January 22 2014


6 Ways to Understand Your Organic Search Data When It’s (not provided)

Over two years ago, in an effort to encourage stronger security standards across the internet, Google announced that they would be moving towards “Secure Search.” What this meant at the time was that organic search queries would be encrypted for users who were signed into their Google accounts. Encrypted organic queries would show up as (not provided) within Google Analytics.

In September 2013, Google confirmed that they were making changes aimed at completely encrypting all search activity (except ad clicks), signed in or not. And now, Google’s organic keyword data is practically a thing of the past as the estimated (not provided) numbers inch closer and closer to 100 percent every day.

Average Not Provided Organic Traffic

Naturally, (not provided) has been a huge topic at TopSpot Internet Marketing. Many companies are concerned with how a lack of organic keyword data will impact their SEO strategy. Among all the questions we’ve received regarding (not provided), the most frequent tends to be along the lines of “Well, what now?”

The answer in short: “We saw this coming. And we’ve got a plan.”

Here are 6 ways our Search Marketing team looks at data to fill in the blanks of (not provided):

Understanding Not Provided

1. PPC Keyword Data

Our team of SEM Specialists are a team full of lucky guys and gals. Why? Because they enjoy a world where (not provided) doesn’t exist. All the keyword data for users who click on an ad in Google is available. At TopSpot, if you’re on a Customer Relationship Team (CRT), you have a Paid Search Specialist and an SEO Specialist that work together on your account. Your SEO is looking at keywords coming in through paid search for content ideas, optimization improvements and to understand which keywords are converting. This has always been a huge part of the strategy and the reasoning behind the makeup of a CRT at TopSpot.

How to look at this data: To view your Paid Search keyword data in Google Analytics, head to Acquisition > Search Terms > Paid.

2. Landing Page Data

Just because you can’t see the keyword coming in from organic searches in Google, doesn’t mean that you can’t see where a user landed from their search. Since there’s no longer an accurate way of measuring traffic by keyword over time, landing pages are a great substitute. We measure how landing pages are performing over time by segmenting them by organic traffic only. Based on the landing page data, we can get an idea of what keywords a user searched based on the topic or content of the landing page. This data helps us prioritize which pages may need improvements in terms of content and keyword optimization.

How to look at this data: To view your Landing Page data in Google Analytics, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. Add an Advanced Segment to view by Non Paid Search Traffic only.

Non-Paid Search Traffic

3. Google Webmaster Tools

While Google hides organic keywords in Google Analytics, they still give us some actionable organic keyword data in Google Webmaster Tools with data on impressions, number of clicks per keyword, click through rate and average positioning. This data is great and eases the ambiguity from a lack of search terms a bit. However, the data is limited to 90 days and includes only a small subset of keywords.

How to look at this data: Within Google Webmaster Tools, head to Search Traffic > Search Queries. You can view data by Search Queries and by Landing Pages with associated search queries per page.

Google Webmaster Tools

4. Internal Search Data

Internal site search data is a gold mine for keyword data because it is representative of exactly what people are looking for when they are on your site. This data impacts both our organic and paid search keyword strategies, but is also incredibly useful for content strategy and improving the user experience.

How to look at this data: To view your internal site search data in Google Analytics, you’ll need to make sure it is set up in your Settings. Here are some great resources our Marketing Manager, Nicole, has put together on how to get it set up, where to find it and how the data can help your website.

The next two ways we look at data are a bit unique to TopSpot. Not only do they fill in the blanks a bit for organic searches, but they also drive much of our strategy for search engine marketing as a whole and help in understanding the quality of leads.

5. Form Data

At TopSpot, we offer the ability to track online leads with form tracking. It’s my favorite way to understand what people are searching for and it allows our teams (both SEO and Paid Search) to gather real keyword data based on a user’s request. The best thing about this data is that it’s conversion data, meaning the keywords and phrases they used in their request converted once already and may be likely to convert for other users as well.

6. Call Tracking

Not only do we offer lead tracking for forms, we also offer it for phone calls as well. There are many benefits of tracking your calls coming from your website, and understanding the keywords and phrases that users are communicating through speech for the products and services they need is definitely one of them. With Google displaying improved search results for conversational search in their latest Hummingbird algorithm, hearing exactly what people need is also great for content ideas.

As Search marketers, we understand that we constantly have to adapt and work with the tools and data that are available. And sometimes we are at the mercy of the search engines. Our (not provided) strategy has been the strategy we’ve been preaching for 10 years strong — using the data we DO have to get our clients quality traffic that is going to convert. Organic keyword data from Google or not, we still have plenty of data and brains at TopSpot to do just that.