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We have Google Search Console integrated into Google Analytics, for monitoring our site traffic. I'm seeing a discrepancy in what I thought was similar data relating to organic search.

If I go to Acquisition / Channels / Organic Search I see that there were 12k sessions from 9k new users for a given time period, and an associated list of 29 keywords - nearly all (99% the sessions are attributed to the '(not provided)' keyword.

If I look in Acquisition / Search Console / Queries it reports 8k clicks, attributed to many more (250-ish) search queries, with a smaller proportion (2.4k) associated with '(other)' than with '(not provided)' in the previous example.

Does anyone know what the difference is here, in the sizes of the lists of keywords/search terms? I thought that the organic search keywords were approximately the same as SC's search queries.

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I don't know why your numbers are so varied, but I do know that Google no longer provides the search query keywords when the user uses Google's search engine. This is apparently due to Google using HTTPS for search.

When you see search terms, you are seeing are those passed from other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing. As a result, I'm not sure there's a correlation anymore between SC and GA. With 99% of your sessions attributed to "Not provided", I'm guessing those are Google and the remaining 1% are search engines other than Google.

  • Thanks for responding. Yes, GA shows very few search terms now as it excludes any searches conducted over SSL, which is pretty much all of them. I guess I'd like to know where the difference between the small number of keywords available in GA and the larger number in SC arises. And if it's possible to reconcile, or at least explain, the difference in clicks and sessions - maybe I should assume the 8k users in SC is about the same as the 9k new users in GA, I just don't know though. – toby1kenobi Feb 19 at 9:34
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There is a long history to this. At this point you should ignore the "Acquisition / Channels / Organic Search" report. It isn't useful anymore.

So why do they even have a report that isn't useful? Google analytics should just remove it now, but several years ago it was a great report with good data. It used to be that when a user clicked from the search engine to your site, your site would get a referrer URL that included the search term:

http://google.com/search?q=searched+for+these+words

Google Analytics and other web stats would parse these words out and tell you which searches to your website were most popular.

Then Google realized this wasn't great for them:

  • Users expected more privacy. They didn't expect sites to know what they searched for to get to them.
  • ISPs were aggregating and selling data about what their users were searching for by mining non-encrypted HTTP traffic for Google search URLs
  • Because webmasters had lots of insight into the keywords, some sites were building pages just to target keywords but not be all that helpful to users

Google started using technical tricks to hide this information from the referrer. Through redirects, HTTPS, and no-referrer tagging, Google now sends a referrer that removes the search term from the URL:

http://google.com/search

Google Analyitics shows keywords for such URLs in the report as "Not Provided." Now Google isn't providing any keywords in the referrer and that report is almost all not provided keywords. Totally useless and should just be removed.

For webmasters, Google does make some keyword data available through Google Search Console. That data can be linked to Google Analytics, as you appear to have already done. That data is in the "Acquisition / Search Console / Queries" report. That data is not based on referrers, rather it comes directly from Google. It is based on clicks that Google tracks on the search results itself. So the differences to the other report are:

  • The data is Google only. The other report will have data mixed from other search engines such as Bing and Duck Duck Go.
  • The data is aggregate only. When data was in referrers, it was possible to tie search terms to particular users.
  • The data includes "impressions" which is the number of times your site appeared in the search results for that term, even when users didn't click on it. That impression data is not available through the report based on referrers.
  • The data has the long tail removed. Google no longer allows webmasters to see queries that don't have at least several searches per month.

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