In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris examine discrepancies between Google Search Console data and third-party SEO tool data. What are the major differences? What actions should we take with each of the datasets? What purposes and functions are appropriate for each dataset? How should we better use Google Search Console data?
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
Christopher Penn 0:17
In this week’s In-Ear Insights, we’re talking about SEO and specifically search data that’s available to us as marketers data that we need to be able to make decisions about what should we be doing in search.
There’s a ton of new research and new points of view about how we should be using things like keyword data.
But one of the things that’s constant is making sure the data that we’re using is reliable.
So Katie, today, I thought we would spend a little bit of time taking a look at the differences between some of the data we get out of third party tools, SEO Tools, and then the data that we get from Google Search Console, and just what a huge Delta there is between the two.
But before we do that, you do, obviously a lot of the content creation for Trust Insights, you put together the editorial calendar and things like that, when you’re looking at data when you’re going after data for that stuff.
Where do you go? What like, where do you get information that you that you need to put together those things,
Katie Robbert 1:20
I look in two different places.
One is I look at our Search Console, because I want to know, what people are searching for when they find us specifically.
So I want to know, I want to try to get in the head of the end user a little bit just to understand, this was my intention.
And this is what I found.
And I feel like this was a good resource.
So I’m going to go ahead and click through and read it.
And so that helps me start to understand what we specifically are being found for.
So I want to know that information.
I also look at Google Trends, data.
And so what the general population is searching for.
And so, you know, we’ve done other episodes on different ways to use Google Trends, search data.
And so you know, it’s something to be trending, it’s, it’s something, you know, do people care about it? And I like to use Search Console with Google Trends.
Because it for me, what it tells me is, okay, someone is finding us for Google Analytics, well are a lot of people going to be finding us for Google Analytics, or is just that one person, is that the only person who cares about Google Analytics, you know, as an example, obviously, a lot of people search for it.
So like, if we have this crazy term, like, you know, change management, change management, process optimization by Trust Insights.
And so people are finding us for that.
It might be a very specific niche audience of people.
Whereas if I take that term and put it into Google Trends, I might get zero volume.
So that to me says okay, only the people who are in the know, know what that term is, I need to find something a little bit more general to bring that awareness.
So that’s how I think about it.
I know there’s other tools out there, Chris.
And so what I want to learn from you today is what are the gaps? What am I missing in terms of the way that I could be planning?
Christopher Penn 3:31
And there’s there can be depending on the technologies that using some pretty substantial gaps.
So let’s take a look at I’ll go ahead and share my screen here, I’m going to look at two different data sources, but mash them together to make things much harder to read.
The two sources, we’re going to look at as one as an SEO tool, we use a tool called H refs.
But there’s obviously no use to have a choice Moz, SEM, Rush SpyFu, whoever it is that you prefer to use.
And the other tool we’re going to use is Google Search Console.
I happen to think that Google Search Console is the best tool for the job, because you get a view of what Google sees, as opposed to a third party company see, and a lot of third company third party data is it’s dependent on where they get their data, they get their Clickstream data and stuff.
Some companies, for example, used to rely on a company called Jump shot before it was acquired.
And then that data was removed.
And they’ve had to make inferred models about a lot of stuff that, you know, essentially there, they have to guess that because they for good reason don’t have visibility to what you were I type into a search engine, whereas Google, Bing, the owner of the search engine does.
So this is the data for Trust Insights.
I’ve got a bunch of columns here labeled with either h refs, or Google Search Console, depending on on what it’s here and we gonna look at two different sets of metrics.
But what I want you to pay attention most to is not the numbers of things, but where there are gaps.
So here I’ve sorted this table by the pages in the queries, namely, what page? Is it? And then what is the search term associated with that page? And I started off by sorting it by what’s called the the traffic mean, or how much traffic on average does a page get, based on the, the term.
So here we see the homepage gets, obviously, you know, Trust Insights, we’ve got some random stuff here, we’ve got John’s name, influencing emoji and stuff worth.
This is not entirely bad.
You know, there’s, there’s a few bits and bytes here.
But for the most part, we do start to see things like this case, a misspelling of Tiktok.
But that’s what h files
Katie Robbert 5:51
for Tiktok are bros for Tiktok.
