.

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A low CTR means that something needs improvement in order to increase visits from the search results.

A higher CTR means the site is performing well.

This metric gains more meaning when considered together with the Average Position metric.

Average Position

Average Position shows the average position in search results the website tends to appear in.

An average in positions one to 10 is great.

An average position in the twenties (20 – 29) means that the site is appearing on page two or three of the search results. This isn’t too bad. It simply means that the site needs additional work to give it that extra boost into the top 10.

Average positions lower than 30 could (in general) mean that the site may benefit from significant improvements.

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Or, it could be that the site ranks for a large number of keyword phrases that rank low and a few very good keywords that rank exceptionally high.

In either case, it may mean taking a closer look at the content. It may be an indication of a content gap on the website, where the content that ranks for certain keywords isn’t strong enough and may need a dedicated page devoted to that keyword phrase to rank better.

All four metrics (Impressions, Clicks, Average CTR, and Average Position), when viewed together, present a meaningful overview of how the website is performing.

The big takeaway about the Performance Report is that it is a starting point for quickly understanding website performance in search.

It’s like a mirror that reflects back how well or poorly the site is doing.

Performance Report Dimensions

Scrolling down to the second part of the Performance page reveals several of what’s called Dimensions of a website’s performance data.

There are six dimensions:

1. Queries: Shows the top search queries and the number of clicks and impressions associated with each keyword phrase.

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2. Pages: Shows the top-performing web pages (plus clicks and impressions).

3. Countries: Top countries (plus clicks and impressions).

4. Devices: Shows the top devices, segmented into mobile, desktop, and tablet.

5. Search Appearance: This shows the different kinds of rich results that the site was displayed in. It also tells if Google displayed the site using Web Light results and video results, plus the associated clicks and impressions data. Web Light results are results that are optimized for very slow devices.

6. Dates: The dates tab organizes the clicks and impressions by date. The clicks and impressions can be sorted in descending or ascending order.

Keywords

The keywords are displayed in the Queries as one of the dimensions of the Performance Report (as noted above). The queries report shows the top 1,000 search queries that resulted in traffic.

Of particular interest are the low-performing queries.

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Some of those queries display low quantities of traffic because they are rare, what is known as long-tail traffic.

But, others are search queries that result from webpages that could need improvement, perhaps it could be in need of more internal links, or it could be a sign that the keyword phrase deserves its own webpage.

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It’s always a good idea to review the low-performing keywords because some of them may be quick wins that, when the issue is addressed, can result in significantly increased traffic.

Links

Search Console offers a list of all links pointing to the website.

However, it’s important to point out that the links report does not represent links that are helping the site rank.

It simply reports all links pointing to the website.

This means that the list includes links that are not helping the site rank. That explains why the report may show links that have a nofollow link attribute on them.

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The Links report is accessible  from the bottom of the left-hand menu:

Links reportScreenshot by author, May 2022

The Links report has two columns: External Links and Internal Links.

External Links are the links from outside the website that points to the website.

Internal Links are links that originate within the website and link to somewhere else within the website.

The External links column has three reports:

  1. Top linked pages.
  2. Top linking sites.
  3. Top linking text.

The Internal Links report lists the Top Linked Pages.

Each report (top linked pages, top linking sites, etc.) has a link to more results that can be clicked to view and expand the report for each type.

For example, the expanded report for Top Linked Pages shows Top Target pages, which are the pages from the site that are linked to the most.

Clicking a URL will change the report to display all the external domains that link to that one page.

The report shows the domain of the external site but not the exact page that links to the site.

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Sitemaps

A sitemap is generally an XML file that is a list of URLs that helps search engines discover the webpages and other forms of content on a website.

Sitemaps are especially helpful for large sites, sites that are difficult to crawl if the site has new content added on a frequent basis.

Crawling and indexing are not guaranteed. Things like page quality, overall site quality, and links can have an impact on whether a site is crawled and pages indexed.

Sitemaps simply make it easy for search engines to discover those pages and that’s all.

Creating a sitemap is easy because more are automatically generated by the CMS, plugins, or the website platform where the site is hosted.

Some hosted website platforms generate a sitemap for every site hosted on its service and automatically update the sitemap when the website changes.

Search Console offers a sitemap report and provides a way for publishers to upload a sitemap.

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To access this function click on the link located on the left-side menu.

sitemaps

The sitemap section will report on any errors with the sitemap.

Search Console can be used to remove a sitemap from the reports. It’s important to actually remove the sitemap however from the website itself otherwise Google may remember it and visit it again.

Once submitted and processed, the Coverage report will populate a sitemap section that will help troubleshoot any problems associated with URLs submitted through the sitemaps.

Search Console Page Experience Report

The page experience report offers data related to the user experience on the website relative to site speed.

Search Console displays information on Core Web Vitals and Mobile Usability.

This is a good starting place for getting an overall summary of site speed performance.

Rich Result Status Reports

Search Console offers feedback on rich results through the Performance Report. It’s one of the six dimensions listed below the graph that’s displayed at the top of the page, listed as Search Appearance.

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Selecting the Search Appearance tabs reveals clicks and impressions data for the different kinds of rich results shown in the search results.

This report communicates how important rich results traffic is to the website and can help pinpoint the reason for specific website traffic trends.

The Search Appearance report can help diagnose issues related to structured data.

For example, a downturn in rich results traffic could be a signal that Google changed structured data requirements and that the structured data needs to be updated.

It’s a starting point for diagnosing a change in rich results traffic patterns.

Search Console Is Good For SEO

In addition to the above benefits of Search Console, publishers and SEOs can also upload link disavow reports, resolve penalties (manual actions), and security events like site hackings, all of which contribute to a better search presence.

It is a valuable service that every web publisher concerned about search visibility should take advantage of.

More Resources:

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Featured Image: bunny pixar/Shutterstock



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