Google Search Console is a great tool because it provides accurate information about your website with regards to Google’s search engine.
If you haven’t got your website connected to Google Search Console you can find out how to do that here.
You receive a manual penalty if your website has been manually checked and found to be breaking Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines.
Go to your dashboard and under "Search Traffic", you can find “Manual Actions”. This is quite a simple one to check, if you have no actions then you’ll see the text “No manual webspam actions found”.
Otherwise, you’ll have information in a Manual Actions report that will describe the issues that your website has. Receiving a manual penalty will have a large effect on your website and will likely cause it not to rank. You can find out more about Manual Actions on Google’s support page.
This is again a fairly simple one to check but can be a bit more difficult to address.
Under your dashboard at the bottom right you should see a heading called “Sitemaps”. If you have text saying “Why Submit a Sitemap?” then you will need to make it a priority to submit one.
Submitting a Sitemap on Google Search Console tells Google directly what your pages are so they can show them on Google. If you have a bar chart showing your pages indexed then you can see how many URLs have been submitted and how many URLs have actually been indexed by Google.
This is really important information to know if you have a large percentage of pages that haven’t been indexed it could be indicative of a larger problem. It depends on how long ago you submitted the Sitemap, Google does take some time to index your pages which varies for each website and industry. You can also look at your total indexed over time, if you go to “Google Index” and index status.
There are a number errors that can show up in this area and they should be looked at very carefully.
Under the crawl tab navigate to “Crawl Errors” and you can see the errors displayed including what type of error and the page it was found on.
If you have server errors then you’ll need to work out which pages are having issues here and assess them individually. If you have a web developer they can usually work out the issue here and whether it is worth worrying about or not.
Another problem area is Soft 404s, this can often be the most dangerous one for websites, if you have a lot of soft 404s this is a very large issue. Essentially a Soft 404 is a page that should be a 404 but is being registered as a page on Google. These should be fixed as soon as possible by 404ing the page if necessary or 301 redirecting it to the relevant page.
Access denied issues can be fairly common depending on how your website was developed, generally, these shouldn’t be an issue. If you have pages in there that should be available on your website then this will need to be fixed ASAP. Ideally, you should sort all of these issues out if you have the time to.
Not found issues are very normal for websites, whenever you remove a page it should switch to a 404 (not found). If you have had your website for a while then you could have a large amount of 404 errors. These should be checked, a common issue that people don’t think about is that they could have had a page up on their website that people were linking to, they then change their URL and all of those links are lost. This can be fixed by going through your links that are 404ing and deciding if they should be redirected to another more relevant page. We would recommend redirecting it to a relevant page even if it doesn’t have links to it. If there isn’t a relevant page or it doesn’t seem natural enough then it is fine to leave it as a 404.
This is a very simple one but it is incredibly important, you are at risk if you have a .com domain and haven’t set your location.
Under "Search Traffic" navigate to “International Targeting” and pick the country tab. Make sure you have the correct location selected here because it will tell Google exactly where it should be ranking you.