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Uncover 'not provided' Data & Translate It Into Actionable Website Optimization with Clayton Wood


Uncovering 'not provided' keyword data



Tristam: Good afternoon, good morning, or good evening from wherever you're tuning in around the world. We are joined today with Clayton Wood and Gaetano DiNardi. If you guys just want to introduce yourselves, and then we'll take it from there.

Clayton: Hey, I'm Clayton, and I'm in Los Angeles. Welcome everybody to today's webinar. Gaetano where are you at? You have a New York hat on so I'm assuming it's somewhere there. 

Gaetano: Yeah. I'm originally from New York. I'm here visiting my old stomping grounds but relocated to Miami, Florida for weather purposes not too long ago. 

Tristam: Excellent. I'm your host Tristam Jarman from Purple Smudge joining you here today and we'll be going through the lovely presentation put together by Clayton Wood on how to Uncover 'Not Provided' Data And Translate It Into Actionable Website Optimization. Clayton do you just want to give us a little brief intro in what you're doing today?

Clayton: Today, we're going to talk a little bit about some of the data that's difficult to find in Google Analytics and what to do with it. This is the first of a two-part series. One of the reasons that we've got these folks here with us today is because they are practitioners, and very good at locating Google Analytics. Tristam is awesome at dashboards, Gaetano is out there every day trying to help sales funnels be promoted by SEM and SEO. 

Let me just share my screen and run through this and then if you guys have questions, ask away, we will handle a lot of those towards the end. 

Okay, today we're going to talk a little bit about uncovering the ‘not provided’ data in Google Analytics and how to translate that into actionable website data. I will say that I've been doing SEO for quite a long time, over 10 years. I've been fortunate enough to have some success and be a part of a couple of founding member teams of agencies that have done tons of projects.

The title is that ‘not provided’ data is difficult to find and difficult to know what to do with. SEMrush helps us know what actionable website things that we can do with that data, but Google Analytics and Google Search Console tell us what that data is. 

All right, there are three parts to this. Number one, where's the data? Number two, how do you read it? And number three, what actionable SEO tactics can you take away from this data? 

The interesting part about SEO and ranking in Google, and I'm sure you know this, is that with one small tweak, it could be the thing that changes how Google views where you rank. The way that I look at SEO is if everything is not optimized, as well as it could be, then there might be something holding you down in those rankings. 

You can do a lot of great stuff, right, but if you mess up on one or two small things, you might not be getting all the traffic that you could. It's not that there's the silver bullet or anything. It's just that you've got to check every single piece of the SEO and make sure that it's optimized as much as you can. The pro tip to this is that we can show you where to find this data, but you've got to do something with it. And uncovering the data is only the first part, you've got to optimize it to drive traffic.

What Are ‘Not Provided’ Keywords in Google Analytics?

All right, what is the ‘not provided’ data? Not provided data is in Google Analytics, you can see right there on your left-hand side of your screen where 96% of the traffic to this particular website just has ‘not provided’ or ‘not set’. It's a black box, if you will, of data.


Prior to a change that happened in Google years ago, Google Analytics showed a list of all of the keywords that were responsible for driving traffic to your website, which page they clicked on. And that allowed webmasters and SEOs all over the world to properly understand which keywords were the most valuable. Where should I put more of my effort into creating content and properly moved the needle on the right keyword?


A couple of years ago, that started to change and if we want to get technical about it, you can look it up on Google. But Google started to use the HTTPS protocol and stopped showing what search term that people were using. Over the course of a couple of years, you went from looking in your Google Analytics from seeing a big list of individual keywords to slowly seeing more in that not provided column and what it did was it really blinded a lot of SEOs. 

Now we know that we are driving traffic to pages, we know that we're driving traffic to content. But in Google Analytics, it stopped showing what the most effective keywords were to drive traffic. And that really became, for a lot of intermediate and beginners, like shooting in the dark and not knowing what's being effective and what's not. 

Over the years, there has been a couple of ways that you can show that data. And we're going to show you a couple of those today. Before I show you that I'd love to position this properly by asking how important is the data? But the obvious answer is, is very important.

