It’s All Going “Not Provided” – 9 Industry Experts Share Their Thoughts

http://www.blueclawsearch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/wipe_seo_not_provided.png http://www.blueclawsearch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/wipe_seo_not_provided.png It’s All Going “Not Provided” – 9 Industry Experts Share Their Thoughts

Google’s decision to not provide organic keyword data could be one of the key turning points for SEO and will perhaps having a greater impact than either Panda or Penguin. How will SEO be measured and quantified as a profitable marketing channel? We asked nine leading SEOs to share their opinions on the ‘Not-Provided’ issue.

The Expert Panel:

Dave Chaffey

CEO

smartinsights.com

Martin Woods

SEO Manager

blueclawsearch.co.uk

Mal Darwen

Product Manager

wordtracker.com

David Harling

Head of Organic Performance

MoneySupermarket.com

Dr. Pete Meyers

Marketing Scientist

moz.com

Ruth Burr

Inbound Marketing Lead

moz.com

Stephen Lock

Product Manager

linkdex.com

Marcus Tober

CTO

searchmetrics.com

Gianluca Fiorelli

MD

iloveseo.net

Questions by
Fergus Clawson 

MD

blueclawsearch.co.uk

Over to the questions:

How has your SEO work been affected by Google’s ‘not provided’ stance?

Dave Chaffey: I’ve said in training for years that you can only really judge SEO and PPC by the visits, leads and sales generated from non-brand search – so you have to isolate brand search where people know you already – search marketers can’t really be rewarded on that basis.When working with a new Search client I would always start by setting up advanced segments for non-brand/brand in Google Analytics to identify how much incremental business they were getting through investment in search. You just can’t do that now – so we have lost one of the main assessments of the value of SEO (although you can still do this for AdWords).
Martin Woods: It’s certainly helping to force SEO consultants who have traditionally been fixated by keywords and traffic to think about other areas to add value to their campaigns. However, the actual campaigns haven’t changed as much as you’d think. Clients obviously all ask the same question: How they can ‘get their data back’?Even after you explain in detail and offer insight using other metrics such as the landing page & source, they still come back to the same question. Once they get used to it and acknowledge the fact that it’s not coming back, then you can move on and look towards the positives.

David Harling: For most online marketers this stance should not have come as a surprise – the warning signs have been there since Google first introduced secure search back in October 2011. Any agency or brand who hasn’t started considering life without keyword level data hasn’t really understood where Google is going.It is fair to say that everyone who invests in organic search as a key business channel has been affected by “not provided”, and yes it has been annoying to most industry SEO leads, but I think we have become far too focused and dependent on keyword level analysis for long enough now –  for me, it is refreshing to consider more compelling factors like page level metrics and performance the real driver behind site conversion and revenue.
Mal Darwen: At Wordtracker we’re seeing several of our keyword research customers reaching out to us to find out how our own data is affected by this – the answer to which is, ‘not at all’.In fact, it’s made our service more important, as people have come to understand how useful it is to have an indepyendent keyword tool.
Dr. Pete Meyers: It’s definitely impacted us as an SEO tool provider, given that so many of our customers are still heavily keyword-focused.We’re trying to balance filling in the gaps by educating people on new directions and ways of looking at their data.
Ruth Burr: This one has been coming for a while, so I wasn’t surprised when all keywords moved to (not provided).It means a few extra steps, like taking a look in Google Webmaster Tools to see what keywords are driving impressions. If anything, it’s made rank tracking somewhat more important.If a page ranks for a popular keyword, it’s a fairly safe bet that that keyword is what’s driving traffic.

Marcus Tober: The SEO work is definitely affected. Like in PPC, where decisions are mainly based on keyword performance, the same applies for SEO.This is not gone, but more complicated now. Users have different intentions when they search for something and the keyword is the basis. Many SEOs now speak about “creativity” and the keyword is getting less important. I don’t believe that.This sounds more like sticking your head in the sand. The average user outside doesn’t care about not-provided. He just searches for something and uses phrases (keywords) to do that. That’s why keywords will remain important for a few years to come.

