Google recently announced on their Webmaster Central blog that from April 10th, they will be changing how website traffic on canonical URLs is shown within Search Console.
Google will soon assign search metrics to the Google-selected canonical URL, rather than the URL referred to by Google Search. They began pre-populating this data from January 2018, with users having the option to continue using the old version until the full update rolls live on April 10th.
This is something we began seeing across our clients’ Search Console dashboards as of February 7th:
What does this mean for my data?
A number of changes will be seen within Google Search Console accounts, including:
- Individual URL traffic will shift from non-canonical URLs to the canonical URL.
- At property level, you will see data from your alternate property (eg. your mobile site) shifted to the “canonical property”.
- You will still be able to filter by device, search appearance including AMP, country and other dimensions without losing important information about your traffic.
- In most cases, AMP traffic will drop to zero, as these URLs will be canonicalised to the non-AMP versions of a page.
- If you are unsure on the canonical URL Google has picked, you can check within the URL inspection tool.
This change will also affect the Search Console API, with data also changing to canonical data for API and Data Studio users on April 10th.
What will the change look like?
Google provided some before and after examples, showing how data might change on your site post-update:
The above picture shows exactly how the auto-consolidation of search metrics will work. The statistics for the alternate property (in this case the mobile version of a site) are consolidated into the canonical (the desktop version) – which seems very straightforward and simple to use.
Benefits of the auto-consolidation:
- Easier to use… Data will be displayed more clearly, removing the need to look across different properties for the full search metrics of a website, page of content etc. For example, AMP and non-AMP traffic will be combined for an article, which will save time when conducting content performance analysis.
What are the downsides?
- Duplicate content not separated out… Duplicate content across multiple URLs can’t be physically seen within Google Search Console with this update. Where duplicate or similar content may currently exist, this update will consolidate any traffic to the canonical version, which may make any potential duplicate content issues more difficult to spot.
- Google My Business Tracking… Those using UTM tags to track Google My Business traffic within Search Console will no longer be able to access this data. If UTM tracking URLs are implemented correctly, tracking URLs will canonicalise to the non-tracking (master) version of the URL. This means that any potential data insights from the UTM tracking URLs will be consolidated into the canonical version of the page.
Whilst the traffic statistics will still be available within Google Analytics, users will no longer be able to see which keywords are driving this Google My Business traffic via Search Console. This was a cause of some unhappy debate on Twitter from those within the industry over the last week:
These changes will have an impact on how data is tracked within Search Console. Understanding this change is vital to ensure you can still identify important search metrics, and are able to communicate the new data to your clients, or internally within your business.
Whilst this change will look to consolidate data to the canonical URLs (affecting AMP and mobile properties), SEOs will still be able to break down their traffic by search appearance and device type, meaning AMP URLs and mobile traffic is still very much trackable.
If I had a suggestion, I believe it would be useful if Google could include the option to break down these canonical URLs further, to show all of the search data from consolidated URLs. This could be done in the same way that you are able to drill down a URL into query, device type or country view metrics.
Hopefully, Google takes on-board the feedback received from the community (eg. tracking codes) between now and the update rolling live, and create workarounds for the highlighted issues. If they can ensure that all current features are available to users post-update, I think this will be a positive change overall, which will help to speed up content analysis and generally make property data much easier to use.