The Google Search Console, previously known as the Google Webmasters Tool, has become one of the most used tools for marketers and site owners to improve their SEO, as it’s part of Google’s free suite of digital marketing tools and it provides unique insights into what Google and the rest of the web register about your website.
As complex and exciting as the data given by GSC is, many veteran marketers started noticing that what they get in the Google Search Console reports does not always match what happens on the web in real-time. The discussions regarding the reliability of the GSC are quite intense since it’s hard to determine with great accuracy what’s the reality “in the industry.”
In this article, we will explore the data given by the Google Search Console, we will look into the ways Google gathers data and what you can expect from this valuable tool as a marketer or business owner.
You might also be interested in IS THE GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE A GOOD SEO TOOL? WHY?
What Is Google Search Console
Of all the free tools provided by Google to aid “webmasters” (web developers, designers, website owners, business owners, advertisers, app developers, etc.), like Google Analytics, the Google Search Console is one of the most valuable ones, in the context of SEO and ranking performance. It collects data from your website, giving you important search analytics about how well you perform from Google’s point of view: click-through rates, traffic info, search insights, and others.
For any website owner who is even remotely invested in SEO and realizes its potential, GSC becomes almost indispensable, as it can easily improve the performance of your website with a reasonable amount of effort and zero money.
So, why is Google Search Console’s reliability under question? Well, for an entry-level website owner, the perks given by the data in GSC and the exciting parameters it lets you have a glance at are definitely something to play with.
But when you own the website of a bigger business and you are more invested, the decisions you make have to rely on accurate data. When you make marketing decisions that cost you a few thousand dollars each time, you want to know that the Google Search Console what happens in real-time, and not a delayed or inaccurate version of it.
Why Is GSC Indispensable for Marketers
When it comes to the tools you can use and combine when managing your online marketing strategies, none of them is actually indispensable. But not using the Google Search Console when it is provided by the very same search engine that ranks you and gathers most users on the internet would mean missing out on a lot of data that can help with your entire marketing plan.
Google Search Console doesn’t only provide insights on how your website is performing, but it also serves as a dashboard from which you can control SEO aspects of your website, like crawlability, indexing, and others. Combine it with other search engine optimisers and you have a solid base for your marketing decisions.
For the latter reason, it’s safe to say that GSC is, indeed, indispensable, but it cannot be used as a single source for your marketing data if you want to go in-depth with your marketing analysis.
How Reliable Is the Data Given by the GSC?
Let’s look into some of the most commonly used parameters in the Google Search Console to see if there are any events or scenarios when their reliability could be questioned, or impose any issue.
Your website’s index status shows how many of your pages have been indexed by Google and which ones should be submitted manually. The Index Status is meant to provide you with the exact number of pages that are indexed by Google.
The validity of this data can be verified by comparing the results you get in GSC with those you retrieve with the command site:commands. One of the main reasons why differences in these two parameters appear is that web owners index different versions of their website, such as www, HTTP, HTTPS, non-www, etc.
Putting small discrepancies aside, the Index Status is actually quite reliable, giving you a good idea about what Google indexes and how visible you are to the search engine.
A very useful feature of the Google Search Console is HTML Improvements. It shows you what errors can be found on your website when it is crawled by search engine robots. The analysis retrieves errors and duplicate content, allowing you to correct, redirect and eliminate the problem.
One of the issues that has been seen in the Google Search Console is that it doesn’t update as often and fast as you’d expect, leading to situations when you come across certain errors that have already been solved and that Google is already aware of.
A lot of advertisers, web owners, and business owners focus a lot on external links in their SEO strategies, but internal links are also important for a website’s visibility and ranking. As long as you properly link back to your own website and use relevant anchor texts and keywords, you can take advantage of this opportunity to boost your content marketing and build a solid reference network of links on your website.
Another surprising drawback of relying on the Google Search Console data is related to your internal links. Googlebot can give fairly different results than other crawlers, and the possibility of it ignoring some of your internal links to your site is quite real.
Because of that, you have to be careful that Google crawl doesn’t overlook certain internal links that you expressly used to increase the visibility of your most important blog posts, pages, etc.
