SEO Workarounds for “Not Provided” Keywords

Written by: Jason Bayless | May 28, 2014

In September 2013, Google encrypted search data when it made all search secure. The change meant that web content publishers lost access to a source of keyword data that they had come to rely on in Google Analytics. Previously, the search terms users typed in to find your website had always been available, but now they often show up as “Not Provided.” (Paying customers can still get such data from Google AdWords.)

Google’s aim with secure search was, it says, to to provide more privacy for users. Some speculate that it had more to do with boosting AdWords sales. Either way, Google keeps prodding web marketers to focus less on keywords and more on producing content that answers consumer questions.

But like all of Google’s changes that throw folks for a loop at first, this one just gives website owners one more reason to get creative. And some SEO experts have pointed out that to rely only on Google is to shrink the Internet. Can social media help pick up the slack when it comes to keyword research?

Content is king, it’s true, but keywords help content marketers and bloggers decide what sort of content to write based on trends they can identify in customer searches. You can still look at keyword and search term data from Bing and Yahoo, of course, as well as tracking your landing page data — because landing pages tend to be focused on one topic or product, or just a few keywords.

Another way that online marketing professionals are adapting to Google’s switch to secure search is by turning to social media. SEO blogger Amanda DiSilvestro writes about using social media for keyword research and link building in three ways:

  1. You can glean keyword data from social media. If lots of people are interested enough to search for something in Facebook or Twitter, that’s a good topic for your next piece of content or tweet. Blogger Glenn Gabe explains how to track keywords used in Facebook’s Graph Search.

  2. You can follow trends you see on social media — on your page, your competitors’ pages, etc. And social media can help you get reviews, which are another element of your web presence that Google is paying more attention to these days.

  3. Social media gives you a great way to interact with many customers and potential customers at once. They have a public forum to ask their questions and get direct answers fast (which is a good reason to have someone in your company monitor your Facebook page closely). You have a great place to introduce your new products or even do light, informal product research. And social media provides ample opportunities for lead generation and conversion.

One last keyword-hunting tip for online marketers, and it actually has to do with Google: Type a keyword into Google and scroll down to the bottom of the search results page. There you’ll find related searches that might give you some great new ideas for content.

Google is big, but it’s not the only game in town. And it’s forcing web marketers to get creative with their approaches to learning about user behavior and trends. Ultimately, that’s a good thing.