Has the increase in (not provided) data affected your on-line marketing efforts? For those unfamiliar with “not provided” data, let’s dive into the past for a moment. The year is 2011. Google announces that it will encrypt keyword searchers for users who are logged into their Gmail accounts. This was supposedly implemented due to privacy issues. This meant that anyone who was logged into their Gmail account and happened to find your site in a search results page, Google would not reveal how they got to your site (or specifically, what keyword they typed to find your beautiful website). This meant a portion of organic search traffic would be thrown into a “not provided” bucket. At the time the change was implemented (October, 2011), this unknown bucket only accounted for a few percentage points of organic search traffic and no one worried about it as much. Fast forward to October 2013 and the unknown bucket has grown to almost 70% of all organic search traffic! This is huge. Not only does this make SEO reporting challenging, but it also makes it difficult to find keyword opportunities. For example, if you notice that people are typing in RV’s to get to your SUV page, you could create a separate page for RV’s since traffic and keyword demand indicates an interest in RVs, which your site is currently not satisfying. Unfortunately, this great marketing insight will go away once Google fully encrypts keyword data by the end of this year (2013). Now the more important question everyone’s asking. How do we continue to effectively report for SEO to our clients?
Below are some creative ways to meaningfully report on SEO metrics and keep clients happy:
1. Keyword rankings: Fortunately, this reporting metric will not go away. Clients still want organic visibility for all their targeted keywords. As long as search engines exist (and people use them) keyword placement will still be very important for reporting on SEO performance.
2. Page Level Analysis: we can still use raw data provided at the page level. We will not know what keywords brought visitors to the site, but we will know how many total visitors a certain page received. From this, we can deduce that the homepage, contact us page and about us page, typically receive branded traffic. All other inner pages typically receive non-branded traffic. I use the word typically because it is an estimate and not 100% accurate. We could break down data by the page level for month end reporting and show clients an estimate for branded versus non-branded traffic.
3. Google Webmaster Tools: this is probably the most accurate way of reporting keyword and traffic data for month end reports. How long this data will be available is an entirely different question. As of today (October 10th, 2013), it is still available and Google has made no mention of doing away with it. The data provided by GWT has keywords, impressions and the number of clicks for all organic search traffic. According to Google itself, there are a few discrepancies between GA and GWT. These are listed below:
- GWT rounds keyword clicks under 10 clicks. That means if a certain keyword query had only 1 click, it would be reported as 10 clicks in GWT.
- GWT only shows queries that came from Google and from an organic search results page. It does not show AdWords queries.
- GWT may have a delay in reporting data.
- GWT currently only displays data from the last 90 days.
- GWT reports aggregate data and only provides query information once it reaches a certain threshold.
- GWT provides organic search query data on (not provided) as well.
If one were to look at all the above differences, the data provided by Webmaster Tools could be considered much more accurate in some areas, but lacking in others. As marketers, we have come to live with inaccurate data at best. We have to draw conclusions from the data that we do have and help clients achieve their number one goal; more conversions for their business.
I hope this article has shed some light on the new change that Google will implement by the end of this year. It’s always good to keep abreast on the latest Google updates before they actually get implemented. This allows you and your team time to educate clients on what to expect.
Good luck and may the SEO force be with you!