Google’s Search Console (GSC), formerly Webmaster Tools (GWT) is the go-to for many people looking to determining the performance of their website. Many SEO firms and Third-Party vendors build tools entirely around Google’s Search Console API. For individuals its a warm-and-cozy-and-FREE source for search rank reporting. GSC data and related reporting is so ubiquitous that you would assume it must be, well…ACCURATE.
What if Google’s search rank reporting is inaccurate or plain erroneous?
We stumbled upon this issue because Google’s Search Console told us a client’s website (www.the-black-forest.com don’t click here yet!) ranks an average 8.1 for their brand name keyword (black forest tours). That didn’t make sense. We’ve seen the website perform magnificently in search. It simply crushes all competition. So before you click-through and corrupt your personalization bais, conduct your own search for “black forest tours” and tell us in the comments what position the website got in your SERP.
We searched from many different locations using different computers, employed SearchStation*, called some friends around the world to remove any personalization or location influences, and the website is in fact usually in the #1 spot and sometimes #2 – consistently for an average rank of 1.3 – globally!
Google’s reported average search rank of 8.1 is a huge difference. You would think something like that can’t be. So you have to ask, can we trust Google at all? Google says they “Dont’ Do Evil”. Does that translate into “we don’t mislead for profit?” There would be a strong motive here. If I rank #8 for my money-keywords, then I am highly motivated to pay Google (via Adwords pay-for-position) so that I am #1. Hmmm…
Search Console increasingly offers some useful tools for the webmaster, SEO, and business, but search rank reporting is not one of those.
What can you do about it?
You can use SearchStation* to get accurate real-world search rank reporting and other valuable analysis.
Are there others questioning or challenging the accuracy of search rank as reported in Google Search Console? Yes.
…My message to everyone: think about data quality and validity before using Google Webmaster Tool data for your research, predictions or reporting purposes. It is ok to analyse trends and movements, using individual data points is not recommended.
…Call me unsurprised, but this wasn’t even close. Standard rank tracking methods performed far better at predicting the actual number of clicks than the rank as presented in Google Search Console. We know that GSC’s rank data is an average position which almost certainly presents a false picture.
…Google does not really like others to evaluate what they scrape 🙂 So if you want real rankings from specific locations or languages you’ll have to go with…