Google Analytics, Search Console, and Ads are completely free to use and extremely powerful. Every website owner should be incorporating Google SEO tools into their web strategy.
Free to use
Analytics monitors the demographics of website visitors
Search console identifies keywords relevant to your website
Extremely easy to use with customizable data displays
Could be condensed into a single user interface
No information about search ranking for specific keywords
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Google is a behemoth of SEO, with the company commanding more than 80% of search engine market share. For website owners and marketers, the company provides three main tools: Analytics, Search Console, and Ads. Together, these three tools form an extremely powerful website monitoring and SEO suite that’s completely free to use.
Are Google’s SEO tools the right choice for monitoring and improving your site’s SEO? We’ll take a closer look at Analytics, Search Console, and Ads to find out.
Plans and pricing
Using Google’s SEO tools is completely free—all you need is a Google account. Buying ads through Google Ads does cost money, though. You can spend as much or as little as you want, but on average you can expect to pay between $1 and $2 per click-through to your website from search engine ads.
To understand the SEO tools that Google offers, we’ll look at each of the three different marketing interfaces: Analytics, Search Console, and Ads.
Google Analytics is designed to help you quickly track how your website is performing. At a glance, you can see how many users are on your website right now, where those users are located, and what type of device they’re accessing your site with. All of this is displayed in a series of simple tables and graphs, which you can click on to get more detailed information.
Just as importantly, Analytics gives you insight into the historical audience for your website. You can define a custom date range to pull visitor data from. Then, you can dive into demographic data like the age, gender, and interests of your site visitors.
Another useful aspect of Analytics is that you can see how visitors are behaving on your website. The platform offers a flow chart that illustrates where visitors go after landing on your homepage and how much time they spend on each page. This is extremely helpful for finding specific pages or content areas that are causing visitors to leave your website.
Analytics particularly shines if you’re running an ad campaign. You can easily compare traffic characteristics before, during, and after the campaign. If you send visitors to a custom landing page, you can also easily monitor whether they’re converting into sales after arriving on your site.
Google Search Console
If Analytics is designed to help you monitor your site’s performance, Search Console is designed to help you improve performance. You can find information about what search engine keywords users were entering into Google to arrive at your site. Search Console also lets you know how many people see your website in search results and how many of those impressions are turning into site visits.
One of the important things that Search Console tracks is how many times your website is backlinked, both internally and from other sites. This plays a major role in your website’s SEO rankings. Search Console also highlights any code errors on your website that could be negatively affecting your search engine ranking.
What Search Console doesn’t tell you, though, is how your website is actually ranking in search results for specific keywords. That’s a critical omission, especially if you’re thinking about using a keyword-based ad campaign to boost your site’s visibility.
Google Ads is a platform to help you design ads that appear on the Google search engine. These ads are essentially text with a link to a chosen landing page, so setting them up is relatively simple. Importantly, you can choose specific keywords that trigger your ad to show as well as limit your ads to people in specific geographical areas around your business.
One of the key parts of Ads is setting your budget. Google automatically places your ads using a bidding system, which ensures you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Ads will give you an estimate of how many clicks you’ll get for a given budget, but results can vary widely.
To see how your ad is doing, you’ll need to rely on Analytics and Search Console. Ads itself doesn’t offer much in the way of performance analytics, although you can monitor your current campaigns and spending.
Interface and in use
Google is famous for its friendly user experiences, and Analytics, Search Console, and Ads exemplify why. All three SEO tools use an easily navigable left-hand menu bar with drop-down menus that help to organize your data displays. On top of that, within Analytics, you can create custom dashboards and reports to put the most useful performance information in front of you.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Google’s SEO interface is that Analytics, Search Console, and Ads are three different platforms. You can link Search Console and Ads, but you still need to navigate back and forth between the two interfaces for most tasks.
Separating the three platforms helps keep their respective missions—monitoring performance, optimizing performance, and creating ad campaigns—clearly delineated. But, it would be a more streamlined experience if they were rolled into a single user interface.
Google offers support for Analytics and Search Console by web only. Both platforms have extensive documentation centers, and you simply need to describe your issue to find the appropriate help file. If you get stuck, though, support is limited to posting in a help forum and hoping that another user answers your question.
Support for Ads is more concrete. There’s an online documentation library similar to what you’ll find for Analytics and Search Console. But, you can also get help over the phone, by live chat, or by email.
Google is one of the only services that provides such a massive wealth of data about your web traffic and SEO for free. That said, there are a number of other SEO software packages that repackage Google Analytics and Search Console to give you more flexibility or custom data analytics.
For example, Heap presents Google search data in a way that’s more friendly for website owners who aren’t also data scientists. GoSquared essentially mimics Google Analytics, but has the added advantage that it can integrate with a customer relationship management platform.
The trifecta of Google Analytics, Search Console, and Ads is an extremely powerful combination for website owners. The three tools together allow you not only to monitor your website traffic, but also to build more traffic through organic and paid search results. The only major thing that Google’s SEO tools are lacking is information about how your website is ranking in search results for specific keywords. Still, given that Google doesn’t charge anything for its SEO suite, it’s pretty hard to complain.
Michael Graw is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Bellingham, Washington. His interests span a wide range from business technology to finance to creative media, with a focus on new technology and emerging trends. Michael's work has been published in TechRadar, Tom's Guide, Business Insider, Fast Company, Salon, and Harvard Business Review.