On the slide that I'm showing you now, if you can imagine one through five not being blurred out and showing us the exact keywords that are driving most of your traffic. In this case, 42% of the traffic is driven by one keyword. Now if we knew what that keyword was, you can only imagine how important ranking for that particular keyword was. It could change everything about what your SEO strategy is.

Where to Find ‘Not Provided’ Data

Now, where do we find this data? The data is actually inside of Google Search Console, a lot of it is. Inside of Google Search Console, I want to make sure that everybody knows how to get to this data. There are three areas that you need to click on, on the left side nav and your Google Search Console: click on Performance, and then click on Queries and then look at the Clicks and Impressions and this will show you quickly how many people are searching for these phrases and how many times Google showed your website in Google Search results for those phrases. 

The wild thing is, is that Google Search Console is a separate platform and it was very easy to look at all of this search data in Google Analytics. And this is really where we want to figure out if we can pipe over that data into Google Analytics so that you can specifically see in one view, what's driving traffic. 

And there are two points about this slide that I want to make. The first one is, this is a great source of knowledge on what to optimize for inside of Google Search Console, this list of keywords. If you look at ones that have very low impressions, which means they're not showing up in Google very much but are extremely relevant to your product or your service or a buyer type of keyword, then that's a really great list of keywords that you should be optimizing. Remember that: low impressions but highly relevant. Go and add those to your keyword strategy and to your content strategy and you'll see that the impressions and the clicks will go up.

The second point is that this is where Google shows which keywords go to which pages. It's a really smart system to track and build a view inside of Google Analytics. Because if we know the keywords, and we know what pages they're going to, we can estimate what sessions they came in on and that's basically what we're going to do here, how to transport this into Google Analytics. 


You take this not provided section on the left-hand side; 93% not provided and we’re able with filters and views in Google Analytics to put this into a view that shows you specifically which keywords are driving traffic. Now, there's a couple of tools out there that do this; my favorite one is Keyword Hero. 

The way that it looks when it shows up in Google Analytics, it's in a different view. If you're a Google Analytics expert, you know that you can build all sorts of views and filters for specific property inside of Google Analytics. And this one is specific because this is the one that shows directly from Google Search Console, where that data lives and shows up inside of Google Analytics. 

Using ‘Not Provided’ Data to Optimize SEM and Content Strategies 

Now, the thing I want to say about this slide is that it's not 100% accurate, it is just an estimate. But what it does show you is specifically, which keywords are the heavy hitters, which keywords are driving traffic and, which keywords just fall flat. And this is valuable because if know that, let's say 44% of the keywords or 44% of the traffic is driven by one keyword, then we really want to rank for that keyword.

The number one keyword, the 44% one is a brand. And that's really important for them to know that all of the brand advertising they're doing is very effective. This allows us to say, “Okay, we don't need to spend so much money on non-branded keywords and maybe move some of that money into branded keywords since that leads most of their traffic.” Extremely valuable data for just a little bit of work uncovering a bunch of the keywords. 

Now, what do you do with all this data? Okay, the formula that I use for estimating traffic and there's a number of them, you can do it multiple ways. If you go out there and look on Google at how much traffic the first, second, third, and so on result get, you'll find data like this. 


The first organic result typically gets research estimates 21% of the clicks. If there are 10000 monthly searches for a particular term, and you're ranked number one, you'll get 21% of the clicks from that 10000 monthly searches. Number two is 13% of that. You just take the amount of search volume and then take the percentage of whatever you're ranked at and that's how you can guesstimate search traffic or what the opportunity is.

Now, things have changed over the past couple of years, because gone are the days that the first search result just gets the lion's share of the traffic. Google has actually widened the gap between the top-ranked page and everybody below it through rich snippets. These rich snippets are showing up with more real estate at the top of the search results. What that means is that if you're ranked number one you might see a lot more than 21% and if you're not ranked number one, you might get a lot less. 

People have really started seeing that if Google's good at finding the answers, they'll send their traffic that way. And rich snippets come in a bunch of different varieties. If you want to learn a little bit about how to include rich snippets, or maybe how to increase your chances of getting those rich snippets, download the roadmap that I've got at the end, and maybe that will provide some context from you, or for you.


