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Using Google Data Studio to review your http to https migration

by Simon Cox

2019-01-02

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Using Google Data Studio to review your http to https migration

Migration from http to https can be fraught with issues you need to track and check. I looked for a way to help track migrations and give me additional insights using Google Data Studio.

I wanted to see if I could use Google Data Studio to report on site migrations from http to https

The four dif­fer­ent vari­ants of your web­site — http, https, www and non www — are seen as dif­fer­ent web­sites by Google. Tech­ni­cal­ly you can actu­al­ly run dif­fer­ent con­tent under each of these, though it is very unusu­al to see that. As such we need to ensure that all four vari­ants are cre­at­ed as prop­er­ties in Google Search Con­sole (GSC).

When you migrate from http to https your http GSC chart will dip and your https chart will rise. How­ev­er, the data for each is on a dif­fer­ent GSC Prop­er­ty and you can­not see what is hap­pen­ing on a sin­gle chart in GSC. You can group togeth­er those prop­er­ties in a Set and even then you can only com­pare indi­vid­ual URLs. In the new GSC you can­not com­bine prop­er­ties into Sets, though there have been hints that in 2019 we might see some advances in this area.

Google start­ed migrat­ing reports over to the new look Google Search Con­sole (GSC) in 2018. At some point in 2019 they will prob­a­bly close down the old GSC leav­ing you no way of mon­i­tor­ing a migra­tion. That leaves us with a bit of a hole for what’s hap­pen­ing with our site.

Google Search Console showing the site as http and data vanishing from the point of migration
Google Search Con­sole show­ing the site as http and data van­ish­ing from the point of migration

Google Data Stu­dio to the rescue!

Since the June 2018 Google Data Stu­dio (GDS) has had the abil­i­ty to blend data into one data set allow­ing you to show the dif­fer­ent data from each of the blend­ed sets.
I used this to build a GDS dash­board for GSC. It is a bit fid­dly as every­thing in each set is named the same and I could not see any indi­ca­tors of which dataset was in the blend met­rics — so I wrote down the order that I added the data sets into the blend. These are the steps I took: (there was a lot of tri­al and error on the way!)

  1. Ensured all four vari­ants of my site were in GSC
  2. Added all four vari­ants of the site into Google Data Stu­dio as data sources
  3. Cre­at­ed a blend­ed data source using the date as the Join­ing Key — this is the pri­ma­ry piece of data that allows Google Data Stu­dio to rec­on­cile the data — the date is an obvi­ous Join­ing Key though you can use any field that is com­mon to all data sources!
  4. Rename each Met­ric by click­ing the left ele­ment and rename so you can eas­i­ly iden­ti­fy each in the chart cre­ation. This is also used as the chart key text and saves time if you do it now. 
  5. Added the data again as the dimen­sion for each site
  6. Includ­ed the Clicks, Impres­sions, Site CTR and Aver­age Posi­tions data as Met­rics for each site
  7. Set the date span to all of 2018 as I had com­plet­ed my migra­tion at the end of July
  8. Cre­at­ed a line chart, set the data source to my Blend­ed data
  9. Set the four Click fields as met­rics — drag and drop!
  10. Tweak the chart style to bring you some design joyness.
  11. Rinse and repeat for the oth­er charts.
  12. Spend the next few days try­ing to fath­om out what’s actu­al­ly going on now you have these new insights!
Step 3 - Google Data Studio set-up showing the sources of data and the metric fields used
Steps 3 and 4 — Google Data Stu­dio set-up show­ing the sources of data and the met­ric fields used
Step 8 - https Migrations With Google Data Studio Chart Setup showing the metrics used for the Clicks
Step 9 — https Migra­tions With Google Data Stu­dio Chart Set­up show­ing the met­rics used for the Clicks

Insights

Look­ing at the data we can quick­ly see when the http to http migra­tion took place, at the end of July 2018 and it took about a week to roll out.

Google Search Console Impressions from the http and https sites clearly showing the time of the migration
Google Search Con­sole Impres­sions from the http and https sites clear­ly show­ing the time of the migration

Two things stood out from this chart. The first was that Google appears to be much hap­pi­er with the con­tent as https but the sec­ond I was not expect­ing — the volatil­i­ty of the impres­sions of the https chart — the peaks and troughs are huge com­pared to the site when it was http. There was a big Google change in August and I might have been just plain unlucky to relaunch the site when I did!

