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  • Posted on 20 January 2014

Detailed data (finally) in Google Webmaster Tools search queries

by Simo Ahava

Hiding keyword referral data behind the ominous (not provided) label was old news back in July–August 2013. Still, when the relative proportion of obscured keywords jumped over the 80% mark almost overnight, shock waves reverberated across the digital marketing community.

The suddenness of the change, and the ensuing silence on Google’s behalf, made one thing clear: it’s time to start looking for alternate ways of validating content and analyzing incoming search traffic.

Google Webmaster Tools has been around for a long time, providing us with search query data from a selected time period (up to 90 days in the past). Sure, it’s not as useful as keyword referral data, since we only see how our site and our landing pages fare on the SERP (search engine results page), and thus we can’t align the data with actual visit metrics. However, we do get information on the number of impressions and clicks our keywords provide for our pages in the SERP. We also get an indication of what the average position our site’s content has with relevant keywords.


Until very recently (31 Dec 2013) this data was, for some obscure reason, rounded to predetermined tableaus which Google called ‘buckets’. Well, now we can finally see the actual numbers and not just sampled estimates. Concrete, raw-as-it-can-get data is something that people working with statistics prize over all else, so this was a wonderful cap to a turbulent year in the Googleverse.

There are still some reservations as to the accuracy of Webmaster Tools data, but as an indication of what queries drive traffic to your website, it’s as good a SERP tool as any other.

Here’s the official word on the update: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.fi/2014/01/search-queries-not-rounded.html

Google Purges Authorship Results

by Gary Moyle

December also saw a pretty big drop in the number of authorship style results (search results with the author picture next to them). Matt Cutts, confirmed with Barry Schwartz from SearchEngineLand that Google had applied a 15% reduction in the amount of rich snippets displayed in their search results.

This was also something picked up by the MozCast features tool which also noticed a drop in authorship (see screenshot below) and resulted in general disgruntlement amongst webmasters as their authorship photos disappeared.


This move came as little surprise given that Cutts had previously announced this intention back in October 2013 at Pubcon. Given the sheer number of authorship results in its index it seems that Google was probably indexing and displaying authorship purely on the appropriate markup being in place. With little regard given to individual authority it was always likely that this was going to be exploited by publishers.

In fact this is still the case for some search queries. If we look at the query ‘10 copywriting tips’ below we can clearly see there are no shortage of authorship results since Google took action.


 As we move into 2014 it’s more likely that Google will take into account other signals such as domain authority and social mentions before showing an author photo. Ultimately it’s very early days for G+ and Google is only just beginning to understand how to measure authorship so expect a lot more tweaks in the near future.


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