During an SEO analysis, have you ever wondered where the discrepancies between data from Google Search Console and other SEO tools comes from? We get to the bottom of this and other mysteries.
Google Search Console is a free tool that website operators can use to check their performance in Google search results. The great thing about it is that while most keyword and SEO tools on the market work with third-party “scraped” data, the GSC offers you insights into the actual data from Google search. This makes Google Search Console more reliable, richer in information and – in many cases – the best choice for your SEO analysis.
In this article you’ll find out what makes Google Search Console data “better” search data, when you should trust real Google data, and under what circumstances third-party tools are still useful.
There are numerous tools on the market for analyzing search performance and monitoring your rankings. The catch however is that many of these tools work with scraped data .
Scraped data has been extracted from search engine results pages by third parties (i.e. by outsiders, not by the search engine operators themselves).
This means that scraped data can only ever consider a subset of the actual results, rankings and keywords. Furthermore, since the data is collected “from outside”, scraped data cannot provide any information about user behavior or user interactions with your website. Data from third-party providers only gives you an approximate impression of the visibility of your website in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
What makes the GSC data so special is obvious. The Google Search Console uses actual user data from Google’s search engine. The data is provided to you by Google itself and reflects your actual search results, rankings and user interactions in Google Search:
Third-party data is “scraped” from the search engine result pages with a bot. The way in which the data is retrieved means that it doesn’t provide any information about user behaviour or user interactions with your site – it can only give you an idea of your website’s visibility in the SERPs.
An important point to note is that retrieving data in this way does not conform to Google’s guidelines. This is demonstrated nicely in a tweet from Google’s John Mueller.
One of the biggest advantages of Google Search Console data (other than that it is Google conform) is that it simply provides more data. This diagram shows the amount of keyword data found in Google data compared to scraped data tools:
The graph shows an example of the amount of keyword data found in the Google data corpus compared to scraped data tools. It’s easy to see why more data is better in this case. If you examine the amount of available keywords on your own website’s rankings, you’ll probably find more accurate results in the blue circle than in the orange circle. You’ll get other results if you search in the green circle. The information on your visibility, the (estimated) clicks, etc. will differ accordingly.
The answer to the question asked at the beginning about the discrepancy in the results from different SEO tools lies in the different data sets of Google Search Console and third -party providers. Depending on which keyword analysis tool you use, your rankings, your visibility and your clicks can vary and the results are therefore not directly comparable across tools.
In the example below, you can see organic clicks from various SEO tools for our website ryte.com. for the keyword “ryte”. Since third-party tools each use their own database and can only estimate metrics related to user interaction, the results vary:
When it comes to detailed analyses of your own search performance, we always recommend Google Search Console data.
But third-party tools also have their place, of course. The question of which tool is best depends on the task you want to do with it.
GSC data is a better choice for monitoring your rankings. Google Search Console uses real user data, and therefore gives you an accurate and reliable picture of the performance of your pages.
A market or competitor analysis is only possible with scraped data, as GSC only shows you data for your own website. In order to see it, you have to verify yourself as the operator of the website. It’s therefore not possible to set up a Google Search Console account for a website that is not your own.
For competitor analyses and research, scraped data remains the only (and therefore the right) choice. If you prefer not to use third-party tools, you can also take a direct look at the Google SERPs and the websites of your competitors to analyse the competition.
The best way to assess your visibility in search results is to rely on the GSC data. The “Impressions” metric gives you reliable information on how often your keywords or pages are seen in the Google SERPs.
Tools that use third-party data look at the search results “from the outside” and often work with the tool’s own viewability metrics. In theory, these are translated into impressions, but in practice they often deviate from your actual visibility. Viewability metrics are often abstract, and while they can provide insight into overall performance, are difficult to express in absolute, real numbers.
The previous point also gives the recommendation for detecting anomalies in your search performance. Here, too, we think the GSC data is more useful .