Christopher Penn 5:56
Katie Robbert 5:58
I was trying to figure out what Brose for Tiktok was and why we would rank for it.
Christopher Penn 6:03
I don’t know.
Thankfully, we don’t.
So this is what H refs, the URLs, the HF, C’s, OS, and then the the associated search terms, if I take that same information, and I resort it, by what Google Search Console sees, here’s the page and Google Search Console, here’s the search term, and then this is the the traffic.
For those terms.
One of the things that really stands out to me that’s I find very glaring, is, look how many pages here are not populated in the hrs column.
Right, we’re talking probably, two thirds of the data is reflected in Google Search Console, for a variety of different terms, but not reflected in a truss.
And to me, this poses an interesting challenge, because when I go back here and resort by the HS traffic calm, a lot of the terms here pretty, you know, pretty standard Trust Insights, press release, statistics, data quality framework, and so on and so forth.
Disadvantages of predictive approach, those are bad things to be ranking for, to be found for.
But when I again, when I resort by Google Search Console, Trust Insights, marking analytics, white paper market without data igtv, which is gone attribution, GA for Google Analytics, 4, attribution, GA for attribution.
While these terms, I feel like are much more relevant to who we are as a company, and what kinds of thing we want to offer people.
Katie Robbert 7:38
You know, it’s so it’s interesting, because I was taking a very rudimentary approach to try to get to this same type of information, what are we ranking for, versus, you know, what’s actually getting any traffic.
And this is showing me a much more efficient and data driven way to do it.
Now, is this something that had to be done in R, or could I do this kind of thing in Excel with maybe like a VLOOKUP,
Christopher Penn 8:08
you actually can do this with V lookups.
And Excel, because it’s just binding two tables together on essentially, the URL is what your your binding, you’re doing what’s called a full join, where, for those who are not database nerds, you have table A and Table B.
And INNER JOIN is the rows where table A and Table B intersect.
So only the rows the two tables have in common.
A left or a right join means you get all rows in a and only the matching rows and B or all those and B and only the matching rows of A.
And in a full join, you get everything in A or B even when there are missing parts.
And that’s the important part about this table is we want to see the missing parts we want to see in in column one here, which is the Google Search Console page.
And then column three, which is the hrs page, we want to see where is there a gap and on the HSI we see there’s a pretty big gap from what Google sees and for what HF sees, and that what’s also interesting, too, is hrs is seeing the homepage for a lot of these different pages where Google is seeing individual pieces of content.
And I think that’s very telling of the fact that, again, it’s not a slam on hrs or any SEO tool.
It’s simply that they have less data to work with Google is the source of the data.
And so Google is going to show very different things.
Now where I do think there is some value for us is to look at the pages where there are gaps in what HS has versus what Google does not have.
And if so we would want to use the Google Search Console URL submission API to say, Okay, does Google not know about this page? Like did it somehow escaped Google’s watchful eye? If so, let’s make sure we manually submit it so that we’re getting found for everything we want to be found for
Katie Robbert 10:01
So it sounds like there’s a couple of things you can do this one is, as you just mentioned, you can make sure that your site is properly indexed.
But would you then would the action from this be? So let’s say you have in column A the page, that’s our website page, you have the query.
But there’s really no traffic or Ahrefs? Is that something that you would then want to re optimize that page? Or would you just say, let’s create new content around this keyword? Like, what is the so what of this? What do I do? What do I take away?
Christopher Penn 10:35
The two metrics that you I would want to pay attention to are the Google Search Console impressions and me and clicks? Because recall, in SARS, Search Console eight impression means you that page showed up in a search result.
And a click means the user saw that page show up in a search result and clicked on it.
And so when you have low impressions, it means Google is not showing that page very often, if at all.
And that means you need to optimize the page for search, right? You have to make sure that there’s topical relevance, that there’s inbound links and stuff, when you have a page that has good impressions was low on clicks, that means that the page did not satisfy the intent of the searcher, like you typed in your journey to AI.
You saw the Trust Insights page, the listing, and you didn’t click on it, because the saw from the description like no, that’s not what I’m looking for.
I’m not gonna click on that.
And so, as we look at this data, we’d want to take a look at those different ratios like what pages haves, your impressions, okay, great.
