Google ‘Not Provided’: How are you going to survive?

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Later this year, the percentage of organic search traffic that is being reported as ‘not provided’ is likely to reach 100%. For digital marketers, this throws up a myriad of questions.

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Google’s ‘not provided’ traffic is an issue that the digital industry has been grappling with for some time but last week’s change by Google has upped the ante. As marketers look to make their websites more relevant to both users and to Google, critical keyword data has been stripped away from them.

Is the once data rich keyword world that underpins the life blood of the SEO professional set to drain away?

Here are nine key tips to overcoming Google’s latest challenge.

1. Don’t Panic

Whilst this will undoubtedly change the way you report on your campaigns, it is by no means a death-knell for your SEO strategy.

2. It’s all about the landing page

Even though you have lost visibility on your organic keywords, landing pages can still provide some insight into performance on critical key terms.

Although ‘not provided’ means that we no longer have keyword data, we do have data on referred traffic. By analysing how much traffic is referred from Google to each particular landing page, we can begin to interpret which keywords are helping to drive traffic.

3. Content is King

Because landing pages are now likely to offer much more insight into keyword performance, content is once again brought to the fore.

The removal of keyword data does not stop you from identifying potential content ideas – keyword research will still assist in identifying trends for keyword phrases that your customers care about. This allows you to ensure that your content marketing plan is fully optimised for those terms.

4. Show me the money – bid on PPC

Google’s decision to withhold keyword data, unsurprisingly, doesn’t extend to paid search campaigns. PPC will still give you all of the visibility that you need to understand keyword performance.

Activity on paid search advertising will still provide keyword-level data, allowing you to analyse which keywords are driving traffic and conversions. This will give you some insight into terms that you may want to focus on from an organic search perspective.

5. Be the master of your own destiny

Google’s webmaster tools search query report will show you which organic keywords are driving particular types of traffic.

However, before you get too excited, remember that organic clicks in webmaster tools are approximations, rather than a true representation of the number of visits driven to a site.

6. Follow the trends

Google trends helps us to identify upturns in branded search volume and as a result non-branded lifts. When this is combined with ranking data, it can provide the necessary insight for historical analysis and performance forecasting.

7. Learn from the past to inform the future

The really good news is that you already have a wealth of historical keyword data. Use this data to gauge brand / non-brand traffic split and understand which keywords have historically been the primary performance drivers. This data will also help you to identify seasonal trends and uplifts.

8. Search and you shall find

Your onsite search tool has a wealth of data about the non-brand keywords customers are searching for. If users are searching for particular products on your site, it could stand to reason that similar patterns would occur on Google.

9. Other search engines may hold the clues

Google may well be the dominant player, but that doesn’t mean that other search engines can’t provide valuable insight into your keyword performance. Yahoo and Bing haven’t locked down their keyword data and these could provide valuable nuggets of information.

What does the future hold?

Charles Darwin is oft quoted as saying: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Google moving the goalposts is nothing new and digital marketers are used to having to adapt, quite literally overnight, to the search goliaths whim.

What this will do is force people, in the interim at least, to think much more about the data they already have and interpret it into meaningful insight to shape future campaigns.

Whether Google persists with this approach longer-term remains to be seen (and there are various theories as to what may or may not happen next) but this change doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to work harder; you just have to work smarter.

If you need assistance on making that change, get in touch today by calling 0113 391 2929.

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