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Quantifying SEO Success – Surviving Keyword (Not Available)

Changes to Google Search are causing marketers and SEO professionals to rethink how we quantify and describe SEO success. For many, it’s the end of the world – but it’s exactly what the industry needed. Google recently made Secure SSL Search the default for all users. Secure Search blocks search data from the websites a visitor finds and clicks on from a search. With this, marketers and their trusted SEO professionals have lost the ability to state how much traffic was generated by specific keywords. This isn’t a small detail. Traditionally, this keyword data was the ‘go-to’ source for gauging and reporting SEO success – the de facto standard. With most search volume now appearing as (Not Provided) and keyword data unavailable, how can marketers quantify and qualify SEO efforts? In this article, we’ll discuss new (free) data sources available to marketers, as well as how to use these insights to effectively connect SEO efforts to actual business goals. Don’t Muck Up your Data with Guess Work I mention this first only because of the prevalence of an old trick in search. Your data is sacred. Your data is pure. Don’t mess it up with Analytics filters that attempt to re-add this information. An old trick for dealing with the small amount of (Not Provided) in 2011, involved using Google Analytics filters to permanently alter data to replace missing keyword information with the landing page URL. You still wouldn’t know what they searched for, but you would know where they landed. Because there was still 80% or more of search keywords available, a marketer could safely estimate the hidden search traffic would be similar to the search information of traffic that landed on this page. Google’s recent change has left many websites with as little as 10% of search traffic keyword insight available. For the cost of permanently damaging your data, this method would compare the contents of a dark room to another dark room. Consider Another Source Google has done a great job unifying its insight platforms – specifically AdWords, Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster Tools, available in Google Analytics or at provides rough insight into search volume, CTR and average position. I adore this tool, and its integration with Google Analytics makes access to the often-overlooked insight as simple as checking daily traffic. In Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), ‘impressions’ shows the estimated number of times your website has shown up in a search for the provided keyword, while clicks and click-thru-rate (CTR) act as a benchmark of your website’s ability to earn traffic from search when seen. Be sure to collect your data regularly. GWT data only shows the previous 90 days of data! This can make things a little tricky when you need to compile your annual digital marketing review. Unlike Google Analytics information, GWT queries cannot be used in other reporting. So, while we can say (from the example above) that an estimated 600 visitors came to our website searching for the wedü brand, we cannot see the conversion or engagement metrics for those visitors. It’s time to take a fresh look at your goals. Engineer SEO Efforts to Quantifiable Goals What do we want? Business! How are we going to get it? … Traffic from search? Brand recognition and awareness? Conversion rates? That’s actually not a bad start. Let’s say that Leads = Traffic * Conversion Rate of ‘Contact Us’ Forms If our SEO goal is to drive business, then we needn’t worry about a specific keyword’s performance, but the performance of search as a whole in our model above. Measuring Branded and Unbranded Search Volume (Traffic) First, there are two kinds of search: branded and unbranded. Branded searches are those people looking specifically for your company or product by name, such as a search for “wedü.Unbranded searches are those looking for your solution or product category but aren’t specifically searching for you — such as a search for “Digital Marketing Agency.” We can measure the growth of each from Google Webmaster Tools. We can also see the difference in branded vs. unbranded search. I personally like to download the chart data and use Excel to quickly count searches for or including the brand, then again for searches that do not. Traditionally, SEO is focused on unbranded search, but both are important, especially where your brand name or product name may have competitors in search – if not in your industry. Measuring SEO Conversion Rate and Engagement Traffic is only half of the equation. We also want to look at the quality of traffic from search. Quality can be measured as conversion rate to your website’s forms, in addition to an average measure of engagement in time on site, and pages viewed relative to your typical website traffic average. While we’re not measuring the relevancy of individual keywords, looking for discrepancies between search traffic and website average traffic can help uncover areas of improvement and celebration in your data. Pay careful attention to your landing page engagement from search traffic, and consider whether landing pages with low engagement or high bounce are the best ‘first impression’ for those not yet familiar with your brand, service or product. Remember: Plan every page of your website as though it may be the first time a prospect will meet you! Measuring SEO Success with (Keyword Not Provided) For the first time in years, marketers are being forced to view a forest of website traffic, where we’ve become so accustomed to looking-in on individual trees. Let this be an opportunity to revisit how you gauge and explain your SEO success in a way that’s more meaningful to your business. The latest changes in Google’s Secure Search mean that some questions are going to go unanswered. Don’t let that get you down. Your goal-oriented view of the larger picture makes knowing keyword-specific goal targets much less important to measuring and growing your success. If you ask me, (Not Provided) was just the reality check many marketers needed to take a literal step back for the big picture of where SEO fits in the larger scale of their business.
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