wbt vs ga

Google Webmaster Tools vs Google AnalyticsIf you’re actively involved in your practice’s marketing you’re probably checking reports with data about your website’s traffic, activity and conversions. Two of the most common, and free, solutions for analyzing a site’s performance are Google’s Webmaster Tools and Analytics.

Both Webmaster Tools and Analytics are valuable in their own unique ways. Webmaster Tools provides crawl information, which helps you identify errors, blocked urls, and verify sitemaps. You can also use Webmaster Tools to suggest HTML improvements, monitor security issues, and adjust how your site appears in the search results.

Google Analytics, on the other hand, tracks traffic to your website. You can break down this traffic by geography, landing page, time on the site, and many more parameters. Best of all, with Analytics you can track conversions.

The Overlap

There is, however, a crossover in the data that both Webmaster Tools and Analytics provide, and that’s with search queries. More specifically, both provide you with the total number of clicks to the site from a given keyword. In Webmaster Tools (WBT for short), just click on ‘Search Queries’ under the ‘Search Traffic’ menu. In Google Analytics (GA for shot), just click on ‘Organic’ under the ‘Keyword’ category in the ‘Acquisition’ section.

not provided

The first glaring omission you’ll see in GA is (not provided) showing up at, or near, the top of your organic keyword results within GA. This (not provided) result is all traffic to the site that cannot be tracked due to Google’s privacy policy regulations. However, looking in WBT, all search queries are visible. This must mean that Webmaster Tools is the better source for tracking organic traffic by keyword, right?

The Dilemma

Taking traffic samples from several different clients I analyzed various different, random time frames ranging from 3 days to 3 months. The point of this was to compare total web clicks in WBT to total search traffic in GA.

The first thing I noticed is that there were keywords noted in GA that didn’t even show up in WBT. This doesn’t make sense because that keyword should have at least as many queries in WBT, if not more, when you factor in not provided traffic.

Secondly, after digging deeper, I noticed keywords that seemed too have way too many clicks in WBT. I noticed this after accounting for the not provided impact on the GA keyword data (and determining the average not provided result).

Lastly, in many of my searches I got results with what appeared to be rounded numbers (no odd numbers). The funny thing is that this didn’t happen every time, making it seem  as though some of the results were more legit than others. Again, no consistency.

The Bottom Line

There’s litte consistency to the WBT results. While the average position information seems somewhat accurate, the total number of clicks and clicks-per-keyword was often incorrect.

There are many great features to use within WBT, but I would not rely on getting accurate click in formation from this source. Stick to GA (and AdWords) to track keyword traffic, for now.

If you have any experience with using either of these tools, as it pertains to the topic, we’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you’ve done more in-depth calculations on the accuracy of WBT.

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