The Opportunity of “Keywords Not Provided”

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Photo Credit: [phil h]
The world of Search Engine Optimization is being rocked again by Google. With most searches now being done securely over the HTTPS protocol, some valuable referral data is being lost by traffic analysts. Now there is no way to know whether a visit to a certain page, coming from Google, is due to a search about X or about Y or Z. We can easily know we have visits to certain pages, and we can estimate how our pages are ranking, but not what kind of searches our visitors were doing exactly.

There was a lot of commotion about this, but there’s no point in resenting Google nor even eagerly gathering keywords another way. The truth is that referral keywords are overrated because they lead to optimizing for search visibility instead of goal completion (user conversion). Why? Because you only get data for stuff that is ranking.

It’s time to look ahead and realize that the fixation on keyword data is actually restrictive and blocking the evolution of Search Engine Optimization. Professional SEOs need to adapt in order to remain in business, but not on a wild goose chase of keyword data, wasting valuable time trying to micro-manage Web Analytics. Instead, the same time could be applied on actually improving the site, its popularity and (consequently) its backlinks.

Then what should be done on the Analytics side?

  • Predictive research is of the utmost importance. Getting keyword research done thoroughly beforehand. Investigating all possible searches that users are doing and that aren’t too competitive to rank for.
  • When unsure about focusing your pages on keywords X or Y, we can always make small changes later and test their impact. Instead of working passively, based on what we think our Analytics software told us to do, we work actively and measure the traffic impact later.
  • Optionally use AdWords with broad queries and specific keywords, in order to test which specific keywords drive more goal completions. Some say we’re falling prey to the conspiracy theory that Google is driving us to spend more in AdWords, but the truth is… it’s a great method to choose from a few specific keyword variations that we identify in predictive research. It can be done much quicker and probably with less chance of skewing than using Analytics for this purpose.

But what really, really matters?

SEOs should already be broadening their perspective and strategies, even before today, and now more so. We should all view Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, general Online Marketing and Social Media Management as a holistic field that can be explored for the benefit of clients. The goal of any of these marketing sub-fields is to make your clients richer, more successful. Not simply to make them visible to search engines and people. For this, an online strategy should have multiple defined goals for the business it applies to, and performance indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of that strategy at some point.

Now, with keywords not provided, the experience of good SEOs becomes invaluable because they know what works… this at a time where it’s more difficult to prove what works. So, the future is in the hands of those who know what they’re doing and are confident in their abilities to drive targeted traffic. More than ever, reputation and experience will be key values, and so will be the ability to convince clients about the added value of our SEO.