Content strategist is only using Google Search Console
I feel like I'm going crazy here.
I work in-house as the only SEO person on the team, and pretty much the only one with advanced SEO knowledge in all of our internal marketing team.
The content team just hired a content strategist (who apparently owns on-page SEO but no one actually told me that? But that's a whole other issue) And they only use Google Search Console for metrics. Like, for queries and clicks. They say it's their source of truth since they're trying to focus on where content ranks on Google.
And I'm like, Google Search Console (GSC) is only a limited part of the story, other tools (which we have) give better insights and data. And they are like, I prefer GSC.
Am I crazy for thinking this is strange and not a good way to go about things? We're going to be going through some site redesign stuff in the near future and is evaluating content…but again, they are only using GSC for auditing currently.
I'm trying to intervene and get ahead of this because they're talking about pruning content snd sunsetting and such, and I'm like, we need to look at this for the full picture. And that's where we're at currently.
I'm just looking for some validation here, or maybe another perspective to help me understand this.
You're not wrong.
I appreciate this.
if Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the only thing driving traffic to the site, that's a huge issue.
Google Search Console (GSC) also has notable and weird blind spots. It's not a bad data source, but it is ONE data source.
For a full content audit, I like to feed the site to Screaming Frog, and use the Application Programming Interface (API) to pull in Google Analytics (GA) data and GSC data, then also look at link data in Majestic or Ahrefs , because even if a page isn't the banger for traffic if it bangs for links…
SEO is about 25% of the traffic to our site, mainly branded because our content team knows little about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I'm trying to grow it, but it's a lot of foundation building I'm doing currently as I'm the only SEO person, and now the content strategist thing is a wrinkle because of unclear job duties.
Funny you mention SF and Google Search Console (GSC), that's what I'm putting together right now (with Ahrefs ) to run. We use Adobe so can't integrate that, but at least SF will pull all pages on the site.
GSC is just… it's one-dimensional.
If you're using Adobe, I'd put money on the CS only using GSC because he/she does not know AA and doesn't want to learn.
… it's a big "depends" from me …
OP, if they're using Google Search Console (GSC) as the sole rank tracker then it can get insanely messy… (I've done an insane amount of work with GSC data / built machine learning tools that clean the data up and it is hard).
• GSC will show you URLs driving clicks / impressions but will not distinguish between URLs that appear as:
• Sitelinks (both nested and inline / small blue links)
• Knowledge Graph links (e.g. the "website" link, "booking" link etc.)
• Primary links (e.g. normal links)
Means for some queries you can see like 10 URLs generating impressions and an average ranking that makes no sense.
If you're using GSC as a way to find cannibal URLs then you're gonna need to be really clever (as in "machine learning" clever) to work out what URLs are cannibals and which are actually harmless / good sitelinks.
If you haven't got tracking IDs on your Google My Business links then that adds another level of difficulty because it's even harder to differentiate them in GSC.
2) GSC rankings are on a country-level… if your business is in any-way localised (e.g. you have service areas) then the ranking you see in there is going to be messy: e.g. GSC shows you #20 for a keyword… but you're actually #1 in your target region.
3) If you're not grabbing the data via the Application Programming Interface (API) then the data you're seeing isn't the full picture. If you are grabbing the data via API then you need to make sure you know the difference between site-level and page-level reports because the data is aggregated differently.
Site-level rankings will aggregate where you rank with sitelinks, knowledge graph, primary links etc. into a single number and average it for the whole country.
Basically, for what your team-mate is doing they need to be pulling data on a page-level, via the API, at a minimum.
4) Google might have shown your site once, to a specific user, in position 2 for a big keyword… then never shown you again. GSC would show your average position as #2, even though you're actually not in the top 100.
5) Used correctly, and assuming your website is already fairly well optimised, GSC is one of the best keyword-discovery tools there is. In the last 16 months you would have driven at least 1 impression, globally, for every possible keyword you could ever want to rank for. Most under-used content planning tool, imo.
6) GSC is great for auditing but needs to be done alongside traditional ranking reports in key regions you operate in (for all of the reasons above).
