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How Can I Handle (Not Provided) Keyword Data in Analytics?

Why 100% (Not Provided) in Google Analytics is not the End of the World for SEO

There are many strong opinions out there about Google’s inevitable trend toward 100% (Not Provided) search terms in Google Analytics. The strongest of these will tell you it is a transparent plot to increase Adwords revenue. While you can see the weight this argument may have, especially as paid keyword data is still available, this latest development in conjunction with the Hummingbird Algorithm suggests that Google is not so much withholding keyword information from us as moving away from it altogether. Continuing to focus on keywords will prove to be increasingly difficult and fruitless in the long run.

Focusing on keywords will become difficult and fruitless because of Not Provided

There are several important points to consider here:

1. The idea of the keyword itself

Keywords developed as such a core SEO concept because they were the key to how search algorithms processed information. Search engines weren’t capable of understanding user queries on a semantic level, so they scanned websites for prominence of particularly relevant or ‘key’ words to provide the type of website a user was looking for. It is not necessarily an intrinsic part of searching the internet; it has just been the best way to convert user queries into relevant results.

2. The direction Google is heading in

In March 2012 The Wall Street Journal quoted top Google search executive, Amit Singhal, as claiming the search giant has been looking to introduce an ‘understanding’ of keywords into the search results it provides. In November 2012, Rand Fishkin did a Whiteboard Friday video where he examined Google results that were ranking URLs for competitive keywords through association with other language on the site (co-citation) rather than any on page optimisation and anchor text links.

These examples and many others lead us towards the idea of Google trying to understand user search on a more intuitive level than the strength of a keyword. The fact that the complete exclusion of search term data coincides with the first complete algorithm overhaul since 2001 is a very telling sign of this.

3. What SEO does?

The core purpose of SEO is to drive traffic to a website by giving it prominent results on Google. Since the beginning this has always been in some way tied to the idea of keywords, but as Google grows more complex being precious about losing our keyword data may be the wrong way to approach things looking forward.

In a world without keyword data and a new algorithm, where next?

Lost keyword data in Analytics can be sought through other, more complicated avenues. roi.com.au is delivering technical and creative methods to deliver smart keyword performance reporting in the 100% (not provided) era. This is just common sense as it is highly likely keyword traffic will always be a powerful tool when developing web marketing strategies.

However, we will also be looking toward new opportunities that are sure to develop as the effects of Hummingbird become more apparent, which will likely have very little to do with keywords. There is already a lot of information out there about ‘conversational search’ and the meaning behind words. Times of great change offer great new opportunities and such a massive shake up is sure to offer the SEO world fresh new avenues to drive traffic through to websites.

The whole SEO world is on the same playing field when it comes to this new start and the next breakthrough could come from any corner, so an open mind and innovation in the delivery of any quality SEO service is more important than ever.