Last week I wrote about getting useful insights from Google Analytics (GA) not provided data. The primary focus of that article was aimed at attaining and analysing keyword data for useful information. I wish I knew what awaited all digital marketers around the world.
Over the past two years, the not provided count has been steadily increasing due to Firefox, Chrome and Safari’s automatic security encryption for keyword searches. The past two months, though, has shown a major increase of keywords returning (not provided), now up to 75% of total keyword data. Google have touched on the issue, but have said nothing we already did not know.
We want to provide SSL protection to as many users as we can, in as many regions as we can — we added non-signed-in Chrome omnibox searches earlier this year, and more recently other users who aren’t signed in. We’re going to continue expanding our use of SSL in our services because we believe it’s a good thing for users…The motivation here is not to drive the ads side — it’s for our search users.
Personally, I believe that Google’s push for more use of their paid features is evident. The only choice left for marketers now is to use AdWords to gain more keyword insights. Google’s recent change from the Keyword Tool to the AdWords Keyword Planner is all part of a master plan. Who knows what’s next…no organic listings?
Where do we go from here?
My blog posts always start with a rant and end up continuing like so. Let’s get to a solution. Keyword data helps attribute traffic growth to the hard work agencies do by showing ranking improvements. But if there is no keyword data at all, how do SEO agencies get the credit they deserve? A special Whiteboard Tuesday by Moz covered basic issues that a 100% not provided count brings to the scene.
Keyword referral data is important for marketers so they can find opportunities to improve page rankings and performance. Page performance was the key point Rand made—if your converting pages are receiving traffic but aren’t converting, there is obviously something wrong. There is a strong tendency to report every two weeks or at the month’s end and tell clients about their traffic increases. But how much of this traffic is actually useful?
Marketers can also use GWMT and AdWords data to find volume data. The percentage of that traffic you are receiving gives a rough idea of how much market share you currently have. Although much of that data is based on estimates, you can get an idea of performing keywords. This can give you a list of converting pages that are getting a percentage hits and have potential to get more.
Attributing Growth to SEO Efforts
As I said earlier, if organic referral data is totally scraped off, how do SEOs get the credit they deserve? The main point here is to separate branded searches from non-branded searches. Marketers can use AdWords to bid on brand specific terms and phrases to plot growth of brand and non-branded keywords. This will show branded keyword volume based on impression data. The broader this input is the better. If there is an increase of branded searches, you can report that the rise in traffic is due to general brand growth through social media, word of mouth, etc.
How to analyse brand and content searches to uncover new opportunities
This is a big area for those who used keyword data to find opportunities and figure out the psychology behind the search process. Again, you can use AdWords in combination with other keyword tools such as UberSuggest and others to find out the pool of potential keywords that can be used. You can then compare this information with your internal site search which will return complete keyword information. The sample size might be smaller and more biased since the intentions behind internal site searches are by no means similar to Google searches, but remember, the point here is to get ideas and insights.
As I said before, Google is pushing people to use AdWords, and in some cases, we might have no choice left but to follow them. Using PPC campaigns for target keywords might be the single most effective method left to spot expansion opportunities.
So…how do I get past (not provided)?
If you’re still asking yourself this question, then it’s time to move on. Not provided is here to stay, and there’s nothing SEOs can do to change that. What we can do, however, is use GA information to draw out useful insights. Being an SEO myself, it pains me to say this, but it is not all about the keyword. It is more about how the user behaves on the website.
The key point here is to not only look at data and report general numbers such as traffic increases, bounce rates and keyword reach. The use of information to draw out conclusions and insights that will help clients achieve their goals is the main part of web analytics. The challenge now is to forget which tool to use or what data to report on. The challenge now is to get on with solving the actual problem clients have by understanding the data we can get our hands on.