Google took away keyword referral analytics. Now what?

By AharonC not provided

Keywords. 

They are the lynchpin behind all web traffic. 

Type in any word or phrase in Google: those are keywords.

The websites that Google displays are found based on the keywords you typed.

Naturally, web marketers were very interested in keyword analysis.  We wanted to know how our pages ranked for a given keyword, how much traffic came from that keyword, and we analyzed the traffic from those keywords.  We then built content and links around and for those keywords to capitalize on their popularity.

But 16 months ago that all started to change.

In October, 2011, Google Analytics stopped providing keyword tracking information because its searches were predominantly encrypted.  Encrypted searching blocked our ability to view exactly which URL a user linked to our pages from and what keywords they used in their searches. 

Google took away this very useful metric in the name of security; a dubious claim considering the fact that Google retains all the tracking information for its advertising and tracking purposes, plus, if you’re spending money on a PPC campaign, Google will provide you with that information.

But whether or not Google’s reasons are transparent, the fact remains that Google no longer provides keyword tracking specifics.

What’s a web marketer to do?

It turns out that keywords ARE important, but not necessarily in the way that they used to be.

Firstly, keyword Analytics aren’t entirely gone.   SEMRush and Market Samurai are just two examples of Analytics software that can still be purchased and used to do keyword research by volume to see which terms are generating the most traffic for your website.

Secondly, you can also use analytic data – some intuitive reasoning, and other web-based tools to at least get perspective on which keywords are or are not working.  For example, you can use analytics to see which of your pages gets the most traffic.  Take the content of that page and generate a word cloud over at wordle.net (if the page has an RSS feed you can load it automatically, otherwise you will have to copy and paste).

The word cloud displays more frequently used words as larger than those that are less frequently used.  The odds are the bigger words are your useful keywords.  Generate similar word clouds for your under-performing pages.  If the big keywords from the successful pages aren’t there or aren’t displaying as large words, you know where to begin re-optimizing for those pages.

Finally, don’t forget to go beyond keywords and look at web traffic in general.  Remember, keywords are just one component of optimization.  They are not the end-all be-all. 

The goal is to optimize a page in any way to capture visitors and get them to convert.  To that end take a more general look at which landing pages are getting your best traffic.  Analyze those pages and determine how people are converting.  Identify and then heavily promote the highest converting pages.  Update older pages that are still performing well. 

Remember you have that wordle cloud. 

You know which terms are on the best pages, put that information to good use on older content.  Strengthen it.  Similarly, identify the low performing landing pages.  If you have to, eliminate them; but a better option is to re-optimize them with better, higher performing content.  This will generate more organic traffic.

In the end, it’s all about creating the best content to direct the most traffic to your site.  Keyword Analytics is a really important component of that process and yes, Google has made the analysis more difficult.  But it’s not impossible: the tools you need are still out there, and the optimization goes on.  Are you doing all you can to keep your site optimized?

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