Google Services Lack Convergence

Posted by bkloss | Google Analytics | Wednesday 2 April 2008 5:28 am

Dear keyword reports from Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools… why can’t you speak with one voice?

As practitioners in the web analytics field, we search for convergence among sources of data. When only one perspective or tool suggests insight into our users behavior we should be hesitant to jump to conclusions. As a best practice, we search for patterns among two or more sources, to increase confidence for a specific observation. Unfortunately different reporting mechanisms will often contradict each other, even in the case of the analytics superstar Google.

Here is an example that was recently brought to my attention. I lean heavily on Google Analytics to see what keywords bring traffic to the Iteration Station. Google webmaster Tools also offers a “Google only” referral report. When Google recently rolled out a data sharing component I hoped that the Google cloud would tighten up and I would see convergence among my reports.

Unfortunately, the keywords still don’t match up:

This first picture is a sample of keywords from last weeks Google Analytics keyword report:

During the same time frame, Google webmaster tools reported only three keyword phrases as entrance sources of traffic…

Clearly, the two do not match up. What is the cause of this disparity? First off, if Google Analytics is sending data to Webmaster Tools, that data is not being reported. I am hesitant to say the Google analytics is misreporting data because they record IP for each visit.

So, is this a lack of integration or instead, is Google Webmaster Tools purposefully misreporting data?

Here’s my speculation…

Google advises webmasters to use the top search queries and top clicked queries report in the following manner.

” If a relevant search query appears in the first list, but not in the second, you should work on making your site more compelling to users so that they click it when it appears in search results. Your page title appears in the results, so make sure it’s relevant and accurate. Google can take the text in your pages’ meta descriptions and display it in search results, so review your meta descriptions to make sure that they contain useful descriptions of your pages’ contents.”

Could it be possible that Webmaster Tools is giving site owners a gentle nudge to create or modify their existing content to fill holes in Google search results? By choosing to omit clicked keyword phrases, Google may compel webmasters to reshape their articles to related keywords showing up in the top search queries report. A clever trick if Google’s aim is to create a more well rounded index.

Please post your own explanation for this phenomenon as a comment and we can further the discussion.

 Here’s an explanation that I received this weekend at StomperNet Live from Dan Thies:

He explained that Google implements click tracking on only a small portion of search result pages it serves.  For that reason, the two reports do not match up.

So, Google should leverage it’s new data sharing plan to synch the two reports when available to reduce the confusion.  At the least, they should explain that the clickthrough report in Google Webmaster tools is far from comprehensive.

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