Google Has Moved to Secure Search, Removing All Keyword Data: What Does This Mean for Bloggers?

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by Erika L. Miller

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.image09

 

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.

Step-1-checklist

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”

Step 2- checklist

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:

  1. Importance of a Returning Visitor: If the “returning” number is growing/in decline, then your branded keyword searches are growing/ or in decline.

  2. 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.”Step 3- main checklist

Step 3- source- checklist

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.

[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]

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28 Responses

  1. Chuck Winslow

    This is great. Makes me want to just give millions of more dollars to Google for some info!

    Reply
  2. Eva Tornado

    I am russian so I always use service of the russian search engine Yandex (Yandex Metrika). It works for ex-USSR countries and as for me, is much more better than Google and shows all the statistics of behaviour of visitors. But unfortunatelly it works just in russian language.

    Reply
  3. Ashley Robison

    Erika, I’m so glad you wrote this post!

    I had noticed within the last several months on my WordPress Stats a number of “Unknown Search Terms” coming through and thought nothing of it until last night, when my fiance shared an article with me about this. After reading it, I thought, “Okay, so my SEO use and my ranking shouldn’t change, I just won’t know what is bringing people in.”

    The biggest takeaway I’m getting from you is that we’re really going to have to dig a bit more and do a bit more work to determine what is actually bringing in our users – it won’t be so neat and tidy as before. (Which I’m glad you pointed out, because I wouldn’t have thought about it myself!)

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Erika @ELMConsulting

      @Ashley – your exactly right, more work to get the data you once got, but still going to have some gaps. To fill them youll need these metrics, as well as tracking tools like Google Web Master tools and SEMRush to help you look at query data (market share) and traffic to your site.

      Seems we will need to start clustering pages into keyword buckets, and from this make assumptions on trends. Let me know if you have other questions as your analytics template undergoes and overhaul. Im on twitter, linked above.

      Reply
  4. Lexi

    Well I’m really going to miss seeing the weird hits I get from search results.

    “Sexy grannies wearing stockings” comes to mind…

    Reply
  5. Faraz

    Google also do something, that creates headache to bloggers. I think there are other free analytic tools we can use for keyword mapping.

    Reply
  6. TulsaWeb

    By using keyword data for search results, but not revealing the keywords used, Google has made it harder to game the system.

    Content will have to stand as written and be indexed as it is.

    Reply
    • Erika @ELMConsulting

      Tulsa Web, I totally agree with you. read more about InDepth and Hummingbird algo update – all moves by Google to change the game. SEOs and marketers in the online space must be agile and ready to play ball.

      Reply
  7. Jen | Jen Darling

    Wow Erika, this is super helpful. I should spend more time learning how analytics work (Its on my to-do list to go through Google’s free course!) and this is a huge help to at least understand where to get started. Thank you for sharing!!

    xo
    Jen

    Reply
  8. Brandon

    *The industry is saying the drop from keyword referral traffic will occurring at a rate from 80-. ( Did you mean will be occurring or occur?) *
    Nonetheless, Excellent post! I’ve spent months racking my brain trying to figure this out and all it took was one visit to ifb. It’s a totally understandable direction for Google, I just wish it didn’t take such a toll on bloggers. =/

    Reply
    • Erika @ELMConsulting

      UGH! Brandon, some dashboards like Adobe Media Optimizer and AdWords will be able to help bigger brands with data and insights from paid campaigns and lets understand, that is still meaningful. For smaller brands however, like Tulsa Web mentioned, its going to change the game of SEOs left standing. Only those with true knowledge of marketing, research and story telling will move forward with grace.

      Reply
    • Erika @ELMConsulting

      Carol, if you arent familiar with SEO, it might be best to do some research about it up front. Also, I offer a training course on Skillshare for $20. You can learn about it very easily there, as your own pace. Check it out if you like. Otherwise, just Google it 😉
      http://skl.sh/11ID4a3 — SEO FOR FASHION BLOGGERS

      Reply
  9. AndyG

    Good tips . Finding new ways to detect low hanging (keyword) fruits will be a challenge now.

    Wrong in some comments above is the advice to use SEMRush -> Keyword data from independent analysis is now gone. .. all those indpendent services and tracking tools will be worthless soon.

    Reply
    • Erika @ELMConsulting

      Hey Andy – well you might be right. I guess we shall see. Youll be surprised. Some of them already knew this was the inevitable and the have a solution in play. However, for now, these services offer tracking tools, insight driven data, and competitive analytic tools that are just another metric for measurement. If Google pulls the API and AdPlanner becomes the only way – then it will be interesting to see the shift.

      Nevertheless my friend we can always A) All move over to Yahoo/Bing or elsewhere. And / Or B) Cluster our pages into keyword buckets and rely on Google Web Master tools for insights. Surely this will require manual work, but a lot of these SEO’s are data genies, not just spammers trying to make a buck.

      Anyway, just saying…. food for thought. Please do share any tools you might know of – we all love new tools!

      Reply
  10. Bill - Annapolis Wedding Photographer

    Over 80 percent of search traffic on my site has the keyword as “not provided.” That number has definitely been increasing over the last week. I am not sure why Google wants to make it harder for people to properly rank their websites. Hopefully Google can make some changes to Analytics or Webmaster Tools so we can see what Organic Searches our sites are showing up for.

    Reply