Google is finally pulling the plug on the already-limited organic keyword referral data that can be collected through website analytics. Google first started limiting organic traffic keyword referral data in November of 2011 when referral data stopped including keyword data in instances when a user was logged into a Google platform (i.e. Gmail, YouTube, etc.).
Restricting the keyword data for site visits coming from secure Google searches forced SEO professionals to take a look at the ‘not provided’ portion of overall keyword data and watch that percentage of referral data without associated keyword information grow month-over-month. ‘Not provided’ is the label Google attributes secured search visits to for keyword level metrics in Google Analytics. NotProvidedCount.com estimated the percentage of organic search visits missing keyword referral data was at approximately 25 percent one year after Google enabled the secure restrictions.
In September of 2013, one month before Google extended the restriction to non-secure searches, the percentage of missing referral data encompassed 50 percent of organic search visits. One month later the ‘not provided’ percentage rose dramatically to 80 percent of organic search visits with a projection to reach 100 percent within the following 90 days.
The loss of organic search keyword referral data translates to an inability to fully understand exactly which keywords are the source of top converting site traffic; however, there are still ways to understand which keywords are driving value.
Taking advantage of data provided through Google’s Webmaster Tools which offers up to 90 days of queries, revealing the variety of organic search keywords resulting in impressions and visits to your site. By collecting the keyword data that is actually driving Google’s organic traffic to your site and combining it with the keywords that you may not be currently visible for, but are included in future keyword target goals, a keyword list will be developed that provides an ample foundation for conducting meaningful valuation research for keywords driving organic search visits.
There are many tracking platforms (both free and subscription) that use Google’s Adwords and Webmaster APIs for their rank tracking tools (e.g. Moz, Raven, Rank Checker, etc.). In addition to collecting position data, some of these tools also provide the webpage that is presented in a search engine for the keyword query. Analyzing the pages that are actually presented to search engine users for specific keyword queries will offer insight into the keywords that are likely to be converting to actual site visits.
Connect the dots from search engine raw query data, keyword rank positioning and landing page visibility. Then take a deep dive into analyzing the landing pages that are bringing in organic traffic to retrieve insight into the true value of the keywords that are currently driving visibility on SERPs. As long as the list of keywords is broad enough, professionals performing SEO will be able to understand which keyword queries drive value and which landing pages are most effective for converting organic search traffic. By piecing this information together, SEO’s can better understand the executions that are resulting in conversions, the targeting strategies that require further optimization efforts, and the keyword targets have not yet reached the search engine audience.
[This post originally appeared on Asking Smarter Questions and is republished with permission.]
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