Diagnosing technical issues on your website can be one of the most time-consuming but important aspects of running a website.
To make things worse, Google only allows you to inspect one URL at a time to diagnose potential issues on your website (this is done within Google Search Console).
Luckily, there is now a faster way to test your website: enter the Google Search Console URL Inspection API…
What is the Google Search Console URL Inspection API?
The Google Search Console URL Inspection API is a way to bulk-check the data that Google Search Console has on URLs. Its purpose is to help developers and SEOs more efficiently debug and optimize their pages using Google’s own data.
Here’s an example of me using the API to check whether a few URLs are indexed and submitted in my sitemap:
What type of data can you get from the Google Search Console URL Inspection API?
The Google Search Console URL Inspection API allows you to pull a wide range of data. Below is a list of some of the most discussed features:
With this field, you can understand exactly when Googlebot last crawled your website. This is extremely useful for SEOs and developers to measure the frequency of Google’s crawling of their sites. Previously, you could only get access to this type of data through log file analysis or spot-checking individual URLs with Google Search Console.
With this field, you can understand whether you have any robots.txt rules that will block Googlebot. This is something you can check manually, but being able to test it at scale with Google’s own data is a fantastic step forward.
googleCanonical and userCanonical
In some situations, Google has been known to select a different canonical from the one that has been specified in the code. In this situation, having the ability to compare both (side by side and at scale) using the API is useful for enabling you to make the appropriate changes.
This field allows you to understand which user agent is used for a crawl of your site: Mobile/Desktop. The response codes are below for reference:
- DESKTOP – Desktop user agent
- MOBILE – Mobile user agent
Understanding the pageFetchState can help you diagnose server errors, not found 4xxs, soft 404s, redirection errors, pages blocked by robots.txt, and invalid URLs. A list of responses is below for reference.
|Field||What it means|
|PAGE_FETCH_STATE_UNSPECIFIED||Unknown fetch state|
|BLOCKED_ROBOTS_TXT||Blocked by robots.txt|
|NOT_FOUND||Not found (404)|
|ACCESS_DENIED||Blocked due to unauthorized request (401)|
|SERVER_ERROR||Server error (5xx)|
|ACCESS_FORBIDDEN||Blocked due to access forbidden (403)|
|BLOCKED_4XX||Blocked due to other 4xx issue (not 403, 404)|
The indexing state tells you the current status of indexation for the URLs. Apart from the more obvious Pass and Fail responses, there are other responses:
- NEUTRAL is equivalent to the “Excluded” message in Search Console.
- PARTIAL is equivalent to the “Valid with warnings” message in Search Console.
- VERDICT_UNSPECIFIED means that Google is unable to come to a conclusion about the URL(s) in question.
This gives you detail on whether a URL has been submitted in your sitemap and indexed.
This allows you to see where each page is linked from, according to Google.
This enables you to understand which URLs are included in the sitemap(s).
Other uses for the API
You can also use the API to inspect your AMP site—if you have one.
How to use the Google Search Console URL Inspection API step by step
Using the Google Search Console URL Inspection API involves making a request to Google. The request parameters you need to define are the URL that you want to inspect and also the URL of the property in Google Search Console.
The request body contains data with the following structure:
If you are curious to learn more about how to use the API, Google has extensive documentation about this.
Below is an example of the type of response you can get from the API:
If you’re not comfortable with code or just want to give it a go straight away, you can use valentin.app’s free Google Bulk Inspect URLs tool. The tool provides a quick way to query the API without any coding skills!
Here’s how to use it. You can:
- Go to https://valentin.app/inspect.html, authorize access to your Google account, and select the Search Console property you want to test. Then paste your URLs into the box below. (The data will be processed in your browser and not uploaded to a server or shared with anyone.)
- Click the “Inspect URLs” button. The data will start to pull from the API.
- Export the data as a CSV or Excel file by clicking the button.
- Analyze the data and check for any potential issues.
How can you use the Google Search Console URL Inspection API in practice?
In theory, the Google Search Console URL Inspection API seems like a great way to understand more about your website. However, you can pull so much data that it’s difficult to know where to start. So let’s look at a few examples of use cases.
1. Site migration – diagnosing any technical issues
Site migrations can cause all kinds of issues. For example, developers can accidentally block Google from crawling your site or certain pages via robots.txt.
Luckily, the Google Search Console URL Inspection API makes auditing for these issues a doddle.
For example, you can check whether you’re blocking Googlebot from crawling URLs in bulk by calling robotsTxtState.
Here is an example of me using the Google Search Console URL Inspection API (via valentin.app) to call robotsTxtState to see the current status of my URLs.
As you can see, these pages are not blocked by robots.txt, and there are no issues here.
2. Understand if Google has respected your declared canonicals
If you make a change to the canonical tags across your site, you will want to know whether or not Google is respecting them.
