Pages are the New Keywords

So what now? As everyone in this field has seen over the past two years, Google has slowly pulled the rug out from underneath our keyword traffic reports. Many have speculated this was coming anyhow, it was just a matter of time. Well the time is now. Google has finally closed the door on easily understanding the organic value (traffic, conversion, other KPI) a keyword brings to a page or Organic Program.

Since this announcement on Monday, Covario has seen a significant industry spike in TNP (term not provided). In the Search Engine Land article, there was reference to a 73% of organic traffic bucketed in term not provided. We have seen spikes that are between 60-85% (one example listed below looked at the progression overtime, Sept 12’ to Sept 13’).

TNP and Google % of Total Sessions

What to do? Well, the answer is simple, it’s time to change and evolve the way we look at Organic data. Deepak Chopra puts it all into perspective, “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” Google has created the chaos removing the keywords, the great change is us as search marketers looking at Pages, our Audience, and other metrics to measure success of Organic channel efforts. What makes search interesting is the ever changing landscape it creates and you must adapt to it at a moment’s notice. With that said, below are some observations on how we should look at data.

Bucket List Strategy
Looking at URLs as keywords, categorizing these URLs into buckets (categories) in reports, will allow you to summarize channel impact by groups. A Cell phone bucket for all cell phone related URL/terms (cell phone, cell phone plans, new cell phones pages), as well as the long tail variations. Create a more holistic story about channel success and impact vs. the granular keyword level.

Do you Know your Keyword Universe?
Another important piece in evolving reporting is looking at more of a universe of keywords (long tail) that are URLs you have showing up in Search. Ensure you have these mapped to be tracked. Combining a keyword universe of ranking for categories you set in the above Bucket list, will allow you to take a more holistic approach to organic, understanding macro traffic patterns, and overall URL ranking movement as an aggregate for your programs growth or trends. Stop thinking at the micro keyword level!

Think Bigger, Where’s your Attribution Model?
Without keywords, it’s time to forget the granular keyword-to-ranking data, think bigger and start to look at how your Organic channel is attributing visitors. Are you creating long enough windows (14 day, 30 day, 60 day or more) to capture your audience? Does your buying cycle match what you’re tracking online with analytics? This can be great way to find more traffic or buying patterns for an overall channel effort. “Leave no stone unturned”- Euripides.

What Else? Regression Analysis
Google may have taken away all keyword data now and going forward, but you still have historical data. Utilize your historical data for regression analysis to understand Pages/keywords (brand and non-brand) that were driving efforts. Pair this analysis with ranking data, GWT data, BING/Yahoo data and begin assumptive traffic discovery to Pages and categories as mentioned above. This does regress back to a keyword level data model, which is fine as a comparison and to observe trends for overall channel success.

What other Strategies? Google+ Anyone?
Are you maximizing your efforts in optimization of other social/organic channels to increase and improve your overall program? Are you investing resources in Google+? Google+ has proven to be a huge influencer on Google personalized search and influencing your visibility with your consumer base as well as their friends that are in circles that might see your posts. Posting on Google+ and building out a stronger circle of users can lead to more referring Google+ traffic along with more influence in personalized searching rankings. Look at partnerships and alliances with other organizations, and companies to do cross sharing of events, posts, offers, interesting content. Setup tracking in your analytics to map these efforts and have quantifiable traffic and results produced from these efforts. In conclusion, this change is probably not the worst thing that’s happen to Google Organic Search, it’s more of an evolution. It forces us to change and change for the good. Keywords may be gone, but Organic search is not, nor our new strategies to shape the way we look, plan, analyze, and report on search going forward.

“Sometimes by losing the battle, you find a way to win the war”- Donald Trump