I just was in a conference in Vancouver where the VP of Marketing at HubSpot talked about how the HubSpot traffic was going up and up and up and then just started staying the same, and they couldn't figure out what it was. And she eventually learned, long story short that it was because of rich snippets. And originally, they thought, “Oh, no, Google is going to take the traffic. And nobody's going to click on our website because they show the data right there in the search.” When they started learning how to optimize for rich snippets and conquered it, their traffic started to continue to climb, and it's all about the format of your content, the code, are you using data highlighter in a Google Search Console? 

Inside of Google Search Console, if you go to the Queries section, and look at Clicks and Impressions, and sort the impressions by lowest to highest. In this case, what we're looking for is low impressions. We're looking for diamonds in the rough. 

If you go to the keywords that you're barely showing up for, Google for whatever reason doesn't really show you in search. They've only shown you nine or 10 times or 20 times, but those are highly relevant. This is what I was talking about earlier. 

These are real golden opportunities. You have this product; if it's a highly relevant thing to your website and you're barely getting any impressions, that tells you that you should be talking, blogging, maybe doing some AdWords about this term in this exact format. If you do that, you're going to start seeing the impressions go up. 

This allows us to add these into our SEM project to drive traffic to signal to Google that these are important. It allows us to possibly rethink our internal link strategy with these keywords from these pages. It also allows us to infuse our content strategy with these topics and these keywords, and if you do those things, you'll start to see the impressions grow. And more importantly, you'll start to see the clicks grow. 

There's the tool in SEMrush called this SEO Content Template where you can check the content and it will give you a score for the readability, for the words, for the target keywords. It's awesome.


My role in projects is strategy and execution but I'm not a content writer. But a lot of times I'll work alongside a content writer. Any time I do that I've got them using this tool because it's great. Take all of the content on your blog, or if you don't have the time, take the new stuff that you're doing and write it and use this SEO Content Template to test and see if you're doing as good as you should be. 

Tristam: The content writing template you just looked at there, just so everyone knows, is actually an add-on in Google Docs as well. You don't necessarily have to actually be in SEMrush to use it, you can add the add-on and starts working like that. 

Importance of Schema Markup for SEO

Clayton: The last one, and you can almost not be on a webinar today without talking about schema. Everybody talks about it, and it's because it takes up so much real estate on the first page. 

Inside of the new Gutenberg WordPress Yoast version, there is an option to actually just click on the FAQ option in it and start writing questions and answers. And the Yoast plugin will code it and add schema just immediately while you write it. This is really great for an FAQ page, for a blog page and it's extremely simple to do. 

I've got the steps to do it. They're also widely publicized, Yoast gives an in-depth guide on how to do it. But basically you have to have the new version of Gutenberg WordPress, you have to have an updated Yoast and then you just open the WordPress blog editor. If you're adding an FAQ to the page, you can just do it with these options right here and then you do the question, you do the answer. It's actually coded as schema and then you can just check the snippet with the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. 

There's a tool that lets you check on the page if your content is coded with schema. It's called the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. Check what you're doing after you've published it and just make sure that it's coded correctly, and then just publish. This is a really great way for anybody that's just got a run of the mill corporate website that doesn't do step by step guides or recipes or formulas. If you don't have any of that stuff, you can still get rich snippets. One of the easiest ones to do is FAQ snippets. 

I did a workshop in Milan in June, and it was all about how to optimize for Voice Search. And one of the stats that I found while preparing for that was that Voice Search has grown over 150% in 2018, from 2017 to 2018. And so what you see a lot of people doing quite successfully is optimizing their content, especially in blogs and FAQs in a format that asks a question and then answers the question in a short, concise format. This tool in Yoast in WordPress is a very easy way for anybody to take advantage of that.

The last thing... this is the On-Page SEO Checker where if you want to rank above your competition, the only way to do it is to completely reverse engineer all of their SEO, whoever's ranked on the first page and try and find out how can you do better. Doing that manually would be painstaking, going down for the top 10 positions and finding out how many links do they have? How many words? Do they use video? Do they have structured schema on the page? Are there markups? All of that stuff. 