Links to Your Site
For SEO, data about the links to your site is extremely important, as it directly impacts your website’s authority and ranking data. The information that GSC retrieves on external links is usually reliable, meaning it’s reliable to an extent.
Our tests show that we can trust the data retrieved by GSC as long as Google’s directories are fully updated with what’s going on on the website.
In order to get an idea of the average position of your website for certain search terms, standard rank tracking methods are more reliable than what Google Search Console presents. GSC bases its average position value on the number of impressions, calculating the average value in a certain period.
While this might seem like a proper method of calculating the average position, it doesn’t take the evolution of your ranking for a certain keyword in time. Therefore, it might equivalate a keyword that doesn’t go higher than a certain rank to a keyword that had a drastic growth and eventually even reached top positions. The two keyword rankings, however, lead to very different results when other parameters, like traffic, are taken into account.
Why GSC Data Doesn’t Match Google Analytics
We have mentioned Google Analytics as one of the other most important tools provided by Google to aid webmasters in search for insights on their performance. It is widely known that the data in GSC doesn’t really match Google Analytics data, which can be baffling at first. But why does that happen?
There is a very simple explanation for that: the parameters retrieved by the two tools are calculated differently. By understanding that, you can actually use the data to your advantage and not get confused by the blatant discrepancies between the two.
Here are some of the most relevant examples of why GSC doesn’t match GA:
- Click data: GSC counts Google Search clicks, while GA retrieves these, plus data from Google Ads;
- For huge websites with thousands of pages (think big eCommerce websites), there is a limit of 1000 pages to what GSC can retrieve. GA, on the other hand, does not limit the number of pages it includes in its reports;
- GSC tracks search data, while GA retrieves events that happened on the website. Because of this, you might get insights in GSC about instances when users clicked on the search result but did not let the page load.
By understanding these subtle or less subtle differences, you can better establish how to use the data retrieved by the two platforms and how it compares. Knowing what kind of events the data points to is what experienced advertisers, marketers, and SEOs understand when using the Google tool suite to their advantage.
About the Google Search Console Insights
As a response, perhaps, to the confusion brought by differences in the GA and GSC analytics, Google has started testing Google Search Console Insights, which combines data from the two platforms in an understandable, actionable way.
Here is the kind of data you can get from GSCI:
- How people discover your content on the web
- Trending queries your website ranks for
- Best pieces of content, in terms of search performance
- External links to your website and the updated evolution of your link collection
- The evolution of your newest content pieces
For now, this platform or tool is reserved for beta testers, who are encouraged to provide feedback and test the capabilities of this new merge. It’s not known when this feature will be available to the public, but we want to leave this as a conclusion to our article: while GSC has not proven to be 100% reliable, compared to other tools, it is still a very valuable tool and Google is working on better putting its data to use, allowing webmasters to maximize their performance.
Do You Need Help Managing Your GSC?
If you are a business owner who needs the functionality and value brought by the Google Search Console but doesn’t have the resources (time, effort, human resources) to master it and decipher all its quirks, delegate.
We at Australian Internet Advertising are experts in the field and have been one of the top online marketing agencies in Sydney and Australia for many years. We are ready to look into the data collected by the GSC on your website and do the necessary improvements. We aim to give you:
- A lightning-fast, well-organized that Google will want to rank high;
- Reliable reports gathered with our highly specialized web marketing tool kit;
- Valuable interpretations of data, which can serve as a solid basis for your future marketing decisions;
- Advice on how to construct your future marketing campaigns in the most cost-efficient, success-driven way.
The goal we aim for when working with our clients is not empty of meaning, like reaching the top ten in the Google Search Results or increasing the value of a parameter that will only have an effect on the marketer’s ego, but not on your results. We aim at increasing our client’s revenue and bring them more sales, more visits, higher revenue.
If you are interested in our services, we welcome you with a free website evaluation that would normally cost around $500, and one of our online experts will give you a free 30-minute consultation. Contact us now and see the results that well-done SEO can bring your business.