We can no longer accurately track traffic for Google in organic search at the keyword level. As “(not provided)” climbs to 100%, so does our lack of ability to track Google organic keyword conversions.
Tell your friends, your family, your loved ones, the boss. Then, if you didn’t immediately lose their attention with the use of acronyms and jargon, also let them know that we are still able to measure our efforts and gain strategic insight in many ways.
This article attempts to explain what we currently see in keyword reports, shows how CPC data can help guide SEO efforts, and finally a consolidation of initial thoughts and ideas to help move forward.
Smart SEO professionals will always prove their worth. Together, we can overcome this daunting hurdle.
What do we see in Google’s organic keyword reports?
Short answer: We don’t see an accurate representation of the keywords people use to access our sites.
The easiest way to see this is to view browser versions that still pass keyword referral data.
Above, the light green color corresponds to the percentage of keywords that are still passing keywords next to the darker organic visits from Google.
Basically, we mainly see keywords from outdated versions of Safari and MSIE (Internet Explorer). So search behavior associated with demographics using outdated browsers is what we see coming from Google in analytics packages like Google Analytics. Probably not a full picture of what’s really going on.
Using PPC data to guide SEO strategy
Google needs marketers to be able to quantify their efforts when it comes to AdWords. Therefore, keyword data East past and there to enjoy.
The idea here is that if a page performs well in a PPC campaign, it will translate to performing well at the top of organic listings, although people clicking on ads versus organic listings will likely behave differently to some extent. .
There are many ways to use PPC data to help guide SEO strategy, this is just one way to get the juices flowing.
Step 1: Identify the best performing PPC landing pages
If you use Google Analytics, from the dashboard, click Acquisition > Adwords > Destination URL. Assuming you have enough conversion tracking set up here, it should give you all the information you need to understand which pages perform best.
After filtering the landing page, sorting by the conversion metric of your choice, adding Keyword as a secondary dimension, then exporting 100 rows, you’ll have the top 100 landing page/keyword combinations for PPC. Revenues are always a good indication that people like what they see.
Step 2: Extracting ranking data
Next, pull data from Google Webmaster Tool Ranking for related keywords. You can access this data in Google Analytics from Dashboard > Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries, or in Google Webmaster Tools.
Specify the largest possible date range (90 days) and download the report. Then use VLOOKUP to pull ranking data into the spreadsheet containing the top landing page/PPC keyword combinations.
Step 3: Form an SEO Strategy
Now that we know where our site appears organically for the best PPC keyword/destination URL combinations, we can start strategizing.
An obvious strategy is to make sure the PPC and organic landing pages are the same. Sending PPC traffic to organic canonical pages can only increase opportunities for links and social sharing, assuming the organic page converts well.
Another option is to filter the Average Rank column to only include first-page rankings, in an effort to identify low-hanging fruits. Once an opportunity is identified, compare SEO metrics to determine where to focus and how to best meet and beat your competitors.
Additional Thoughts on SEO Strategy in a 100% “(Not Provided)” World
1. ‘(Not provided)’ still counts as organic
Conversion information is still applied to the organic channel, remember! We no longer have the ability to tell someone who googled [hocus pocus] bought $1,000 worth of “hocus pocus” stuff. But we can say someone clicked on an organic listing, landed on the hocus pocus page, and bought $1,000 worth of stuff.
Note: “(not provided)” should not be confused with the issue of iOS 6 organic traffic appearing as direct. The last time we checked was hiding about 14% of Google searchesbut becomes less of a problem with the adoption of iOS7.
2. Bing still has organic tracking at the keyword level
Bing doesn’t use Safe Search, so we can still see what people are looking for to get to our sites, conversions, sales, and more. Bing data could help quantify SEO efforts, but it still only accounts for 9.1% of organic search share.
Note: People searching for Bing versus Google probably behave differently to some degree.
3. Google Webmaster Tool Search Query Data Provides Partial Information
Google gives us access to the top 2,000 search queries every day. After understanding the limitations, the Search Query Report can be invaluable as it provides insight into how your site is performing on Google’s close side. Google also mentioned recently that it would increase the amount of data available to one year!
By linking Google Webmaster Tools to AdWords, Google also provided us with a report using the same search query data, except with more precise (unrounded) numbers.
Clearly, page-level tracking is more important than ever. Google has forced SEO pros to look at what pages are ranking and where, then pull other sources to guess performance and form strategies.
Google will most likely respond to the outcry by giving us access to more detailed search query data in Google Webmaster Tools. As mentioned earlier, they have already announced a data increase from 90 days to one year. It may be a sign of how they might help us in the future.