There's a (SEMrush) tool called the On-Page SEO Checker that just does this for you with all of your keywords. This really gives you a roadmap to tell exactly what you need to be doing on a particular page to rank at the top of the heap if you will. It's inside of SEMrush and this is probably the best tool. 

Tristam: How does the Content Template compared to Yoast and Yoast Premium if you've used both of them that is?

Clayton: I have. The Content Template is way better, there's no match for it. The SEMrush tool is way more in-depth. They not only will judge your keyword density, but they also have the Flesch-Kincaid score baked into the readability, like Gaetano was saying. I don't think Yoast has that. I think Yoast was just judges how many times you use the keywords and that's it. 

Gaetano: Yeah, I think Yoast can lead you down a bit of a slippery slope in some cases, for example, they don't know how to look at variants of keywords. What it could lead to an inexperienced SEO doing is over-optimizing because they're trying to hit those green lights, checklist on the Yoast, and it could lead to some problems. I've seen that in the past. I also would recommend the SEMrush Content Template.

Q&A on Google Search Console, Schema, Voice Search, and More

Tristam: “How do you overcome the known inaccuracy in clicking impression data in Google Search Console? I've been digging heavily into Google Search Console data, and I strongly believe that the data is problematic.” What are your thoughts guys? 

Gaetano: I mean, I was just kind of say that it depends, on the more expanded your date ranges, the more sampled that data becomes. Try to shorten your date ranges as a start, but at the end of the day, we all know there are inaccuracies in this stuff. 

You're looking for directional, trends, right? And then you want to cross-reference that with a tool like SEMrush to really validate. But at the end of the day, it's like what we know, we're never going to get perfect data. We're looking for a directional sort of trend and then cross-reference that with tools like SEMrush to get the answers we need.

Tristam: Is it true Google sending more paid traffic than organic traffic now than previous years?

Clayton: Yeah, I think they are. I saw a big I think, and if there are any Search Engine Journal employees here, maybe they can sound off on this or tell me I'm wrong. But as far as I can see it, Search Engine Journal is really been pounding this point. I've seen multiple articles about people doing studies and published on searchenginejournal.com that say, "Yes, Google is sending more paid traffic than they were in years past." I mean, I believe it.

Gaetano: Yeah, they actually disclosed this information in their recent Q2 earnings report. And in fact, I shared this data at my talk at HubSpot inbound conference last week.

Tristam: I guess that nicely leads on to sort of why you should look at schema markup so much just to, you know, push those little points because, in my opinion, Google wants you to buy more from them, more ad space, et cetera. We've just got to be as SEOs and digital marketers bit more sensible savvy into sort of getting those positions there all those opportunities that are laid in front of us. 

How do you guys go about optimizing for Voice Search?

Clayton: Yeah for me it's like I mentioned in the deck it's really question and answer. I've got Google listening to me I'm sure they're listening now on my thing so it's just all about bite-sized sort of how would we talk to each other. Gaetano, what do you say? 

Gaetano: I use a tool called AnswerThePublic quite frequently to get a lot of the what is? How do I? How should I? Why should you? Et cetera. It's simply like Clayton said that just writing more like you talk, structuring those H2s with question formatting and just analyzing the SERPs and making sure you're producing content the way that searchers would expect to see it. 

Tristam: Just being aware of even from my own personal experience of how I'll type something on my laptop, or I’m getting more into using Voice Search myself, I don't have the number of voice listening devices, but just out of laziness I'll pick my phone up talk into it. And yeah, it's mainly question-based what I'm asking. 

Gaetano: Yeah, you know, I think it applies more to local searches, you know what I mean? Like if I'm on my laptop typing, and I want to know where Shake Shack is? I'm just going to search Shake Shack, Queens, right? If maybe I'm doing Voice Search, I might say to my device, where's the closest Shake Shack?

Tristam: Another question most SEOs have accepted not provided (data) and stopped caring about a long time ago. Why should we care about this now?

