How to Use Google’s new URL Inspection Tool to get SEO Help Straight from the Source

Ever wondered why one of your website’s important pages wasn’t showing up in Google search results? In the past, one would have to rely on external crawlers and conjecture to craft their best guess but still couldn’t know for certain if and how Google crawled the page. This frustrating scenario is now much easier to diagnose, as Google now provides webmasters with direct feedback on your pages so you can make informed decisions when it comes to SEO.

Since its release in January 2018, Google has slowly rolled out additional features to its new version of Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools).

New Google Search Console interface
Old Google Webmaster Tools/Google Search Console interface

In addition to a refreshed interface, Google also introduced a very useful new tool for SEO: the URL Inspection Tool. When used correctly, you can quickly identify SEO issues that can be limiting your site’s organic traffic.

With the URL Inspection Tool, you can now get detailed information on the last time a URL was crawled by Google, its current indexation status, as well as many other helpful data points, to assess the organic performance of a page. Curious about a page’s indexation and crawl status? Enter any URL on your site and you’ll be able to get the following information:

URL inspection tool results page

Coverage: Google will tell you if the page is currently indexed or not. If the page isn’t indexed, the tool will provide the reason, which can include potential issues like server errors, meta tag problems, canonical tag conflicts, or misconfigurations to your robots.txt file. If a page isn’t showing up in Google results that you expect,  a quick run through URL Inspection can sometimes reveal a small, yet critical, issue that can easily be fixed.

Coverage report for a submitted and indexed page

Discovery: If Google has crawled the URL in question, you can see how Google’s crawl reached the page—this can include your sitemaps and also referring pages. This information can be particularly useful if an unintended or unsubmitted page ends up in the Google index as you can determine how Google’s crawlers reached the URL in question. You may have an issue with your sitemap or you could have an outdated link on your site pointing to the page.

Discovery information for an indexed page crawled from the sitemap

Crawl: Google will provide when the URL was last crawled as well as confirm that the page is crawlable. If you have made changes to a page and want to check if Google has crawled the page since your updates, a quick check here will allow you to see if Google has picked up your changes and how long Google has had to process those changes.

Crawl information for a URL in Search Console

If the page is not crawlable, Google will provide the reason the URL isn’t crawlable, like a restriction in the robots.txt file. If you need to request that Google re-crawl your page, you can click on the “Request Indexing” button to do so. This feature is extremely useful when you want Google to re-crawl a critical page as quickly as possible.

Click the “Request Indexing” button to request for Google to crawl the page

Indexing: Google will confirm that the URL is indexable as well as provide the user-declared canonical (if applicable) and the canonical that Google has selected. Discrepancies between user-declared and Google-selected canonicals can help reveal potential issues with canonical tag configuration, as well as duplicate content issues if Google sees your page as unintentionally equivalent to a unique page. If Google selects an unexpected canonical tag, there’s a decent chance that some aspect of the site may be misconfigured.

In this example, Google’s selected canonical tag and the user-declared canonical differ over the inclusion of “.html” in the URL

Mobile Usability: In addition to more SEO-centric data, the URL Inspection Tool also provides insight into the user experience on the mobile version of the page. Mobile usability issues can include problems like clickable elements being placed too close together, misconfigurations with viewport settings, and fonts that are too small. Fixing these types of user experience issues can help with both organic rankings as well as conversion rates. As more users rely on mobile devices to browse the web, optimizing for mobile is critical to both SEO and user experience alike.

Search Console Report for a mobile-friendly page

The URL Inspection Tool is the perfect place to start when a page isn’t showing up in search results as expected. While other crawlers and tools can help surface issues causing the problem, Google Search Console is the only surefire way to know exactly how Google crawled and evaluated your page. This tool can be especially helpful when tracking progress on new organic landing pages or checking that status of your important pages after a migration.

There is no limit to how many URLs you can inspect using the tool, so feel free to test a broad range of pages to identify issues that could be limiting organic traffic and revenue. As a free tool, URL Inspection is simply too powerful not to use when working on your site.

About Chris Brown

Chris Brown has nearly 20 years of retail leadership while driving impressive results in a diverse range of retail business models including, pure play ecommerce, brick and mortar, omnichannel (with substantial mobile expertise) and merchandising. As Vice President of Omni-channel and eCommerce Strategy, Chris connects with clients to help drive their digital strategy, combining his experience in high-growth retail environments with software solutions to build revenue, increase conversion and drive retention. Connect with Chris on Linkedin: linked button