How to use Google Search Console for keyword research

Haley Carroll

  | Published on  

September 29, 2023

Keywords are the cornerstone of any SEO strategy. However, figuring out which words and phrases your website should target can be more than a little mind-boggling. 

An entire practice in SEO is dedicated to doing just that - keyword research. 

There are many different methods for conducting keyword research. In this post, we’ll hone in on one of them: using Google Search Console (GSC). 

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of GSC before; by the end of this post, you’ll be well on your way to improving your keyword strategy. Let’s dive in!

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console (once upon a time called Google Webmaster tools) is a tool owned and operated by Google that is free for users to track their website’s visibility and performance on Google, the world’s most popular search engine.

Through interactive graphs, reports and lists, GSC shows you tons of different data from your site, including:

  • The organic impressions and clicks your site has earned, as well as its CTR (click through rate)
  • The average position of your site and each of its pages, overall and for individual keywords
  • Which pages on your site are indexed and which are not
  • Backlinks to your site and individual pages
  • Your site’s internal links
  • Issues and errors that are causing roadblocks to your site’s success on Google

Search Console also lets you take action right on the platform to improve your site’s SEO standing, by:

  • Monitor and analyze important search metrics over time
  • Identify and solve technical errors on your site
  • Submit URLs and sitemaps to be crawled and indexed by Google

You’ll notice we didn’t mention that GSC finds and reports keywords for you to target. We wish it were that simple. 

Until they add that feature, here’s how you can find keywords with Google Search Console

How to find keywords on Google Search Console

The many view options in Google Search Console allow you to find keywords that are working for your website overall, and for specific pages. 

How to find keywords that are already working for you

It’s best to start by identifying the keywords that are already being seen and clicked on by users. This will help you understand what your current level of success is, and you can make sure you’re getting the most SEO benefits possible from these search terms. 

You’re looking for keywords that have high impressions (each time a user is on a Search Engine Result Page that contains your website in the list - even if the user doesn’t scroll down to see your result - counts as an impression) and a high click-through rate (the number of times a user clicks on your result divided by the number of impressions the result receives).

To find these keywords, go to “Search Results” under the Performance category on the left hand menu on Google Search Console. 

Adjust the date filter as you see fit. “Zooming out” a bit and looking at the last year or longer will help you identify keywords that have consistently performed well or poorly. 

Scroll past the initial chart to where Search Console breaks the data out into specific queries. Sort the data by Clicks so that search terms with the highest clicks are at the top of the list. 

Ignoring the branded queries (searches for your company name), take a look at which keywords have been driving traffic to your site. 

How to find keywords that need improvement

Now to move on to the keywords that might need a bit more heavy lifting.

These are the keywords that are getting impressions, but few clicks. Why does this happen? Probably because your page is too far down on the Search Engine results page - most people only click on the first three results. 

To find these keywords, click on “Search Results” under the Performance category on the left hand menu on Google Search Console.

After adjusting the date range as you see fit, scroll down to the Queries section of the page and sort the list by Impressions, showing the keywords with the highest number of impressions at the top. 

From here, you’ll be able to see all the keywords that you’re showing up for on Google. Compare the number of impressions with the number of clicks you’re earning, If the clicks seem particularly low for a keyword, you’ve found your opportunity for growth.

The more “niche” or specific the keyword is, the easier it will most likely be to improve your rank for. 

Perform on-page SEO methods for pages with these keywords, so that you can move further up the SERP and start earning clicks.

Centori has a handy "Winners and Losers" report as well to see which keywords have improved or sunk the most in a time period:

How to find keywords for specific pages on your site

If you’re wondering which keywords you should target on a specific page - Google has a way of showing just that. 

Navigate again to the “Search Results” page under the performance menu. Scroll down and jump to the Pages tab from Queries. 

Now, you’ll be able to view the impressions and CTR for each page of your website. Scroll through the list to find the page you’re wondering about, and click on it. 

Once your page is selected, move back to the Queries tab. You’ll now be seeing all of the search terms that the selected page ranks for. 

Sort the list by Impressions in descending order. The keywords that your page is ranking best for will be at the top of the list.

These top keywords are the terms you should target on the page. You can perform on-page SEO techniques with these keywords to improve the clicks and CTR for that page. 

How to improve your rank for your keywords

Now that you know which search terms are helping users find and interact with your website, here’s a few ways you can make sure you’re getting the most from these keywords:

  • Add internal links to boost content for keywords
  • Create more content for top-performing keywords
  • Amplify content around popular search terms

Add internal links to content around the popular keywords

As users come to your page from organic search, you want to keep them on your site and move them further down your marketing funnel. Add links on the pages that are driving the most organic traffic to other places on your website that may be valuable to them; related content, information about your products and offering - whatever makes sense for users to move to next instead of clicking back to the search results.

Create further content around top-performing keywords (being sure to avoid keyword cannibalization)

Now that you know which topics and terms your target users are searching for, you can continue to provide content within those subject areas to earn even more traffic. You just need to be wary that you aren’t making your own pages compete against one another for a keyword ranking - each page should be unique and serve its own function. 

Amplify the content around these popular search terms

If you know this content has been successful in organic search, promote it via other channels as well: organic and paid social, guest blogs, and all the over avenues you have available to you. That way, the content that is landing with your target audience has the potential to reach even more users. 

How to spot your best keyword opportunities with Google Search Console

We’ve just covered three simple ways you can find keywords worth targeting, all by using the free tool Google Search Console. 

But how do you find your best SEO opportunities from these keywords? Here are 4 quick tips:

  • Review questions you aren't answering on your website: Google Search Console gives you a birds-eye view of what your website currently ranks for. If keywords/questions are missing then this is a big sign that you need to target them with your content.
  • Review keywords you are close to ranking for: Look for keywords you are close to ranking for but not quite there yet. I like to categorize these as keywords with a position of 10-20 as that means you are on the second page of Google search results for that keyword.
  • Review keywords you are not quite ranking for: These are keywords with a position of 30-50. Usually these are keywords you are not directly targeting with content but rank for anyway. These are great ones to review and target with new content to improve your rankings.
  • Review keywords that have a low click-through-rate: These are keywords that you might have a lot of search impressions for but are not earning many clicks. I like to review these keywords and update the titles to be more clear or eye-catching and earn more clicks from search results.

We have a pre-built report for this in our software too - our search opportunities report!

If you’re looking for more SEO expert advice and tools, Centori provides the software and the know-how to help you meet your website performance goals. Talk to our experts or try our software today, and make SEO success a whole lot easier for yourself.

10x your traffic with our proven SEO strategy framework

Get the same strategy framework we teach every single client. Follow these 4 steps to outsmart your competitors on Google and rank your website higher than ever.