Planning your next move in digital marketing (or any online business really) requires that you look at the KPIs and see what’s working. Mastering Google Analytics is one piece of the puzzle, but you also want to install Google Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmasters Tools. Both of these are free and provide you with tons of valuable data and reports on your website’s performance – including traffic, bounce rates, indexed pages, and so forth.
While both are recommended, many people wonder what’s the difference between Google Analytics and GSC? Here’s why both of these platforms are important for your business, content marketing strategy, SEO, and so much more.
Google Analytics vs. Google Search Console
Both of these tools provide endless opportunities to measure performance and optimize your site.
To get the most out of tracking and traffic data, you’ll want to install both GA and GSC. Here’s some more information about what each platform does for your site.
Tracking with GA
There are over 10,000 metrics that GA can track. This data tracking platform helps you analyze the performance of your site to the smallest granular metric you can find, thanks to multiple filters and customizable reports.
It’s particularly important for measuring organic traffic and seeing where your visitors come from. However, there are so many other metrics and tools that you can use within GA as well.
For example, it’s an amazing tool to analyze audience demographics and see who’s visiting your site or even making purchases. You can also measure conversion goals and individual page performance through pageviews, bounce rate, and more.
When you need to see traffic reports and analyze your online customer’s experience, GA is the tool to use.
Optimizing with GSC
While you could simply install Analytics to track metrics, you would be missing out on valuable information to improve your rank and optimize the technical performance of your website without Google Search Console.
GSC gives you more information on backlinks, who is sharing your website, and shows you technical errors on your site that prevent you from ranking higher. You can also get more in-depth information about keyword queries.
What Can You Track with Analytics?
With analytics data, you can track all kinds of metrics to see if your digital marketing and SEO efforts are successful. Some of the most popular metrics to track with GA include:
Much of digital marketing is about customer acquisition. You want to attract people to your site through your SEO strategy, paid marketing campaigns, social media and more. GA helps you see where customers are coming from.
You can measure different types of visits, such as direct visitors that enter your domain directly into their browser, or maybe you want to measure by different referral sites or social media channels. All of these (and more) are possible within GA.
While it’s not extremely granular tracking information, you can see a large array of audience demographics and compare to your other audience insights. The “Demographics” tab on GA can break down your traffic by age and gender.
Landing Page Performance
If you have multiple campaigns with different landing pages, you can view which ones are most successful, breaking down performance by sessions, bounce rate, new visitors, and average session time. You can see exit pages and drill down into customer journeys to see what pages get the most traffic or lead to the highest rate of abandonment.
Dwell time metrics (average time on page, average session duration, etc.) are used to describe how much time people spend browsing your website. Dwell time has been discussed by many SEO experts as a definitive ranking signal for search engines. Basically, if people spend long amounts of time on your website, then it must mean they are enjoying your content and it’s relevant to a query.
You can use GA to look at page session time, time on site, and bounce rates to judge your site’s content and user experience. If you’re seeing abnormal or low engagement, it’s possible that you need to adjust your pages to either make them more visually appealing or engaging.
Other GA Metrics
As we mentioned before, there are over 10,000 metrics to track, as well as some pretty amazing tools. For example, you can also use GA for:
- Goal tracking
- Conversion tracking
- Revenue tracking
- Site speed metrics
- Real-time visitor insights
- Event tracking
- Complex reports
What Can You Do with Google Webmaster Tools AKA Google Search Console?
For those who want to get more granular about SEO and ensure that their site is “technically perfect” with Google, you’ll want to use GSC. This lesser-known tool can greatly improve your site’s position in the SERPs with search data for your site that can lead to meaningful insight.
Here’s some of the ways you can use GSC:
As any SEO marketer knows, backlinks are crucial for ranking up in search engines. When you have solid links from high authority websites, you’ll likely start to move up in rank for all related keywords. However, if you have links on poor quality websites, the opposite may happen, in which Google de-ranks or penalizes you for being on a spam website.
With Search Console, you can see all the links to your site and what content is being linked to the most. You can also see top linked pages from external sources and internal sources.
Disavow Toxic Backlinks
Google also provides users with the ability to disavow backlinks. The term “disavowing” means that you’re specifically telling Google that you do not want them to count that backlink toward your site any longer.
Why would you do this? Because not every link that is pointing to your site is going to be valuable. In fact, some could even be extremely harmful (toxic).
Let’s say your site sells packaged food. However, when you pull a report of your backlinks, you see that you have dozens of backlinks that are from sites that are poorly written, irrelevant to your industry and appear to be from a different country than the one you’re based in.
When you see sites like these pointing toward your site, it’s important that you’re seeking removal of these backlinks. At first, you should be contacting the owner of the domain to see if you can have that backlink removed. If that doesn’t work, then disavowing these links through GSC is your best option.
Remember how Google stated that they were implementing a mobile-first policy for ranking websites? This means that even if your website performance is great on the desktop, your rank could suffer drastically if your site is not optimized for mobile.
Google actually demotes websites that aren’t optimized for fast mobile browsing. In addition, if there are any usability issues or elements blocked on mobile, you’ll likely also get de-ranked.
The great news is that you can use GSC to check on any issues with your mobile usability bringing down your rank, and then make steps to correct them. This can be found under “Enhancements,” then click on “Mobile Usability.”
In the platform, you can build search console reports that will provide greater insight into your organic search traffic and show you search queries in Google that your site is ranking for.
These reports are extremely helpful when it comes to analyzing the performance of your entire site or a single page. From here, you can see how often your site comes up for search terms, how often searchers are clicking onto your site from those search queries (along with your CTR for those) and what your site’s average position is for those terms.
This insight is incredibly valuable, especially when trying to create and optimize digital campaigns for your business.
Google Search Console will crawl the site periodically (if you have your sitemap submitted). This will not only pull the site into its search results, but it will also notify the owner of the domain if there are any errors or issues that occur as its doing so.
Some of these issues may include HTML errors, crawl errors and technical issues that may occur while Google’s crawler is checking the site. If you have your email notifications set up, you’ll receive alerts each time this occurs, which can help you swiftly squash any issues that your site may run into.
Start Tracking and Optimizing Your Site
There are a variety of performance reports and metrics to track within both of these easily accessible, free tools. We strongly suggest that site owners create an account with both and add their website so that they can see the value of these metrics and reports.
With these, you’ll be able to see a whole new side of your business with insights into what content is working, what pages are converting and what keywords are the biggest moneymakers for your website.
If you’re looking to start taking action on your Google Analytics and Google Search Console data, work with an SEO agency. Contact us to start utilizing that data to bring meaningful traffic to your site and increase your ROI.