Google Search Console and Google Analytics 4 are both free tools that measure the performance of your website. GSC shows you how your website is doing in Google. GA4, on the other hand, contains data about how visitors behave on your website. Similarities and differences. Let the apple orange comparison begin…
This article will give you a thorough understanding of how Google Search Console and Analytics 4 differ. And complement each other.
What’s the difference between Google Search Console and Google Analytics 4?
Google Search Console helps you understand how your website is doing in Google search. Its built-in functionalities can help you improve the visibility of your website in the biggest search engine. Google Analytics 4 contains data about how visitors behave on your website.
The graphic below shows you a simplified explanation of what GSC and GA4 track.
When I bake an apple cake, I don’t need to know how to grow the most tasty apples. That’s the farmer’s job.
The same goes for digital marketing. Different digital departments need different data.
When you launch a paid campaign, you don’t want to waste your time on analyzing the average CTR (click through rate) of your website images in Google Images Search.
Did you even know you can look up how many times the images of your website appeared in Google? And how many times people clicked on it?
If not, it’s about time you discover Google Search Console.
What is Google Search Console (GSC)?
Google Search Console is a free Google tool that allows you to track and improve the visibility of your website in Google search. It contains reports with errors on your website that may harm your Google ranking. It was originally developed for webmasters, but has grown into a basic but important tool for SEOs.
Those are people who fill their days (and sometimes nights) with optimizing websites for search engines.
In contrast to GA4, GSC is equipped with features and data to make that task easier. We will get to this soon.
The other group of GSC users are webmasters. When you create a Google Search Console account, you will receive a welcome mail:
Are you not doing any SEO or webmaster related tasks? Even then, this tool can be useful for you.
Is Google Search Console only for SEOs and webmasters?
GSC is so powerful that you should add it to your analytics data stack if you are
- a website or ecommerce site owner – (no questions asked)
- a digital marketer outside the SEO field – (you can ignore the nerdy stuff)
- a web designer or developer who cares about results – (better websites, happier clients)
- a data analyst – (more data, more fun)
As with GA4, you can share your search console account with others. Only make sure you restrict the permission of users.
Change permissions in GSC in Settings > Users and Permissions > 3 bullets
PRO TIP: Users with the Owner role can request the removal of (parts of) a website from Google search. That’s the last thing you want to happen.
Let’s see what else you can do.
What can you do in Google Search Console (and not in GA4)?
Google Search Console is more than an analytics tool. It allows you to easily inform Google about how you would like your website to appear in search.
Keywords here are “inform” and “would like”.
The search console is not a magic tool to reach position 1 with a few clicks.
Submit a sitemap.xml
A sitemap.xml file can help search engines detect your web pages faster and easier.
On our website, for instance, you can read over 270 in-depth articles about everything from data streams in Google Analytics 4 to how to become a Google Tag manager expert and everything in between. That's a lot of content to sort through and a sitemap can help search engines do it.
To submit your sitemap in Google Search Console, go to the menu on the left. Under Index, click on Sitemaps.
Here you fill in the last part of the URL of your sitemap and then you hit the blue Submit button.
And then you wait.
It can take a couple of days before Google processes your sitemap.xml. When all goes well, you will see an apple green success notification.
PRO TIP 1: submitting a sitemap successfully in the search console does not mean that Google will show your web pages in the search results.
PRO TIP 2: If Google doesn’t detect or process your sitemap, try with an extra backslash (//sitemap.xml). This will hopefully save you from the horrible headache that once chased me for 5 days.
Content showing up in Google is a small victory, unless you don’t want it to appear.
How to hide and remove content from your website in Google?
Sometimes Google shows content you don’t want to appear in the search results. If that’s the case for your website, you can request to remove it directly in Google Search Console.
To do so, click on Removals, under Index in the menu on the left.
Then choose the reason you want to remove your content.
Request Google to remove content
- Temporarily removals: be careful because this URL will not show up for 6 months in search results.
- Outdated content: removing old content frees up more resources from Google to crawl your content.
- Safesearch filtering: e.g. content that’s not suitable for certain ages.
Be aware that requesting is not demanding. In that respect, Google behaves the same as a toddler.
Now you know how you can use the search console to let Google know what to (not) show.
Let’s see what data GSC reveals to you.
Which data can you see in Google Search Console (and not in GA4)?
There is a bit of a data overlap between GA4 and GSC.
For instance, both tools show you what kind of devices your website visitors were using.
This looks different and more detailed in GA4.
