In 2011, Google began to restrict the keyword data they report through Google Analytics. This meant that when a user performed a search while logged into a Google account, Google withheld the search term and simply reported "not provided" in Google Analytics. This has made it challenging to track keyword performance and create meaningful reports for our clients as the keywords used in search have been such an important part of SEO reporting. Analyzing this data and identifying which terms were driving traffic and which terms should have more priority over others has been a cornerstone of SEO since the beginning.
We have been monitoring our clients' Google Analytics accounts since Google began to implement this change. Currently, as much as 70% of their search queires are being withheld. Not Provided Count, a website that has been tracking withheld search terms across 60 separate websites, reports that the percent of search terms withheld by Google increased from 40% in late July to over 75% in late September. Not Provided Count estimates that 100% of search terms will be withheld by early December.
Here at Top Floor, we have known for a while that this was coming, so we've been taking appropriate steps to focus our analysis and reporting on the landing pages which are driving traffic to clients' sites. By optimizing landing pages for specific keywords and measuring the traffic to those pages, we can infer which terms are accounting for that traffic. We then use keyword ranking reports to confirm our conclusions. I'm proud of the way that we, as a team, have responded to this monumental change. It allows us to continue to provide valuable insights to our clients and to successfully drive traffic to their websites. It also makes our jobs more challenging, but that's the nature of digital marketing. We have to be proactive and focus on the future rather than trying to hold on to what we hoped would never change. It's our job to stay on top of these changes and make sure that we are prepared for our clients and our own sanity! Is it Time SEO & Paid Search Teamed Up? One thing that isn't changing is Google's reporting of keywords in paid search campaigns. Now that organic search terms are being withheld, combining a paid search campaign with an organic search optimization campaign can be an effective means of obtaining specific keyword insights. An integrated approach like this can help us to understand which keywords are most effective and which keywords to focus our efforts on. I guess this is a good example of the old saying, "You get what you pay for," right?