Understanding Organic Search Data
A lot of things have changed since I wrote an article about how to read the Organic Search Traffic Data for ClickZ/Search Engine Watch back in April 2011. Back then, a free version of the Google Analytics tool was widely used by many website owners, even big corporations. Now, there are other great options including Adobe Analytics and paid version of Google Analytics tools available. Also, there are boundless helpful how-to’s, manuals, and guides available online (and offline) for every aspect of the tools. These tools not just make our – SEO, SEM, and digital marketers – lives easier but also assist us in achieving our business goals efficiently. Really, without the tools, we’d be still shooting the target blindly wasting time and money.
That said, I still see some common misunderstandings of the data. It usually comes from not understanding the metrics and segments correctly. Here are the 3 items, which may still be confusing to someone, especially if you are not an SEO, SEM, or analytic expert.
Google Search Console Data vs. Analytics Tool Data
While it seems to be obvious, I’m still asked about the reason why GSC data is different from analytics data. The reasons why the numbers from the two tools never match are; 1. Google Search Console only shows the data from Google, and analytics tools show the data from all traffic sources including other search engines.
If you are in a country where Google is the dominant search engine, you may not find that big of a difference between GSC and analytic tools. But, the difference may be more significant in some countries where other search engines are still popular, including China, Korea, and Japan.
Different Metrics and Segments in Analytics Tools
The analytics tools make it easy to slice and dice the website performance and user data so that we can spend time using the data to take action rather than finding the data. At the same time, having hundreds of metrics can be confusing. Most of us know the difference between “visits” and “unique visits”, or “visits” and “unique visitors”. But, can you explain why the “visits” number on your report is different from someone else’s report for the same websites? And, why do the numbers change when you switch the dimension from “page” to “entry page”?
Visits (Adobe Analytics: AA) – The ‘Visits’ metric shows the number of sessions across all visitors on your site. The session ends if any of the following occur: 30 minutes of inactivity, 12 hours of activity, 2500 hits, or 100 hits in 100 seconds
Unique Visitors (AA) – The ‘Unique visitors’ metric shows the number of visitor IDs for the dimension item. It is one of the most common metrics used when determining traffic, as it gives a high-level overview of the popularity of a dimension item. For example, a visitor can come to your site every day for a month, but they still count as a single unique visitor.
Page (AA) – This dimension lists the names of pages on your site. It is one of the most common dimensions used in Adobe Analytics, as it provides insight into which pages on your site perform the best. This dimension is related to the site section and server dimensions. Page is most granular, Server is least granular, and Site section is between the two.
Entry Page (AA) – Entry dimensions are visit-based. They record the first dimension item, and persist it for the entire duration of that visit. Entry dimensions are available for all variables with pathing enabled under Traffic variables in Report suite settings.
For example, if you’d like to create a list of pages that brought organic traffic to the site, you’d want to use the “Entry Page” dimension, and set it as “hits”, not “visits”. If you use the “visits” metric, the list would include all the pages a visitor saw in the first 30 minutes.
Keywords with No Traffic Data
Whatever the reason may be, it’s becoming harder and harder to obtain keyword traffic data, even for your own website. We also noticed that the keyword tool returns many keywords with no search volume. Does that mean no one is searching using those keywords? When you search in Google, it shows several related searches, but even some of those terms have any search volume. Why is this happening?
Because the search volume is the average search numbers from the last 12 months, if a query became popular in recent months, the 12 months average may not be available. If a query is very popular only for a few months of the year, the average search volume may make the query less significant than it actually is.
Also, the Google keyword tool’s impressions and the search volume data are based on the ads served. If none of the advertisers bid on a query, Google may not provide the search volume for it.
The keyword tool data is helpful in providing some insights, but you should not make any important decisions including content strategy or product marketing. Don’t immediately write off the keywords with no traffic data. Review other data related to those topics to determine how they are aligned with the business strategy. You can also check the demand by running a search campaign to collect the sampling data.