In his previous post, Mark McLaren provided a thorough overview of the (not provided) keyword blackout and his thoughts on how the SEO industry will survive. Today he reviews the key steps you should follow to survive yourself.
How to Deal with (not provided)
Strengthen your brand
A solid, well-recognized brand is a huge advantage. It contributes in a big way to user experience, and it increases the odds that users will click on listings in search results – organic or paid. Google puts confidence in great brands to deliver what they promise. A company that understands branding understands UX.
Do not be caught off guard
What other forms of data might become unavailable in the future? Save essential analytics and Webmaster Tools data. Historical keyword performance is still valuable.
Use Webmaster Tools
Google provides information in Webmaster Tools that tells you what really matters from the perspective of their web crawler: server errors, missing pages, pages indexed, duplicate content, etc. Bing offers a similar service. Failure to monitor and fix problems identified by these services is a serious mistake.
Webmaster Tools also provides a list of organic keywords visitors use to find your site, with a limited set of data: number of impressions each keyword received, a rough number of clicks received, click-through rate, and the keyword’s average position in search results. What these data don’t show is the behavior of organic search visitors on your site – insights that have been the cornerstone of traditional SEO, like whether specific visitors are using branded or non-branded terms, conversions, bounce rate, pages viewed, whether visitors are new or returning, and so on.
But there is hope!… The ‘Paid & Organic’ Report
Webmaster Tools data is only stored for three months, but Google has introduced a new feature in AdWords that lets you collect and save Webmaster Tools organic keyword data indefinitely by pulling it into an AdWords account. You don’t have to use AdWords to use this feature. You only need an AdWords account. If you do use AdWords for advertising, then you can generate a number of useful reports that compare organic and paid keyword performance side by side.
In addition to the workarounds proposed by the SEO experts cited in my previous post, there are methods of improving data that are not being blocked. Ben Godsell shows how to recover some (not provided) data using the Google Webmaster Tools search query report. Third party SEO services and intrepid SEOs will surely create more solutions like this. Some companies are already promoting themselves as a solution to (not provided) data.
Here’s where having skilled in-house SEOs, enterprise-level computing power and big data comes in handy. Companies like Amazon already have massive amounts of data regarding traffic and visitor behavior. When a website has high volumes of traffic, marketers and SEOs can iterate more often and get statistically significant results faster. Marketing tools like Marketo and Kissmetrics cater to big businesses as well as SMBs with essential features such as the ability to do A/B testing, track across channels and devices (as long as visitors are logged in). Tools like these will be increasingly important.
Configure Goals and Conversion Tracking in Google Analytics
Smaller organizations need to get the most from the tools they are using now. On the budget side, Google Analytics can be configured to track conversions and other critical metrics with little or no understanding of HTML. If you don’t have Goals set up in Google Analytics, you are not using it properly. Most companies that use Google Analytics do not have it installed properly. An analytics audit by a company like Analytics Pros could help you get much more out of the tool.
Engagement and conversions can be approached from the page level rather than the keyword level. Many marketers and SEOs have been doing this for a long time. If your business is not able to get up to speed quickly, you are going to lose.
Google allows A/B and multivariate testing of any page on your website (as long as you are not sending crawlers to one page and humans to another). Testing tools like Optimizely or Google’s own Content Experiments API don’t solve the keyword blackout problem, but they help you get ahead of your competition by experimenting to see which page does best when an organic visitor comes to your site. Ultimately, this kind of testing can help to improve ranking in search engines – as well as your bottom line – by keeping visitors on your site and encouraging them to convert.
Use Site Search
For medium and large sized websites, an internal search feature that helps visitors find things on your site is a relatively inexpensive way to collect keyword information that can easily be used to improve user experience and identify specific areas where you may need to add content or navigation on your site.
Many SEOs think AdWords can be used to generate keyword data for organic search optimization. At the very least, AdWords lists the actual keywords people use to find your ad. Again, companies with big budgets and large amounts of AdWords data have a real advantage.
Promote Your Content
Pushing out new pages using social media, email and any other means you have available has been a solid SEO strategy for many years. With (not provided), it becomes even more important. This is how you bring traffic to new content on your site. If the content is valuable and engaging, then sharing, inbound links and, ultimately, strong search engine rankings will follow.
Note that keyword optimization may still be what keeps a page at the top of results once this initial push is done. This is where historical data, keyword tools and (not provided) workarounds are useful.
Keep a Balance
Use all channels in concert to – whatever degree fits your business goals – and track results. Email mailing lists remain viable marketing tools for organizations of every size. They are easy to track and can start the SEO ball rolling by making people aware of new content and encouraging social sharing.
Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution Modeling
In addition to Webmaster Tools information, what else is Google offering us now that (not provided) is at 100%? While Google is taking away some keyword data, it is offering new resources to help marketers and SEOs understand visitor behavior on their websites.
Visitors often come to a site several times before a conversion happens, and they come through different channels (PPC, organic search, social media, email, typing in a URL, etc.). The new Multi-Channel Funnel reports feature in Google Analytics lets you see how these channels interact as steps leading up to a conversion. The Google Analytics Attribution Model Comparison Tool helps you figure out which steps are the most valuable.
From Keywords to “The Customer Journey”
Google makes these tools available because wants marketers “to understand the entire customer journey so [they] can measure all of the elements that contribute to campaigns, attribute the right value to them, and adjust marketing budgets where appropriate.” Introducing “The Customer Journey to Online Purchase” — interactive insights on multi-channel marketing.
From Google’s perspective, this is the level at which marketers and SEOs should strategize, plan, execute and analyze results. Looking at the trajectory of the Google algorithm, we know we should follow their advice.
But marketers, developers and SEOs would be foolish to completely abandon the tried-and-true methods they use to generate web structure and content.