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Third Party Search Data; not all is as it seems

Posted by on in General SEO
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These days we see a lot of folks in the SEO industry trying to analyze websites after penalties or as part of a competitor analysis process. Which is cool. The problem lies in the fact that these tools are actually reporting on what they call “visibility” not actual traffic.

Let's consider one of the more cited resources, SearchMetrics. They're visibility metrics are certainly much different than actual search referrer traffic. I would know, I wrote an article for them about it.

Don't jump to conclusions.

Does SEM Rush and SearchMetrics data tell the story?

The reason this came to mind is that one of the members and I were talking about a site I am working on at the moment. He pulled up some of this kinda data and surmised that things weren't going so well. To which I answered, “Oh, so you have access to their analytics too?”... (of course, he didn't).

Here's what SEM Rush showed for the site in question;


And here's what SearchMetrics had;


Wow... these guys must be getting stomped right? That's some crazy looking graphs fer sure. Funny thing with that though. I have access to the data that matters. The analytics. So let's take a peek.

This is all search traffic;


And this one is for the Google referrer data


Duh. Sure, there is some decline... but it's actually a seasonal market. When spring hits and the weather gets better, people don't use it as much. This is steady in YOY data as well. But that's not really the point I am trying to make.

There's a better tool out there

It's the one between yer bloody ears. It's great to have these tools for insight. I use them from time to time myself (heck, they're both Dojo sponsors in fact). But never trust anything. If anything this further highlights the risks in doing so-called “deep dives” of penalty analysis like SOME people seem to do in this industry. You know who you are.

Those of us that do a lot of forensic SEO work know that it is completely irresponsible to start making assumptions about any site, without having all the relative information required to do so. At least without some form of qualifier for the reader. If you're using these kinds of tools for client work, again.. please read my article on SearchMetrics, to understand the differences.

As you were....

Hi my name is Dave and I, am an algo-holic

I am an avid search geek that spends most of his time reading about and playing with search engines. My main passion has always been about the technical side of things from a strong perspective rooted in IR and related technologies.

Also hook up via


  • bill bean
    bill bean Friday, 06 June 2014

    Must, must, must use multiple tools to triangulate on problems, not the least of which is your brain, as you said. Quick analysis, quick conclusions, quick solutions, etc... are what create the giant messes we so often see. Skepticism and cynicism seem to serve me well now.

    BTW, with regards to tools & data, seems parsing server logs could be useful as well. Would it?

  • Guest
    Frank Watson Friday, 06 June 2014

    never let your tools do the thinking - imagine what a chainsaw would do

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