Stephen Lock: The answers to this, and my advice to my peers is clear in my mind:1. Google keyword data was incredibly valuable and now it is no longer available; this means that any keyword related data source that is still available has become much more valuable.This means data on search engine visibility, keyword rankings, Google Webmaster Tools, Google AdWords, internal site search and keyword data that is still available via Google Analytics.

It’s important to also mine as much data as you can from Google Analytics, as there will be a wealth of historical keyword data in there that is purged after 2 years or 3.5 years typically (depending on whether you use the free or premium product).

You are also likely to need more analytical resources to gain insights without the Google organic data.

Your most important keywords to mine are the ones that have generated conversions through organic search as much of the other missing data can be estimated, this disconnect for me is the most frustrating aspect of the changes. It also emphasises the importance of over reliance on organic search as a channel, if you develop email, direct, social, referral, paid and other channels, you are less exposed to changes from Google.

2. Logically now people should be focusing on pages in terms of key landing pages, sub-domains, folders and category pages for example.

You should be structuring tight keyword themes throughout your site structure as this is good for both SEO architecture anyway and also enables educated guesses at the keywords that are driving your traffic.Especially if you have the luxury of data models and keyword rankings from a large data set to leverage.

3. People should prepare for Google providing less data for SEO’s long term and I believe there are more data points that will be provided for digital marketers including, potentially, PageRank and the number of indexed pages in results.

Gianluca Fiorelli: I can’t deny that my daily job as an SEO was affected by the (not provided) stance.Not knowing for what keywords a site received organic traffic for, especially the impossibility for discriminating branded and non-branded searches, makes things more difficult, especially from a reporting point of view.Not knowing from Google Analytics in a simple way how much of the traffic is due to long or head/middle tail doesn’t help in monitoring the performance of any SEO campaign.

Having said all that, it was since the first appearance of the (not provided) issue that I started moving from a pure keyword-centric vision of SEO to a landing-centric one, therefore not focusing onto specific keywords, but over topics treated by my landing pages. And this leads to your second question.

 

Which tools and methods can best help deal with the ‘not provided’ issue?

Dave Chaffey:  Like everyone else we look at and recommend looking at the Google Webmaster Toolsintegrated into Google Analytics, but as many have said, it is limited in many ways, for example, it has a two month period lookback only – plus you can’t do year-on-year comparisons, and are limited to top few thousand phrases (usually 1,000 to 8,000 in practice).So you can’t assess long tail or look at brand/non-brand split AND advanced segments don’t work in this report.That said, it’s probably the best we have and there are some neat features like looking at impressions, average positions and clickthroughs. The data on mobile, image and video search is useful too – not many know about that.

Other than that, I think it means rank checkers like Advanced Web Ranking make more sense. Yes, search is highly personalised and localised today, but for the first time visit this is less of an issue.

Martin Woods: There is only a certain amount you can do in Google Analytics (if that’s what you’re using), make sure to export your data to Excel for correlation and insight.If you haven’t already, have a play with the Google Core Reporting API and get the exact data you want in your Excel spreadsheets.
David Harling: Most high profile data providers have responded well to this issue and have been rolling out functionality to support digital specialists to better manage this problem and the expectations of clients or stakeholders.I am a big fan of Linkdexwho for me react quickest to impactful industry changes and offer search and PR teams with great functionality for more accountable page level analysis and better evaluation of digital content.You must get behind the conversion of pages and analyse which content drives higher conversion rates for all your owned digital assets (and of course most marketers still have access to Adwords and GMT data, for now!).

Mal Darwen: Our own tools are an excellent resource as they provide information around which words people are using to search, and the language that potential visitors or customers to a web page are using.We also provide competitive information on those keywords based on the amount of other pages using the keywords in specific ways to give further insight into each individual market’s implementation of keywords and how widespread competition is.In terms of methods – look at the pages getting traffic via organic search and establish what it is about those pages that’s attracting that traffic – is it the subject, or the detailed markup and careful language that’s been applied to that page?

Is it that it’s ranking because it has loads of links or because it has the best possible content for the visitor (hint: it’s probably a combination of both).

