Are We Just Google Beta Testers?
It would be fair to say that as part of your routine as an SEO you will use Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) log in, review the growing information contained within and act accordingly. The statistics in particular have always given a good sense of where your site is and although you probably wouldn’t use the figures specifically, they were a good indicator for trends, ideas and early warning signals if things were about to go bad wrong.
Now it seems like the data being driven in to GWT is flawed. In fact, for a while now, “Links to your site” have been pretty obviously and blatantly wrong. I’m not qualified to speculate on the reason they might be wrong, but suffice to say they are wrong!
I consider myself more than competent when it comes to link building, but notwithstanding my large ego, it's hard to fathom why I apparently have so many links coming in to one of my sites. If you look at the graphic below, you’ll see the results are obviously wrong as even with the hard work I have put in to the account, there is no way they have gone from having 2 million backlinks when I started on the account five months ago to having just short of 1 billion backlinks today.
Something, as Elmer Fudd would say, is scwewy around here!
It’s OK though, as we can use other more accurate tools to get this information and whilst it’s a hindrance that we can’t get accurate data from Google, its not a deal breaker.
Now though, Elmer is scratching his head in the Search Queries part of GWT.
First off, some disclaimers. This is a large client. We do have analytics installed and reporting properly and all of the terms (that aren’t shown here for obvious reasons) have either gone up in the SERPS this month or are number 1 position for brand. According to analytics, the clicks we got on these same terms exceeds the click rate shown in GWT by up to 10 times.
For example on Term A, Google says there was 25,000,000 impressions yet we only got 2,200,00 clicks. If I tell you that the term is the main brand name of the company and they don’t have any competitors with the same or a close match on the name, you’d expect to see this figure get somewhere in the region of 95% of all clicks. Even if we were generous and used the old AOL position 1 percentage of roughly 45%, they should still generate over 12 million clicks.
A glance across at average position also shows a discrepancy. Back to Term A again and it stayed rock solid at number one for the entire month. Why wouldn’t it? It’s the homepage with the top brand keyphrase. No reason for it to move anywhere else and it didn’t according to two other independent pieces of tracking. Yet GWT reports its average position at 2.9 which is ludicrous.
We know that it may be due to multiple entries on the page diluting this figure to give an average, but the entire page is full of listings from the site on brand term searches, so that doesn’t work either.
You may also have noticed large downward changes (although some people are seeing massive across the board rises!!?!!) this month. The first clue here is the impact of Christmas compared to this period (January), but we are seeing massive spikes on some clients and massive drops across the board on others. It just doesn’t make any sense.
The other point here is that in the case of Term A explained above, we got less than 9% click through on a brand term with no competition on the page. GWT says this equates to 2.2 million clicks, whereas Google Analytics says we had 4,033,340 visits.
What with places returning strange and questionable results, analytics providing the odd day of hassle, the adword tool displaying inaccurate figures and now GWT giving us even more inaccuracy, I have to ask the question:
Are Google just trying to make it harder for SEO’s or are we just Google Beta testers? Answers preferably on a postcard please so we can have accurate data....