When a favorite toy is taken away from a child, the child cries. Digital marketers may have imagined their toyless inner child crying when Google revised the keyword data availability in its Google Analytics search reports.  

But since that time Google has worked to make marketers happy again, releasing reporting alternatives in its Webmaster diagnostic tool. Once again marketers can inspect links and search queries relative to a website, and develop an effective search and content marketing strategy. 

What Happened to My Data?

Back in 2011, Google begun to encrypt searches to accommodate Socket Secure Layer, a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client, in its services. The change made purchases more secure. The change also eliminated the reporting of keyword data in Google Analytics when an Internet user is signed into a Google service such as Gmail and Google Docs.

For the marketing analyst, the SSL encryption meant a keyword that drew a visit from, say, a Google Plus user, would not appear in the search reports. Analysts would see a “not provided” term instead, obscuring most of the detailed search data as many internet users conducted searches while logged into a Google account. This diminished the report value for SEO and paid search strategy.   

Meanwhile, the influence of online search has never been higher. Publications like eMarketer report that online search engines are increasingly being trusted among Internet users.

Fast forward to today. The introduced reporting in Google Webmaster Tools provides strategic guidance regarding search traffic. To access the report data, the website of interest is verified through Google Webmaster Tool. This means inserting a small script on the main website page.  


Analysts typically navigate to the status panels in Google Webmaster Tools. To verify a website’s functionality against Google search queries, they can rely on two panels to give key search indicators.

  • Top Search Query — This panel offers the keywords or phrases for which the website appears in a typical query. Metrics include impressions (number of times the site or page was shown), clicks (number of times people clicked to the site through the keyword) and an average position (average of query ranking for the site or page). Analysts can click on each search query result to see which website pages ranked for that keyword or phrase. There is also a top pages - This lists the top pages by impressions, clicks and average position. 
  • Links — This displays which sites have linked the most, and to which pages. Investigating the tops sites can offer clues as to which sites are consistently back linking to the site and can be initial starting point for partnering with online sites as a result. Other reports include an internal links table for understanding which anchor / link texts are used the most.  

Analysts can also view data in the Google Analytics solution by enabling an association of their GA and GWT accounts in the admin of their GA account.

When GWT is linked, this data also appears in Google Analytics under the SEO segment of the Acquisition section, albeit with differing dimension labels.

Things to Remember

To be fair, there are some data “gotchas” to keep in mind. There may be some discrepancies in the numbers and rank of dimensions reported — a keyword ranked as number one in Webmaster Tools may appear as ranked third when viewed in Google Analytics, for example. The difference is due to how metrics are counted, so for decisions consider the rankings as a general indicator and not as an absolute. 

In addition, ensure that the Webmaster Tools panel is set to web only queries for inspecting the data displayed in Google Analytics – Webmaster Tools can account for images, mobile and video traffic as well as web-only searches, which is usually the default setting. 

Google Analytics does provide some additional side-by-side metric comparison features. Analysts can compare a metric against another displayed as a pie chart. This can help rank pages and keywords with increased nuance and spark new ideas – a content emphasis on keywords with high impression volume that drove a significant share of clicks, for example

Data results in Google Webmaster Tools can be exported to a spreadsheet. Moreover, additional tools such as Supermetrics can make deeper analysis a little easier. This solution is an Excel Plugin that retrieves Google Analytics and Webmaster tools into an Excel spreadsheet, perfect for those who are building a dashboard through Excel.

Overall, using Google Webmaster Tools can remove some of the guesswork from researching keywords performance and link strategy in Google. Examining its result panels can lead to new ideas to increase exposure in Google search queries.