There has been a new announcement by Google that they will no longer allow the keyword value to pass into your analytics tracking tools, such as Google Analytics, or even bigger suites like Site Catalyst as “extra protection” to the consumer (those of us searching on Google). Again the time has come for the SEO marketer, like myself, to redefine how to show the success of SEO efforts. Rethinking metrics to track will be a challenge, but it will be one we all face.
The industry is saying the drop from keyword referral traffic will occurring at a rate from 80-100%, but so far we have seen 20-50% of keyword traffic falling into the not provided bucket. How do you see this you wonder? Well, log into Google Analytics, look under “Traffic Sources,” > ‘Search,” > “Organic.” This is where you can find this segment of data. Below is a sample we’ve managed to access from a partner willing to share.
With any intelligence system, like a search engine, there is a responsibility to protect the user, so Google has taken the position, but now it might be time for the consumer to shift their searching habits to Yahoo or Bing, so that we can still have keyword data; oddly it is only Google imposing these limitations. One SEO industry pro remarks this might be a way for Google to get more people to buy AdWords and paid advertisements.
The goal here is to still have meaningful data that can provide marketers, bloggers and e-commerce teams with useful insights as to where organic search keywords are sending value and what metrics can still be tracked to learn about traffic from search engines. To help you best monitor your SEO and keyword performance going forward, I’ve put together the top 3 metrics to track each month.
1) Page Level Traffic:
In Google Analytics there is a page level traffic report. This report shows the visitors coming into your site through keyword ranked landing pages. This can be found be clicking this following path:” Content” > “Site Content” > “Landing Pages”
The value of this data is that you can see trends in traffic referred for key pages and this helps you to decide the topics or products performing well. To get more insights from this report, adding a “Secondary dimension,” with the Traffic Source set to “Keyword’ will have the “not provided” bucket populated for each URL; those of you advanced with Excel can export the data and manipulate by not provided column to dig into the top pages. We’ve added a screenshot for the secondary metric placement in GA.
2) New vs. Returning, Segmented by Keyword
Set up your next metric by looking at the sites new vs. returning visitors – why? Because you want to make sure you are getting NEW traffic – this is a key indication of search behavior, especially for branded keywords. The way you get to this segment in GA is as follows: “Audience,” > “Behavior,” > “New vs. Returning”
Once here, repeat the secondary segmentation to add the metric “Keywords,” which was shown in #1 above. This will give you the number of New vs. Returning visitors that came from a Google related the number of “not provided” keywords for each type. Of course the keywords are now bucketed into “not provided,” but you as can assume two things from looking at this metric:
Importance of a Returning Visitor: If the “returning” number is growing/in decline, then your branded keyword searches are growing/ or in decline.
Importance of a New Visitor: If the number of “new visits” in this bucket is growing/in decline, then your natural search traffic is also growing/in decline.
3) Search Engine Keywords from Other Engines
Yes, that’s right! We cannot forget about the “other guys;” Yahoo!, Bing and all the rest of the search portals not powered by Google (unfortunately AOL might be impacted, so keep an eye out). Most good business owners and bloggers already know how to find this metric, but we will offer it here, as well as a segment to gain greater insight. To find this metric you drill down to: “Traffic,” > “Search,” > “Organic” We’ve also added a secondary segment, “Source.”
The search engine keyword report shows all keywords referring traffic to the site, and we want to consider each of these to see what keywords are sending the most traffic. To gain some actionable insights from this report, we can do so more effectively by looking at the following:
Keyword Metrics: Keywords from Yahoo or Bing with high search traffic – we can then test to see if these also rank well in Google.
Keyword Assumption: If so, then we can assume our “not provided” bucket has some of this keyword traffic in it. Ear marking this, and other keywords like it for long term rank monitoring will be ideal to have a trend worthy keyword set to track. This will be useful if you see any other these metrics decline – you will have keyword data points to refer to that can offer insight into your search engine keyword performance from Google.
Instead of fault Google, it is important for us to adapt, and ensure we are still adding value and forward-thinking strategies that leverage other meaningful metrics. A true digital marketer knows that there are other data points to consider, but we want to ensure that the small business owner and blogger does too.
To learn more about how I can help you learn about what you can do stay successful in search despite the new limitations, please contact me on Twitter @ELMConsulting.
I am also doing an event at LIM College in NYC this Saturday 9/28, and my session will address more about Google Secure and the impacts on the fashion industry. Come out to and meet with me to learn more about how Google Secure impacts you.
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