Published on

January 15, 2024

Business Intelligence
eBook

Google Search Console vs Google Analytics: The Power of Data For Organic Traffic

Google Search Console vs Google Analytics: which one should you use, and when? This article explores the best workflows and integrations.
Giorgio Barilla
Digital Marketing Specialist
Business Intelligence

Understanding the nuances between Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA) is key for unlocking the full potential of data to optimize digital marketing strategies. Both tools provide invaluable insights, but have distinct purposes, capabilities, and methods of collecting data.

This comprehensive guide explores the genesis, core features, integration, pricing, and ideal use cases of both platforms to help website owners, SEOs, and digital marketers leverage the tool and understand the core differences between Google Search Console vs Google Analytics.

Let's dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Google Search Console focuses specifically on Google organic search traffic, while Google Analytics delivers insights across channels;
  • Search Console data comes directly from Google's index, whereas Analytics uses JavaScript tracking on web pages to collect user behaviour metrics. Google Analytics 4 will only track website visitors that consent to cookie tracking;
  • There is significant overlap in traffic data analysis, though Analytics provides more granular visitor details and conversion tracking for funnel-level metrics;
  • Integrating both tools creates a holistic picture of website performance to identify opportunities for driving organic growth. Using a tool like Akkio to make sense of your data at scale can help upscale your workflows with AI.

The Verdict: GSC vs GA for Digital Marketing

In isolation, neither Search Console or Analytics delivers a complete picture.

When to Use Google Search Console

Example of a performance report in Google Search Console

With its exclusive focus on Google SEO visibility directly from the source, site owners should leverage Google Search Console reports for:

  • Monitoring Google organic traffic and search rankings
  • Identifying issues blocking pages from indexing
  • Optimizing on-page elements for higher organic CTR
  • Tracking links and leveraging search query data
  • Pinpointing mobile usability problems

For anyone invested in Google SEO, Search Console is an essential diagnostic and optimization toolkit.

When to Rely on Google Analytics

Google's demo dataset overview page in GA4
Google's demo dataset overview page in GA4

While Search Console isolates organic search, Google Analytics caters to digital marketers' broader needs:

  • Website engagement monitoring with bounce rates and time-on-site metrics
  • Audience analysis by channel, geography, technology used
  • Custom conversion tracking and sales funnels
  • Multi-channel attribution modeling
  • Experimentation to test site changes

So for holistic performance insights beyond Google SEO, Analytics is the go-to digital intelligence platform.

The Power of Combining Both Tools

Integrating Google Search Console in GA4

However, marketers who connect their Search Console and Analytics data unlock added layers of context to identify growth opportunities. This enables:

  • Analysis of SEO visibility alongside conversion performance
  • Optimization of landing pages for searcher intent
  • Prioritizing keywords by revenue potential

So together the tools are exponentially more powerful for maximizing marketing ROI across channels.

Comparison Table
Functionality Google Search Console Google Analytics
Core purpose Optimize organic search visibility Track web traffic and conversions holistically
Data source Direct from Google index JavaScript page tagging
Key metrics Clicks, impressions, position, CTR Sessions, bounce rate, conversions
Custom reporting Limited Extensive customization
Cost Free Free and premium plans

Understanding Google Search Console

Launched as Google Webmaster Tools in 2005, Google Search Console underwent a significant rebranding in 2015 to better convey its purpose for optimizing online discoverability. In 2018, an updated version introduced several enhancements, including:

  • Streamlined navigation and reports
  • Additional insight into page speed, mobile usability, security issues
  • Enhanced tools for tracking indexing issues

This overhaul made data more actionable for improving site health and search visibility.

Core Features and Capabilities

Google Search Console data aims to help website owners and SEOs better understand how search engines interact with their sites. Core capabilities include:

  • Sitemap and Indexing: Submit XML sitemaps and review index coverage, crawl rate, and indexing issues. Manual submission also helps you ask Google to crawl your page after an update, and get results faster;
  • Performance Reports: Track clicks, impressions, average position and CTR from Google organic search. You can export the google search console data into Google Analytics 4, Google BigQuery, a CSV file, or a simple Google Sheet;
  • Enhanced Search Analysis: See search query data, filtered by device, country, date range, and other attributes;
  • Links to Your Site: Identify referring sites linking back to your domain to guide link building. This is a cheap way to get ahold of people linking to you and build collaborations. It also helps find spammers excessively referring to your website;
  • Enhanced Mobile Friendliness Test: Check mobile usability issues that may be hurting search visibility. Remember that Google puts a huge emphasis on mobile search.