Visibility indexes are of course wonderfully clear and easy to keep track of. However, as the name suggests, they focus purely on visibility – on appearing in the search results. In the end, it is much more important how many visitors actually land on your website via the SERPs, right?
Fluctuations in visibility (whether in GSC impressions or third-party indexes) can have a variety of reasons, which are not always cause for concern. For example, the search volume for an important keyword can fluctuate seasonally, or your website has briefly ranked for a keyword that is in high demand but inappropriate for the website content.
In order to take a closer look at such anomalies and avoid unfounded panic, you should always look at actual traffic in the form of organic clicks, in addition to the visibility. And this is only provided to you by the Google Search Console.
Of course we can’t help but praise our own product at this point. The Ryte platform works with real Google data and thus combines the best data quality with the convenience of a comprehensive analysis tool. Simply link your GSC account to your Ryte account. You will receive versatile, carefully prepared search reports based on real, 100% reliable data from Google:
Just to be clear, this post isn’t about third-party data being inherently bad. As mentioned above, it can be really useful when performing certain tasks. In most cases, you’re best off using a mix of GSC data and third-party data.
To ensure that you can make really clear and meaningful decisions regarding data analysis, we’d now like to dispel a few myths about GSC data…
Theory: Comparing yourself to the competition is the be-all and end-all when it comes to evaluating your own performance. It is therefore not possible to work with the Google Search Console alone.
Fact: A competitive comparison can be useful in some cases, but it’s not always the solution. After all, how important is it really to look at your competitors to judge your own performance? First and foremost, you should look at your own website data when evaluating performance. For example, you can examine how your website has improved over the past year. Comparing your search performance year over year is a good way to show this.
If you still want to do a competitor analysis, please remember: third-party competitor data can help you get an overview, but it’s mostly imprecise and not comparable across tools.
Theory: Scraped data is better than Google Search Console data because Google only shows me my pages and keywords that are actually used via organic search. I can’t see any data for other keywords.
Fact: While it is true that Google only shows you data for pages and keywords that are actually seen or clicked on by your visitors, this is actually quite logical. You should primarily focus on the keywords that actually get your target audience to engage with your content. In Ryte Search Engine Optimization, you can include keywords for which you have not yet received any impressions or clicks in the keyword monitoring. This way, you can track which ones are gaining rankings and traffic over time.
Theory: “Lost keywords” (in other words, keywords for which the website no longer ranks) are not displayed in Google Search Console data. A consistent monitoring of the focus keywords is therefore not possible.
Fact: Yes, keywords that your website no longer ranks for will not be shown to you in the GSC. However, in most cases these are keywords for which you have already received very little visibility and traffic and for which monitoring is not necessarily relevant. For your important keywords, which bring you regular visibility and traffic, the GSC shows consistent data and can thus fully fulfill the monitoring purpose .
If lost keywords are still important to you, you can view them in Ryte Search Engine Optimization in the “Keyword Changes” report. That way, you can continue to monitor lost keywords to see if they’re gaining traffic and rankings again in the future.
Theory: There’s a lag in Google Search Console data access, which means I can’t work with the current data.
Fact: This was indeed an issue for a long time, but not any longer. Google Search Console now provides data up to the previous day (“latest data”) in the “Performance in Google Search” area. In comparison, many other tools deliver the search data much later.
In this article, we’ve explored the ins and outs of Google Search Console data, and hope to have shown you what makes GSC so vital to your website analytics.
When it comes to Google search, the Google Search Console is the most holistic and reliable source of data to initiate in-depth analyses of your search performance.
Depending on what you want to investigate or what question you want to answer, GSC data and data from third-party tools can be helpful. Just always make sure you use the most appropriate data for each task.
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Published on 11/09/2022 by Editorial Team.
The editorial team's mission: to help brands and agencies improve their website user experience. Ryte's content specialists regularly produce guides, explainers and other resources on a variety of topics, from SEO to accessibility, compliance and more.
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