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John Mueller Discusses The Accuracy Of The Average Position Metric

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Businesses and webmasters use Google Search Console for their SEO analytics, which is an important process that determines whether a site is well optimised or not. Just recently, Google’s John Mueller discussed the accuracy of Search Console’s SEO analytics reporting, specifically the average position metric in its search performance report.

The accuracy of the average position metric was put into question by an SEO a recent Ask Googlebot video on the Google Search Central YouTube channel.

Mueller started his response by saying that the average position metric, much like other metrics in Search Console’s search performance report, is not at all theoretical. He clarifies that it is based on the actual search results, which users can even access. Since the average position metric is taken from real data, Mueller assures everyone that it is a reliable measurement, regardless of whether it matches a site owner’s rankings or not.

Google Search Console calculates data for the search performance report by tracking the average top position of a URL. The problem here is that some sites are made up of multiple pages that rank differently. For each page, some queries might rank higher or lower than others. A query may also rank higher in some countries than in others. The same goes for mobile pages; what ranks high on desktop versions may not rank well on mobile. If one considers all these factors together, it becomes clear that getting the average position metric for a site can be quite complicated.

When the tool recognises that there are multiple URLs from a website in search results, it will then find the highest-ranking URL to get the average.

The average position that is reported in Search Console may not always match the same rankings that webmasters see when they check manually. Mueller said that it may be caused by geo-targeting, personalisation, or short-lived visibility in search.

According to Mueller, SEOs can assume that this happening if several impressions are significantly lower than the expected number for those queries. This indicates that a website was only visible for a small part of the overall impressions.

Mueller also reminded website owners that their websites might show in the Google Images within the normal search results. He said that the SEO community should take such factors into consideration. This means that all the metrics, including the average position, are based on actual search results, but these results can vary.

There is no simple answer to understanding a site’s average position metric, but the best thing that businesses and webmasters can do is to look further beyond to see what’s driving it. Google Search Console gives several dimensions that one can use for their SEO analytics, such as the queries, the devices, the countries, the pages, and the date. One can also make good use of the API to conduct different kinds of analysis.

A Google Search Console help page showed a method on how to calculate the average position with the highest-ranking URL in search results:

If a query returned your property at these even numbers (position 2, 4, and 6), then the position is counted as 2 (topmost position).

If a second query returned your property at these odd numbers (position 3, 5, and 9), then its position is counted as 3 (topmost position).

Taking these two queries, the average position would be (2+3)/2=2.5.

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