Sorry, rambled here… GSC is good, but you can't follow it blindly and you have to really understand where it falls down / when the numbers you see don't tell the whole story.
Given that OP says they use Adobe for analytics, I'd add in a dash of wondering if the CS doesn't know Adobe and doesn't want to admit it.
This is a great post, thank you!
I think you summed up some concerns I didn't know I had- I don't know the level of expertise they have with GSC to get to this level of clean.
GSC is great, I used to look at keywords with high impressions and low clicks to determine we weren't ranking high enough for a valuable keyword.
Then I bought Ahrefs to get more competitive data. Though I found that the GSC method led to way better results because it was data from Google versus theoretical data.
I think it depends a lot on the situation and the directives given to the content strategist. If it is a local business, GSC is less valuable than it is for a national or international business, imo.
I use analytics for tracking conversions and figuring out which pages convert and which ones do not. Outside of that though, I live inside of GSC.
If as a content strategist, the scope she has been given is purely organic traffic, it makes a lot of sense to rely heavily on GSC. On the other hand, if it also includes other marketing channels, then some sort of analytics should play a role also. When it comes to actually pruning content, you need to be aware if that content plays any role in the customer journey outside of people landing on the page from a Google search.
I think the directive is overall content strategy, with a focus on improving organic traffic. But like 90% of our organic traffic is branded currently, and we're missing a lot of "basic" content compared to competitors.
So I feel in our situation, GSC only gets us so far when other tools will help hone in on the new content opportunities.
But it also goes back to "I only use GSC" and is using that as the only platform to audit content. It just comes off as very short sighted to me.
Don't create a wedge between yourself and a co-worker you will be expected to work closely with. You are their peer and unless you can form some very healthy collaboration, they are going to shut out your opinion if you push them.
IMO your best bet is to set up some time with your boss or manager and make a case for the range of information that SEO software provides. They may be able to enforce training. A standardized certification can be quite useful. Some are free through platforms such as SEMrush. At a minimum, you can make a case for why certain software should not be sunset.
Beyond that, if your roles are split up in a fair and logical way, why not just do the surrounding analysis yourself? If you are sharing powerful reports with the strategist, they are probably going to want to have access to that information themselves. They may not realize the entire scope of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (this is extremely common).
Ultimately, you are their peer and not their boss. You either need to be very careful and humble in your communication or you should lean on your mutual superior.
Using Google search console as a source of truth does not mean they are not using other tools.
When they tell you that they only use Search Console for all metrics, and that they use it for everything, including finding keyword rankings on Google, that means they only use Search Console.
I don't think your Content strategist has worked on many sites. Google Search Console (GSC) will give you info on the site you own but NOT competitors or customer persona.
Unless the site is very old with thousands of pages, your Content strategist just cannot get enough info from GSC.
You don't need expensive tools to do good SEO. GSC and analytics is all you really need to audit content. I might use URL Profiler to get backlink and social share data, but if GSC and analytics was all I had I would be able to conduct a decent audit.
Actually there's a particularly valid point in that Google Search Console (GSC) is your book of truth. Its far more accurate than a Search Engine Result Page (SERP) tool because SERP tools track specific keyword phrases (which is the only way to sanely measure how you're doing for a root term/phrase). Its also critical for telling you how content you've produced is ranking and what you need to do or optimize internally in order to improve it.
Most companies have a set of keywords to rank for – and GSC is the best place to tell you:
• What content ranks highest for that phrase
• What content supports that phrase
• What long tail phrases match content
But most importantly, GSC will tell you what your highest impression content is – that isn't on page 1 – no other tool will tell you with that much breadth. If you are getting 5k impressions on page 5 for a phrase you hadn't considered, then moving that phrase to page 1 will earn a ton of traffic. Even Google Ads planner (which is what SEMrush et al run off) won't tell you – because it doesn't store data for phrases that people don't buy and its not very current.
Tools that tell you what you should be ranking for – or trying to rank in the current zeitgeist/popular terms are fool's gold imho.
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