Explaining the Changes to Google Search Console Data

On July 13, 2017, Google changed the way it collects data for their Search Analytics reports to provide “better accounting for results in lower positions. This change might cause increase in impressions, but also a decrease in average position.”  But how did it affect your metrics, and are their other changes hiding behind the confusion?

Getting the Data

You will have to dig deep into your data to really know what happened – you need to be able to see the number of impressions by the position for each page-query combination, and how they have changed over time. Doing that in the web interface involves a lot of clicking around, and if you try to download the data to verify the numbers, you find the 999-row limit in the tool prevents you from getting all of the lower-ranking queries — impressions that affect the calculation of the average position numbers being reported.

The data is available from the Search Analytics API, though, and the Analytics Edge connector for Google Search makes it easy. The data needs some work before it becomes meaningful, though, and the analysis capabilities of the Analytics Edge Core Add-in can automate that part (for an example, see the free position distribution report).

Confirming the Claim

So, is there a “better accounting for results in lower positions“? [see the chart above] It looks like a change occurred, and while the number of impressions previously dropped off by position 50, the “long tail” now seems to extend well out to position 100+. That will have a significant impact on average position.

I should note that, if you dig into the details, most of these ‘extra’ impressions could have no clicks and tend to be for queries unrelated to the intended readers. While that may be “better accounting”, it doesn’t necessarily produce better metrics.

The Need for New Search Performance Metrics

We have moved way beyond tracking target keywords and average position metrics — those numbers are becoming less significant and muddied. Search engine position analysis is shifting to keyword groups, topic search, the long-tail and week-to-week changes. The Google Search Console reports are not suitable for this type of analysis. You need more data, and data analysis tools that can adapt quickly. That is what Analytics Edge was designed to do. Affordable Excel automation – 30 days completely free – get started today!

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