Clayton: It's valuable data knowing exactly which keywords are driving traffic can uncover some stuff that may change your strategy pretty significantly. In the examples that I showed like 30, 40% of the traffic is being driven by one keyword. That changes what we might do or not do around that keyword. It might change your budget in SEM. 

Gaetano: I think it definitely would.

Clayton: I have a question for you. First of all, SEMrush put out top-ranking signals a couple of years ago, and it's a couple of years old. But the point is at the top of it were things like direct visits to the URL, click-through rates on the SERPs listing results. My question to you is, if we all agree that direct visits to the URL are a major player in the ranking factor of that particular page, do you believe that AdWords traffic helps your ranking results for organic searches?

Gaetano: That's a bit of a doozy. It's actually rare that I would send AdWords traffic to like an organic page. Usually, I have specific AdWords pages for all those because the problem is that the organic pages that I have are longer, sometimes more informational, and they're meant to rank. And it's hard to balance the rank versus conversion thing. 

Whereas with AdWords, it's got to be shorter to the point, the forums got to be visible above the fold in most cases, right? Like you're optimizing purely for conversion. I would rarely try to feel the organic engagement metrics, if you want to call it that with AdWords traffic, however, I may try to boost it in other ways, maybe like an email send or maybe some paid social traffic that's cheaper but I guess it all depends. 

Tristam: Funnily enough, just as we're talking about this and we were talking about click-through rates earlier I actually saw on Twitter some people talking about click-through rates and what are your opinions on whether you feel click-through rate is a ranking factor? There are definitely some people that are adamant it is and some people adamant that it isn't. 

Clayton: I think it is. Yeah, and I think RankBrain takes it into consideration. If they didn't, they should; if people like it and click through, that's a pretty good indicator. I think Google's moving towards trying to figure out where to rank people based more on user behavior. And that's a user behavior thing. 

Gaetano: Yeah, Rand Fishkin just put out 2019 ranking factors. A link to it in the chat based on I think over 1000 responses from SEOs. I really agree with the outcome of this data being that the relevance of the overall page content is by far the most highly agreed upon ranking factor of them all. With links being number two. I think most SEOs would agree to cut this short that like the engagement does play a huge part in it. Rand talked about, like Pogo sticking a lot if they go back and click on another result, it diminishes your value in search, et cetera.

Tristam: Yeah. I think click-through rates got to have some attribution to your rankings, whether that's on a wider scale or a personalized scale. Yeah. It's just got to, but I don't know. Yeah, bigger conversation with the time that we've got left. I think we might have time for one more question. This was quite a nice one. Just an overview, broad one. 

We've got someone saying, “I'm 45 and been doing SEO work since 2006, my son is 19 years old wants to enter the business. How do you educate your son to bring him up to speed?” Basically, I guess is how are you getting him to be a digital marketer? Or SEO? What are your thoughts?

Clayton: I mean, this is really a political question. You know, there's traditional routes, there's go learn it by yourself.

Gaetano: I've got a pretty strong opinion on this. I think, first of all, the person's really got to love SEO. Like they've got to want to learn about it, live it, breathe it, sleep it. This is a complex subject and if you want to learn this just because hey, I have a great business idea, and I think I can make a lot of money if I can master SEO. Yeah, that may be true, but you know, if you're going to be part-time business owner, part-time SEO, it's not necessarily going to work. Because you're just going to be thinking too much about how do I ramp up sales and revenue fast.

My suggestion if you really want to become a practitioner in the space and be in the top 10% of the field, you should start at an agency. That's how I got my career started. 

Tristam: And that's seemingly a brilliant way to end this webinar. I feel though we've come to time now. Sorry if we weren't able to get to your question guys. Just to let everyone know the second part of this webinar will be happening on the 26th of September that six o'clock UK time.

Well, thank you for joining me today guys. Thank you for your presentation, Clayton. Gaetano, lovely to meet you. Everyone watching don't forget to like, dislike if you don't, subscribe, watch it for more if you're not watching this live. See you soon, guys. Bye.

Clayton: Bye everybody. 

Gaetano: Have a great day.

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