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Website owners who want to know how their site is performing online and whether web pages are getting read, search for data. You can get a great deal of information about your website from both Google Analytics and Google Search Console. But what is the difference between these two tools?
Google Analytics and Google Search Console: the difference in short
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two free Google tools that are completely different. These tools offer various data each with its own purposes. Google Analytics (GA) is based on user behavior. Google Search Console (GSC) is built to help the website owner improve their site for users and to achieve SEO goals.
You need both Google Analytics and Google Search Console if you want to know if your website is performing according to your business goals.
If you want to know how your audience interacts with your website, how much they are interested in certain web pages and if they stay on your page long enough to read the content, then you should use
If you want to know whether your website is properly visible online, what the organic reach is, and whether there are any technical errors on your site, then use
Google Search Console.
These Google platforms work independently of each other, but if you use them both, you have a wealth of information about the performance of your site. The data from both tools complement each other, providing you with a full understanding on how your site is performing and where you can improve it.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is an analytics platform for business websites. GA allows you to make data driven marketing decisions.
GA tracks the performance of your website down to the smallest detail. This tool makes it easy for you to gather information based on questions like:
How long does the average user stay on my website?
How many pages does the average user view?
What are the most visited pages on my website?
What day of the week do I get the most visits?
If you want to have more visits to your site, then you can set up a strategic plan based on the statistics and the questions generated by GA:
What sources led to traffic to your website (direct, search engine, social media, referrals from other sites, etc.)?
What is the growth rate of organic traffic in the past 30 days?
How many visitors landed on your website through an email marketing campaign?
Google Analytics for statistics on lead generation and revenue
Google Analytics also contains statistics on lead generation and revenue. You can configure this to monitor the effects of your actions on your sites:
How much revenue did your store generate?
Which traffic sources lead to the most sales?
What are your best-selling products?
With GA you know where your customers are, how they get to your site and what they are doing on your website. You can use this data to make your digital marketing campaigns effective and to take strategic decisions.
What data can you track with Google Analytics?
Google’s analytics data enables you to monitor all types of statistics to determine if your digital marketing and SEO efforts are being successful. Some of the most popular statistics to track with GA:
Acquisition: acquiring new customers
Usually, the goal of digital marketing is to acquire new customers. With your SEO strategy, paid advertising campaigns, posts on social media and more of such actions, you want to bring people to your site. GA gives you an insight as to where these people came from (directly, through email campaigns, ads, social media or a link from another site) and how strongly they are interested in your website content. The more interested, the more clicks, the more likely you can get new customers.
Demographics of your target audience
Google provides demographic characteristics of your audience, such as where they are located (geography), their interests (only available if you are signed up for Google Ads), the technology and type of device they are using, and more. You can find out the average age, gender of your audience and determine if these demographics match with your preferred target audience.
This is where your buyer personas will be useful, which define the characteristics of potential leads or customers for your business, project, etc. For example, if you have a nail salon, then something is not quite right if your site is being visited by primarily men in the 40-60 age group. If you do not reach your target group, you can adjust the content of your site accordingly.
Performance of destination page/landing pages
If you created landing pages to achieve a certain goal with your website, you can use GA to see if they are successful. You can split the performance by session and examine, for instance:
what the bounce rate is (a high bounce rate means that your users are unable to find what they are looking for),
how many new visitors you have,
what the average time per session is the user spends on your website.
The meaning of a session in Google Analytics
Google Analytics defines a session as a collection of interactions performed by a user visiting your site within a certain time frame. For example, a user may visit multiple pages, share a blog, sign up for a newsletter, or purchase a product of yours. A user can open multiple sessions simultaneously and – if these sessions are not closed – a session can even last for months. Think, for example, of tabs that are kept open.
A session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity or at midnight.
A session also ends when a user enters your site via a certain campaign (such as an email), leaves the site and returns via another campaign (such as an advertisement).
Measuring the success of your landing pages
If you have multiple campaigns with different landing pages, you can see which ones are the most successful. You can do this by splitting the performance per session so you can see the bounce rate, the number of new users and the average session duration per campaign. You can also see what page the visitor came from and the last page they saw before leaving your site. With this information, you will be able to identify what pages you can improve to lead your users to your desired pages and take the desired action.
Working with data-driven information
GA allows you to monitor thousands of statistics. Working with Google Analytics to manage your website on data-driven information is not easy. It is a learning process that requires time, attention and testing. In addition to the examples mentioned above, you can also use GA to:
Measure the performance of your KPIs
Track the revenue generated from your campaigns
Monitor the speed of your site
Gain real-time insight into the behavior of your current users
Generate statistical reports
Track all kinds of other data to optimize your site or webshop.
Google Tag Manager (GTM)
Google Tag Manager (GTM) is another free Google Tool that you can use to measure your custom variables. For example, you can tag clicks on a ‘contact us’ button or measure other variables that are relevant to your online business. The results will be displayed in Google Analytics.
