There’s a common misconception that registering with Google Webmaster Tools somehow enables Google more access to information about a site. In fact, just the opposite is true. Google Webmaster Tools provides site owners access to data available from no other source, data every ecommerce site needs to manage its organic search channel.
A critical metric to paid search campaigns, impressions have been painfully absent for organic search programs. Google, however, gives search engine optimization professionals a glimpse into impressions in the “Search Queries” report under “Your Site on the Web.” The “Top Queries” report shows the top search phrases for which Google drove organic search traffic to a site, the number of impressions or times the site was viewed in the search results, and the click through rate for each. Also included are the percentages that each metric changed since the last comparable period. The “Top Pages” report shows the same data from the URL side as opposed to the keyword side.
Yes, visit data is available in Google Analytics or any other web analytics program. But none of them show impressions. Google won’t show the data for all of its impressions, and the numbers are rounded off, but it’s more than SEO professionals can get from any other source.
Real Ranking Data
In the very same Search Queries reports for top queries and top pages, Google also provides average ranking data. This is a fantastic metric to have, with so many ranking tools falling prey to personalization biases. Since all Google searches are personalized by location, prior search history, behavior in other Google products, and whatever other data Google can get a hold of, running ranking reports directly from a browser merely displays the rankings personalized for you. While some enterprise-level ranking tools claim to be unbiased by any form of personalization including IP location, I prefer to get the average Google ranking straight from the source. This ranking data is limited to keywords that have actually converted to click through from Google’s search results, but it’s a pretty safe bet that phrases that didn’t drive enough click throughs to be displayed in the report are not ranking well.
Let’s look at a real life example from the top queries report on my personal blog. The keyword phrase "merge csv files" received 35 visits from 400 impressions. That’s a 9 percent click through rate, which at an average Google ranking position of 3.8 is about what I’d expect.
If I switch tabs to the top pages report, I can see that the post about merging CSV files — /2011/05/23/merging-csv-files-using-the-command-line/ — was viewed in the search results a combined 2,000 times across all the different keyword phrases it ranked for. Further, I can see that on average that page only ranked number 10 in Google and drove a combined 150 visits in that time period.