So I've been giving some thought to the new Google changes, ie. Google Encryption of keyword data. For those of you that don't know yet, Google is now encrypting all keyword data from organic search, meaning you can no longer see, in Google Analytics (or any other 3rd party software), which keywords people are searching for when they come to your website (with the exception of Yahoo and Bing which still provide that data.) Although this was a huge metric that you could benchmark, improve upon and see direct results of a content keyword strategy, I think there is still a light shining through the cloud in all of this.
It's going to force us to look at our content differently, and although we won't be able to directly see results of specific keywords on our website (unless you use Google Adwords), we can look more holistically at the page level and how the overall content is attracting, holding, and converting visitors.
I think one thing that keyword optimization tended to focus on was building keywords and improving search results for those specific keywords. While that's all well and good, we can't lose sight of the fact that the page you're bringing people to needs to be useful when a visitor arrives there.
Let me give you a scenario to clear up what I'm talking about.
Let's say you have a website dedicated to dog outfits. You know, the little fall vest that fits onto your king charles cavalier spaniel so she doesn't get cold in the winter.
So now that you know the business scenario, you want to optimize your website for keywords about puffy puppy jacket, puppy clothes, dog outfits, some long tail keyword phrases, etc... You start your efforts by checking keyword results over the past year and find that no one has found your business through organic search because of those terms yet. Baseline set, zero organic referrals for your keywords.
Now jump ahead a few months, after you've had a chance to put tons of keywords into your content, added images with alt tags, and made sure you have some important keywords in the title tags. You focused so much on the keywords that you haven't done anything with the calls to action, the actual product pages, or the quality of the content itself (only to be sure to stuff in as many keywords as you could).
Now let’s take a look at the results.
(This is a made up scenario, so the results are also made up, but you'll see my point in a minute.)
Searching your organic keyword referrals you now find that puffy puppy jacket has brought in 200 visitors to your website over the last month, incredible results for your overall site visits and the fact that you previously had no visitors for that search term. But let’s look a little deeper at some other metrics. The page dedicated to content about puffy jackets for dogs seems to be doing very well, until you look at some other data. Bounce rate for puffy jacket content pages 92%, ouch! Percent exit, 85%, Ruff! (Puppy pun intended.) So what happened? I got visitors to my site for puffy puppy jacket but they weren't sticking around.
Remember what I said above? You were so concerned with keywords that you didn't bother looking at the page itself, you didn't add any calls to action, you didn't make it easy for people to find what they wanted, and your content read like a stoic user manual stuffed with keywords that made it feel forced. You weren't being a human in your writing, you just wanted the organic search numbers for that keyword to increase at any cost.
Remember that quality counts more than the quantity, because driving traffic to your website for specific topics or keywords is one thing, but making sure you're giving those visitors what they're looking for once they get there is a whole different, and I'd argue more important, thing.
Not being able to track keyword specific data (unless you're using AdWords) sucks, and it does make it more difficult to know the effectiveness of those specific keyword level pushes, but you can still see the more broad page level data, gather bounce rate, average time on site, exit percentage data and interpret if you're building effective content that keeps people on your website longer.
Although you won't have data on the outcomes of your keyword efforts, you should still make sure you have a list of relevant keywords so that you're consistent in your writing and focus.
I know this article doesn't solve the recent Google keyword data encryption change, but hopefully it gives you a different perspective, and helps you realize that SEO isn't dead, it just changes the way that you go about tracking and analyzing the data, and it forces you to focus more on quality than quantity.
Do you have thoughts about the Google Encryption, keyword data, or how search engine optimization is changing? I'd love to hear from you.