You may be wondering why Google ignores the canonical that you declared. Google can do this for a number of reasons, for example:
- Your declared canonical is not https. (Google prefers https for canonicals.)
- Google has chosen a page that it believes is a better canonical page than your declared canonical.
- Your declared canonical is a noindex page.
Below is an example of me using the Google Search Console URL Inspection API to see whether Google has respected my declared canonicals:
As we can see from the above screenshot, there are no issues with these particular pages and Google is respecting the canonicals.
To quickly see if the googleCanonical matches the userCanonical, export the data from the Google Bulk Inspect URLs tool to CSV and use an IF formula in Excel. For example, assuming your googleCanonical data is in Column A and your userCanonical is in Column B, you can use the formula =IF(A2=B2, “Self referencing”,”Non Self Referencing”) to check for non-matching canonicals.
3. Understand when Google recrawls after you make changes to your site
When you update many pages on your website, you will want to know the impact of your efforts. This can only happen after Google has recrawled your site.
With the Google Search Console URL Inspection API, you can see the precise time Google crawled your pages by using lastCrawlTime.
If you can’t get access to the log files for your website, then this is a great alternative to understand how Google crawls your site.
Here’s an example of me checking this:
As you can see in the screenshot above, lastCrawlTime shows the date and time my website was crawled. In this example, the most recent crawl by Google is the homepage.
Understanding when Google recrawls your website following any changes will allow you to link whether or not the changes you made have any positive or negative impact following Google’s crawl.
How to get around the Google Search Console URL Inspection API limits?
Although the Google Search Console URL Inspection API is limited to 2,000 queries per day, this query limit is determined by Google Property.
This means you can have multiple properties within one website if they are verified separately in Google Search Console, effectively allowing you to bypass the limit of 2,000 queries per day.
Google Search Console allows you to have 1,000 properties in your Google Search Console account, so this should be more than enough for most users.
Can I use the Google Search Console URL Inspection API on any website?
Another potential limiting factor is you can only run the Google Search Console URL Inspection API on a property that you own in Google Search Console. If you don’t have access to the property, then you cannot audit it using the Google Search Console URL Inspection API.
So this means auditing a site that you don’t have access to can be problematic.
How accurate is the data?
Accuracy of the data itself has been an issue for Google over the last few years. This API gives you access to that data. So arguably, the Google Search Console URL Inspection API is only as good as the data within it.
As we have previously shown in our study of Google Keyword Planner’s accuracy, data from Google is often not as accurate as people assume it to be.
The Google Search Console URL Inspection API is a great way for site owners to get bulk data directly from Google on a larger scale than what was previously possible from Google Search Console.
Daniel Waisberg and the team behind the Google Search Console URL Inspection API have definitely done a great job of getting this released into the wild.
But one of the criticisms of the Google Search Console URL Inspection API from the SEO community is that the query rate limit is too low for larger sites. (It is capped at 2,000 queries per day, per property.)
For larger sites, this is not enough. Also, despite the possible workarounds, this number still seems to be on the low side.
What’s your experience of using the Google Search Console URL Inspection API? Got more questions? Ping me on Twitter. 🙂
Examples With Pros & Cons
Marketing channels are tools and platforms that brands use to communicate with their audience.
If we squeezed the idea of marketing channels into a single picture, it’ll look something like this:
Businesses use different means (content, messages, ads) to reach their audience in places where they hang out (e.g., social media, Google Search) or reach them directly (e.g., text messages, emails). They may use a selection of channels or all available channels.
In this post, you will get an overview of the most commonly used channels today: what they are about, how they are used, and what they are best at.
Organic search refers to the non-paid search results from a search engine.
Organic search is one of the pillars of the entire internet. In all, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine (BrightEdge).
The practice of optimizing webpages to increase traffic and visibility in this channel is called search engine optimization (SEO).
At Ahrefs, we create blog posts about topics relevant to our product. At the same time, we try to target topics that offer search traffic potential and are within our capability to rank.
This way, when people Google things related to SEO and marketing, we can naturally feature our product.
Each piece of content that ends up ranking adds up to your overall organic traffic. So the more high-ranking content you have, the more potential customers visit your website. Plus, evergreen topics can generate traffic for years after publication.
Pros and cons
Social media platforms are used to engage brand followers and other users through organic reach or by paying to reach a defined audience.
Social media is not just Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Messaging-only apps like Discord, Slack, and WhatsApp also fall into the same channel category.
Do social media users “consume” content from brands? Quite surprisingly, 90% of people on Instagram follow a business (Instagram).
Each brand on social media tends to develop its own voice while publishing a balanced mix of product marketing, conversations, entertainment, and company news.
And so while some brands will be super serious and “business-oriented,” others will try to win hearts with candor and authenticity.