Using APIs, you can connect GA to WordPress, Hubspot, Shopify and your own business tools to get analytics data directly on your dashboard. We recommend using GA within Google’s own interface as much as possible to avoid adding extra load-time to your site, but when you need an integration, the option is there.
Working with data-driven information
If you need an SEO-professional to have your online store SEO proof, or if you need help to get more publicity and customers, please contact me. Together we can work on your online business to make it successful!
What is Google Search Console?
The Google Search Console (GSC) is also a free tool provided by Google which you can use effectively for SEO purposes. GSC helps you improve your site’s technical SEO performance by providing specific notifications for your site.
Understanding how Google perceives your website and its pages, is crucial to make your site more secure and accessible to users, to improve organic search results, and to increase clickthrough rates. In addition, you’ll know right away if there’s a problem with your website, such as a failure to open a page by Google, or whether a “crawl error” is present.
Data you can find in Google Search Console
Some of the data you can retrieve from Google Search Console:
Impressions: the number of links to your website that users have seen in the Google search results.
Clicks: the number of clicks on a page in Google’s search results that led a user to your website.
Click-through-rate (CTR): the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions.
Search queries: the keywords that have been used by users and that generated the visibility of links
Position: the average position of a URL in search results
Average position: the average position of the highest ranking web page of your site. Gain insight about the performance of your website with GSC
With this webmaster tool from Google, you can get insight about your website’s performance by using data such as the following:
You can view data of keyword performances that you made available by the content of your website for organic search. You will also be able to view the information about keywords that lead to conversions, as well as the click rate of each keyword (CTR), and the average position of your site in the Google rankings.
Gain insight about the performance of your website with GSC
By analyzing these metrics on keyword performance, you will be able to identify, for example, the interest shown for the keywords that drove organic traffic to your site. If these are the keywords that are important for you and are stuck at a lower position in Google, then you might want to improve the affected web pages.
The coverage of your site in Google index
Using sitemaps you can determine what pages the Google bot will crawl and index. With an XML sitemap, you can indicate to search engines which of your pages are essential to be discovered on search pages and which of your pages you do not want to be indexed.
Every SEO marketer knows that having good, relevant backlinks is crucial for getting ranked higher in search engines. Relevant backlinks can increase the SEO value of your website for the keywords being used – and those related to them. Search Console allows you to view all links to your site and what content is most frequently linked to.
In GSC, you can also spot backlinks coming from sites that are unrelated to your industry and don’t deliver value to your site in terms of quality. For example, these could be links coming from spammy websites. If you have too many of such backlinks, your site could be downgraded by Google, which would be very harmful to its visibility and your Google ranking. Learn how to disavow backlinks here.
When you have solid links coming from other websites that are related to your industry, it adds more SEO value and will increase your site’s score on trustworthiness and authority.
Optimizing your website or online store with Google Search Console
While you can keep track of your statistics with Google Analytics, you would miss out on important information about the performance of your site if you don’t use Google Search Console.
With GSC you get information about the parts of your site that can be improved when it comes to the technical performances and the improvement of your position in the Google rankings.
If you have an online business with a large number of competitors, then you will need Search Console to fine-tune the performance of your site.
Improve the mobile responsiveness of your site
GSC is primarily focused on improving the usability of your site or shop on mobile devices. This also means that if your site is not optimized for mobile devices, it can have negative consequences for desktop use. Speed and user experience of your site on mobiles and tablets are important focus points.
Search Console notifies you if there are any mobile usability issues and provides you information for correcting them.
How to configure Google Search Console?
Follow these steps to connect GSC to your website:
Sign in to your Google account.
Make sure it is your business account and not a private account.
Click on ‘Google Webmaster Tools’.
Click on ‘add property’ in the top left corner.
Add the URL of your website. We recommend that you choose the “Domain” option on the right, without the www or subdomains. This will add all existing versions of your website, both http:// and https://, to the Google Search Console.
Verify your website. This allows Google to identify you as the owner of the website.
Google starts tracking your website from the moment you add your domain (even before verification). From this point on, it starts building your data. You will receive email notifications sent to you by Google if there are any unusual events, for example, if the Google guidelines have been violated.
Learn how to
give access to Google Search Console to other people (such as an SEO agency). Google Analytics or Google Search Console, which one to use?
In conclusion, we advise you to use both. In an ever changing marketing landscape, organic search traffic is just one of the few ways to drive continuous growth, therefore GSC cannot (and should not) be ignored.
At the same time, targeted referral traffic can be of higher value, allowing you to redirect people to a landing page and helping you to monitor campaign results through targeted conversions.
Don’t forget to share this article with colleagues and friends and feel free to check out my other blogs if you want more information to attract the right visitors to your website!