Those are the ones that if there’s search terms that we care about, we got to go and sharpen our pencils, you know, make revise those pages, add new content, maybe add some multimedia, and then other pages where there’s good impressions and low or no clicks, like, Okay, we got to go into the our rankmath add on in WordPress, does a snippet look appealing, right? Does the snippet look like? Essentially, it’s unpaid Pay Per Click ads.
So the same copy that you would write in Google ads for that page should be what that shows up in organic search.
So again, those are pages that are valuable, that’s the the action to take would be to tune that chin up those unpaid ad listings, essentially.
Katie Robbert 12:21
So when we do this kind of work for clients, essentially, what we do, for those who are sort of wondering how, because, you know, handing over a spreadsheet to someone can be overwhelming.
So what our responsibility as Trust Insights, is to take that information and basically break it down to a to do list.
And so we would create two different to do lists, one for creating new content, and one for tuning up the existing and what specifically around so you might have, here’s your 10 things to do to create new content, here’s your 10 things to do to clean up and optimize your existing content, based on the analysis that we just ran.
And then the following month, or over the next quarter, what we do is we would track that to see on April 1, this is where the data stood.
On June 1, this is now the improvement so you can actually effectively measure how your SEO has been improved.
Because I know that that’s one of the things that a lot of our clients struggle with is what is the impact of SEO? How do I know aside from traffic, that my SEO efforts are doing anything? What is the ROI of my SEO is the magic phrase.
And this is how this is how you start to measure that.
Because if you think about it in terms of your marketing, and sales, funnel, awareness is always going to be at the top you have to drive awareness in order to get people to buy anything from you.
And so if that part of the funnel is broken, that’s where you focus.
And that’s how you measure the ROI of your SEO is how much traffic how much awareness you’re driving to your site to those specific pages.
Christopher Penn 14:12
The other thing that a lot of people forget about SEO is that it’s very much all about power laws, right? So power laws or Pareto curves.
You’ve heard these two and the the 8020 rule except that an SEO it’s more like 90 551 of the things that you’ll notice in any of these reports is you’ll get five or 6000 lines of data to work with but guess what probably the top 10 are the ones that you need to focus on and the other 5990 If you’ve got a ton of bandwidth and you know and team time great you can have people will work down the list, but you’re really going to get a lot of juice for the squeeze on those top 10 And that means that if you get this for example, as a monthly report if you run it as a monthly report or you haven’t Data Studio as a monthly report If you fix two pages a week, you’re going to handle, you know, probably 80% of the impact of SEO just for handling, you know, two pages, which if you can tune up two pages a week, you’re gonna do Okay, right, you’re gonna, you’re gonna see benefit.
You don’t have to do all 6000 Yes, there is a very long tail in SEO.
But for the most part, for most sites, it still is that that short head makes up for a long tail and a lot of ways.
Katie Robbert 15:34
So what’s interesting, you know, I, at least what I’ve seen is that companies tend to use, you know, an SEO tool, whether it be, you know, an SEM rush or an H refs.
But they don’t tend to also use Google Search Console.
And I feel like Gergo Google Search Console is underappreciated, and it’s the unsung hero of actually understanding where your potential customers heads or are at.
And so that’s one of the things that we, Chris, you and I, at Trust Insights, want to make sure that we are putting Search Console up on its proper pedestal that it deserves, because, to your point, the third party SEO tools are really, really good at telling you a lot of information.
But it’s missing the Google information for that, for most, you know, of the things where Search Console is tied directly into your website, and can tell you, here are the terms that people found you for specifically, here’s where they went, here’s what they did.
But also, you can then tell Google, hey, I have these pages.
And I really, really want you to show to people.
How can we make this happen, and Google will say, well, here’s what’s not working on these pages.
So go fix those things.
And you can’t necessarily get that information out of a third party SEO tool.
And so if you’re listening to this podcast, and you’re not aware, we are launching a new SEO course to teach you all of these tips and techniques, and all of the different elements and widgets that exist in Google Search Console, so that you can apply that to your content marketing, and couple that with your existing SEO tools.
Christopher Penn 17:27
It’s because Google doesn’t spend a million bucks marketing it like, you know, the the marketing team at SEM rush spends on on marketing their tool.
