In late 2011, Google began redirecting users who were signed into their Google accounts to the encrypted (https) version of the search engine, beginning the keyword (not provided) era. At the time, Matt Cutts assured everyone that the change would only affect single-digit percentages of all organic search traffic reporting.
The reality was, of course, much different. Marketers, webmasters and SEO professionals quickly saw the share of (not provided) keywords rise to the 20%, 30%, even 40% ranges. Then, on September 23, 2013, Google dropped the hammer, encrypting all search traffic and thus hiding keyword referral data for all of its organic search traffic.
The initial response of digital marketing professionals was…panic. Even Rand Fishkin, while not quit declaring the death of search engine optimization, called keyword (not provided) the first existential threat to SEO.
Google’s move did not, of course, “kill” SEO, but it did force marketers to adopt a broader framework to optimize overall web presence. And it forced SEO and analytics professionals to get more creative in how they analyzed and assessed organic search keyword data. Here are half a dozen of the best guides to measuring organic search phrase results in a keyword (not provided) world.
12 Ways to Measure Content Effectiveness After Google’s “Not Provided” Decision by Content Marketing Institute
***** 5 STARS
While many SEO writers offered tips on how to continue to get organic keyword insights after Google stopped providing referring keyword data last fall, this post is one of the best: Mike Murray steps through a dozen techniques for organic keyword analysis, from opening an AdWords account and using Bing/Yahoo data through tracking search rankings and analyzing organic search landing page data.
Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options, the Future byh Occam’s Razor
***** 5 STARS
In his typical thoroughly researched, profoundly well thought-out, incredibly detailed, and richly illustrated style, Avinash Kaushik examines the implications of the loss of organic keyword data; helpful metrics that remain available (such as Mutli-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics, organic landing page reports, and paid keyword data); alternatives for keyword data analysis; and possible future solutions (such as “page personality analysis”). It’s a great deal to absorb, but worth reading and bookmarking.
Google Webmaster Tools Search Query Data is Accurate (and Valuable) by Search Engine Watch
Yes, Google Webmaster Tools (WMT) data has become more valuable in the wake of the universal (not provided) issue, but no, it certainly isn’t perfect. Ben Goodsell does an exemplary job here explaining the value of GMT data for SEO analytics, the limitations of the data, and a “secret” workaround to get a bit more detail out of WMT reports.
(Not Provided) Changes the SEO Landscape by iMedia Connection
Dave Murrow steps back and takes a broad view of the keyword (not provided) issue, speculating on why Google may have made the change and recommending that marketers embrace not just new analytics tactics to deal with the loss of organic keyword data, but also strategic changes to website optimization overall.
Not Provided Keywords – SEO Reporting Without Keyword Data by SEER Interactive
Michelle Noonan walks through six techniques to help compensate for the loss of Google organic keyword data, inlcuding both the usual sources—Google WMT data, YaBing visits, keyword rankings—and unique ideas like reporting on referral traffic and looking for “unique markers to track” based on each specific client’s objectives and situation.
Ideas for Keyword (Not Provided) by LunaMetrics
Reid Bandremer lists 15 ideas for dealing with Google’s “keyword not provided” issue—including Google Webmaster Tools data, aksing users, and using paid data sources—but concludes that “There’s simply no magic bullet and no single one-size-fits-all solution to solving 100% keyword (not provided). Instead, what we have currently is a very complicated set of many different methods to uncover little gaps in insights left by (not provided).”