How accurate is Google Search Console ranking data?

How accurate is Google Search Console ranking data? Mars664

How accurate is Google Search Console ranking data?

Is GSC ranking data accurate? If you ask most SEOs these days, they will tell you that this data is far from it. However, Google employees have said that the data should be quite accurate.

As such, we set out to do a small-scale test to determine if this was true.



We believe that for most keywords, the ranking data displayed in Google Search Console is reasonably accurate (that is, within one ranking position) for most queries.


We took ten sites for which we have access at GSC. All sites were based in the US with a primarily American audience.

For each site we look at ranking data from the performance (beta) section of GSC. We configure the following filters:

  • Just looking at one date (July 13, 2018). We found that if we looked at the last 7 days, there was a lot more variation as many keywords would change rankings at this time.
  • Limit results to searches in the US.
  • Just looking at the desktop rankings.

We reviewed the first 10 keywords listed for each site and excluded brand and URL terms.

For each keyword we listed the reported position of GSC on July 13, 2018 and compared it to the actual ranking we saw. The actual rankings were done in an incognito search using US-based



We were surprised by the results. In most cases, unfortunately GSC wasn't terribly accurate when it came to reporting ranking positions. We found that some keyword rankings were way off. In many cases, we feel this could be due to location differences. For example, our client may have a 2 page ranking in most of the country for a phrase, but have high rankings in a handful of cities for those terms. We're thinking this will ruin the average ranking for those keywords.

Here are some charts showing GSC's rankings (in blue) compared to what we found in a non-personalized, incognito search in the United States, for several of our clients. For each of these, if the two lines are very similar, it means that the GSC and real-life rankings are quite close. Where there are large differences between the blue line and the red line, this means that the GSC ranking was significantly different from what we were seeing.


Nationally recognized e-commerce site

  • 80% of keywords are within a ranking position as reported in GSC
  • 100% of keywords fall within two ranking positions as reported in GSC

Great informative site

  • 50% of keywords are within a ranking position
  • 50% are within the 2 positions.
  • 50% are within the 3 positions.

This site had many inaccuracies. One of these keywords was ranking extremely well when we actually saw it ranking on page 3. What we don't know, however, is whether this was because that particular keyword had recently fallen in ranking, or perhaps Google was temporarily testing a high-ranking position, and the ranking we were seeing in GSC was only temporary.

If we take out that keyword, we get the following. You can see that a keyword ranked around #2. No. 6 in GSC, but no. #5 in real life. On the other hand, GSC reports #2 when in our non-personalized incognito searches we saw it at #XNUMX. Tip #XNUMX:


Great medical information site

  • 70% of keywords are within a ranking position.
  • 90% are within the 2 positions.
  • 100% are within the 3 positions..

The statistics are much more accurate for this site. Still, many keywords ranked in one or two different positions than what is in GSC:

Great medical information site

This site had relatively accurate reporting for keyword rankings in GSC

  • 70% of keywords were within a ranking position.
  • 100% were within the 2 positions.



Large generic site

This site was difficult to analyze because many of its terms had a local purpose. Therefore, they might rank really well for a search for “green widgets” in New York, but poorly in Los Angeles. If you have a lot of variation in ranking by location, even organically, we think this may mean GSC is less accurate.

  • 40% of the keywords were in one position.
  • 40% of the keywords were within the 2 positions.
  • 80% within the 3 positions.

Large directory type site

  • 80% within position one.
  • 100% within the 2 positions.

Nationally recognized e-commerce site

  • 60% within position one.
  • 70% within the 2 positions.
  • 100% within the 3 positions.

Lawyer's website

This was a difficult site to analyze as many of the terms here have a local purpose. GSC is reporting them as the #1 position for “injury attorney [city].” But, our search that was generalized to the entire US had them at #6 organic. These results are difficult to interpret:

  • 40% within position one.
  • 50% within the 2 positions.
  • 60% within the 3 positions.

National eCommerce brand

  • 80% within position one.
  • 90% within the 2 positions.
  • 90% within the 3 positions.

For the most part, the rankings were relatively accurate in GSC for this site.

Conclusions and discussion

We were hoping to see less disparity between what GSC reports as rankings and what is happening in real life. However, there are some limitations to this study:

Local intent keywords will not always be accurately represented in GSC.

Some keywords we covered may have had extensive ranking changes. It's not uncommon for Google to test a ranking at a high position for a day and then return it to a much lower ranking.

We only covered a small number of sites in this test. Ideally, we'd love to do this on a much larger scale.

Our conclusions after looking at this data is that, for some sites, GSC ranking data is reasonably accurate, but it will never be perfect.

For sites with different ratings in different cities, GSC data will often be far apart.

We still feel that the ranking data in GSC can be useful. However, it is important to note that this data will never be 100% accurate.