Today’s Ask An SEO question comes from Kayle from Cape Town, who asks:
Google shows 314 of my web sites pages are indexed, but Ahrefs only shows 260 internal pages and Semrush only shows 220. What does this mean? How can I accurately cross-check whether all my pages are indexed?
Whoever said “numbers don’t lie” never worked with a modern-day analytics program – or, any program that tries to emulate what Google is doing. Those programs lie all the time.
But the lies aren’t nefarious.
None of the tools we use are trying to trick us into thinking we have different results than we do.
Understanding how a tool works, what it is measuring, and how to best read those measurements is an essential skill for any digital marketer.
So, how do you understand the differences between disparate results in various tools?
Look At The Tool’s Source
The first step in understanding how to understand results from multiple tools is to understand the tool you are using.
Where does that tool pull its data?
How does it pull data?
Is the data going to be accurate or more of a trend gauge?
For instance, new SEO pros are frequently shocked by the disparities when looking at Semrush’s traffic estimates vs. numbers in Google Analytics.
But if you understand how each tool gets its data, its proper use becomes self-apparent.
Semrush’s traffic analysis is based on the number of keywords a site ranks for and an estimate of how much traffic each keyword will bring.
This is wildly inaccurate when looking to compare absolute data for websites.
If you are looking for traffic trends over time, Semrush is one of the best tools out there for competitive analysis.
But I would never use it to measure the traffic on a site where we have access to Google Analytics, because Google Analytics measures the actual visitors to a site.
Semrush estimates traffic; Google Analytics measures traffic.
Ahrefs Vs. Semrush Vs. Google Search Console
Let’s get to the question at hand.
If I am trying to understand the number of indexed pages for a site I control, I’m only going to rely on data from Google Search Console. Why?
Google Search Console (GSC) is the only tool of the three in question that measures how many pages are indexed vs. estimates the number of indexed pages.
Is Google Search Console always wholly correct? No.
But in almost every case, GSC will give a more accurate representation of how many pages are actually indexed.
Both Semrush and Ahrefs offer the option to connect your GSC data to your account.
This makes the data from those tools more accurate on your site.
This does not mean that the numbers of competitors’ sites – or sites where you don’t control the Google Search Console – are going to have more accurate results in Ahrefs or Semrush.
But if you need competitive analysis, Ahrefs and Semrush are the best way to compare apples to apples.
As far are “cross-checking whether all your pages are indexed,” I don’t think that’s necessary.
Google is the place you want all of your pages indexed.
Google Search Console was made for that purpose.
It’s the only source of original data you have when it comes to Google’s index, because search operators don’t return accurate results and haven’t for some time.
It’s important for digital marketers to understand what a tool does, where its data comes from, and the best way to use it.
So far, I haven’t seen an AI that is a substitute for a keen marketing mind armed with the knowledge of how the ecosystem works.
So before you run an analysis, understand the tool and what it is best used for.
You’ll be a better digital marketer if you understand what you are measuring, how, and why.
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