In summary, the tool equips website owners with data directly from Google's index to diagnose opportunities for improving organic traffic.

The SEO Perspective

SEOs use GSC to track keyword rankings. We're now offering a Google Sheets Formula Generator!

As an free alternative to paid rank tracking tools, Google Search Console offers invaluable intelligence for SEO success:

  • Monitoring Keyword Rankings: While limited to Google results, Search Console provides insight into how site pages rank for target keywords. Inside Google Search Console, you get the top 1000 keywords for a given page. If you export the data through the API, you can get all keywords, including the ones with a low total impression count;
  • Tracking Internal and External Links: The number and authority of links pointing to a page impact SEO. Search Console helps quantify links;
  • Pinpointing Technical Problems: Crawl errors, mobile usability flags, and security threats can be spotted and resolved;
  • Optimizing Title Tags and Meta Descriptions: Performance data reveals opportunities to optimize page titles and meta descriptions for higher CTR. Google Search Console data also stores past results, meaning you can build custom comparisons to identify growth opportunties;
  • Supplementing Other Data Sources: When combined with analytics platforms, Search Console delivers a multidimensional understanding of SEO visibility.

For SEO practitioners, leveraging these tools and reports is integral for executing data-driven optimization and marketing efforts.

Diving into Google Analytics

Google Analytics focuses on:

  • Data visualization and custom report capabilities
  • Integrations with Google Ads, Google BigQuery, and other Google products
  • Features for conversion tracking and remarketing
  • Updates for mobile app analytics
  • Streamlined implementations

The latest iteration, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), represents a major leap forward. With a focus on cross-channel measurement, GA4 enables a holistic understanding of customer journeys. It was also semi-forced by the new GDPR regulations in the EU, with Austria, France, Italy, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden taking a stance against the previous version of the software.

Google Analytics' Rich Feature Set

Comparing Google Search Console to Google Analytics, we can see the latter focuses on:

  • Custom Reporting and Data Exploration: Build reports with hundreds of dimensions and metrics for segmentation and analysis. Users can build using all available dimensions and metrics. The full list is available here;
  • Conversion Tracking and Goals: Monitor micro and macro conversions across devices and channels via customizable goals. Google Analytics focuses on understanding traffic from a much broader and more holistic perspective, so we suggest you set up custom goals with Google Tag Manager or custom scripting;
  • Audience Insights: Review audience location, acquisition channels, technology used, and behavior over time powered by machine learning;
  • Ecommerce Tracking: Measure performance from product views to purchases, shopping cart abandonment, and more;
  • Customer Journey Mapping: Visualize the touchpoints leading users along the path to conversion across devices. You can build a plethora of reports or use third-party tool integrating with GA4 to build more custom reports, such as Akkio.

For digital marketers and analysts, these robust tools provide the connectivity to make data actionable.

If you're looking to take advantage of AI for your data workflows, here's how to connect your GA4 to Akkio and start upscaling your reporting and predictions.

Comparing Features: Where GSC and GA Align

Though distinct in purpose, scope, and methods, Google Search Console and Analytics have some feature overlap worth exploring.

Traffic Data Analysis

Both tools enable analysis of overall traffic and trends over time, as well as filtering by:

  • Date range
  • Landing page
  • Geographic location

However, Analytics offers more dimensions for segmentation like:

  • Acquisition channel
  • Technology used
  • Frequency

It also tracks sessions, bounce rates, pages/session and average session duration as engagement metrics unavailable in Search Console.

Insights into Search Queries and User Devices

Through Search Analytics reports, Search Console provides granular details on SERPs (search engine results pages)

  • Search queries leading users to the site from search results
  • Clicks and CTR by query
  • % of traffic by user device

Analytics tracks devices, though doesn't connect device data to specific queries. Its reports also exclude bots and spiders.

The more you filter into the data, the more inaccurate the numbers become. Due to privacy regulations, Google can't provide data that could lead to personal identifiable information.

The Synergy of Integration

When used together, Search Console and Analytics remove blindspots for a 360-degree view of:

  • Wider traffic insights from Analytics supplemented by organic search visibility from Search Console
  • Query and click data from Search Console enhanced by related conversion data in Analytics

Some discrepancies will remain since Analytics uses JavaScript tracking vs. Search Console’s server-side data collection. But strategically layering the data provides greater context.

