Our topic of the day is somewhat delicate. At least in terms of comprehension. In effect, one intuitively expects a similarity of data between Google Search Console and Google Analytics. It’s a fair enough expectation just based on common sense. After all, it’s about two tools belonging to the same company and dealing with its metrics. The thing is, the actual reality appears to be a little more complex. So before questioning the reliability of Google, we should try to understand the core Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics differences. This will show us why the data are different yet accurate in both contexts.
Reminders about Google Search Console
This section may seem useless or repetitive at first glance but think twice before reaching any conclusion. We need to vet a few essentials about the platform to grasp what it precisely delivers. Once we dig up its particularities, we will surely have a better view of the Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics distinction.
As you know (and probably remember from its former name), Google Search Console is a webmaster tool. If you need more information about Google Search Console, you can read our What is Google Search Console article. Pro or amateur, it doesn’t matter that much nowadays. Regardless of your level of expertise, it’s a tool that remains ‘decryptable enough’ to show you how well your website is doing on Google. Thanks to it, you get a precise idea about all queries related to organic search results. The tool also focuses on four specific metrics:
- The average position of your website for search queries (calculated by taking into account your ranking for each query),
- The number of clicks your website gets from Google search results (Google Ads search results non-included),
- The number of impressions aka times during which any of your URLs were displayed in search results viewed by a user (Google Ads impressions non-included),
- The click-through rate (CTR), is calculated as follows: clicks/impressions x 100.
Let’s not forget the tool’s reports regarding your site performance in various areas. We obtain landing pages, countries, devices, and query reports.
After these preliminaries, let’s look closely at how the tool treats data. That’s one of the mandatory ways to solve the Google Analytics/Search Console ‘contradiction mystery’.
How Google Search Console Treats Data
We may roughly label this Console Google analytics (not to be confused with Google Analytics per se). The focus is mainly on:
- Search-related data
- Search Visibility
So, every other data reflecting your site’s activity is of secondary importance in the eyes of the Search Console.
Autonomous Treatment of Google Discover
Search Console analyzes your mobile feed (aka Google Discover) separately. Why is that important? Because there will be some additional data reflecting the mobile experience on its own.
No offense to Search Console, but this is what we will call it. Or to make it sound fair, let’s say that the data is influenced by two major factors here:
- The time zone is set to California Time Zone (GMT-7 or -8, depending on the seasons)
- A delay that can take several days
These two particularities are enough to create fluctuations within the data display.
Strict URL Rules
Or sort of. The ‘limitations’ are due to the following:
- The canonical URL is considered when regrouping landing pages in the reports.
- The reports in question are limited to 1,000 URLs.
Minor Role of Cookie Blocking
If we may say, Google Search Console doesn’t care about cookies. Third-party blocking that originates from browsers and extensions doesn’t affect the results.
Reminders about Google Analytics
As we know, Google Analytics is the go-to web service to track the state of one’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) statistics on Google. Being somewhat familiar with it is crucial for anyone trying to conduct marketing projects in that domain. That’s how you will set some particular goals (a task where Google Analytics excels). Above all, the diversity and depth of the reports it provides are worth noting. We have:
This one shows you what is going on right now on your site. This is where you see how many people visit you and on which pages. If you have just finished and published a new post (on your blog, social media channel, or else), you can see the traffic it has generated here. This report is useful for any kind of new event. It can either be a new promotion you’ve launched or a new URL you’ve set up.
This report combs through your visitors and their particularities. Many aspects are covered: size and ‘value’ (aka origin of the audience), areas of interest, e-commerce/transaction details, etc. In that regard, this report is probably the most socially and demographically oriented one.
This one informs you about the sources of your traffic. Direct, organic, email, referral, social, affiliate, or else, you can see how you acquired your audience. The report also indicates the keywords used by the audience and their initial landing pages.
The Behavior report shows you how the different elements on your site ‘behave’. Those elements include your web pages, landing pages, exit pages, and blog posts. Besides, the report allows you to revisit the structure of your site by examining your subdomains and subfolders. This is also where you can audit your performance in terms of speed.
As indicated by the name, here you can get an idea of how close you are to your goals when earning your audience’s loyalty. It can be subscriptions or purchases (especially for e-commerce websites). But your goal may also be about different thresholds, like the minimum number of pages you want your visitors to explore. Or, your goal may rather be about the duration of visits. Either way, this is the report to look at for that.
