If you have been monitoring the keywords that visitors are typing keywords in to arrive at your site in analytics (or your digital marketing agency report them to you), then you will have noticed the steady increase in the number of visits where the keyword was . . (not provided).
This is due to changes from Google where logged in users are in a state of “secure search”. . basically Google is not passing this data on to you!
Well it emerged yesterday that Google has now made the move to make ALL search secure. Yep that’s right . . 100% of all your Google organic search traffic will be from . . (not provided).
The industry literally erupted yesterday in light of this news and here’s why:
“Digital marketers use (or should be using) this data to IMPROVE the visitor experience as well as the campaign”
For example if you notice that a page has a high bounce rate then you know that it is not doing its job properly in serving the visitor so you know to improve the content on that page and the keywords driving traffic to that page give great insight into what content people are looking for.
For instance let’s say you have a page about business loans and notice the page has a high bounce rate. You investigate the keywords driving traffic to that page and you find that a lot of them are focused around “short term” and those are the keywords that are driving up the bounce rate.
You can now tweak the content on the page to better match the keywords and therefore deliver what they are looking for reducing bounce rates and increasing conversions.
By analyzing keywords and reading between the lines, you could get a good picture of what and how people are talking about your brand as well as content on pages. Again, this allowed you to better align everything to the visitors needs creating a better user experience – something Google strives for!
The last thing I’ll mention . . because this is kinda turning into a bit of a rant as well . . is that you could show to clients that the work that you were doing was improving their online visibility and traffic to the site was increasing via relevant and targeted terms.
You could also further develop the campaign by highlighting long tail opportunities to create more content or specific pages around, which would further serve the visitors while increasing traffic and authority to the site in that topic area.
In the example below, the page talks about low calorie diets in general and lists recommended and not recommended ones but I noticed that there are quite a few keywords with the figure “800” and “800 calorie” etc so I could then go and create a page tailored to low calorie diets centred around 800 calories based on the existing data:
Also if you notice a particular keyword set driving good traffic to the site, you know by working to improve the rankings of that cluster of keywords, you can drive even more high quality traffic to the site.
“SO THAT’S HOW USEFUL IT WAS!! GRRRR!!”
Why would Google choose to hide this data? Well they claim in the interests of privacy but funny how search term data is still available for Adwords campaigns . . you know . . the channel where they make money from pay per click advertising!!
Anyway I’ve had my moan while updating you on what’s going on but change is constantly happening in the digital marketing world so if you can’t handle that then either get out or get someone to handle it for you – like me! . . sorry, shameless plug!
Seriously though, everyone is in the same position and with change comes new opportunity as no doubt this will affect some people’s marketing campaigns therefore weakening the competition for many businesses who adapt and embrace change.
Soooo . . What Are The Alternatives To Combat The Secure Search Keyword Problem?
#1 Adwords PPC Keyword & Search Term Data
Well if you run a PPC campaign then you still have access to the “search term report” (on top of your adwords keyword data). Here you can see the terms that people are typing in to see and click your ads so you can therefore work to improve your content, landing pages, ads and marketing from this data.
The amount of data will however be down to your budget, the size and spread of the campaign and how tight the keywords in the campaign are.
You could also test keywords and clusters of keywords through adwords before targeting them with SEO and other marketing . . but again this comes down to budget as it will cost you and line Google’s pockets in the process!
You can also monitor your brand search volume by having a brand campaign in adwords but keeping the keywords very open and broad. You then monitor the impressions and can chart any increase in searches for your brand.
On the flip side of that, if you do have a broad brand campaign in adwords and the search volume (impressions) are staying steady yet organic traffic to your site is growing then it is pretty safe to say that it is other search terms driving the traffic as oppose to people searching for your brand.
#2. Google Analytics: Looking At Pages Instead Of Keywords
Next is in Google Analytics we look at data at page level as oppose to keyword level.
Let’s say you create a page about short term business loans and that page does really well and drives lots of traffic. It should be safe to say that the keywords driving that traffic are going to be relevant to the page so you know that they are popular and/or high quality search terms in that cluster.
From here, you might want to collect a big list of related keywords to that page and run a rank report and see where the page ranks for these terms. This research and ranking data, combined with the analytics of the page, will give you a much better insight and reveal opportunities to improve the campaign in this area.
#3. Rank Tracking
This has been mentioned previously but you might want to get more detailed with your rank reports and track the overall movement of clusters of keywords as well as individual core ones.
Basically collect a big list of keywords that are centred around a core keyword and track the rankings of them all. You can then use a pivot table in excel to create a graph that shows the overall average movement of the cluster as a whole (I’ll do a post showing you how to do that and link to it from here but for now there is a more technical post about it here – hope AJ doesn’t mind me using his screenshot below!
Where individual keywords can often fluctuate quite significantly, a cluster of keywords generally has an overall direction which will reveal your marketing efforts and if they are working.
By tracking a lot more keywords you will also identify if there are any opportunities to nudge some keywords from page 2 to page 1 to increase traffic – usually longer tail keywords that can be quick wins with little time and effort.
If you are tracking a lot of keywords though, you need to also look at the overall movement of the cluster otherwise you might end up drowning in data and losing sight of the general direction.
Just be aware of personalised search too. Basically what one person sees might not be what another sees, especially if they are logged into Google. This could be down to things like location, browsing history etc etc. This is going to happen regardless so there is no point in worrying about it unless .
The data that you will get from these methods should be enough for you to continue to improve your marketing campaigns . . and not everyone will be savvy enough to do this (including some of your competitors) and read between the lines to improve their campaigns meaning more opportunity for you if you have good marketers working on your campaigns.
Recommended Tool: SEM Rush – this will reveal terms that you rank for that are driving traffic that you might not have come across. It also offers a ton of other stuff but that’s not for this blog post. This is on top of your rank tracking software not instead of. Below is a screenshot:
#4. Webmaster Tools
I’m not sure how long the keyword data will be available for here anyway, but it is not the most accurate of data so take it with a pinch of salt but you can get some insight from it so might be worth looking at when doing research and reporting.
Although a large amount of data has been hidden, a lot of it can still be obtained by thinking outside the box and using your brain to read between the lines. The very fact that this data is much harder to obtain should reduce the competition for many which can only be a good thing for businesses with good digital marketers on board.
This is yet more evidence that you should be diversifying your marketing channels. If you are very heavily reliant on organic search then it’s time to expand into other channels like social media networks, email subscriber lists, video etc etc. Don’t choose too many at once, just choose a couple with the most potential where your target market are – but really work it and turn it into a significant traffic source.
Build and continue to grow and manage an engaged audience across different channels and before you know it, the percentage of high converting traffic to your site will look a lot more diversified as oppose to a very high percentage from just organic search. . . and hey, don’t forget your organic traffic isn’t going anywhere, just some data has been hidden so by expanding into other channels you will simply increase the traffic and reach of your brand and the size of your audience and grow your business. Check out this post and diagram of how a multi-channel campaign would look.
Hope you found this useful and please share any other tips in the comments and feel free to ask any questions.