This month has been a busy one for Google. With changes to AdWords, new Google+ features, and of course, “mobilegeddon”, Google has been keeping digital marketers everywhere on their toes with new updates. Yet another update from the almighty Google this month was the removal of the old “Queries” report from Webmaster Tools and the introduction of the new “Search Analytics” report. Here’s what you need to know:

Why the change?

The Queries report used to focus on broad match search phrases, along with their average impressions, click through rate, and position in search. While it was a handy tool for a variety of reasons, some marketers, like those on emagine’s Digital Marketing team, didn’t fully trust the validity of the data provided. In order to provide users with more accurate data, Google has replaced the Queries report and stated that the new Search Analytics report will provide more precise data along with a variety of options to filter the data. Google announced that the updated report has taken users’ feedback into consideration in order to supply more in-depth information that was lacking in the Queries report. For example, this report now allows users to easily compare traffic metrics in different countries, date ranges, landing pages, etc.

How accurate is it?

Since this report is brand new, we haven’t had much time to test the data or dive too deeply into the new options yet. However, at first glance I’m not very impressed. Other than the new options to filter the data by mobile, location, and landing page, the data itself hasn’t changed much. The main data in the report: impressions, click through rate, and position of each query look to be the same. And, unless these metrics have been re-formulated to provide more accurate results, I’m not sure how much of an improvement this new report is from the old one.

Marketers would love to know how many clicks to their site a certain keyword is responsible for. Since that is no longer a possibility, this can an adequate next best thing, but needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Like every report, it’s important to understand the metrics and what they are really telling you. In this case, the Search Analytics report is telling us a lot of rounded numbers and averages.

Impressions: An “impression” is counted any time the site shows up in search results for each query. It’s important to understand that these aren’t exact keywords (since that data is no longer provided to us), just a rounded estimate of each broad match term. Also, the user may or may not have even scrolled past your result in the SERPs, but it would still be counted as an impression.

Clicks: In this new report, you can filter to look at the pages on your site with the top number of “clicks” from Google. Theoretically, shouldn’t the clicks from Google to a particular page of a site be the same as the number of entrances to that page from Google? In comparing the landing page data from Analytics to this click data in Webmaster Tools, the click data was showing significantly less “clicks” than the entrances from Google in Analytics.

Position: The position, or rank, included in this report is an average over time of the position of your topmost result for a particular query. Since it is an average, and again based on broad match queries, it is far less accurate when it comes to tracking exact ranking changes and progress compared to other tools.

How should you use it?

For marketers who do not use a paid tool, such as Moz, to track rankings then this report would help provide insight into what types of terms the site is ranking for. However, for those who already have an accurate tool for rankings, I suggest using the Search Analytics report for the following purposes:

  • Verify that the terms showing up as top queries are similar to the keywords you are optimizing for
  • Check for new terms that could be potentially added into the keyword strategy
  • Search for long tail terms that could be used in blogs and other new content on-site

We’ll be trying out and testing this new tool more in depth over the next few months, and will keep you updated on our findings and opinions. Does your B2B utilize this data as part of your SEO reporting? We’d love to hear your opinion on the changes!