How Accurate is the Average Position Metric?
2 months ago on August 09, 2023
Google’s John Mueller answers a question regarding the accuracy of the average position metric which appears in the search performance report in Search Console.
This question is answered in the latest installment of the Ask Googlebot video series on the Google Search Central YouTube channel.
We learn from Mueller that the average position metric is based on real data. It’s a reliable measurement, even if it doesn’t always match up with what site owners see when they check their own ranking positions.
Read Mueller’s full response below.
Mueller begins his response by clarifying the average position metric is not theoretical. Like all metrics in the search performance report, average position is calculated using data from actual search results:
“The data in the Search Console search performance report is based on actual search results that were shown to users. It’s not a theoretical number, but rather a number based on actual results.”
Google Search Console tracks the average top position of a URL to calculate data for the search performance report.
If multiple URLs from a website appear in search results, Search Console will use the highest ranking URL to calculate the average.
The average position reported in Search Console may differ from what a site owner sees when looking up their own rankings in Google. Mueller says that could be due to factors such as personalization or geo-targeting.
“The average position is based on the average top position of a URL from your site. If there are multiple URLs from your website which are shown in the search results page we’ll use the topmost one for this average.
You might not always see the same position when you check yourself. That’s generally due to personalization, or geo-targeting, or because of short-lived visibility in search.
You can sometimes make assumptions that this is happening if you see a number of impressions which is significantly lower than what you’d expect for those queries. That’s usually a sign that your site was only visible for a small part of the overall impressions.”
Lastly, Mueller advises site owners to keep in mind that their URLs might be ranking in Google Images within the normal search results. Those ranking positions are taken into consideration when calculating average position.
“For web results keep in mind that your site might also be appearing in the images within the normal search results. In short, the average position and other metrics in the search performance report are based on actual search results, but actual search results can be quite varied.”
A Google Search Console help page further explains how average position is calculated using the topmost link to a page in search results:
- If one query returned your property at positions 2, 4, and 6, its position is counted as 2 (the topmost position).
- If a second query returned your property at positions 3, 5, and 9, its position is counted as 3 (the topmost position).
- The average position across these two queries is (2 + 3)/2 = 2.5.
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