Google Search Console anonymizes tons of queries; Updates Help Document by Ahrefs study


A few weeks ago, Patrick Stock from Ahrefs omitted a remarkable report showing that on average about 50% of Search Console queries are hidden ie. classified as anonymized. I contacted Google and gave them a chance to respond to this, and the result led to Google updating their help document on anonymized queries and export/API capabilities.

As an FYI, I covered this in detail on The land of search engines yesterday however, it deserves a mention here and more attention from the SEO industry.

In short, Google updated this help document from saying “Very rare questions (called anonymized queries) are not displayed in these results in order to protect the privacy of the user making the query” to “A few queries (called anonymized queries) are not displayed in these results to protect the privacy of the user making the query.”

Google can’t call 50% and in some cases over 80% of the queries that are hidden behind some sites, “very rare” as I pointed out to them. So Google has updated the help document to more closely reflect what is true. But the truth is, it shouldn’t say “something”, it’s much more than “something”.

Google also added a section on “other query limits” that says “Due to internal limitations, Search Console stores the top rows of data and not all rows of data. As a result, all queries beyond anonymized queries will not be displayed. Instead, the focus is shown to you most important to your entire property.”

These changes went into effect on Friday, I knew about it at the time, but I’ve held back the story until Monday so it’s more visible and SEOs are more aware of it.

The Ahrefs study looked at 146,741 websites and approximately nine billion total clicks and compared total clicks by URL versus clicks by query reported in Google Search Console. It found that Google hid 46.08% of all query data, or as Google calls it, classified it as anonymized queries.

This site shows total clicks at 1,016,076, but only shows query data for 547,382, which is 46.13%. That’s a ton, more than “very rare” and more than “a few”. Here’s a scatterplot from an Ahrefs study showing how often this occurs for these roughly 150,000 sites:

click for full size

You can see how this works on his site because Patrick Stox has done a Data Studio report that will show you. Here is Reportand here’s what you do to replicate it:

  • Click the three dots in the upper-right corner, and then click “Make a copy.”
  • Select the GSC data source for the site of interest from the drop-down menu for “New data source”.
  • If the website is not available, select “Create data source”. Look for “Search Console” and click on it.
  • Click the GSC property you want to use > click “Site Impression” > click “Web”. Then click “Connect” in the upper right corner.
  • Click “Add to Report” in the upper right corner.
  • Click “Copy Report”.

These changes to the help document aren’t a change to any of the new behavior from the reports, just Google admitting that it’s more than just “very rare”. Google’s John Mueller confirmed this on Twitter:

Brodie Clark has a nice look at the before/after help document:

Patrick Stox saw it coming:

And Glenn Gabe on how big it can be for some sites:

This is 2022 data and I doubt it will improve, but you should be aware of it and check the Data Studio report to see how big a problem this is for your sites.

Forum discussion at Twitter.


Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!