With Google’s transition to fully encrypt typed queries in September 2013, visits segmented by keyword phrase are no longer the key metric of SEO success. In some of our client’s accounts, the proportion “not provided” is over 80% and climbing.
If you aren’t up to date about the origin and growth of “not provided” keywords, read this quick summary of Google’s secure search implementation.
“Not Provided” took a break in December but and has continued its upward trend through January 2014.
Those who have been comparing month-over-month keyword traffic have had a lot of explaining to do. How do you explain that the sky isn’t falling when you see a graph like this of your top and main branded search phrase?
Actually, it’s quite easy to explain. Include the overall organic keyword trend for context, as well as “not provided” and the story goes like this…
If you’re getting the skeptical eye, now’s the time to turn to Google Webmaster Tools, and start to prove that organic keyword phrases are still bringing in the traffic.
Google Webmaster Tools data is only available for 90 days, regardless of whether you go to GWT or link GWT with Google Analytics.
Look at GWT data in Google Analytics. Compare the Organic Search Traffic report to the GWT Queries report. Here, we see that although GA reports only a paltry 16,325 visits over the period for this one specific keyword phrase…
…GWT tells us that the clicks were about 75,000, which is 4.5x higher.
Now, clicks aren’t the same as visits, and yes, perhaps some people clicked on the same search term twice in 30 minutes. But even if that’s the case and the 75,000 clicks translated into half those visits, that’s still double the number that GA is showing.
So what does the practice of SEO look like in 2014?
- Continue to do keyword research to find out what topics are of rising interest.
- Continue to create and curate pages that will provide valuable information about such topics.
- Write in a focused manner about that topic, in a readable manner, using the keywords that people use to search. You’ll create naturally optimized, usable, digestible pages.
- Socialize your content, so that people find out about your content and link to it or share it if they like it.
- Measure results. Keywords are “not provided” in GA. So, instead:
- Trend your backlinks for your topic-optimized pages of content.
- Measure the number of visits where this page is an organic search landing page.
- Can you see an uptick in the Google Queries report?
- And most importantly, do visits that land on this page result in a conversion or value event?
SEO should always have been about useful content, not keywords. Google’s change to secure search puts the focus back where it should be, on content.