Wait, what??? SEO Panic! For controversial reasons, Google leaked that by the end of the year 2013 100% of organic keyword data coming from the Google search engine will be (not provided). The reasons for this are debated, but we are told it’s in the name of security. What does this mean to SEO and the future of Internet marketing? If you want an understanding of the recent impact of the (not provided) data and how this may be a blessing in disguise, then read on. This applies to both Internet marketing agencies and business owners with websites.
In the wake of the SEO shake-up it’s important that we don’t lose sight of what we DO have. Yes, hiding data makes analysis much more difficult but there is still data we can extrapolate and make the same decisions based on what is provided.
What We Are Missing (Besides the Obvious)
One of the drawbacks–besides measuring the performance of targeted keywords–is the ability to see some “low-hanging fruit” that we ordinarily wouldn’t have thought of. Organic traffic takes on many iterations in terms of keywords and phrasing entering the site, so not being able to see this is somewhat crippling our insight and efforts to uncover opportunity. This especially cripples the sites that did not have much to begin with and are receiving some organic traffic without known or targeted optimization methods. The insight has to be gained in other ways.
Where Is This Data Now?
Well this is interesting. AdWords has data correlated with organic presence and clicks associated with them. One question I have is does a client have to have paid advertising or, more specifically, run ads to obtain this data? A recent discussion with our PPC director unveils that we may have found a loophole. More as this develops…
AGENCY THOUGHTS: INTERNAL SHIFT
Let’s face it. The keyword-traffic correlation, although valuable, did not always tell the whole story. And the days of ranking for a handful of keywords and seeing tremendous traffic increases are few and far between. Ranking for particular keywords may cause one to ignore other opportunities. It’s best to look at the URLs and see what keyword clusters are best and most likely the cause of the organic increases.
What the heck are keyword clusters?
Yes, I made this up. Well, sort of. This language is actually used by many SEOs in relation to how we do our thematic research, mapping, and optimization.
When doing keyword research, we assign a handful of keywords to each URL, both for on-site optimization (HTML code, content, internal links), as well as off-site content generation (anchor text, content). Having a handful rather than 1 or 2 allows us to stay on topic yet diversify the way we engage within that topic.
A couple of resources that explain the methodology of keyword clusters:
Now, interestingly, Google’s new Keyword Planner tool in AdWords clusters groups of keywords for you in the export research. This is very helpful for PPC but is useful for SEOs to get an idea of how to group your words and choose which groups to pair with the appropriate URLs. This can also be compared to the paid and organic report mentioned earlier; however, the drawback is the organic tie-in may ONLY be available to words that have ad groups assigned (hence paid for) rather than ideas for keywords in this tool.
PAGE URL FOCUS: URLCENTRIC
Data still can be extrapolated from Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. We will be using the content sections more now and our efforts will be targeted toward the pages more than keywords. By viewing data by page we can get an (albeit more vague) idea of which keywords are performing and adjust our targeting strategy.
Knowing that, each URL will have to be analyzed as the most likely candidate of ranking correlations with your keyword clusters. Viewing the organic data from the landing page perspective rather than the keyword perspective can give us insight as to what content is driving traffic. Tools like SEMrush, SpyFu and iSpionage, can help identify other ranking opportunities that are not shown in analytics; words and phrases we may have missed. (There is a slight irony that we now have to go OUTSIDE of the Google tool to get insight, somewhat contrasting the purpose of onsite analytics.)
For example, if we run ranking reports on the keywords we’ve chosen yet our targeted/paired page is getting a lot of organic traffic outside of those words, then perhaps the focus is off and the central idea of the page is missing. This can be beneficial in some ways, identifying the core idea around the page and why it is or isn’t ranking. This may open up opportunities to use the keyword research to develop a new page to support that given page rather than force the square peg into the round hole or over-saturate one page with too many keywords and ideas.
NOTE: Bounce rate should play an increasing role in identifying where to target and producing value. Also note, within Google Analytics, we can assign Page Value. Identification of our “money” pages can attach monetary value to page visits and not just conversions. For example, let’s say a widget costs 100 bucks. If a page gets 100 visits and a yearly average 50% convert, the monetary value of a page could be $50.00, based on the average (or expected) conversion percentage. Don’t analyze my math here–just giving a quick analogy. It will likely be more complex than this (carry the 2, calculate wind resistance, 1.21 gigawatts, etc.).
For SEO we will have to formulate what value we’re getting from analytics with the combination of keywords ranking, Page Visits, Estimated Search Volume, and the values associated with organic, referral, and direct traffic.
For those unaware, Best Rank’s co-founder and CTO Mike Shannon developed a tool that gives rough estimates of traffic based on where you rank and the amount of traffic generated.
We may be able to take a similar distribution and come up with estimated traffic based on the position.
Analyzing reports will sway back to being ranking-focused with tie-in to page traffic. This isn’t a huge shift in focus given it wasn’t until relatively recently with enterprise-level software like RIO, Raven, and our in-house JANUS reports, that we showed and directly tied keywords with traffic. We can still impact the top pages we’re targeting and see how they are generating organic traffic as a whole. We just won’t have very specific keyword traffic data–just the estimation of the ranking correlation with search volume.
If you have an outreach process as we do, we should likely include organic, referral, and direct traffic as our distribution and outreach efforts may show increases in all of these venues. So traffic from each of these resources by page (URL) will be a better way to display the information. This can be also compared and contrasted with estimated search volume and rankings.
I’ve been using a great tool lately to show SEO value; a report that estimates the total organic VALUE if the words targeted were to be used for PPC. The main report shows the number of 1st-page rankings in Google and the respective value of them overall. The growth of the SEO value resonates well with clients as this attaches monetary increments to their rankings. This also shows the ranking estimates over time (bear in mind these are ESTIMATES).
For example, we recently had a call with a client to whom I demonstrated that, against their competitor (although their competitor had double the amount of 1st-page keywords ranking), the client had 75-80% of the value with just half the keywords. This means that on average they were getting more “bang for the buck” so to speak which may correlate the type of traffic they are receiving.
Look at that value!
SHIFT KEYWORDS MEASUREMENT TO ORGANIC PRESENCE MANAGEMENT
In all, this should be a blessing in disguise as this shifts the focus on individual keyword traffic to a more holistic organic presence management. So we can now focus on a select few keywords that will directly AND indirectly help with the organic traffic. Bottom line, if a URL is getting an increase in organic visits, regardless of what keywords we target, we’re helping overall. EARNED TRAFFIC INCREASE.
A URLcentric form of reporting should also tie in organic, paid, and social impact scores when applicable based on traffic and effort.
The landscape is changing and we as marketers and you as clients will have to adapt new strategies and viewpoints. This could evolve dramatically over time, but I want to relay the direction we need to go. Both agencies and business owners need to take a deep breath and don’t lose sight of the big picture. Getting caught up in minutia of a small handful of keywords ranking and gaining traffic is an outdated way of thinking.
Honestly, as much as it stinks not to have all the data, this forces our hand to go a direction we have always wanted to go, and introduce concepts to get people out of thinking about less important metrics and details and more focused on the overall health of what we’re doing. We keep our same level of transparency, but now the data is giving us breathing room to produce effective Internet marketing campaigns.