If you work in Web mar­ket­ing or the SEO space, you have prob­a­bly been hear­ing the buzz around Google’s change to their report­ing of key­word data. Today, we are see­ing “key­word not pro­vided” 100 per­cent of the time for organic search results. I’ve def­i­nitely seen a change in my key­word data in just the last few days, although the month-to-date aggre­gate is closer to 48 per­cent, the lat­est results are show­ing nearly 100 per­cent key­word not pro­vided. When review­ing the data for all search engines, it is closer to 70 percent—confirming that other search engines are not impacted by this change.

I know not all SEO man­agers are con­cerned about this change, but I believe that keyword-level insights are valu­able and help us to drive strategy—together with a high-level view of per­for­mance. In order to improve the expe­ri­ence for Web users, we need both the gran­u­lar and broad view of the data. For­tu­nately, although it is less con­ve­nient and workarounds are required, this change in key­word data report­ing actu­ally hasn’t changed our abil­ity to get the insights we need, it only has changed how we get them. It may take us longer to reach the same con­clu­sions, but we can extrap­o­late the key­word data we’ve come to rely on in our daily work.

Not con­vinced you are miss­ing out on key­word data? Here are my favorite ways to use key­word data and some workarounds to help you achieve the same insights. As always, the best approach involves match­ing the most appro­pri­ate method to the spe­cific busi­ness ques­tion you are try­ing to solve.

Opti­mize Paid and Organic

Keyword-level insights from SEO allow us to deter­mine how to opti­mize our paid and organic search pres­ence. Using keyword-level data, we can ensure that we are mak­ing the most of our paid pres­ence with­out organic search overlap.

For exam­ple, when solv­ing for paid and nat­ural co-optimization strate­gies, depend­ing on whether you are com­par­ing brand or non­brand key­words, you may occa­sion­ally dis­cover that paid search can­ni­bal­izes nat­ural search to some degree, but often there is also a net incre­men­tal ben­e­fit to both. In order to mea­sure that incre­men­tal ben­e­fit, you now need to use a weighted dis­tri­b­u­tion method that takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the top rank­ing, high­est demand nat­ural search key­words and apply page-level per­for­mance met­rics to them. How­ever, a weighted dis­tri­b­u­tion method isn’t with­out lim­i­ta­tion. Such a method is not capa­ble of accu­rately deter­min­ing the spe­cific value for each key­word. With that said, this analy­sis should enable you to eval­u­ate the valid­ity of keyword-based strate­gies that can still yield a num­ber of insights.

Iden­tify Top Per­form­ing Keywords

Key­word report­ing also helps us iden­tify top per­form­ing key­words and adjust our strate­gies online in response to trends. What key­words are the most pop­u­lar in searches? How can these insights help us improve our search rank?

Some strate­gies depend on under­stand­ing the num­ber and type of top-performing key­words. This level of analy­sis used to be as sim­ple as sort­ing your entire key­word list into groups by key­word theme, count­ing the key­words, and sum­ming up the per­for­mance of related key­words. Now, there are two parts to this analy­sis that include key­word dis­cov­ery and key­word per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion. Key­word dis­cov­ery for exist­ing top-performing key­words involves col­lect­ing key­words from data sources such as Google Web­mas­ter Tools, inter­nal site search data, key­words from other search engines, and key­word data from tools like Bright­Edge SEO X-ray. Key­word per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion now involves a weighted allo­ca­tion method that com­bines rank­ing infor­ma­tion and page-level per­for­mance data.

Iden­tify Top Page for Keyword

When you know what key­words relate to each page, then you can bet­ter work to iden­tify the top page for a given key­word. This is impor­tant when you have many pages that might be tar­get­ing the same key­word. Hav­ing this data helps you to direct social media links and other pro­mo­tions to the high­est per­form­ing page.

For cases where sev­eral pages rank for the same key­word, it is impor­tant to under­stand the top-performing page in order to align con­tent mar­ket­ing and inter­nal link­ing efforts. It is now more impor­tant than before to build and main­tain a key­word to pre­ferred land­ing page data­base. Rank­ing tools like Bright­Edge offer key­word to page-level per­for­mance reports that can help solve this.

Cus­tomer and Brand Insights

Search data helps us bet­ter under­stand what cus­tomers are search­ing for to glean insights about your brand or mes­sag­ing. What prod­ucts are they search­ing for? How are they search­ing for prod­ucts in your space?

Inter­nal site search data is now also much more impor­tant. Site search queries can inform you of what types of key­words peo­ple are look­ing for on your web­site or what they are hav­ing trou­ble find­ing on your web­site. Also, let’s not for­get that we still have key­word data from Bing to con­sider as well.

Diag­nos­ing Traf­fic Drops

My method of diag­nos­ing traf­fic drops has not changed as a result of the new report­ing struc­ture. I con­tinue to mea­sure traf­fic at an aggre­gate level, then fil­ter down to the page level and look at those rankings.

These workarounds may be more time con­sum­ing than the report­ing we had access to in the past, but the insight we can gather from this data is valu­able. I feel it is worth the extra time to use these meth­ods to inform our strate­gies going for­ward, at least until other options become available.

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