What can you do about that big gaping hole of missing information known as (not provided) in Google Analytics?
We don't have access to organic keyword data from Google anymore and it's driving some people mad. The funny thing is there's one secret weapon for dealing with it and it's been here for years.
Ok so it's not that much of a secret.
But seriously, Google AdWords still reports all keyword data to your analytics platforms, conversions and all.
For years we've recommended starting an SEO campaign with a research phase whereby we discover what target keywords we'll be aiming for over the course of the campaign.
In this phase we:
- build a nice big list of keywords
- sort them
- and trim them down to the top keywords that have the most search volume
- the lowest competition in paid search
- all while being as relevant to our client's offering as possible
This is of course the cheapest and fastest way to perform keyword research. For our lower budget clients we went straight from this phase into setting up reports, writing Titles & META Tags, performing technical optimizations on the site and the litany of other SEO related tasks.
But for those clients who have the budget and are more keen to follow our undeniable Keep It Simple Stupid philosophy, there's a better way.
We take our target keyword findings one step further and start a small Google AdWords campaign, typically with minimum $1k/mo in ad-spend budget outside of our fee for such a campaign.
In this campaign we:
- build out a variety of ads for each target keyword and iteration of keyword phrases
- then we load in a pretty boilerplate list of negative keywords
- set our match types appropriately for each keyword
- install conversion tracking code wherever we want to monitor goals
- launch the campaign
Shortly after launching the campaign we have a great idea of which keywords are driving conversions. Out of our initial list of 25 keywords, only 20 are driving impressions, maybe 10 are driving clicks with 5 or so driving the most clicks, and 2 keywords driving the most conversions.
Think about the granularity of keyword data we just obtained for a small investment in AdWords. Not only that but we know specifically which keywords will convert now. This is a sort of living lab for keyword research and performing content insights into searcher intent.
Also, it's not so bad that we got a few conversions for our client as well.
The next step is to take what we've learned from our keyword data and tweak our landing pages that ads are sending traffic to.
The best way to do this is use the target keywords in the page titles, headings and page copy for our landing pages. It's also not a bad idea to put your new target keywords for each page in the ALT attributes for images and filenames.
Optimizing your landing pages like this will increase your quality score in AdWords meaning; Google can see that your landing pages are more relevant to the keywords that are driving clicks through ads and will sequentially lower your cost per click (CPC) and increase the total amount of clicks you get due to a jump in page position for your ad as well as more clicks for the same budget.
This is the way to win at Google AdWords, but there's more to it. Now that you know which keywords convert, build whole content marketing plans around every imaginable permutation of those keywords.
Before you know it you won't need organic keyword data because you're fairly certain that through your Google AdWords data, rankings and top content reports in Google Analytics, your SEO efforts are working just fine.
Of course, you could always take it a step further and dig into various other keyword indicators to make up for that lost data.
No matter what happens, the way to truly win in Google is either create the next Wikipedia or Amazon (unlikely bro) or just play by Google's rules (much easier).