Key Distinctions Between GSC and GA

While the platforms share useful commonalities in reporting, their core purposes, capabilities, and tracking methods differ significantly.

Audience Insights and Goal Tracking

With its emphasis on cross-channel user behavior analysis, Analytics offers abundantly more detail related to:

  • Session quality/engagement
  • Audience demographics
  • Acquisition channels
  • Multi-touch attribution

It also enables conversion tracking via customizable goals and ecommerce performance monitoring unavailable in Search Console.

Reporting and Customization

Analytics provides hundreds of dimensions and metrics for building customized reports to slice and dice user data.

In Search Console, reporting is much more pre-configured, limiting segmentation. But its reports isolate organic search data without requiring filters to exclude paid search.

So for analyzing Google SEO, Search Console simplifies reporting. For everything else, Analytics is more powerful and customizable.

Leveraging GSC and GA for Organic Traffic Growth

Using the no-code AI platform Akkio to generate graphs with AI
Leverage Akkio to generate GA4 reports with AI

While each platform plays a unique role, integrating Search Console and Analytics unlocks growth potential:

Linking Accounts for a Unified View

By connecting Search Console data into Analytics, analysts can layer search performance context into conversion paths and broader website reporting.

Steps to integrate:

  1. In Analytics, navigate to Admin > Data Streams > Add Data > Google Search Console
  2. Input the associated Search Console account
  3. Specify whether to import both web and image data
  4. Set import frequency to daily
  5. Save and confirm the account is linked under Data Streams

Once linked, an organic channel will populate in Acquisition reports, enabling unified analysis.

Analyzing and Optimizing for CTR

Within Google Analytics, marketers can check Search Console's query and CTR data against corresponding landing pages. This reveals opportunities to optimize page titles, meta descriptions, and on-page content to improve click-through rates.

Find Content To Update

If you're noticing low CTRs for previously high ranking pages in Google Search Console, consider updating the article or content piece to regain lost traffic. GSC is invaluable in understanding how rankings fluctuate for all your keywords.

Understand What Your Audience Needs

If you're ranking for keywords you didn't intend to rank for, that means there's a new market you haven't considered eager to reading you. Try to understand their needs and how to satisfy them with high-quality intent related content.

Evaluate Organic Impact on Your Pipeline

Using GSC in combination with GA4 enables marketers to understand how organic efforts are impacting the whole pipeline. Ideally, your instances should also be linked to CRM data somewhere, to track the full funnel from the time the lead entered your site to the time they converted to customer.

There's no ready solution to track all of this in the same place, you need to inerlink several tracking systems in one central hub. This could be a data analysis platform like Akkio, a no-code AI powered place to store data and find novel insights, or a visualization tool like Looker Studio if you don't need actual analysis and only want to visualize the data.

The Pricing and Accessibility of GSC and GA

A key benefit of both tools is their pricing model.

Understanding the Free and Premium Models

The base version of Google Analytics as well as Search Console are free to use. For small businesses without big budgets, these deliver enterprise-level capabilities.

However, for larger organizations, Google Analytics 360 adds features like:

  • Auto-tracking of marketing channels
  • Machine learning capabilities
  • 12 months of historical data
  • Higher daily hit limits

At a minimum cost of $150K/year it's a significant investment reserved typically for companies managing huge data volumes.

To read more about alternatives, take a look at our articles: Google Analytics vs Adobe Analytics, and Google Analytics vs Mixpanel.

Search Console

Since Google Search Console helps website owners surface content to Google searchers, the tool is freely available without restrictions.

Any site owner can access core reports on Google's crawl, index, and ranking data to improve SEO visibility. So businesses of all sizes can capitalize on these insights.

In summary, both free tools add immense value, with paid options reserved only for advanced use cases or to collect data at a vastly larger scale than most people will need.

Conclusion

Google Search Console and Google Analytics both deliver invaluable intelligence, but cater to different stakeholders with distinct capabilities.

Search Console equips SEOs and webmasters with organic search data straight from Google to optimize technical SEO and content.

Comparatively, Analytics provides digital marketers with robust tools for engagement monitoring, conversion optimization and cross-channel attribution regardless of search engine.

However, integrating the two serves both audiences by layering search context into broader behavior analysis for maximally informed strategies. With the power to extract key insights from each platform, savvy data practitioners can unlock greater website visibility and revenue growth.

For even greater speeds and better insights, marketers can use tools like Akkio to generate reports with AI and find novel insights with the click of a button. Try it for free today and take advantage of the AI revolution. No code required.

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