Is GSC ranking data accurate? If you ask most SEOs these days, they’ll tell you that this data is way off. However, Google employees have said that the data should be quite accurate.

As such, we set out to do a small scale test to determine whether this was true.



We believe that for most keywords, the ranking data shown in Google Search Console is reasonably accurate (i.e. within one ranking position) for most queries.


We took ten sites for which we have GSC access. All sites were based in the US with a primarily American audience.

For each site we looked at ranking data from the Performance section of beta GSC. We set the following filters:

  • Just looking at one date (July 13, 2018). We found that if we looked at the last 7 days, there was much more variation as many keywords would shift rankings in this time.
  • Limiting the results to US searches.
  • Only looking at desktop rankings.

We looked at the first 10 listed keywords for each site and excluded brand and url terms.

For each keyword we listed the reported GSC position on July 13, 2018 and compared it to the actual ranking that we saw. Actual rankings were done on an incognito search using US based


We were surprised by the results. In most cases, unfortunately GSC was not terribly accurate when it came to reporting ranking positions. We found that some keyword rankings were way off. In many cases, we felt that this could be due to locational differences. For example, our client might have a page 2 ranking in most of the country for one phrase, but have high rankings in a small handful of cities for those terms. We are thinking that this will mess up the average ranking for those keywords.

Here are some charts that show GSC’s rankings (in blue) as compared to what we found on an incognito, non personalized US search, for several of our clients. For each of these, if the two lines are very similar, it means that GSC and real life rankings are quite close. Where there are large gaps between the blue and red line, this means that the GSC ranking was significantly different than what we were seeing.

Nationally recognized eCommerce site

  • 80% of keywords are within one ranking position as reported on GSC
  • 100% of keywords are within two ranking positions as reported on GSC

Large informational site

  • 50% of keywords are within one ranking position
  • 50% are within two
  • 50% are within three

This site had a lot of inaccuracies. One of these keywords was being reported as ranking extremely well when in reality we saw it ranking on page 3. What we don’t know, though, is whether this was because that particular keyword had just recently dropped in rankings, or perhaps Google was temporarily testing it in a high ranking position, and the ranking we were seeing in GSC was only temporary.

If we take that keyword out, we get the following. You can see that one keyword s ranked around #2 in GSC, but #6 in real life. For another, GSC reports #5 when in our incognito, non personalized searches we saw it at #2:

Large medical information site

  • 70% of keywords are within one ranking position.
  • 90% are within two.
  • 100% are within three.

The stats are much more accurate for this site. Still, many keywords were ranking at one or two positions different than what is in GSC:

Large medical information site

This site had relatively accurate reportings for keyword rankings in GSC

  • 70% of keywords were within one ranking position.
  • 100% were within two.

Large lead gen site

This site was tricky to analyze because many of their terms had local intent. Therefore, they might rank really well for a search for “green widgets” in NYC, but poorly in LA. If you have a lot of variance in how you rank according to location, even organically, we believe that this can mean that GSC is less accurate.

  • 40% of keywords were within one position.
  • 40% of keywords were within two positions.
  • 80% were within three positions.

Large directory type site

  • 80% within one position
  • 100% within two positions

Nationally recognized eCommerce site

  • 60% within one position
  • 70% within two positions
  • 100% within three positions

Attorney website

This was a tough site to analyze as many of the terms here have local intent. GSC is reporting them as ranking #1 for “injury lawyer [their city]”. But, our search that was generalized to all of the US had them at #6 organic. These results are tough to interpret:

  • 40% within one position.
  • 50% within two positions.
  • 60% within thee positions.

National eCommerce brand

  • 80% within one position.
  • 90% within two positions.
  • 90% within three positions.

For the most part, rankings were relatively accurate in GSC for this site.

Conclusions and discussion

We had expected to see less disparity between what GSC reports as rankings and what is happening in real life. However, there are some limitations to this study:

  • Keywords with local intent will not always be accurately represented in GSC.
  • It is possible that some keywords that we covered had wide ranking shifts. It’s not uncommon for Google to test a ranking at high position for a day and then pop you back down to a much lower ranking.
  • We only covered a small number of sites in this test. Ideally, we would love to do this on a much larger scale.

Our conclusions after looking at this data is that for some sites GSC ranking data is reasonably accurate, but will never be perfect.

For sites with differing rankings in different cities, GSC data is often going to be way off.

We still do feel that ranking data in GSC can be helpful. However, it is important to note that this data is never going to be 100% accurate.


Stay tuned for part two!

We plan to extend this study and look at how some of the popular rank trackers stack up here. Hopefully we will have that out soon. You can subscribe to my SEO newsletter to be notified of when the new post is live.

What is your experience?

Do you feel that GSC ranking estimates are accurate for your site? We would love for you to leave a comment with your thoughts.