Technical SEO:

Migration Tips from Legacy GSC to New GSC

Grace Adato November 1, 2018

As an SEO company that provides landing page & optimization services, there are several Search Console metrics we look at on a weekly and quarterly basis to assess the overall organic performance of a site as well as custom pages created by our CMS. This article offers some tips to ease your transition to the new Google Search Console (GSC).

The main areas we focus on are:

  1. Index status/Index coverage
  2. Sitemap indexation
  3. Crawl errors

Index Coverage (Index Status)

One of the most significant changes is that Index Status has turned into Index Coverage, offering new features and a new perspective. Now, you have two options when viewing your site’s indexation stats: all known pages or just pages submitted in the XML sitemap.

Since most of our clients have been in business for many years with established brands, a rise in indexed pages isn’t typically what we’re looking for. Most of the time sites have too many pages indexed due to duplication or non-search friendly pages. Instead we’re mainly looking for consistency or a steady drop. If your site has experienced a growth in page count, then you should see an increase in the number of indexed pages. As long as any growth in indexed pages corresponds to an increase in new pages you want to be indexed, it’s okay if your graph has an upward slope.

gsc-index-dup

This example shows a client with index bloat. The site has only 690 unique URLs submitted in the sitemap but has another 2,500 duplicative pages that are also indexed. The drop since migration to HTTPS is exactly what we want to see. Due to this migration, it’s necessary to view HTTP & HTTPS versions of GSC separately and graph those together.

The example below shows a different client that had an HTTPS migration in July so there’s a little more data to graph over time, and that shows the desired affect (HTTP down, HTTPS up).

index-status-graph

Additionally, use exclusions to see what type of crawling issues exist. This could also be another hint to index bloat and crawling issues. A spike in exclusions or a drop in indexed pages without corresponding errors are signs of issues.

Depending on your site’s exclusions & amounts, a Pie Chart or Bar Bhart would both work. In this example I chose to show the exclusions as a Bar Chart broken down by reason type to see which reasons contribute the most to overall exclusion count. As you can see below, there are several issues this site faces for exclusions.

index-exclusions

 

Sitemap Indexation

The next thing we’ve historically looked at XML index ratio. Before Index Coverage in the new GSC there wasn’t much insight about why pages were not indexed except for errors.

Old View

legacy-gsc-sitemap-errors

NOTE: The exclusions may or may not account for most of what’s submitted in sitemap

New View

gsc-xml

 

In this example, there are 1,364 pages accounted for out of 1,368 pages submitted, which isn’t bad. However, this is will vary from site to site.

gsc-sitemap-coverage

With the new GSC, we can now access XML indexation with more segmentation about what pages are excluded from indexation and why. From here, we export the details and use VLOOKUP to track in a spreadsheet and then graph to see the trends over time.

gsc-sitemap-coverage-details

We use a graph like the one below to segment by the issue types. This example shows more than a few issues: errors, crawl issues, duplication, etc., with duplication causing the bulk of exclusions. This gives us an idea about where to focus our efforts for indexing issues of important pages.

xml-exclusions

 

Crawl Errors

Although Crawl errors are reported in the new GSC, we noticed the numbers are very different. We have found that the new GSC tends to be report fewer errors because pages which may now be live, redirected or excluded because of excessive URL patterns are more likely to be filtered out compared to the old reporting.

Here’s how to determine that:

Old View

For instance, this client shows 224 server errors and 899 Not Found, but Index Coverage is only showing a total of 12 errors.

legacy-gsc-errors

Using this client as an example, 234 server errors were exported from legacy GSC, and after a crawl was run there were only 53 that still reported a 5xx status code, with the majority of them being excessive parameter patterns that Google appears to have limited in new GSC.

gsc-sitemap-errors
Screaming Frog crawl from export of legacy GSC URLs.

screaming-frog-export

Compared to the URLs listed as server errors in new GSC, they are the same.

gsc-errors

We are encouraged that reporting of crawl errors has improved in the new GSC.

TL;DR

  1. Index status
    1. Migrate to Index Coverage, numbers will be similar.
  2. Index coverage
    1. Add exclusion data to your reports for better indexing insight.
  3. Sitemap indexation
    1. Migrate to new GSC and play around with tracking exclusion error types if your site has indexation issues.
  4. Crawl errors
    1. Depending on what your dashboards show, consider moving to new GSC since it appears to reduce the noise of excessive URL patterns.
    2. Keep eye on legacy too to test.

If you are dealing with indexation issues, fill out our Contact form or call us at 214-999-0889 to hear how we can help.

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