Digital marketing is nothing without data. And unless business marketers or business owners are ready to dedicate a good portion of their days just tracking or interpreting data themselves, they’ll turn to an array of different tools to help them get a better sense of their performance.
One tool, in particular, that you might see linked to assessing your search engine search performance is Google’s own Search Console. But, some marketers argue whether the data that Google Search Console provides is accurate, especially since when comparing metrics from Google Analytics, the stats tend to point to completely different pictures.
To put your mind at ease straight away: yes, Google Search Console is accurate. It’s accurate in delivering the data it intends to, in the way it said it would.
For clarification, let’s quickly look over what the Search Console does and how it gathers and presents website performance data.
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What Is the Search Console and What Does It Do?
Google Search Console is a free tool offered by Google to help marketers and business owners monitor their performance in the results pages. While you do not need to use the service to be included in Google search results, this tool can offer you a better understanding of where your links end up on the results page, as well as identify room for improvement.
The Search Console offers a lot of different performance reports that give you many insights into your website, such as:
- Whether your site is indexed by Google
- Any indexing problems you might have, which could affect your ranking
- Seeing how often your site appears in organic search
- Viewing which types of search queries lead to your links being included in the SERPs
- Seeing the click-through rate
- Viewing what other sites link to yours
- See exactly how mobile-friendly your site really is
As you can see, Google Search Console offers a lot of position data specifically, which is quite beneficial if you’re running a search engine optimisation strategy to improve your site’s ranking.
So why are marketers claiming the data tracked through this tool aren’t that accurate? Is Google Search Control less precise than Google Analytics?
Analytics versus Search Console: Two Different Tools, Two Different Goals
The easiest way to explain the difference between Google Analytics and Google Search Console is this: the former is user-oriented, while the latter is search engine oriented.
Google Analytics primarily focuses on how website visitors interact with your site. It can provide:
- Page bounce rates
- Average time on site
- Total site visits
- Organic versus paid traffic stats
- Google Ads data if you integrate the two services
- Even demographic information regarding who’s visiting your site
Google Analytics is there to help you monitor and interpret your website usage data, and get to know the people who visit your website a lot better. Sure, existing website traffic does influence your SEO ranking to a certain extent (in the way that sites with loads of traffic are seen as popular, therefore relevant), but Google Analytics isn’t the best at helping you be better in the organic search.
Instead, you have the Search Console for that. The tool is specifically designed to help you access search analytics, see your site performance on the results page.
You can access data on:
- Number of impressions (how many people saw your link in the results pages)
- Number of clicks your links got
- The click-through rate (click count divided by the number of impressions)
- Average position – the average of where your site appears on the results page;
- Keyword rankings – see your best performing and most underperforming keywords
With Google Search Console, you’re able to study your site’s ranking data, its search queries, any crawl errors, or other errors that could lead to your site underperforming in terms of its position in the SERPs.
But, as you can see, the metrics have little to do with the people who come and visit your website.
So, Why the Disparities?
Ok, so you’ve done the big test: you compared your clicks and impressions and compared it with your number of sessions in your Analytics. And the two don’t match. How come?
Well, in a way, they don’t even have to. Let’s consider the following example:
Say you have a landing page for a new service you’re providing, such as bathroom remodelling. You focus a lot of time perfecting its SEO in hopes of getting more visitors looking to book you.
Your Search Console shows the link got 50 clicks. Your Analytics only shows 30 sessions. Why?
The simple answer is that a click doesn’t always mean an impression. They are two distinct metrics. For instance, a user may have clicked on your landing page, which would register a click in the Search Console, but quit the session long before Analytics could register a session (which is why your bounce rate could be unaffected here too).
Or, the same person might click a link twice, register as two clicks in the Search Console, but Analytics counts it as just one session. There could be a variety of reasons why the data in Search Console doesn’t perfectly match that in your Google Analytics.
But, these ‘inconsistencies’ does not mean one tool is better than the other, or more accurate than the other.
The comparison, in a sense, is a bit unfair from the beginning. Search Console and Analytics serve two different, but equally important purposes. You cannot use Analytics to see your average ranking, just as you can’t use the Search Console to get visitor demographics.
How to Leverage the Search Console
The Search Console and Google Analytics work best together, to offer you a complete view of website performance. The Search Console, in particular, is an amazing way of accessing position data to assess how your SEO efforts are doing, and what improvements might be needed to yield better results.
Here are a few different ways to leverage the Search Console:
Ask Google to crawl your site
Your average ranking doesn’t mean much if Google has not properly crawled or indexed your website.
A web crawler scans different sites on the web and retrieves information for Google to add to the index but sometimes, things get in the way. Be it a problem with internal links, broken links, or even the sheer fact that the page is new, the Search Console can be used to ask Google to crawl and index a specific web page, or your entire site.
Get the Search Analytics report
The Search Analytics report gives you a better sense of how your target audience perceives your links or brand when they come across them on the results pages.
And they can be quite telling. For instance, the click data shows how many times someone has clicked on your link, but the click-through rate shows how likely someone is to do it.
If your impressions are high, but clicks are a lot, that could lead to a lacklustre click-through rate. Your landing pages are being delivered and seen on the results pages, but for some reason, users aren’t clicking. You might want to analyze the metadata data of your landing pages to improve your copy to make it more convincing.
See your flaws
The Search Console is like an MRI for your website. It can bring to light a lot of the seemingly tiny issues that might be killing your performance in Google Search, allowing you to quickly resolve them and let your SEO strategy work its magic.
And it lets you especially see the flaws in your mobile friendliness. Having a site accessible and fully functional on such devices is a huge ranking factor, and any issues with the layout, content, usability, or overall user experience are sure to damage your average ranking.
Even if it didn’t, considering that half of your potential visitors are likely using a mobile device to access your site, that’s a pretty big incentive to make sure they can use it.
Kickoff your backlinking strategy
Building backlinks is one of the most important off-SEO efforts, but it can sometimes be difficult to have the full picture of who is linking to your website. But, the Search Console does an amazing job at showing you who is linking to which pages.
It pays to check the tool before you begin your new strategy, and then continue to check it as you’re trying to attract and build high-quality links.
For instance, if you’ve just published a whitepaper as part of your content marketing strategy, it pays to see the effects it’s had. Besides traffic and other data from Google Analytics, check the Search Console to see the backlinks. Have people picked up the white paper? What types of websites have? Can you nurture that relationship even more?
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It’s easy to believe any digital marketing tool out there is inaccurate or not right to help you design better strategies. With these tools, understanding their purpose and knowing how to interpret the data directly influences the amount of success you’ll see from them.
But with the right partner beside you, and an effective strategy designed around the unique goals of your business, and generate real results from SEO.
Reach out to Australian Internet Advertising now for more information about how we can help.