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7 Ways Around Google’s (Not Provided)

Kim Brebach - Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Google (Not Provided) - why the sky is not falling in

What has changed?

A short summary with links to more detail.

A few weeks ago, Google decided to make all keyword searches secure, regardless of whether or not a searcher was logged into a Google account. In an instant, digital marketers were in the dark about which key words were effective in delivering searchers to their websites. Mind you, it wasn't all that sudden; we’ve been living with ‘not provided’ since Google introduced secure search for users of Gmail, Google Analytics, YouTube and Google Adwords a while back.

From now on, all organic Google search queries are encrypted, which means Google Analytics won't tell you which key terms people used to find your site. There’s plenty of speculation about Google’s reasons for this, and no one believes its story about protecting the privacy of users. More likely, Google has some new toolkit in the pipeline it can sell us.

What are the alternatives?

There are many, so let’s focus just on the main ones.

1. Other tools

 These are alternatives to measure the impact of key words:

  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Search Ranking Reports
  • AdWords Keyword Data
  • Organic & Paid Reports in AdWords
  • Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner (both provide lots of useful pointers).

2. Other search engines

According to ComScore, Google’s market share was 67% in mid 2013. Bing and Yahoo make up most of the remaining 33%, and they continue to pass keyword information to analysis tools. Are people using other search engines so different? Probably not; they’re the same as those using Google, just fewer of them. You can use their data and tools like the Bing Ad Intelligence Excel Plug-in and the Bing Keyword Tool.

3. Competitive intelligence tools

The smart people at MOZ have written a post that covers a number of tools for gaining keyword intelligence, Using Google Keyword Planner (and Other Tools Instead) for Keyword Volume . The Field Guide to Moz Analytics covers all of the analysis tools MOZ offers in some detail .

There are many other analysis tools available that include Searchmetrics, SpyFu, SEMRush, Wordtracker, KeywordDiscovery, WordStream, Searchlight TrueTraffic, Compete, SpyFu, Searchmetrics, SEMRush and UberSuggest.

4. Successful competitors

You can find out what key words competitors use by probing into their web pages but Neil Patel at Quicksprout suggests using a tool like SEMrush. This will show you some of the keywords competitors are using when you enter their urls. ‘SEMrush can provide data on almost any keyword a site is going after,’ says Neil. ‘From organic keywords to paid, they do a good job of listing potential keyword opportunities.’

5. Hit users with a pop-up

This is what we call lateral thinking, and it came to us via eloqua who says: ‘This solution, from @RavenJon is genius. If Google won’t give you the data, just demand it from visitors with an intrusive pop-up. What could possibly go wrong?’

6. Not Provided Kit (For Google Analytics) by Dan Barker @danbarker

Dan is an independent internet consultant. He says his Not Provided Kit ‘is a set of simple add-ons for Google Analytics (put together by me –) to help you understand what’s happening now that data is absent. It won’t fix the problem, but it may bring other insight around ‘not provided’ visits.’

7. Internal search term analytics

‘Don’t Cry About Not Provided SEO Keywords,’ is the advice from Russ Henneberry at the Daily Egg. ‘Set Up Internal Site Search Analytics. Internal site search data is much more actionable than inbound traffic from a search engine. These searchers are telling you exactly what they are looking for — on your website!

How about an obvious question: Do keywords still matter?

The answer is less and less. The main reason for Google’s new Hummingbird engine is its new focus on semantic search i.e. reading between the keywords users enter to figure out what they’re really looking for. That’s one reason why Ruth Burr form MOZ suggests that ‘we need to shift our focus from getting traffic from keywords to getting traffic to pages.’

She means pages that serve specific pieces of content, and that takes us back to the key objective of all of Google’s recent algorithm updates: to serve up the most appropriate content in response to search queries. The results Google serves up these days are based on a lot of factors ranging from Domain Authority to Author Rank to Likes and Shares for the author’s or their website’s content.

That’s why Ruth suggests we focus on building topical authority, since Google has spent so much time and money trying to figure out who knows the most about what. Google has also told us consistently: If your content is original and relevant, and you have respected websites linking to your site, then your website is going to rank well.

Simple, isn’t it?


More Reading

Google’s new paid and organic report: An expert view


Why You Don’t Need to Freak Out over Google’s (Not Provided)


Google ‘(Not Provided)’ Keywords: 10 Ways to Get Organic Search Data


Kim Brebach
Content Chief

I've always loved people and words. As long as I can remember, I've been a story-teller and the team here says I'm pretty good at it. That's probably why I head up the Content Team: I create the arc of the story and others add their magic. 

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