A common complaint about Google Search Console (GSC) is that the data is “inaccurate” when compared to Google Analytics results.
You know the situation.
We’ve all done it.
You try to line up traffic to landing pages from analytics with clicks from Google Search Console and the numbers are nowhere near close!
Then you mumble something about “not provided” and send an instant message to a friend about the good old days when you could see keywords in your analytics.
While it is a question of precision, it’s not a question of accuracy per se.
That data disparity is actually by design.
Let’s dig into the details and figure out why that is.
The short explanation is that the two data sources have different measurement methodologies.
GSC is built from query and click, or selection, logs, so the data will be somewhat similar to what you might expect from your own access log files (you know, the files you plead with DevOps to get access to for log file analysis).
Simply put, a Google Search Console click is not a Google Analytics session and a Google Analytics session is not a Google Search Console click.
In the scenario above, wherein a user has clicked twice, that could be considered two clicks and one session.
Alternatively, if a user were to perform the two different searches and make two different clicks, their activity may be considered one impression and one click, but they could also invalidate their session ID or otherwise timeout at some point and be considered two distinct visits in analytics.
Or, consider this:
A user clicks on your result, but your analytics didn’t fire for any number of reasons. That speaks to any of the number of reasons why analytics isn’t always the most reliable source of truth.
Finally, GSC uses canonical URLs whereas analytics can use any URL for reporting a session. Google talks a bit about this in their documentation.
However, their discussion has more to do with explaining the differences within the context of the GSC to GA integration rather than explaining the differences in measurement methodologies