As the saying goes, “That which is measured, improves.” Thus, it’s no surprise that all of the best search engine optimization (SEO) minds use platforms like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to monitor organic search performance. However, if you spend enough time with the data, you’ll begin to notice inconsistencies when comparing the data from each.
Why are the number of clicks from Google Search Console completely different from sessions on Google Analytics? Which one should I use? Since these platforms track things like clicks, ranking position, sessions, leads, and revenue — all valuable tools to see how a website’s organic search performance grows over time — these questions are crucial to understand.
The truth is that each analytics platform measures slightly different things, and you should use both in different ways.
The first separating factor between Google Analytics and Google Search Console is driven by keyword availability. Simply put: Google search Console has reliable data on keyword performance for organic search and Google Analytics does not.
Eight years ago, in 2013, Google Analytics introduced secure search technology measures intended to protect searchers’ privacy. These measures resulted in the query string — the keyword searched for — being stripped from the referral string that Google Analytics uses to measure performance.
Unfortunately for SEO, this privacy measure blinded Google Analytics to the keywords being searched for. The vast majority (upwards of 95%) of sessions have since been lumped under the “keyword (not provided)” umbrella. The resulting fractions of countable keyword data are not enough to be statistically significant and cannot be used for optimization purposes.
Google Search Console, however, does not suffer from that same issue. Its interface is clunky and limited, but you can connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics so that you can use the reporting features of Google Analytics to analyze your Search Console data.
Google Analytics is not the only measurement platform that is blind to important data, however. Google Search Console’s fatal flaw is that it’s not able to collect data on transactions that produce leads and revenue. There is no way to get accurate data on the connection between the keywords searched for and whether the visitor transacted once they reached the site. By connecting Google Search Console and Google Analytics you can see transaction data by landing page, however.
Another striking difference is how Google Search Console clicks are simply measured differently from Google Analytics sessions. In fact, a single click can result in multiple sessions. If a user visits a website, becomes inactive for an extended period, then resumes activity later, this single visit could be measured as multiple sessions. Alternatively, a user could click on a link twice in a short amount of time and only count for a single session.
The simple truth is that these two measures — clicks in Search Console and sessions in Google Analytics — are inherently different, and should not be compared against one another.
So adding all of this up, what do we see? The fact of the matter is that neither Google Search Console nor Google Analytics is more valid than the other. When you see inconsistencies between the two platforms, don’t assume that one is generating inaccurate results. They simply measure different things. Keeping this in mind, the best SEO minds will pull the information they need from both platforms when optimizing and measuring performance.
Google Search Console is the gold standard for Google keyword data, and Google Analytics is the best place to go for conversion and revenue data.