When I first started writing online for money, I was introduced to Google Analytics. While there is a great deal of information available within Analytics, the key for me, at the time, was the way search keywords were reported. By selecting an overview of the traffic coming to your website, you could see what keywords were driving people to your site, but no more.
Google Search Keywords
In the world of online marketing, a lot of focus happens on keyword research. There are a lot of ways to go about researching keywords. Some publishers like to find the keywords first, and then write articles about those keywords. This is the giving people what they are looking for method. Other publishers, already know what they want to write about, but they want to frame it in a way that allows the maximum number of people to find it. This method is more about properly cataloging your publications.
I fall into the latter camp.
One of my first clients mentioned to me that while they loved my writing, it always seemed to bring in less traffic than the writings of other users. It turns out that my catchy, creative headlines are loathed by Google’s search ranking algorithm which assumes that whatever is in your title is literally what your article is about. So, an article titled, How to Spiff Up Your Home Before Summer, will never, ever, rank highly for people who search for, “spring cleaning.” In fact, the duller, and more keyword filled your title, the better.
Knowing where people land on your website is useful. People landing on that spring cleaning page from organic search results is useful information. It let’s me know that my readers are finding that page. But, without information about the keywords that sent them there, I’ll never know whether my readers are coming after searching for spring cleaning, or for shower cleaning tips.
Keywords in Analytics
For a while now, I’ve just gotten over the annoying metric at the top of every website’s traffic report. The majority of traffic has listed, “Not Provided,” as the keyword used in search for some time now. Fortunately, the remaining information was vaguely accurate if not statistically complete. For example, if a website showed 30% not provided, then one could reasonably assume that the next dozen keywords were the ones providing the majority of the website’s traffic. Unfortunately, those days are ending.
As the number of keywords that are not provided climbs, the remaining keywords are no longer sorted in any meaningful way in many cases. Sure, if a website has something like this:
- 65% Not Provided
- 18% Weasel Combing
- 8% Monkey Wigs
- 5% Payday Loans to Buy Viagra
Then, you know where your traffic is coming from, and what your important keywords are. But, if your website is big, and not focused on a single keyword, then the traffic reports start to look more like this:
- 65% Not Provided
- 3% Salmon Eggs
- 3% Overthrowing Canada
- 2% Reverse Mortgages
- 2% Brian Nelson
- 2% Funky Chicken
- 2% Personal Finance Advice
- 1% Easter
- 1% Christmas
- 1% 4th of July
- 1% The Matrix is Real
With results like this, one can make educated guesses as to what keyword searches drive someone to their website, but it gets increasingly difficult to see which ones are more used than others. Even when there is a difference, does the variance between 2 percent and 1 percent really represent an accurate picture of traffic, or just how the terms were aggregated for the report?
When it comes to search, it’s Google’s world and we just live in it. Still it’s decisions can make our jobs harder or easier. As a professional writer that makes a living online without spending every waking moment plumbing the mass of SEO tools and keyword research subscriptions out there, this change has tilted the balance of power away from the writers who care about content, and toward the search engine gamers who manufacture the minimum possible value for rankings. Over time, this will actually make Google’s searches less relevant.