Major changes to Google Search Console

As of January 2018 Google are rolling out significant changes to their Search Console, with a new 'Beta' product and interface.

The launch statement from Google states: 

"Search Console is introducing a redesigned product to help you manage your presence on Google Search. The new Search Console was rebuilt from the ground up to provide the tools and insights that site owners and SEOs have been asking for. You can now confirm which of your pages are indexed and get information on how to fix indexing errors. You can also monitor your performance on Google Search with 16 months of data (to enable year over year comparisons)."

Our first look at the new Console confirms this to be a much greater change than just a long overdue improvement to the interface. As previously reported in the trade press, the new version includes many new reporting features, particularly relating to indexing and AMP pages.

But most noticeable on our first viewing are the major changes in the search data available. Generally positive pre-launch publicity focused on the inclusion of up 16 months historical data, something the industry has been calling for for years, however little pre-launch attention was paid to the fundamental difference in how search impression and click data is recorded and reported.

In the old version all impressions and clicks were recorded, regardless as to whether viewed by the user or not, whereas the new version only records impressions and clicks where the search result page was actually viewed by the user.

Although it is perhaps more relevant to know which search terms are actually being seen, the old version was particularly helpful in identifying lower ranked search terms where pages needed attention to improve ranking. It was also a useful measure of general performance, where increased numbers of search terms being returned, and changes in average position in lower ranked positions provided a useful indication of overall progress.

The consequence, although logical in principle, is a radical change in the search statistics now shown in the new Search Console. As an example, compare the old and new results from one client's statistics for an identical period:

  Impressions Clicks CTR Ave Position # Search Terms
Old Version 7,749 543 7.01% 26.6  664
New Version  402 43 10.7%  4.6  20


Also to be noted is that Google's impression and click tracking through the new version is clearly not yet working as it should - in the example given above, the Google / Organic landings recorded in Google Analytics for the period was 546, closely correlating to the data from the old version, and bearing no relation to the data from the new version.

For a while at least, the two versions are available, but as the old version will no doubt disappear over the coming months, we will be transitioning to the new version in our reports from the beginning of January. This will give us a clean 'cut-off' for the calendar year, but it will mean that the organic section of our PPC / traffic reports from 2018 on will not be directly comparable to 2017 and earlier.

Additionally, you can expect to see some very strange landing rates appearing in our reports with the new Search Console under-reporting impressions and clicks. 

With the loss of poorly performing keywords being reported from the Search Console the need for independent position reporting becomes more important to identify and track search performance for relevant keywords, so you might want to check out our SEO and position reporting tools!