Now that Google is encrypting all search data, we’re no longer able to view organic search keywords in tools like Google Analytics.
Google wants us to focus less on keywords and more on user intent. But it’s still useful to know what people were searching for when they arrived to your website. And more importantly, which keywords drive conversions.
All is not lost. Below, I’ve outlined a few tricks you can use to measure keyword effectiveness in the new world of 100% encrypted search.
1. Search Queries report in Google Webmaster Tools
You can get organic keyword data under the Search Queries report in Google Webmaster Tools.
This report only allows you to view data for the last 90 days, but it does give a good overview of organic keyword rankings and visits.
TIP: You should download keyword and landing page data at least once every 90 days and add it to a single file (e.g. an Excel sheet). That way, you can analyse historical performance as needed.
2. The Paid & Organic report in Google Adwords
Back in August 2013, Google quietly introduced a new report in Adwords that enables search marketers to compare paid and organic channels side-by-side.
The Paid & Organic report tells you which terms triggered organic listings only, which terms triggers paid listings, and which terms triggered both.
This report is available in AdWords to all advertisers (even if you’re not currently running Adwords Campaigns). To use it, you’ll need to have a Webmaster Tools account for your website, linked to your AdWords account. You’ll find instructions from Google here.
Once you have linked both accounts, you can view the Paid & Organic report on the Dimensions tab.
Organic data is captured from the date you started importing from Webmaster Tools, so you won’t see historical data.
TIP: Use this report to identify opportunities to expand your organic search reach. Identify keywords that are performing well in organic search, then conduct more keyword research based on those terms to identify further opportunities. You should also check your Adwords campaigns for high-performing keywords – they might be good candidates for organic search too.
3. Landing Pages report in Google Analytics
While keyword data is no longer available in Google Analytics, the Landing Pages report allows you to make an educated guess. First, apply the built-in ‘Non-paid Search Traffic’ advanced segment.
You can then look at your top landing pages under Site Content in the Behaviour report.
If you’re following best practice for SEO, each page will be optimised for a limited set of closely related keywords. The Landing Pages report should then give you some insight into which keywords are driving traffic to your site.
If you have not been strict with mapping your keywords to content, all is not lost. You can still see which keywords drove traffic to your site up to the end of September. To view this data, go the Landing Pages report and add ‘Keyword’ as a secondary dimension.
For easier analysis, you can remove (not provided) data from your reporting by creating an advanced segment that excludes all instances of “(not provided)” keywords.
You should then get a clearer picture of the keywords that drove traffic to your site.
4. Forecasting search traffic based on keyword positions
You can also try to estimate Google organic traffic based on your average position in SERPs for keywords you are targeting, and the average CTR each position is likely to receive. However, with Google searches being increasingly personalised, the data might not be very accurate. Mobile search and device fragmentation add an additional layer of complexity.
Keep calm and carry on
There’s no doubt about it: with Google encrypting search data, you’ll have a tougher time measuring the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. The data is more fragmented and analysis will require more time. But by following the measures outlined above, you should be able to fill some of the gaps in your knowledge.
In the long run, search marketers will need to move from a keyword-centric SEO model to a page-centric model. That means following best practice: a clean site architecture, with a small number of tightly related keywords for each page on your site. Do this, and you’ll still find enough data to measure your SEO efforts.