Recently, Google announced they will be changing all searches to encrypted search within the next few months. Soon there will no longer be keyword data in Analytics packages. This change has left the online marketing industry stunned and devastated, as they flounder to understand how to recover from such a massive loss of data and, consequently, insights into their consumers and target audience.
Regardless of Google’s intention, this change is irrevocable. My belief is that the best you can do as an online marketer is to ADAPT and EVOLVE. Whether Google made this change to increase their bottom line, protect privacy or make our jobs more difficult, the key question is: What are YOU going to do about it?
Three Ways to Gain Access to Keyword Data
By encrypting the search, no Analytics will have access to keyword data. As a result, you can’t get around this by switching to another analytics platform. First off, start by accepting the reality: we will no longer have access for FREE the type of data we were all accustomed to having. This is the first step in the journey toward keyword data in a post-"Not Provided" world.
Use Google AdWords to Pay for Keyword Data
Google announced that keyword data will continue to be available to AdWords customers. Many cite this as a Machiavellian attempt to increase AdWords sales. It’s true that data that was once free will now come at a cost. However, you can use AdWords as a testing mechanism to give you keyword insights, which you can then use in your Organic campaign.
For example, you can run a “Broad Match” campaign for a pre-determined period to figure out the top keywords being searched. If you set conversion and goal tracking, you can also gain insights into the value of each keyword. Using that data, you can then prioritize keywords to be used for your content marketing campaigns.
Use SEMrush to Find Keywords You are Ranking for
Using SEMrush, you can get insights into the keywords that Google may be associating with your site. Relying on a database of millions of keywords, SEMrush is able to associate your site with relevant terms and give you insights into how your site performs for those keywords. You can see where your site ranks, estimated traffic volume for that term, estimated cost per click and more.
Then, by correlating this data with traffic numbers for those pages, you can get a sense of how much traffic those keywords are sending.
You’ll need some hands-on manipulation, such as grouping keywords by landing page, to get accurate data, but at least it can give an idea of the keywords sending traffic to your site. Then, how those pages convert and engage.
Use Webmaster Tools for (Somewhat Inaccurate) Data
If you connect your website to Webmaster Tools, you can access your “Search Queries” report to see top keywords sending traffic to your site, as well as average clicks, impressions, CTR and average position. Dr. Pete from Moz wrote an article about the relative accuracy of this data, so it can be used for guidance, but not definitive information.
Given the volatility of Google, I highly recommend you download all of your Analytics data for as long as you’ve had Analytics installed. Do the same with keyword data from Webmaster tools! Save that data for future reference.
In the meantime, you can routinely check keywords appearing in your WMT account to find keywords to focus your SEO efforts on.
Living in the "Keyword Not Provided" World
I know what you’re thinking: this is hardly an adequate replacement for what we once had at our fingertips for free. It is a harsh reality, but one we cannot do anything about. Instead, it’s better to focus on methods to use the data you DO have at your fingertips. Use data from the three sources above to gain insights into your customers so you can focus on Social Content Marketing. Expanding beyond Google and creating a community of engaged users via social media is no longer optional. Who knows what they’re going to do next? Start preparing for what may come and evolve now!
Marcela De Vivo has been an SEO since 1999. You can find her last article for SEMrush here: "Five Steps to Getting Out of the Google Penalty Box."