Furthermore, this is an effective use of social media:
Advertising products also works:
Demonstrating value is something fans want to see from their favorite brands:
Last but not least, one of the best ways to use social media for businesses… user-generated content:
Pros and cons
This marketing channel allows you to distribute your content and ads in a video format.
Does video marketing work? These stats seem to speak for themselves:
- 70% of viewers bought from a brand after seeing it on YouTube (Google).
- 96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service (Wyzowl).
Basically, video marketing is about two things:
- Using video instead of text and images to engage with the audience – Video can make such a difference compared to other media that focusing on this kind of content has become a distinct type of marketing.
- Taking advantage of video-first platforms like YouTube and TikTok – These platforms have such a big audience that it makes sense for many brands to create videos just to be there.
The great thing about video is that platforms like YouTube have their own distribution mechanisms, which can bring your content to thousands of people for free (of course, you can boost that with some budget too).
We use this channel on a regular basis, and we’ve even made a video on how to rank videos #1:
Moreover, you can repurpose videos and create “packages”—like a full-blown Academy. It also works the other way around: start with a course and share it or parts of it on YouTube.
Pros and cons
Advertising is about paying media outlets that have access to your audience to display your message near or instead of regular content.
Digital advertising is the same idea transplanted to the internet (aka paid traffic or paid media).
Why pay for ads when there are free traffic channels like search and social media? Especially when ads have such a bad reputation?
It’s all about the creative you use and the targeting.
Some ads can be simply irresistible because they dominate the space, such as this “Stranger Things” Ad:
Some are genuinely entertaining, such as the Super Bowl half-time commercials.
Some ads are just so well-targeted that it makes you wonder whether they’re still legal.
And unlike free traffic channels, you can simply outspend the competition instead of building authority, backlinks, or a following.
Pros and cons
Email marketing lets you reach your prospects’ mailboxes with messages that either prompt direct action or are aimed at creating a long-term relationship with the brand.
You can get a “direct line” to your audience either by building an email list (e.g., with a newsletter) or sponsoring someone else’s newsletter (a mix of advertising and email marketing).
Be prepared for what success looks like on this channel, though: The highest average industry click rate is 5.01% (hobbies), and the average for all industries is 2.62% (Mailchimp).
Some brands use this channel only to “seal the deal.” They spend so much on brand awareness and product marketing elsewhere that all they need is a nudge sent directly to an inbox (my inbox, in this example).
Other brands will need more touch points and do more soft-selling beforehand.
Pros and cons
Sponsorship as a marketing channel is about attracting prospects to your business through exposure to your brand in a sponsored material or event.
It’s typically used for two kinds of goals: brand awareness and brand image (i.e., gaining customers’ trust).
Sponsorship is all about visibility. But it works best if the cause/person you fund is something/someone that your target audience cares about, e.g., an event attended by your audience.
Is sponsorship a popular way to do marketing? If you look at it globally, the spending from 2007 to 2018 was on a steady rise.
Most probably, the stats are inflated by big brands sponsoring sports. But small and medium brands can engage in sponsorships too, e.g., niche magazines, industry events, or influential content creators.
Sports would probably be just a pastime activity if it weren’t for the sponsors.
Sports is also a great lesson about sponsorship. Watch an FC Barcelona game, and you’ll see and hear “Spotify” thousands of times. The logo is literally on every player, and its home stadium’s name starts with “Spotify.”
Pros and cons
Conversational marketing refers to engaging in real-time conversations with potential and current customers through live chats, chatbots, messaging apps, and social media.
This channel is supposed to be the answer to generic experiences typically offered on websites where users have to navigate through a set of pages to get information or service.
What’s more, it seems to be quite effective:
- 79% of companies say that live chat has had positive results for customer loyalty, sales, and revenue (Kayako).
- 82% of companies that use AI conversational marketing solutions find them to be a valuable asset in their strategy (Drift).
The way brands usually use chatbots (aka virtual assistants) is to:
- Answer basic and frequent questions.
- Qualify leads.
- Schedule a meeting with an agent.
- Promote specific content.
Just like Drift does:
Anything beyond that is beyond the capabilities of automation for now. However, solutions like Zowie claim their chatbots are ready to sell things to humans.
Pros and cons
Word-of-mouth marketing (WoMM) is the process of influencing and encouraging natural discussions about a product, service, or company.
In other words, it’s about giving people a reason to talk.
Is word of mouth effective?
Well, it’s probably one of the most effective marketing channels because people tend to trust other people more than brands. According to a study by BrightLocal, 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
WoM is so powerful it can get a company off the ground and help it grow throughout the years.
We should know. Ahrefs started over 10 years ago with 0 marketing budget and no marketing personnel. What got us where we are today was largely thanks to WoM: recommendations from users and positive reviews.
