Say Goodbye to the Keyword as We Know It

By Stevie Sleeter, Content & Social Media Manager

Published: October 22, 2013

Keywords have always been the lifeblood of a concrete SEO strategy. Careful selection and accurate analysis of traffic volume acted as the foundation for page-level optimization and the core first step for web masters. For years, we’ve perfected our search for that quality list of descriptors to help build the visibility of our sites. Not any more, not in the same way. At least, according to the latest Google announcement following closely on the heels of last month’s Hummingbird update.

“It’s been a busy few weeks for SEO, content marketing, and digital marketers. Google delivered a one-two punch, announcing organic keyword data will no longer be available along with release of the Hummingbird update.”

After quickly analyzing Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm, we’ve come to learn a few more things about the future of Google search and the keyword’s role in that story. As mentioned above, Google is pulling the plug on organic keyword traffic data. If you’re particularly in tune with your Google Analytics, you may have noticed that dreaded section of “not provided” keywords has steadily been creeping upward over the last year.

“Google’s statement on why it’s hiding keyword data is that it is for extra protection for the user.” Although many webmasters wonder if it is more of a business effort to encourage revenue through Adwords than care for the end user.

Since there are really two concerns to address here, we’ll try to quickly kill two [humming]birds with one stone. First, how will we get accurate data about organic traffic and what’s driving visitors if everything is “not provided?” And second, if the keyword as we know it is phasing out, how do we adjust for what’s coming next?

The first question is answered with a few different options, though none of which will provide keyword data like we’re used to. Try looking into the following:

  • Page Level Insights – Start looking more closely at what pages are receiving top organic visits. You can deduce from there, which keywords are most likely bringing them in and adjust accordingly.
  • Keyword Rank Tracking – Although we no longer have access to keywords in connection to traffic, we still monitor the top keywords and phrases our site is ranking for. For a while, many webmasters put rank tracking on the back burner as a secondary metric but now, with the loss of keyword transparency, it is coming back stronger than ever.
  • Paid Search Efforts – One of the interesting caveats of Google’s keyword shifts is the search giant will not hide the data if you pay for it. Unfair, maybe. Reality, yes. Google mentioned that if marketers place paid ads in Adwords for their selected keywords, Google will pass along visitor traffic data.
  • Other Search Engines – Although our work often revolves around Google, don’t forget about other search outlets like Bing and Yahoo, who still eagerly share keyword data.

Regarding the latter issue and what’s coming next, the two announcements are important for content marketing, and they illuminate the continuing transition from keyword-based search to semantic search. Keywords aren’t going away. They’re just changing. Google is attempting to better determine intent behind search queries, placing heightened focus on semantic search.

Semantic search is a search or a question or an action that produces meaningful results, even when the retrieved items contain none of the query terms, or the search involves no query text at all. Hinged on the concepts of relevancy and context, semantic search theoretically means search engines are closer to delivering search results and content that we need based on information and cues that we do not even give them.

Keep this in mind with your continued content creation. Valuable, quality content specific to a certain audience is key. Begin by analyzing your current efforts through an “outside in” perspective – contact Envano to discuss how our visibility or content straudiments will help solidify a strategy that drives the growth needed for your company to dominate the industry.