Keyword Not Provided: Can You Still Get the SEO Data You Need?

If you work in Web marketing or the SEO space, you have probably been hearing the buzz around Google’s change to their reporting of keyword data. Today, we are seeing “keyword not provided” 100 percent of the time for organic search results. I’ve definitely seen a change in my keyword data in just the last few days, although the month-to-date aggregate is closer to 48 percent, the latest results are showing nearly 100 percent keyword not provided. When reviewing the data for all search engines, it is closer to 70 percent—confirming that other search engines are not impacted by this change.

I know not all SEO managers are concerned about this change, but I believe that keyword-level insights are valuable and help us to drive strategy—together with a high-level view of performance. In order to improve the experience for Web users, we need both the granular and broad view of the data. Fortunately, although it is less convenient and workarounds are required, this change in keyword data reporting actually hasn’t changed our ability to get the insights we need, it only has changed how we get them. It may take us longer to reach the same conclusions, but we can extrapolate the keyword data we’ve come to rely on in our daily work.

Not convinced you are missing out on keyword data? Here are my favorite ways to use keyword data and some workarounds to help you achieve the same insights. As always, the best approach involves matching the most appropriate method to the specific business question you are trying to solve.

Optimize Paid and Organic

Keyword-level insights from SEO allow us to determine how to optimize our paid and organic search presence. Using keyword-level data, we can ensure that we are making the most of our paid presence without organic search overlap.

For example, when solving for paid and natural co-optimization strategies, depending on whether you are comparing brand or nonbrand keywords, you may occasionally discover that paid search cannibalizes natural search to some degree, but often there is also a net incremental benefit to both. In order to measure that incremental benefit, you now need to use a weighted distribution method that takes into consideration the top ranking, highest demand natural search keywords and apply page-level performance metrics to them. However, a weighted distribution method isn’t without limitation. Such a method is not capable of accurately determining the specific value for each keyword. With that said, this analysis should enable you to evaluate the validity of keyword-based strategies that can still yield a number of insights.

Identify Top Performing Keywords

Keyword reporting also helps us identify top performing keywords and adjust our strategies online in response to trends. What keywords are the most popular in searches? How can these insights help us improve our search rank?

Some strategies depend on understanding the number and type of top-performing keywords. This level of analysis used to be as simple as sorting your entire keyword list into groups by keyword theme, counting the keywords, and summing up the performance of related keywords. Now, there are two parts to this analysis that include keyword discovery and keyword performance evaluation. Keyword discovery for existing top-performing keywords involves collecting keywords from data sources such as Google Webmaster Tools, internal site search data, keywords from other search engines, and keyword data from tools like BrightEdge SEO X-ray. Keyword performance evaluation now involves a weighted allocation method that combines ranking information and page-level performance data.

Identify Top Page for Keyword

When you know what keywords relate to each page, then you can better work to identify the top page for a given keyword. This is important when you have many pages that might be targeting the same keyword. Having this data helps you to direct social media links and other promotions to the highest performing page.

For cases where several pages rank for the same keyword, it is important to understand the top-performing page in order to align content marketing and internal linking efforts. It is now more important than before to build and maintain a keyword to preferred landing page database. Ranking tools like BrightEdge offer keyword to page-level performance reports that can help solve this.

Customer and Brand Insights

Search data helps us better understand what customers are searching for to glean insights about your brand or messaging. What products are they searching for? How are they searching for products in your space?

Internal site search data is now also much more important. Site search queries can inform you of what types of keywords people are looking for on your website or what they are having trouble finding on your website. Also, let’s not forget that we still have keyword data from Bing to consider as well.

Diagnosing Traffic Drops

My method of diagnosing traffic drops has not changed as a result of the new reporting structure. I continue to measure traffic at an aggregate level, then filter down to the page level and look at those rankings.

These workarounds may be more time consuming than the reporting we had access to in the past, but the insight we can gather from this data is valuable. I feel it is worth the extra time to use these methods to inform our strategies going forward, at least until other options become available.