Why is the number of pages indexed by Google different?
Today’s Ask An SEO question comes from Kayle in Cape Town asking:
Google shows 314 of my webpages are indexed, but Ahrefs only shows 260 internal pages and Semrush only shows 220. What does that mean? How can I check exactly if all my pages are indexed?
Whoever said “Numbers don’t lie” has never worked with a modern analysis program – or any program that tries to mimic Google. These programs lie all the time.
But the lies are not nefarious.
None of the tools we use try to make us believe we have different results than we do.
Understanding how a tool works, what it measures, and how best to read those measurements is an essential skill for any digital marketer.
So how do you understand the differences between different results in different tools?
Check out the source of the tool
The first step to understanding the results of multiple tools is to understand the tool you are using.
Where does this tool pull its data from?
How does it pull data?
Is the data accurate or more of a trend indicator?
For example, new SEO pros are often shocked at the difference when looking at Semrush’s traffic estimates versus the numbers in Google Analytics.
But when you understand how each tool gets its data, using it properly becomes self-evident.
Semrush’s traffic analysis is based on the number of keywords a website ranks for and an estimate of how much traffic each keyword will bring.
This is completely inaccurate when it comes to comparing absolute data for websites.
If you’re looking for traffic trends over time, Semrush is one of the best competitive analysis tools.
But I would never use it to measure traffic on a website where we have access to Google Analytics because Google Analytics measures actual visitors to a website.
Semrush appreciates the traffic; Google Analytics measures traffic.
Ahrefs vs Semrush vs Google Search Console
Let’s get to the real question.
When trying to understand the number of indexed pages for a website that I control, I will only rely on data from Google Search Console. Why?
The Google Search Console (GSC) is the only one of the three tools in question that measures how many pages are indexed versus estimating the number of pages indexed.
Is Google Search Console Always All Right? no
But in almost all cases, GSC gives a more accurate representation of how many pages are actually indexed.
Both Semrush and Ahrefs offer the ability to connect your GSC data to your account.
This will make the data from these tools more accurate on your website.
That doesn’t mean counting competitor sites — or sites where you don’t control Google Search Console — will yield more accurate results in Ahrefs or Semrush.
But if you need competitive analysis, Ahrefs and Semrush are the best ways to compare apples to apples.
As for “cross-checking that all your pages are indexed”, I don’t think that’s necessary.
Google is where you want all of your pages to be indexed.
The Google Search Console was developed for this.
It’s the only source of original data you have when it comes to Google’s index, as search operators don’t return exact results and haven’t for a while.
It’s important for digital marketers to understand what a tool does, where its data comes from, and how best to use it.
So far I haven’t seen AI replacing a sharp marketing mind armed with the knowledge of how the ecosystem works.
So, before doing any analysis, it’s important to become familiar with the tool and what it’s best used for.
You’ll be a better digital marketer when you understand what you’re measuring, how, and why.
Featured Image: Dikushin Dmitry/Shutterstock