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Understanding Google Search Console metrics

 Google Search Console can be an insightful tool for tracking the organic performance of your website. However, some metrics paint a clearer picture than others. One metric which is a frequent point of contention among SEOs is average position, which calculates the average ranking position across all queries for a URL.

This metric was the focus of a recent ask Googlebot video. In this installment of the series, Google’s John Mueller highlights that this metric is not theoretical but rather based on real search result data.

That said, there are still discrepancies between the Search Console figures and what site owners see in their own results. That’s because Search Console will only use the highest-ranking URL in its calculation in instances where multiple URLs are ranking.

Additionally, other factors such as geo-targeting and personalisation of search results can mean that Search Console data on average position doesn’t always translate into what you see in SERPs. Mueller added:

“For web results keep in mind that your site might also be appearing in the images within the normal search results. In short, the average position and other metrics in the search performance report are based on actual search results, but actual search results can be quite varied.”

Effectively, the average position metric is taking an average of an average. Google could be returning wildly different ranking positions for searchers in different locations and with different search histories. That’s why it’s important for SEOs and clients to not become too fixated on this metric: no matter how satisfying it may be to see your page land in the top three positions.

Similarly, total impressions are another metric that isn’t always the most straightforward. It’s easy to fall into the line of thinking that more impressions are better, but that’s not always the case. It’s always preferable to have more relevant impressions, even if that means gaining fewer total impressions for your URL. These better targeted impressions will drive a higher volume of organic traffic – and traffic that is more likely to engage and convert onsite too.

At All Response Media, we recently saw a client experience a 29.41% year on year (YoY) drop in total impressions throughout Q1 of 2021. Rather than being a negative, this was a result of updating targeting and improving content on various pages. This was demonstrated by the fact these improved impressions drove a 36.78% YoY increase in total clicks and a 2.3% improvement in average CTR. When it comes to impressions, it’s all about quality over quantity.

All Response Media viewpoint

Search Console can be an extremely useful tool, but it requires thoughtful interpretation of the data. Another hurdle is its lack of insights on conversions. This means it strips away an understanding of which queries drive better engagement and higher conversion rates.

It’s important to use Search Console in tandem with a suite of other performance tracking tools, such as Google Analytics. Together, these can build a clear picture of your website’s health rather than just giving you a limited glimpse into its performance.

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