The Clicks chart, like the Impres­sions, shows a greater vol­ume of clicks and the same volatility.

Google Search Console Clicks showing the migration date and an increase in clicks through to the site
Google Search Con­sole Clicks show­ing the migra­tion date and an increase in clicks through to the site

A clos­er study shows that the http pages were still being shown as SERP results for some time as can be seen in the chart. That’s not an issue for me as every­thing is redi­rect­ed but shows some inter­est­ing behav­iour from Google.

Google Search Console Average Position showing the http urls cropping up in the SERPs long after the migration
Google Search Con­sole Aver­age Posi­tion show­ing the http urls crop­ping up in the SERPs long after the migration

In the CTR chart, we can again see the volatil­i­ty the https site has — and a clas­sic out­lier of a high click through rate, in yel­low, for the http www site with 5 impres­sions caus­ing 3 clicks!

Google Search Console Click Through Rate before and after the migration to https. The large yellow spike is the http www version getting 5 impressions and 3 clicks so a high rate!
Google Search Con­sole Click Through Rate before and after the migra­tion to https. 

A dif­fer­ent site

I then test­ed a dif­fer­ent site — one that had not got much love from me last year — to my SEO shame — it had issues as the con­tent was avail­able on all four URL pat­terns (dupli­cate con­tent alert)! Fixed late Decem­ber 2018 when I rebuilt and relaunched the site. Com­pare this with the charts from my own site — yes there is a peak as it is an event site but the traf­fic is split between http and https with most of it on the http.

Google Data Studio report showing the Google Search Console data for impressions from an annual event site - clearly that there is no migration and the site is accessible on both http and https
Google Data Stu­dio report show­ing the Google Search Con­sole data for impres­sions from an annu­al event site

Adding Google Analytics

I did go a step fur­ther and intro­duced a fifth data source — max­i­mum of five in Google Data Stu­dio blends — and that was the sites Google Ana­lyt­ics. As I write though it is only show­ing the ana­lyt­ics from the migra­tion date so I will have to do some more prod­ding and pok­ing to work out what’s going on. It could be I need to pull that data into a Google sheet and add it that way but for now, this is mis­sion accomplished. 

Google Data Studio showing Impressions with Users and Page Views from Google Analytics
Google Data Stu­dio show­ing Impres­sions with Users and Page Views from Google Analytics

And there is more...

2019 01 03: I edit­ed the arti­cle today after I realised that re-nam­ing the Met­ric fields at the blend­ed data lev­el meant that the names were pulled through into the chart and made chart cre­ation a lot eas­i­er than renam­ing the met­rics fields in the charts and for the chart key!


2019 01 05: Resources Update — should have includ­ed these when I wrote this arti­cle but — fud­dled head.

Oth­er resources

I want­ed to point to some oth­er superb resources on the sub­ject of using Google Search Con­sole in Google Data Studio:

  1. For a fan­tas­tic break­down on using Google Data Stu­dio, you must read Using Google Data Stu­dio for a more action­able Google Search Con­sole Per­for­mance Dash­board by the bril­liant and love­ly Aley­da Solis. This is a real­ly thor­ough intro­duc­tion to using Google Search Con­sole Data in Google Data Stu­dio and Aley­da has a tem­plate avail­able that I also use.
  2. A great write up on how to export GSC data through GDS — Use Google Data Stu­dio to Export Google Search Con­sole Data by Date from Mr Jonathan Jones which I have also used and is super useful!
  3. A sol­id intro­duc­tion from Omi Sido Google Data Stu­dio – The com­plete guide — wish I had read this before jump­ing in as it would have saved me a lot of tri­al and error!

2019 01 28: Anoth­er update!

Ham­let Batista has writ­ten up a great arti­cle using data merge tech­niques fol­low­ing this arti­cle for a merg­er migra­tion: SEO: Mon­i­tor­ing Traf­fic from Domain Merg­ers, with Google Data Stu­dio — worth a read!

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