On top of this, there are discrepancies in GA4 and GSC. This stems from the way both tools collect data. Keep this in mind at all times when you look for answers to the following questions.
How is your website performing in Google search?
Performance is measured with different metrics, and it is relative. A web page can
- appear in search, but it can be on position 90 (and never get a click)
- be on position 1, but receive no clicks (too many ads above it)
- rank in Google for a keyword you didn’t aim for (embarrassing)
- be visited after clicks from news, videos and image searches (a nice bonus)
That said, Google Search Console shows you how many times a page from your website appeared in Google, along with how many clicks it received.
In Google Search Console, you can use these 4 different search types as a filter in the Performance report.
This differs from Google Analytics 4 Acquisition report, which shows you how many people visited your website after a Google search.
Clicks. Visits. Nice.
The following feature is even more powerful.
For which queries is your website displayed in Google?
Google Analytics 4 doesn’t give you any information about the keywords your website ranks for.
In Google Search Console, you can look them up for your pages, images, videos and news that rank for in Google.
To find your ranking keywords, open the Performance report in the menu on the left.
Scroll down the page to see all the queries. With the arrow, you can sort the result from most clicks in Google to your website to the lowest clicks.
Click on a query in the list to get a detailed report for a keyword’s performance.
You can use filters to look up specific details, such as
- Search type
- Search appearance
You can, for instance, compare two different periods.
This is handy to see whether a specific keyword performed better, the same or worse in certain periods.
Try it out. It’s fun. And useful.
Which errors can you see in GSC (and not in GA4)?
In your search console account, you can easily detect which technical and design errors on your website can have a negative impact on your Google ranking.
PRO TIP: Keep an eye on emails from Google Search Console. They notify you about errors.
Experience reports in Google Search Console
You have access to 3 different reports about the user experience of your website.
This gives you an excellent overview of whether your pages are optimized for desktop and mobile devices.
Core web vitals
This report contains answers to the following questions:
- Are your web pages loading fast enough?
- Are there any layout shifts that disturb visitors, such as ads and pop-ups?
- How long does it take before visitors see the full content above the fold?
Big fingers, poor eyesight and a small screen are a terrible combination. This report gives clear clues on which web design elements need to be improved.
- Text too small to read
- Content wider than screen
- Clickable elements too close together
- Viewport not set
Click on an issue to see more details.
You can click on the Export button and share this data with your developer or designer. This way, you don’t need to give them access to your GSC account.
Is your website manually punished and safe?
The biggest search engine is not fully automated. A team of human moderators evaluates websites manually. If they find out that you are doing all kinds of forbidden trickery, your website can be removed from Google search.
The same can happen when your website is injected with malware or hacked.
This feature alone is worth having a Google Search Console account. It buys you peace of mind. For free.
Which (back)links point to your web pages?
Google search console shows you two types of links: internal and external. You can access both in the menu on the left.
Internal links are links on your own website from one web page to another page.
External links are hyperlinks on other websites to your website. The more links from quality websites, the merrier. Of course, it’s more complicated than this and the search console shows you fewer backlinks than any decent SEO tool will.
This is in an orange shell what Google Search Console can mean for you. Let’s look at the apple of our comparison now.
What is Google Analytics 4?
Google Analytics 4 is the successor of Universal Google Analytics. The new GA version is not a simple upgrade, but a completely new way to represent visitor behavior on websites and apps. GA4 contains new reports and offers more flexibility than ever before.
If you’re not familiar with GA4, explore our resources to get you quickly up and running including the video below that explains what's new in the backend of GA4 (it's also based on our Periodic Table of Google Analytics 4 if you're interested in learning just about everything there is to know about GA4):
Conclusion – Which tool is best for you: Google Analytics 4 or Google Search Console?
Comparing Google Search Console and Google Analytics 4 is like comparing apples and oranges.
Both free Google tools give you insights about different aspects of your website. But they both contain important pieces of information to get a better overall understanding of the digital journey your visitors made, starting in Google search and ending on your website.
Google Analytics 4 is ideal if you are only interested in what your website visitors do.
If you want to better understand how your website is ranking in Google, you will be better served with Google Search Console.
There is an overlap of data in GSC and GA4. Since the tracking technology differs, the metrics can too.
Finally, you can load a part of Google Search Console data into Google Analytics.
To do so, follow the step-by-step guide on how to connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics 4.
Thank you for reading. You deserved some fresh orange juice, or a delicious apple pie. Enjoy!