The reason for that is because of its heritage, Google Search Console started out as a tool called Google Webmaster Tools it was marketed to to the extent that was marketed at all a very niche community of people who were webmasters right back in the early 2000s, when that was still a cool title.
But as a career that has long gone away.
And then over time, it was rebranded to Search Console position more for folks who are doing SEO as opposed to people who are purely webmasters, although there’s still a lot of technical stuff in there, like, Hey, your web server is slow, or your web server is not secure, or your web server is just not showing up at all, you might want to fix that.
AI and when you look at how Google sort of treats it, it really is the redheaded stepchild of digital marketing, it’s not marketed.
If you go to Google’s analytics Academy, there’s not a single course for it, or there’s no instructions for it.
And even though it’s got some really cool features in the console, you know, through some major major revamps over the last few years, it’s still largely ignored.
And part of that is because getting access to it is kind of a pain.
In order to get access to it, you have to be an authorized party on your company’s website, right? So for good reason, companies may say, we don’t necessarily want to be putting in DNS entries into our DNS to authenticate every single member of the marketing team.
Because they don’t all need access to but at least somebody on the marketing team hopefully has.
And again, because of its Webmaster Tools, heritage, sometimes the access to it may be governed by it, as opposed to marketing.
And it is like yeah, we’re not sharing that with you.
Katie Robbert 19:15
So with all of that being said, we do recommend that you at least try to get read only access to your Search Console account.
And if you don’t have a Search Console account set up for your website.
You definitely should do that.
And these all of these steps are things that we walk through in our Google Search Console for marketers course.
So Chris, um, this course is now live.
This course is available for people to access.
Is that correct? or is that coming this week?
Christopher Penn 19:51
Coming this week, there’s a few things on the on the Polish list that I need to fix like getting your name to appear correctly.
This is difficult but the but the the, the value of the course, namely the educational content that is all done.
Katie Robbert 20:08
So with that, I would say stay tuned, Chris and I will be launching our Google Search Console course this week, we’ll be making that available for folks to purchase a seat and download the information.
And it’s information that you can go back to, to say, Oh, how did I do that largest Contentful paint piece? What does that stand for again, and you’ll be able to go back to so it will become one of those resources that you can refer to as you’re setting up your content marketing plan and executing those plans.
Christopher Penn 20:43
One of the things too, I would caution about it is that it is intended for beginners, right.
So if you are a very, very advanced SEO practitioner, if you’re already using the URL submission, the API API, the Data API, you’re already using the Search Console API, it’s, you’re going to probably get very little value out of it, because you’re already interacting programmatically with Google Search Console.
If you are unfamiliar with what this URL submission API is, and nor do you care, and you can’t write code, then it is the course for you.
Because we don’t do any of that course, because I was like, do I really want to get into this? No, no, I don’t.
Katie Robbert 21:21
You know, I, I would slightly disagree with you, Chris, as you’re saying it’s for beginners.
Um, I personally, I don’t consider myself a beginner with Search Console.
And as I was going through it, I was getting good refreshers, and learning about some of the newer features and things that you can do.
And really also just curious, your perspective on how to analyze the data just within the system itself.
And so I would definitely, whether you’re a beginner, just learning what all of the different features are, even if you’ve been doing it for a while, I do think it’s a good refresher, because it does give you a different perspective on how to use the data to your advantage.
Christopher Penn 22:05
That’s right, I still would say, if you’re writing Python code directly to the Search Console API, it’s still not, I would say, maybe,
Katie Robbert 22:12
Chris, please stop urging people from consuming really, really, really good content.
We’ve worked very hard on.
Christopher Penn 22:21
Okay, so when we look at our data here, the href versus as Search Console, one of the things we see is there is this very, very large gap between these two things.
The the caution, I guess I would add to this is your SEO tools are looking at a broader picture of the market Search Console will show you data for you for your website and stuff like that everything that you show up for it obviously does not show you data for competitors or other websites and things like that.
So you do still need both sets of tools.
It’s not one or the other, it’s both, particularly if you’re doing competitive analysis, you do need an SEO tool or third party tool because you want your comparisons to be apples to apples, right? You want it to, yes, we know what’s in a third party tool is going to be less complete than what’s in Search Console.
But without a doubt, but should be relatively evenly and incomplete across different companies.
