Overcoming Google’s Keyword ‘Not Provided’ Data | Google now routes all of its organic searches through a secure URL — i.e., https://. This has a dramatic and immediate impact on web analytics and search engine optimization.
What happens in a secure search is that the keyword search data is no longer available. Instead of seeing keywords relating to your product or service in Google Analytics or whatever web analytics tool you use, you will simply see that the visitor came from Google, organically, with “not provided” as the key phrase.
Organic keywords increasingly show up as “not provided” in Google Analytics.
As of now, Bing and Yahoo are still providing keyword data for their organic search queries. Further, if you are using Google AdWords, key terms from paid search will still show up in your data. So the change affects only your natural search traffic from Google.
The result is we can no longer easily determine what organic search terms are driving sales, or are responsible for successful lead generation.
There’s no quick fix to deal with this challenge. Determining the effectiveness of your search engine optimization is going to require some digging.
Monitoring Search Engine Optimization
There are two main challenges in monitoring search engine rankings.
First, personalization of search renders it almost impossible for anyone to say “we rank first” for any one particular key phrase. You may rank first for that term for a searcher in Chicago, for example, but a searcher in Los Angeles may see dramatically different results. There are many variables that go into this, such as whether the searcher is logged into his Google account, what people in the searcher’s social media circles have shared, or even what websites the searcher may have visited in the past on the topic he is searching for.
While it’s likely you won’t move more than a few places in search ranking regardless of these factors, moving down three or three spots can reduce your web traffic significantly.
Second, the absence of organic keyword data makes it difficult to understand how important it is to be first for any particular search. You may see traffic levels — and hopefully revenue — increase as you improve the general quality of your website. But it will be difficult to tie it back directly to any one keyword improvement.
This article will outline a process to overcome the lack organic keywords and phrases, to determine approximately which keywords are driving important visits to our website. The process involves combining data from Google AdWords, Webmaster Tools, and landing-page analytics.
Google AdWords Traffic
You will still be able to get converting keyword data on your Google AdWords campaigns. While paid and organic traffic don’t always behave identically, we can at least gain insights from paid traffic — i.e., AdWords — into the popularity of key terms and how they impact our revenues.
Google Webmaster Tools will show how many times your website appeared in search for a given term, what position you appeared in for that search, and how many people have clicked through to your website based on that search.
Google Webmaster Tools will show you useful data on search terms.
The numbers from Webmaster Tools are approximations, and they run two days behind. Further, the data is not stored for more than three months. For longer-term trends, you’ll need to create a spreadsheet or a similar document on your own.
Another caution is that the data doesn’t seem to accurately reflect low-volume search. So if you are in a niche where search volumes are historically low, you’ll be provided with impressions — that is, the number of times you showed up for a search — but not necessarily the number of times someone clicked though.
Landing Pages in Google Analytics
Perhaps the most significant way we can still track search-engine-optimization progress is through landing pages from organic searches. This is a paradigm shift in that we are looking at progress in the form of a concept, as opposed to specifying exact search terms.
For example, a copier sales and service company could have the following key landing pages.
- Copier sales
- Copier service
- Copier sales in [your town]
- Copier service in [your town]
If the copier company wanted to rank better for copier sales in Rochester, N.Y., for example, it could have a landing page titled something like “Copier Sales in Rochester NY” and would then optimize for it. The company would presumably be doing everything it could to rank for that exact term — “Copier Sales in Rochester NY.”
Since it won’t be seeing specific keyword data for Google organic searches, the company needs a benchmark to test against. If in September it had 850 people land on that page via Google organic search, the task now will be to increase that to, say, 900 in October.
The company won’t be able to tell exactly why traffic is increasing, but it will know that it is, and in the end, that’s the goal. The company should let go of the notion of ranking for a search term, and focus more on the idea of ranking for a search concept.
The metrics would then be based on the conversion rate of a given landing page, and not the conversion rate of a specific search term.
Tying It Together
There’s will be some additional work to tie all this data together into a usable format. The process is to measure your AdWords traffic against your Webmaster Tools impression numbers, and then look at organic traffic to the landing page you are trying to rank in Google.
You will think strategically, and measure your success conceptually, as we move from having access to specific data. But in the end, your revenue will remain the best benchmark to measure the success of your search engine optimization efforts.