Alright, now what matters to us is to find out how Google Analytics deals with different kinds of data.
How Google Analytics Treats Data
Google Analytics data processing has some particularities that can be summed up as follows:
This aspect is one of the most striking illustrations of the Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics dynamic. Remember: Search Console focuses instead on search, whereas Google Analytics investigates activities within site. So here, you are informed mostly about traffic performance, visitor profiles, and conversion metrics.
Integrated Treatment of Google Discover
No separation here (contrary to Search Console). Google Discover is viewed as an integral part of organic search.
Well, this aspect is somewhat subjective. However, Google Analytics works with your time zone and delivers data within a few minutes. Who would complain about that?
Flexible URL Rules
That’s at least how we view them when compared to Search Console. For instance, Google Analytics considers actual landing page URLs, not just canonical ones. Plus, there’s no limit regarding the number of pages being processed.
Major Role of Cookie Blocking
No data will be delivered if privacy browsers or extensions have blocked them. As you can guess, this means that at least some data will be left out of the counter.
Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics
Now let’s recapitulate once and for all the reasons for the seemingly unmatching data between the two services. As you can see in the previous sections, it’s more a matter of approach rather than a discrepancy. We can claim that the differences are almost phenomenological in the philosophical sense of the term. Each tool embraces distinct components of a reality that remains the same at the end of the day. The reality of what? Nothing but the one related to the global evolution of your website.
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So instead of labeling the dynamic as Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics, maybe we should rather opt for Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Indeed, one needs both.
Search and Site Traffic
Yes, we did say that Search Console was more about search, whereas Google Analytics was more about site activity. Caution, though: This doesn’t mean that Google Analytics ignores your search traffic! How can it, considering traffic also belongs to site activity?
The only thing to remain aware of is that Google Analytics approaches it holistically. It doesn’t consider only the Google search box but also Google Discover. This naturally results in different metrics when compared to those issued by Search Console. In other words, Google Analytics will deliver a more global insight regarding search traffic.
Remember our somewhat judgemental comparison about the time aspect? Well, regardless of our naturally subjective preferences, it’s a detail that will modify your data depending on the features of each tool.
Let’s underline it again: Google Analytics works with your timezone or any other you wish to set. On the other hand, the Search Console is set to California time. Depending on the seasons, it follows Pacific Standard Time (PST) or Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). Thereby it’s not so hard to understand why there are differences between the two tools regarding data transmission.
Speaking of ‘time stuff’, the Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics contrast is also characterized by a difference in terms of delay. The former requires up to several days to deliver data. For the latter, on the other hand, the delay is reduced to a few minutes only. This is another important factor that logically explains the so-called discrepancies. Indeed, the data transmission is sort of ‘out of sync’.
URLs and Landing Pages
Let’s look at these again too. Actually, Google Help is crystal clear regarding the subject. It states that ‘ Search Console aggregates its data under canonical URLs, whereas Google Analytics uses the actual landing page URL.’ It also adds that this will likely affect reports comprising the landing page dimension. This goes for both landing pages per se and device + country-related elements (when the Landing Page feature is set as a secondary dimension).
So where’s the Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics opposition here? Simply in the fact that the two tools don’t focus on the same type of URL. Don’t forget what we said earlier: Search Console limits its reports to 1,000 URLs. This means that the delivered data will also be ‘limited’ accordingly.
Blocks and Omissions
We already mentioned the differences in terms of cookie blocking. Search Console is more laid-back. Its data is not blocked. We can’t say the same about Google Analytics, which cannot extract data from browsers and extensions set on a private mode or using blocks. That’s the case, for example, for Mozilla Firefox.
The Search Console is more protective regarding queries. For instance, if anonymized queries are filtered, they won’t appear in the Performance report. They may still appear in totals, though. Search Console is more conscientious about privacy matters and discards rare or random queries. It also deliberately chooses to ignore queries that contain sensitive and compromising information.
Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics: Verdict
So do you have to worry about the reliability of the data? No, by any means. All you have to remember is that each service works fine within the limits of its criteria. Thus whenever you have a doubt, run a sort of background check. See (and remember) which one does what, and then you can evaluate the obtained data properly.