So if you are, say, Cisco Systems, and you’re looking at VMware or other, you know, major competitors, you the data you’re looking at in a third party tool, apples to apples is still going to be usable in just a third party tool.
And one of the things you probably should not do is compare your Search Console data to a competitor’s third party tool data because you’re going to get wildly different results.
And you’ll be making decisions incorrectly between the two tools.
Katie Robbert 23:56
I think that that’s a really, really good point.
I also feel like a lot of companies focus too much on what their competitors are doing and trying to meet those versus using that Search Console data to focus on themselves and what their customers want.
And so I think it’s a really good opportunity to say, okay, everyone’s doing their thing out there.
There’s a lot of noise out there.
Let us focus in on ourselves and what our customers want versus what we think our competitors customers are after.
So I think that Search Console is really good for that.
Christopher Penn 24:30
The other thing that is really important about Search Console that you’ll want to do is you are going to want to tie it into Google Analytics, particularly Google Analytics 4.
There is an option to bind Search Console data straight into Google Analytics 4.
And once you get that in there, then you can start to understand like where is it that you’re getting, you know, how does this data work with GA for if you don’t have it bound? And then you’re not going to see the data won’t be available in the user explorer and stuff.
So make sure that you are doing that, because you can’t otherwise see that data.
You know, obviously, you can’t put third party data natively into Google Analytics, 4, Google Analytics for that matter.
The other thing that I think is really, really important that people should do is in Google Analytics 4.
One of the base reports, that is sort of the baked in report is the built in attribution modeling.
And when you are looking at SEO, when you’re thinking about SEO, one of the things you should be thinking about is how does SEO fit into our overall challenge conversion.
So for us for Trust Insights, organic search is a little bit too top to fall.
But it actually is the third largest referring source for, you know, sort of that that late touchpoint, before conversion, so is one of the things that really does, you know, nudge people over the line.
So for us, it is a priority, it is something that we need to continue working on.
So when you are in your Google Analytics account, one of the things you should be doing is looking at your Funnel Visualization and GA four.
And seeing where organic search is because of organic search isn’t here at all, then okay, you probably don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on Search Console, but also, you’re probably missing a marketing opportunity, because search should be in there somewhere.
And then, if you see that search is like 80% of all your conversions, you really should be using Search Console, because your business literally depends on it.
Katie Robbert 26:39
Well, and this goes back to that question of what is my SEO ROI? Where does it fit into my funnel, you have this information at your fingertips, if it’s set up correctly, which again, is something that we at Trust Insights can help you with to make sure that you are set up for success.
Christopher Penn 26:57
So a couple things to take away, take a look at your your third party SEO data, make sure that you’re using your Search Console data, you can MIT, you can mesh the two together to figure out where the gaps are between each of these tools.
Anytime Search Console doesn’t have a piece of data that a third party SEO tool does, and assuming it’s correct, you want to make sure that you use the URL submission tools built into Search Console to make it aware of those pages or if it is aware of them, and you pull up in the URL inspector and Search Console, look at that page and say, Did Google do you? Are you are you not showing this page for a reason? I guess it is about there for a reason.
And one of the things we go over in the course is how to use that inspector to figure out okay, here’s why this page is showing up.
And you may have misconfigured your robots file and told Google Hey, don’t look at this page.
And now you’re filled with regret sorrow.
Katie Robbert 27:53
We also tell you what a robots file is.
Christopher Penn 27:57
Any parting words, Katie,
Katie Robbert 28:02
use the tools that you have used the free tools that are built in to your ecosystem.
In addition to other third party tools, I think using your own tools is such an underrated thing.
That we want to teach you how to do that more effectively.
Christopher Penn 28:21
But it’s, by the time you watch us, it’ll be available that you want to go take the course it is at trust insights.ai/search console.
That’s where we’re going to put the course.
If you’ve got comments or questions about anything we’ve talked about in today’s show, hop on over to our free slack group trust insights.ai/analytics for marketers, where you have over 2200 other marketers are asking and answering each other’s questions every single day.
And wherever it is that you watch or listen to the show.
If there’s a place you’d rather get it.
We probably have it go to trust insights.ai/t I podcast for all those different listening and watching locations.
Thanks for tuning in.
And we’ll talk to you soon
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