(Not Provided) means No More Keywords… Almost
First, let us look at what (not provided) means. If you do go into Google Analytics and you look at the words people use to get to your site (these are called keywords) you will see that a huge percentage of them are labeled (not provided).
This percentage is the amount of keywords that Google HAS but isn’t going to share with you.
At the end of September Google announced that the (not provided) metric would be 100% of keywords by December 2013. Everyone was talking about this from the moment it happened. Millions of blog posts were available within a couple of days! Not me. I needed to digest and really feel it out.
Do I think it is horrible to have nearly all keywords hidden? No. If you are a normal internet user this change is great. If you are the NSA then you are mad as hell. If you make your living as one of those SEO people who promise particular keywords are going to rank better then you are panicking. Website owners? I bet you are lost. You read all these dooms-day articles about No More Keywords and the Keyword Apocalypse. That is not quite true yet and even when it does become true, you are going to be fine.
Do Keywords not Matter Now?
Let me say it straight: they still matter. They matter a lot. It’s critical that every single page of your site has a keyword goal. All of your evergreen content (new blogs/news articles, etc) must have one subject that it sticks to and serves well. SEO has never been about keyword ranking it’s about getting people to LAND on your page. You can rank in the #1 spot, but if you are never clicked then that keyword ranking is worthless to you. If they click and do not stick (navigate immediately away, aka bouncing), that keyword ranking AND click is worthless to you.
Even if all your keywords were hidden, you still can measure how successful your posts (and therefore the keywords used for them) are doing by looking at your Landing Page reports in Google Analtyics and the Top Pages report in Google Webmaster. Of course, this assumes you are focusing each page on one topic and sticking to it!
Google Webmaster Still Gives Some Keyword Data
While Google did give you everyone else’s keywords in Google Analytics and that is absolutely over, they aren’t yet turning out the lights. You can see SOME of the keywords you are ranking in Google only searches in Google Webmaster. You can see their average world rank and some of the clicks earned by them. It’s not super terrific but it is still good data. Now that it is the only keyword data from Google it will be indispensable. Deal with the ugly interface and embrace it! The reports that Google Webmaster also went dark are wrong. There was a glitch, and it has been fixed. Queries for which you are ranking ARE still reported. Most of the clicks are hidden, but if you go to the Top Pages report in Google Webmaster you can find more of the clicks. If your pages are written with 1 topic in mind you can extrapolate how the visitors landed there.
What about Bing?
Bing is still giving keyword data. It’s just too bad that for all my clients Bing only owns, at the most, 15% of their organic traffic. If you get high traffic then that 15% is enough of a sample to draw some reliable conclusions. If your site is new or you don’t get good traffic then the information isn’t as usable. Look at it anyway!
When Landing Page, Google Webmaster and Bing Reports just aren’t enough
Do Google advertising, called Pay Per Click or PPC. Simple as that. And still be prepared to get upset. Yes, PPC can unlock more keyword data but it isn’t simple. If you don’t have that keyword ‘inputted’ then it won’t report on it. So..if you have no clue how you get your traffic then PPC isn’t going to unlock that data. Also, your access to your keywords will depend on your budget. For instance I’ll never know if I rank for keywords that have an average Cost Per Click of $15. I will not pay that much for a single click. Your budget and your knowledge of possible keywords will define how well PPC will reveal your keywords.
WHY oh WHY did they do this?
The real answer is no one really knows and for sure it has to be many reasons anyway.
- Some say to black out our data from the NSA
- Some say to force us into PPC
- Some say to put the hurt on SEO professionals
- And still others say so that everyone will stop focusing on Keywords and get back to the Content
What do I think? I think it’s tied to the Hummingbird Update I wrote about in my last article. Hummingbird isn’t looking for keyword densities per se. It can understand contextual clues and more about subject matter. It’s now more important then ever to stick to a subject per page. In my humble opinion I think Google did this for all the reasons stated and then some more. Whatever the reason, it’s now life as we know it.
How am I dealing with (Not Provided)?
First, I am doing all the things I suggested here: 1 subject per post, using landing page reports, using Google Webmaster Queries, and Google Webmaster Top Pages reports. BUT I also am now a RavenTools subscriber. It’s $99 a month and it is allowing me to digest my and all my client’s data in a new way to define success without having the full keyword data.
RavenTools allows me to handle the technical and social part of this job. I’m still against link building so I don’t use those tools it provides and I write all the content I post (under my client’s names) so I don’t use the content tools either but even so, it’s worth the money. I highly recommend it. If $100 a month and many hours of your time to use this tool is not doable, hire me. I am subscribed already and I have the time! I’m also perpetually on top of the latest news and changes in this ever shifting world dominated by secret algorithms!