Google Webmaster Tools and the Google Gap

by Carla Marshall
See Dave Speak SMX London

Lots of excitement in the internet marketing world today (not least of all this office) as Google unveiled some fancy new features on Webmaster Tools.  At first glance it certainly does offer a lot more information regarding impressions and click through rates which is always very welcome of course:

However, dig a little deeper and compare the data that you are getting from WMT compared to other Google tools such as Analytics or the Keyword Tool and things start to get a little more confusing.

If we take the example of a keyword that Dave ranks well for – ‘csl sofas’ – and drill down further into the WMT figures we are told that between 15/03/2010 and 16/04/2010 Dave’s blog received 14800 impressions on that keyword. We can see that the in the last month the keyword got as high as #3 and dropped as low as #10 and Dave’s highest CTR was 1% when ‘csl sofas’ ranked between #3 and #4.

By adjusting the filters we can see that all of these impressions came via the web rather than from images etc

So far, so good. We’ve established that Dave’s blog ranks for ‘csl sofas’  and the site received 14800 impressions for this keyword – but how does this match up with the data we get from, say, the Google Keyword Tool? Well, an exact match search on ‘csl sofas’ tells us that in the UK in March 2010 there were approximately 22,200 searches on that keyword.

OK, so 22,200 searches a month on that exact phrase sounds reasonably plausible so I guess we can assume that Dave’s blog appeared in the organic listings for 66.6% of the searches made on that keyword…..? I’m a little confused now but never fear because Google Analytics will fill in the gaps and make it all clear for me, no?

Mmm, a search on organic traffic to Dave’s blog on between the same dates tells us that 142 people landed on his site via that exact phrase – as opposed to the 110 which Webmaster Tools tell us landed.

So, which data set are we to believe and – more importantly – which one do we trust to use to report back to our clients? The disparity between data from Google has been the subject of discussion for  years – it’s even got a name, ‘The Google Gap’ – and introducing new information just muddies the water even further. Are Google deliberately sending out confusing messages so that ultimately they are still the only ones that really have any idea of the real figures, and if so, why?

If we use this tool for anything it will be for discovering keywords that we rank for that we never knew we did – but I doubt very much we will rely on it for any kind of serious analytics.

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