SMX Toronto: Keyword Research In A [Not Provided] World

By Sarah Lokitis | Apr 25, 2012
More Articles by Sarah


Ugh, Google. Don’t give us something and then take it away. The dreaded [not provided] keywords are plaguing marketers these days as SEO’s are losing valuable keyword traffic and insight into how users are getting to their sites. (For google.ca, however, that valuable data is still provided!)

How are we supposed to know what keywords are working well? Is our work effective? How do we explain our value to our clients? Increase of non-branded organic traffic month-over-month shows SEO value, but now we have to work on other methods for extracting that keyword data.

Christina Keffer of LunaMetrics agrees that this is a pain. Back in the day, Matt Cutts said 10% of searches will be affected, but now LunaMetrics has 54% of traffic coming in through not provided keywords!! The savvy searcher, who is signed into Google, using Chrome, or Firefox, has hidden data from analytics tools.

-          The Ratio Method: Come up with a more accurate estimate of non-branded organic search traffic.

  • Created excel sheet to find the ratio of non-branded to branded keywords. www.lunametrics.com/blog/not-provided-excel

-          The Engagement Metrics Correlation Method

  • Typically non-branded data has a much higher bounce rate than branded traffic.
  • Take a look at engagement of branded and non-brand traffic that you can see and compare that data in analytics to the not provided keywords. If it tends to match branded or non-branded, you can say the majority is one or the other.

-          The Google Webmasters Tools Method

  • Filter GWT for search traffic only and dig through pages to find keyword data for different URL’s.
  • Can automate this process with OutWit to find the source code and set up tags around the queries to scan pages.

It’s pretty unlikely that Google will change to not encrypt data anymore, and it is definitely worth the effort to do some work using these tools to investigate what the keywords we are losing actually are.

Next up, Claye Stokes from SEO.com. Stokes admitted he was freaking out a bit when we lost the keyword data we had and took for granted. However, when we consider what we CAN see online still that we can’t see offline in media, like TV and radio.

What we can see should be used in adapting content and planning strategy. The keyword is stripped out of the Google URL landing when you click a search result now. Previously the keyword was included in that crazy long URL string that Google uses before sending you to the actual website.

Webmaster Tools (WMT) does not apply [not provided] data and it does show impressions and rankings. What stinks is that Webmaster Tools limits long term trends by only giving us 35 days of data. Instead, Stokes says to download the WMT Search Query Report monthly to see those quarterly, yearly trends. A python script is available for archiving this data.

What percentage of [not provided] keywords are you seeing? Let me know and feel free to share your tips for combating Google’s secure search limitations.

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