Changes in Google’s Data Reporting: 4 Ways to Capture (Not Provided) Keywords
September 24, 2013Co-Written by Richie Laurisen & Jori Stevian
Although Google has made another important change, fear not. Google’s recent decision to cut off user access to keyword data in Google analytics has created some pretty significant buzz in the SEO world. Roughly two years after having (not provided) slowly creep into the picture, Google has decided to switch to secure servers, using HTTPS. This means that we will no longer be able to access organic keyword data through Google Analytics. The reasoning behind this, isn’t to ‘kill SEO’, it’s simply to protect the privacy of those users who aren’t ‘signed in’ to it’s services.
This should not be confused with Organic traffic reporting. Your organic traffic and where it’s coming from is still and always will be, available. Read on.
There’s been plenty of talk recently about more and more keyword data being (not provided), but though this seems like an astronomical shift, it’s really been in the works for quite some time. Many of our clients have consistently shown (not provided) keywords as their number one traffic driver for the better part of the last year. So what have we been doing to find this data for our clients who show a lot of ‘not provided’ keywords? Let’s take a look at four ways on how to extrapolate this data, even when it’s not served up on a plate.
1. Referral Traffic:
Using referral traffic, you can get a good sense of what domains and links are continuing to drive traffic to your site. Visit those links, explore the anchor text or keywords that are cited throughout the body of the content, or check the site and audience that the referral source really caters to. By looking at the language surrounding the link and how it relates to your site, appropriate keywords and recurrent lexical items and themes can provide telling clues to how users are interacting and talking about your domain.
2. Analytics reports from another angle:
Google Analytics is a powerful, powerful tool. Rather than just looking at keywords that have been generated from the organic search report, try checking the pages that have been visited the most. We can choose to view these pages by title, and you can generally get a powerful look at your most-visited pages, coupled with the keywords that they are optimized for, and learn how visitors found their way to them in the first place. Visit each page and check what keywords appear to be most relevant for each page. Furthermore, AdWords data provides much of the withheld information for paying customers to the AdWords service, which will allow you to see the keywords that are providing traffic to your site and other variations which may generate positive impressions, clicks, and traffic. Many will argue that Google’s about-face on privacy stems more from their bottom-line than to protect privacy, as the incentive to acquire this data now comes coupled with a powerful demand: pay for AdWords. It does seem rather shocking that a company so mindful of user experience is choosing to rob webmasters of transformative data.
3. Google Webmaster Tools
It’s difficult to know how safe the tools that Google provides in Webmaster Tools may remain with their tendency to change the game at will, but looking into Search Queries has always been far more telling than organic search traffic data via Analytics. Search Queries provides you with the keywords for which you are ranking on Page One, the amount of times they have been seen, and the amount of times they have been clicked. By clicking the button “With Change”, you can also see fluctuations in click-through-rate and peaks in search impressions. Though this shows more than just data from Google organic searches, including Google Image Search and other Google search affiliates, it provides us an insightful lens into the way in which your site is being perceived by both search engines and users, and allows you to see areas of improvement to maximize CTR. Not only that, but, by doing the math, we can look at CTR, clicks, and impressions, and gain a pretty accurate look as to what keywords drove visitors to your site.
4. Third-party Analytics platforms.
Bing Webmaster Tools has its own set of powerful advantages, the most salient, in my eyes, anyway, being the technical scrutiny it applies to every site. Rather than just crawl errors or duplicate title tags, Bing Webmaster Tools will report on a variety of technical data about your site. It also doesn’t withhold any keyword data. We have every reason to believe that similar queries used in Bing to locate your site, will be used in Google. Similarly, some non-Google Analytics platforms, like Moz and Piwik, can also be transformative resources in re-capturing data that Google has chosen to withhold.
When analyzing the performance of our SEO campaigns, we look for two major factors: Keyword positioning and Organic traffic improvement. From an intuitive point of view: If your keywords are ranking in top positions within Google, or any search engine, you will see an increase in organic visitors to your website. In protecting this data, Google has actually made rankings more salient than they have ever been before. Back to the basics: if you have a website that is fully optimized to support attainable keyword rankings that receive notable search volume, a website that loads quickly and engages your visitors, you will be good as gold. Your on page strategy needs to be as solid as your external one. For instance, blasting PR Web with constant releases will not help your rankings and the pick ups will only be worthy if the content is of great interest. Even then, it’s been shown to be marginal.
Although keyword data information will no longer be as easily accessible as once before, this data is far from gone; instead, we just look elsewhere to extract it. Since this change has been happening for the past 24 months, it really isn’t anything new, nor is it a concern.
Jori Stevian & Richie Laurisen are Account Managers at SEOhaus. If you would like to stay up-to-date on all of the latest SEO industry news and tips, you can subscribe to our blog here. Thanks for reading the SEOhaus blog!