I wouldn’t say this eventually was inevitable but it was certainly signposted. When Google dialled their keyword privacy up to 100% in the middle of October this year it was immediately perceived as a blow to the SEO fraternity. But it had actually been on the cards for a while and perhaps one or two high profile ‘data privacy’ situations pushed this into place sooner rather than later. Some folks feel this is a push from Google into the arms of Adwords and PPC advertising; a greed thing, but Google ‘Do no evil’ so it wouldn’t be that…
So what has happened and why is it bad? Actually, is it bad??
I’m often asked (although not any more!) what the (not provided) message means in Google Analytics keywords reports. It always seemed to be at the top of most reports and accounted for 20-40% of keywords in some cases. This was a privacy thing. If your website visitor was logged into their Google account when performing the search that took them to your site (remember that phrase in bold, it’ll be important later on…) then the data that allowed you to know what term delivered their visit was ‘not provided’. And still is. Only now, you don’t have to be logged into anything. All keyword data is ‘not provided’ when it comes to those analytics reports. It was always a bit annoying because it meant that you weren’t getting the full picture when it came to measuring the success of your SEO activities. Were the terms you were targeting actually sending you traffic? Was there a return on investment for that ranking success? More importantly, what words were converting best? All this information was seemingly lost overnight. Actually, there’s no seemingly about it, it was lost overnight!
Having less data is clearly a blow to measuring success, no two ways about that. But what is important is what we do with what we are left with and the reality is that in this industry we are so utterly spoiled with measurable data that even a loss like this one doesn’t have to impact your reporting, on the contrary, here at Traphic we reckon it’s forced us to be creative and evolve the way we measure our successes and actually improve the way we report.
So what do we do now the keyword data has vanished?
OK, remember the phrase in bold from earlier?: the search that took them to your site?
Well, whilst we might now the term that brought the visit, the important measure of success is not actually the term, but the fact that the search that took them to your site. So it’s useful to have the term in question handed to me on an analytical plate, but not critical to understanding what’s working well in my SEO campaign. Let me explain: I have whole conversations with clients these days that don’t even mention rankings. Single terms are yesterday’s SEO, we don’t get hung up on where one or two ‘core’ terms sit in the rankings because we know that it’s the 1000s of long tail terms that actually drive the traffic. Rankings are a guide, not a measure and even Google is moving away from a ‘keyword’ philosophy towards a contextually appropriate scenario where questions are understood and ideas or themes are considered. What my clients want to see is a report that says ‘your organic traffic has increased 20% this month’ and ‘your organic traffic channel has converted to sale at 8% this month resulting in £xyz revenue’. This is what’s important.
But what about all that hard work optimising pages for terms, how do I know it’s working?
This should be a no brainer – Remember what we said about the embarrassment of riches we have in analytics data for measuring our successes? Focus on your landing pages. You know if you’ve worked hard optimising category page X for the term ‘red widget’ so if you see an improvement in lands to that page and they’re engaging and converting then you know you’re getting results and you don’t need the keyword data to tell you you’ve nailed it.
Not happy? Still want some keyword data in your life? All is not actually lost…
Have you hooked up your Google webmaster tools account to your analytics account? You have submitted a sitemap haven’t you? Good, well, your webmaster tools account can fire across all that lovely query data to your analytics account. And you can slice that data any which way in analytics just like you would with old school ‘provided’ keywords – happy days! Not only that but WMT query data also gives you impressions; that’s the number of times your URLs have appeared in search with associated click through data. This actually gives you more to play with than you had before (even though it’s always been there, you just didn’t need to look because you already had some keywords data…).
Now we can’t vouch for the accuracy of the numbers and the data’s only going back a month at a time but it’s a good guide and honestly, that’s all that analytics has ever been – a good guide that allows for lots of conversion rate based decision making and allows for some solid ROI trends over time.
So no need to mourn keyword data, embrace you far more RESULTS orientated reporting and measuring and have a play with WMT if you absolutely must have some keyword action to refer to (I do, and there’s no harm in it!).
Do you miss keyword data in analytics? Have you found any creative ways to circumvent the hole in your data wall? Comment away…