If you’ve been looking at your keyword data in Google analytics, you will of course be aware of the frustrating ‘not provided’ section. Sadly it’s becoming much more dominant in terms of percentage and we suspect the future outlook is bleak; with all keywords being hidden from SEO professionals. Google’s decision not to display this data could be more detrimental than either the Penguin or Panda updates were. Many websites suffered terribly when these updates were rolled out, many of which have still not fully recovered.
How will this affect how you do your SEO in future?
Accepting that keyword data will be going for good is a start. Try to ascertain the best approach to this new playing field; delve deeper into page metrics and performance to see what the real driving force of your website revenue and conversion is.
Are keywords still important?
Absolutely! Keyword searches are what users type to find things, unless something really radical in search happens I don’t see that changing. You will still optimize your pages for key phrases and monitor your page rankings, if you can see you rank well for a term you optimized on, then there’s a good chance that’s the keyword that’s driving your traffic for that landing page.
What other methods and tools can be deployed to get around the ‘not provided’ issue?
Google Webmasters is a good place to start but has its limitations. You can’t compare years, nor can you access data more than two months old. However there is additional information provided which isn’t in your analytics, so it’s well worth looking. There is also useful data on video, image and mobile search too. Google Core reporting API is another useful tool for getting the data into Excel to extrapolate your data.
What is the impact in terms of reporting?
Anyone who has used an SEO agency knows that keyword rankings dominate the reports so this will affect reporting immensely. Clients will need to be educated and convinced that it’s due to the SEO team’s efforts in writing, syndicating content and social media that is actually driving the traffic.
Content is king, as we all now know, and this change validates that strategy now more than ever. Writing great and compelling content will not only improve your rankings, it will force marketers to be more creative and produce better websites. I can see why Google has made this decision, but I will sorely miss having access to my keyword data.