Pros and cons
Podcasting allows brands to reach people interested in a given topic by producing, being featured in, or sponsoring pre-recorded audio.
Podcasts seem to be a growing channel in terms of audience and ad spend:
- Podcast ad spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $2.2 billion in 2023, a 27% increase from 2022 (Statista).
- There are more than 850,000 active podcasts today.
Let’s take a quick look at three ways brands use podcasts today.
The first, and probably the most popular way, is being interviewed on a podcast or co-hosting one. The brand and/or the product gets to be featured in a natural way throughout the conversation.
The second way, and also a very popular option, is to sponsor a podcast. The audience gets acquainted with the brand through advertisements inside the podcast and/or brand identification near the content (like in the example below).
The last way a brand becomes engaged in podcasts is by creating its own series. Products are rarely featured; the focus is on memorable experiences delivered through carefully targeted content. This way, the brand can earn positive associations, differentiate, and give their audience a reason to come back to the website on a regular basis.
Pros and cons
Whereas other marketing channels are used to communicate with the audience, events are more about meeting with the audience.
Event marketing can be done online and offline but also in a hybrid model. However, in-person events allow for evoking stronger emotions and more convenient networking.
But can you rely on the in-person formula only? Probably not. Half of marketers and advertisers predict all future events will have a virtual dimension (MarketingCharts).
There are a few different types of events used in marketing. They can differ quite substantially.
Trade shows. Organized around products and technologies. Usually business-oriented, with the goal of networking and generating leads.
Conferences. Organized around ideas or technologies. The focus is on exchanging knowledge, entertainment, and networking. Often have a laid-back atmosphere with a mixed agenda. They are the most “open” of all types.
Seminars and workshops. Focused on exchanging ideas and experiences. Usually smaller in size and organized for a small number of people.
Pros and cons
Affiliate marketing is where people promote another company’s product or service in return for a commission on generated sales.
The party promoting the product is called the affiliate, and the brand delivering the product is the merchant. Often, there is also a middleman connecting the parties called the network or program (e.g., ShareASale or GiddyUp).
A commission is typically a percentage of the sale price but can occasionally be a fixed amount.
All those fractional commissions and percentages add up to a huge business. According to Statista, business spending on affiliate marketing will hit $8.2 billion in the U.S. by 2022.
This article by Musician on a Mission lists eight studio setup essentials and links to products using affiliate links.
Products mentioned in this one article alone can get a part of that over 10,000 organic traffic (and other traffic sources too).
At its best, affiliate marketing is a win-win for all parties involved, including consumers. Affiliates earn commissions on their work testing products (sometimes) and putting up the content, merchants get exposure to qualified audiences via trusted partners, and consumers don’t need to spend much time researching products on their own.
Pros and cons
Frequently asked questions about marketing channels.
Why are channels important in marketing?
Because every brand needs a way to reach out to its target audience and attract customers. Marketing channels simply connect brands to people who might need their products or services.
What is the best marketing channel?
It’s very unlikely and definitely not optimal to use one marketing channel. Brands usually try to be present in as many channels as possible, as this increases reach and convenience to customers.
That said, it’s common to focus on one channel or a small set of channels. For example, at Ahrefs, we focus on organic search and video marketing because those channels can serve the entire marketing funnel. This has proven to be an effective way to reach out to our audience.
How to choose marketing channels?
Do some market research and identify places where your audience hangs out and what channels your competition is using. Then start using those channels to test out what works for you and what doesn’t, and then iterate on your findings.
What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing?
Omnichannel marketing is about using all available channels to attract and serve customers, providing a seamless experience. For example, Ikea allows you to purchase products in stores, online, through an app, by phone, etc.
Whereas in multichannel marketing, multiple channels are utilized. However, not all of them are utilized or integrated. For example, I bought a wardrobe online recently, and the shop sent me text messages about the status of the order. But I couldn’t use the same channel to respond (and warn that it was about to send me the same product twice).
How are marketing channels different in B2B than in B2C?
B2B and B2C brands invest in the same channels (according to HubSpot). However, the way they use the channels may differ.
B2C brands usually use these channels to offer entertainment and directly impact sales. B2B brands focus more on educating prospects and forming long-lasting relations.
These types of brands may also find some types of content or platforms more suitable for them. For example, B2C brands typically don’t publish case studies, and B2B brands find LinkedIn more effective.
What’s the difference between marketing channels and distribution channels?
Distribution channels are the means by which products or services are being made available to a consumer (e.g., directly via a brand’s website or through resellers), whereas marketing channels are the means by which products and services are being communicated to the consumer.
Multichannel marketing and omnichannel marketing seem to be the way to go these days. More channels mean more convenience for your customers, more prospects reached, and more ROI for your company.
But to make the best use of your channels, it’s a good idea to keep your brand’s messaging consistent across all media; marketers call it integrated marketing communications.
Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.