Google Search Console (or the tool formerly known as GWT)

Scott Lawson Industry News 0 Comments

Finally, after many promises and hints, Google have released an update to their Google Search Console API to give access to the Search Analytics feature they introduced earlier this year. The question on many people’s minds is what does this mean?

So how did we get to where we are?

  • Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) was a tool to help webmasters ensure their websites were set up correctly. It would advise on issues relating to SEO, such as data around keywords, backlinks and crawl errors – but for a while most people ignored this data as it was about as reliable as a a BuzzFeed IQ Quiz.
  • Google Analytics (GA) was used to determine which keywords drove visitors to your site from search engines including Google.
  • Google switched over their SERPs to use https, which meant the keywords people clicked on to find your site would no longer be passed through to GA. This brought about the “not provided” meltdown for SEOs worldwide as, as Google moved to 100% of searches made via https, GA data was rendered utterly useless for keyword monitoring and reporting.
  • Google released an update to GWT on 31st December while the rest of us were letting our hair down, giving us a nice surprise to wake up to in the new year. This provided much more accurate keyword data.
  • Google released another GWT feature update called “Search Analytics” which was basically the same as before but with a few extra filters. Most of the changes were implemented in the earlier update, so this was more of a re-branding.
  • Google changed the name of GWT to “Google Search Console”, although they haven’t yet consistently called it the same everywhere! The URL is still https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/, they have a site called Google Webmasters.
  • Google have finally released an API to give access to the search analytics data. Yay for developers, confusion for others, especially when they can’t even get their naming consistent!

While it was possible to get this data before by other means, it involved using scripts that scraped the website and these don’t tend to be super reliable.

What does this mean for search marketers?

If you just use the web interface it won’t mean much at all, however if you use automated methods to collect data and report (why wouldn’t you, your time is precious!) it makes it much more reliable and flexible. Keyword data is back, but you’re not really in control of it anymore.

What can you now do?

Previously you had to click export to CSV and download data to play around with it (or of course you could use tools such as ours which can do this automatically). Now it allows you to query Search Analytics in a similar way to Google Analytics.

Below is a list of some of the insights you can get:

  • Top keywords driving organic traffic to your website. You can segment this by country, device etc. You can also see the number of impressions, and average ranking for each keyword.
  • Top landing pages. As above, but the pages people are landing on when they visit your website.
  • Top countries.
  • More data! Previous limit was at 1,000 rows, but you can now access up to 5,000.

Some of this data can also be retrieved using GA. Google stores and collects this data whether you like it or not, so you may as well make use of it!

Why have Google done this, instead of providing data via GA?

This is entering philosophical territory. Why do Google do anything? It’s what keeps search marketers employed – predicting and anticipating Google’s next move.

Google did claim it was privacy related. Others claimed it was to push people towards spending on paid search. There’s an ongoing love/hate relationship between Google and SEOs that has existed for, well, as long as Google has. Google maintains good relationships with “ethical SEOs”,  and does what it can to weed out the “black hat SEOs”, so by providing useful tools for ethical SEOs they are ensuring they can win the war on “black hats”.

Why did it take Google so long to develop a simple API?

As this is a free service, it makes sense that Google wouldn’t be pouring resources into it. We can at least be happy that Google have finally released this.

What Next? Something clever. Find estimated non-brand monthly sessions

You can play around with the API via the Query Explorer.

If you’re a search marketer, you’ll be no doubt keen to learn about visitors your clients’ sites receive from non-brand Google searches. Here’s a cool idea – use the query data and some Excel or SQL wizardry to find the percentage of monthly non-brand visitors. Then apply this percentage to your Google Analytics monthly sessions and, viola, you have a handy new metric: Estimated monthly non-brand sessions from Google search.

Let us do the hard work!

Good news! Our automated monthly reports contain insights from the Search Console data source.

If you’re keen to make the most of your time, get in touch to learn more about our fantastic reports. Let us do the hard work of collecting data and maintaining reliable connections to these ever changing data sources!

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