Up-Close @ SMX West: Life After “Not Provided”

smx west14_spotlightLast September, Google confirmed it was encrypting search term information, rendering previously available keyword data “not provided” and leaving many website owners in the dark.

While most SEO professionals managed the loss of search terms without suffering major disruptions in their SEO efforts, SMX West’s “Life After Not Provided” panel offered tactical insights for those who felt as if Google had taken away their flashlight.

Moderated by Search Engine Land’s executive features editor Pamela Parker, the “Life After Not Provided” panelists included Catalyst’s director of SEO operations Benjamin Spiegel, aimClear founder Marty Weintraub, and the digital marketing strategist for Intel Laura Ann Mitchell who presented along with Ken Shults, the vice president of analytics for Global Strategies.

Not Provided – What It Is & What It Means to the SEO Community

Brian Spiegel’s presentation gave a basic understanding of keyword not provided, explaining how the once available data offered insights on the connection between search terms and website activity.

According to Spiegel, there’s no secret door to finding the now lost keyword data.

“We tried it, it’s not working,” said Spiegel, dismissing any agency as “shady” that claims the opposite. Now with 75 to 92 percent of keyword data left not provided, Spiegel told the audience, “It doesn’t really matter anymore.” He went on to say effective SEO is about relevance, content and context – not focusing on keyword terms.

Spiegel said the best data insights come from Google’s webmaster tools, citing Python as the  most effective solution his agency has found. He also offered the crowd the following six-step process to culling and interpreting website analytics to improve SEO:

    1. Collect the data.
    2. Connect the output to your database.
    3. Enhance your data using tools like Google Trends, search volume analytics, average and actual CPCs and ranking results.
    4. Segment your data into themes.
    5. Connect your data (pulling it into one platform like Excel or Tableau)
    6. Tell a story (based on the insights you learn from interpreting a broad view of your site analytics)

You can review Spiegel’s full presentation here:

“Not Provided” Not, Really, a Big Deal: SEO Metrics & Big Data

Following Spiegel, aimClear founder Marty Weintraub immediately refuted Spiegel’s remarks that “not provided” data was impossible to find, claiming the information could be determined by imputing unpersonalized keyword data.

Weintraub wasn’t phased by the loss of search terms. “I personally like metrics more now, since keywords were taken away,” said Weintraub, “I just don’t think it’s that big of a concern.”

Weintraub’s presentation included an in-depth overview of how big data could be leveraged to improve SEO initiatives, extolling the use of unpersonalized ranking tool authority labs to determine how your competitors rank. He was also quick to acknowledge the radical breakthroughs coming from PPC tool providers, naming SpyFu as one such solution that successfully extrapolates organic keyword ranking data.

Here’s Weintraub’s full presentation on leveraging big data to improve SEO efforts:

Intel’s Case Study on Surviving Life After Not Provided

The final presentation was a joint effort by Intel digital marketing strategist Laura Ann Mitchell, and the VP of analytics for Global Strategies Ken Shults who works alongside Intel’s SEO strategy team.

According to Mitchell, before “Not Provided” Intel was seeing approximately three million unique keywords in natural search per month. Now it only sees about 700,000 keywords, most coming from outside the US.

Mitchell said keyword “Not Provided” now represents 87 percent of Intel’s natural search, which she claimed was mildly irritating, but not a big deal.

“SEO is what happens when everything else is done right,” said Mitchell, explaining Intel’s more holistic view of SEO. Before digging into the anayltics Intel now uses to refine its SEO efforts, Mitchell handed the presentation over to Ken Shults.

Shults said his team uses the Google keyword planner as its primary resource for keyword data, augmented with paid search and natural search analytics. Organizing Intel’s keyword landscape into topics and sub-topics, Shults claimed keyword availability improves with progressive granularity in his Google Webmaster Tool accounts.

You can review Intel’s complete case study on life after “not provided” here: