Google Analytics & Search Console Data Never Matches – And Here’s Why

Google Analytics and Search Console data mismatch.

The discrepancy gives the impression that the data is somehow inaccurate.

The reality is that the data is in fact correct. The discrepancy exists in what is tracked and how Google chooses to present it.

Google Analytics vs Search Console

Reconciling Google Analytics and Search Console data can be difficult because the numbers don’t really match.

The reason is that both services solve different problems. For that reason, both services take a different approach to how data is collected and reported.

Purpose of Google Analytics

Google Analytics insights are designed to communicate how well a website itself is performing in terms of user engagement metrics (time on page, etc.), reporting conversion-related goals, and showing site visitor activity on the website itself.

Typical reporting includes:

What’s important to note about the data provided by Google Analytics is that it measures how the site is performing (in terms of site visitors).

While Analytics provides feedback on web page performance, the focus of that report is: relative to site traffic and relative to what site visitors do

The Google Analytics overview page reflects the focus on the site visitor:

“Get a better understanding of your customers. Google Analytics gives you the free tools you need to analyze data for your business in one place.

Understand your site… users to better evaluate the performance of your marketing, content, products, and more.”

The underlying goal of Google Analytics is vastly different from Search Console as Search Console focuses on website performance relative to search visibility

Purpose of Google Search Console

Search Console’s insights are designed to help publishers understand how their websites are performing in Google Search.

Search Console also provides search and indexing data that is useful for troubleshooting search visibility issues.

On another level, Search Console provides a way for Google to proactively communicate with publishers about search visibility issues, such as manual actions (punishments), hacked status, misconfigured structured data, mobile usability issues, and other helpful information that publisher helps its ideal search visibility in Google Search.

Finally, Search Console provides a way for publishers to resolve localized language issues, set a site-wide country target, reject inbound links, and other tasks centered around improving search visibility.

The Google Search Console Help page lists these data points:

  • Confirm that Google can find and crawl your site.
  • Fix indexing issues and request reindexing of new or updated content.
  • See traffic data from Google Search for your site: How often your site appears in Google Search, which searches show your site, how often searchers click through for those searches, and more.
  • Get notified when Google encounters indexing, spam, or other issues on your site.
  • Shows you which sites link to your website.
  • Troubleshoot AMP, mobile usability, and other search features.

The first reason Search Console and Analytics data is different is because each product’s purpose is different: they do different things.

Differences in Search Console and Analytics Explained

Since both services have different goals, Google Search Console and Analytics will do things like collect data in different ways, and therefore the reports will be different and have the appearance of a discrepancy.

The data is accurate, but it just appears differently.

Below is a list of several reasons why Analytics and Search Console data appears to have discrepancies.

Definition of search is different

A major cause of the discrepancy between Google Analytics and Search Console is that they both measure search traffic differently.

What Analytics calls search traffic is different from what Search Console calls search traffic.

Google Analytics folds the Google Discover data into the Search category.

That means when you analyze organic search-related traffic in Analytics, it’s not just the traffic from the Google search box, but also traffic from Google Discover.

However, Google Search Console splits the traffic from Google Discover and the organic search results, and only shows a report for Google Discover traffic.

Search Console and Analytics vs. JavaScript

Google Analytics only reports data collected from site visitors who have JavaScript enabled in their browser.

Search Console collects data whether or not JavaScript is enabled in a browser.

Google Analytics cannot collect data

Another reason why Search Console and Analytics don’t match is that Analytics tracking is increasingly blocked online.

Google Analytics cannot collect data from privacy-focused browsers and extensions that block analytics.

For example, DuckDuckGo’s browser extension and Mozilla’s Firefox browser both block Google Analytics from loading.

Search Console data is not blocked, so this is another way that more or different data can be collected in Search Console and different from what is collected in Google Analytics.

Time Delay Differences

Another reason why the traffic data reporting differs between Search Console and Google Analytics is that Search Console data is delayed by a few days, while Analytics can report the data within seconds.

The delay in Search Console reporting may cause the data to be incomplete at the time of viewing.

Search Console omits certain searches

Search Console protects users’ privacy, so the Search Console Performance report omits data from certain types of searches.

A Google Search Console help page explains:

“To protect user privacy, the performance report does not show all data.

For example, we may not track some searches that are made a very small number of times or that contain personal or sensitive information.

Some processing of our source data may cause these statistics to differ from the statistics reported in other sources (for example, to avoid duplication of data).

However, these changes should not be significant.”

Anonymized query totals in performance report

The data in the performance report doesn’t match the organic traffic data in Analytics for the reasons mentioned above, and anonymized searches are another reason Search Console performance data is further removed from data reported in Analytics.

Google Search Console omits what it calls very rare searches for privacy reasons.

Anonymized searches are included in: totals but not included when filtered in the performance report.

Google’s Search Console support page states:

“Very rare searches (called anonymized searches) are not shown in these results to protect the privacy of the user performing the search.

Anonymized searches are always omitted from the table. Anonymized searches are included in chart totals unless you filter by search (searches that contain a specific string or searches that do not contain a specific string).

If your site has a significant number of anonymized searches, you may see a significant difference between the total and (number of searches with a_string + number of searches without a_string).

This is because the anonymized searches are omitted when a filter is applied.”

Time zone differences

Google Analytics reports data on a daily and monthly level according to the time zone of the publisher.

The publisher’s time zone is set in the Analytics display settings where the preferred time zone for the website can be set.

Google Search Console reports data according to Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), California’s time zone, regardless of which country or time zone a website is set for.

This creates a situation where Search Console maps data to one time zone and Google Analytics maps data to another time zone (when the site’s time zone is outside of California).

This is going to make a big difference in the way the data is reported, as it pretty much guarantees that daily and monthly traffic data will never match between Search Console and Analytics.

According to the Google Analytics view settings edit page:

Country or area time zone: The country or area and time zone that you want to use as the daily boundary for your reports, regardless of where the data comes from.

For example, if you choose United States, Los Angeles time, the start and end of each day is calculated based on Los Angeles time, even if the hit is from New York, London, or Moscow.

If you choose a time zone that takes daylight savings into account, Analytics will automatically adjust to the changes.

If you don’t want Analytics to adjust for daylight saving time, you can use Greenwich Mean Time instead of your local time zone.”

Landing page URL differences

Landing pages in Search Console are aggregated to some extent, while landing page URLs are not aggregated in Analytics.

Google’s support page explains it like this:

Landing page dimension: Search Console collects its data under canonical URLs (more information), while Analytics uses the actual landing page URL.

This distinction affects reports that include the landing page dimension, including landing pages and devices/countries (when landing page is added as a secondary dimension).

For example, impressions and click metrics for web, mobile web, and AMP URLs can be aggregated… under a canonical URL…”

Search Console data is limited

Another important data reporting difference between Search Console and Google Analytics is that Search Console is limited to reporting data for up to 1,000 landing page URLs.

Google Analytics does not have that limitation and can report on more landing pages than 1,000 URLs.

A Google Analytics support page explains the differences:

“Number of URLs registered per site per day:

Search Console registers up to 1,000 landing page URLs.

Analytics does not meet the 1000 URL limit and may include more landing pages.”

Data Differences in Search Console and Analytics

There are data differences between what Search Console and Analytics measure and report.

The reasons for the differences range from what time zone traffic events are attributed to to how landing pages are aggregated.

The discrepancy between the reported figures in Search Console and Analytics is not a sign that there is a problem with the data.

These are two different products reporting data in different ways and that’s it.

More resources:

Featured Image: StockStyle/Shutterstock

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