In September of last year, a collective gasp of horror could be heard across the online marketing world when Google announced it would not be providing keyword data altogether in Google Analytics. No more tracking service or product queries from your customers in Google Analytics and no more segmenting visitor traffic by keyword. In the name of privacy and user protection, Google rolled out “encrypted search,” which forbids the passing of keyword searches into analytics. You can blame it on the NSA spying on keyword queries or Google trying to push everyone to AdWords (where keyword visibility is safe and sound), but the cold reality is that our precious keyword data is now “not provided.” And that’s not cool.
So what do you do? Are there ways to get around encrypted search? Below are some helpful alternatives in helping you restore some of the keyword visibility you’ve been missing.
- Dive into Google Webmaster Tools Google Analytics might hold your keyword data hostage, but with Google Webmaster Tools you can check out the top organic search queries that drove the most impressions and clicks to your website from Google. You won’t be able to see keyword data older than three months, but it’s still a useful way to get current keyword rankings and traffic information. What’s also great is that if you click on the keywords themselves, you will get a list of your site’s landing pages associated with the keywords.
- Use Google’s Keyword Planner This is Google’s updated keyword tool that requires you to have an AdWords account (which you can set up for free). Given the tool is embedded in Google AdWords, its main function is identifying keywords to bid on for paid search advertising. However, the Keyword Planner shows you what terms perform well and can be useful in reducing some speculation in selecting search terms you might want to use organically across your website.
- Leverage Your Own Site Search If you have site search enabled on your website (and you should), the next step is to set up site search tracking in Google Analytics. Internal site search does not tell you what keywords users searched for in Google to find your site, but it does tell you what keywords users are searching for once they land on your site. And that is an excellent way to understand what your visitors want from you, which is critically important to not only your organic SEO efforts, but also your site’s conversion rates.
- Review Your Landing Pages in Google Analytics In Google Analytics itself, go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages, and you can see what specific pages your visitors are landing on when they initially hit your site. Take inventory of the keywords you’re optimizing those landing pages for and guess what? Your visitors are probably using some of those keywords to find you in Google!
- Believe in Bing Seriously? Given Bing’s search market share, of course they have to share the keyword love. While Bing does share all keyword data, it’s mostly useful for businesses that get a lot of traffic. SMBs often struggle with Bing keyword data because they simply can’t get the search traffic from Bing.
- Invest in a Tool Like SEMrush SEMrush is a premium tool that will show you all the keywords you are ranking for in Google. It will show you the keyword, position, search volume, and the URL specific to a keyword’s landing page. This tool is similar to Google Webmaster Tools in that you can only capture current rankings (three months), so be prepared to run keyword data reports quite frequently.
- Talk to Customer Service Your customer service team has priceless data on what your customers are looking for when it comes to your products and services. How often do you engage them? They are on the front lines. Take some time to get frequent visibility into customer communications and leverage that data (keywords) to optimize your site.
- Give in to Google! Got some extra cash lying around? You can always extend a budget to Google AdWords and have full visibility to all your keyword data. A well-oiled PPC campaign can act as a great compliment to your organic SEO efforts. And perhaps it supports your own conspiracy theory as to why Google eliminated organic keyword search visibility in the first place. 😉
Hopefully these tips can help save your sanity the time you are trying to glean insights from what keywords your website is getting traffic from. Also, great news for current Volume Nine clients – we are rolling Webmaster Tools Data into our Dashboard, so that you can now access this data & track trends in your organic keyword traffic!