Dr. Pete Meyers: There’s no magic solution to replacing the lost data, because only Google has that data.Ranking can give us some clues, and Google Webmaster Tools can fill in a few blanks, but I strongly suspect that any approach that focuses too narrowly on keywords going forward is going to be flawed.We need to think about the pages attracting traffic and attention across multiple channels, including social, and what the success or failure of content tells us about what our customers want.

Ruth Burr: Like I said earlier, rank tracking becomes a bit more important after having been on the decline for a while.Looking at what pages rank for what keywords and how much organic traffic they get is a pretty big clue for what searches sent that traffic.I think we’ll see tools and companies coming out with other solutions pretty soon, too.

Marcus Tober: The best method is to use multiple data sources to reverse engineer the traffic and conversions for keywords on a URL-level.In Searchmetricswe worked with our development team for nearly three months to automate the integration of these sources.You can do it manually, but you could also use automated tools like ours to save time. The SEOs that do the best job in reverse engineering the stuff have a big USP over the other SEOs.

Stephen Lock: I am obviously biased for this question because I work for Linkdex and we have worked hard to release effective tools to help our clients in this area. To avoid anything self promotional I will focus on the concepts behind gaining insights with less keyword data in Google Analytics.Generating a keyword universe(as my colleague Matt Roberts likes to call them) is key.You need the biggest list of keywords possible and capture additional data points which could include search volumes, PPC data, whether the keywords convert or even CRO related data like Ben Hunt’s awareness ladder. It is also worth considering CTR and variations. For example a branded search will have a very different CTR to generic search.

Trend data is also really useful and search volumes can often change. This data is essential as inputs for any kind of estimation or forecast to help in this new world.

The very biggest brands with large budgets for analysts will build models based on primarily historical analytics data, historical rankings, PPC data and forecasted rankings e.g. is a #2 spot the best you could hope for as Wikipedia is #1?

All of this granular data can then be used to build sophisticated models to help make the loss of keyword data less painful, for businesses on smaller budgets, in my humble opinion, you should be focusing on analysis of groups of pages.

Linkdex approaches this by encouraging clients to gather as much data as they can for inputs when trying to decipher not provided, offering the ability to focus on analysis of groups of pages as the future of reporting for digital marketers.

Gianluca Fiorelli: Yes, I changed.Focusing more on topical optimization (which – by the way – seems being the correct way of doing SEO after the advent of Hummingbird), I stopped losing my mind on checking out long lists of long – or even long long – tailed keywords, but more on seeing if the correct page of the site was ranking for those keywords and concepts it was meant to rank for.Now I don’t look if a site is ranking for a keyword, but if the page I want is ranking for that keyword. I know the keywords, because I optimized the page internally and externally for them and, so I assign a set of keywords and related concepts to every page and do a ranking tracking of the pages for their given set of keywords and semantic variants.

 

How will ‘not provided’ change the way SEO consultants approach SEO?

Dave Chaffey: Once we move to 100% not provided, which will happen next year, then most of the hacks will no longer be valid, so we will have to look at where natural visits are entering our sites and comparing how different site sections compare in terms of overall footfall to page through browsing against site entries through SEO and where relevant AdWords.At least we still can tell natural visits! Using Content Drilldown in Google Analyticsand reviewing sections becomes a much more useful technique.As I’ve mentioned I think rank checkers could be used more.

Martin Woods: I would like to think that over the past few years most SEO consultants have already changed to think more like marketer and be less focused solely on SEO.I’m sure that ‘not provided’ data has had a significant influence on how most SEO consultants run campaigns, however it’s probably more in the reporting.
David Harling: It shouldn’t change your approach to SEO other than the way you manage data and measurement. The biggest challenge will be managing the expectations of clients and stakeholderswho have become dependent on keyword level data for many years now.Invest the time to explain and educate on where the landscape is heading. Any agency or in-house team should be running regular knowledge sharing sessions to ensure they are 100% transparent on impactful industry changes as they come up and more importantly before they arrive!.
Mal Darwen: While using keywords is an integral part of the SEO process, it’s by no means the end point.Consultants need to engage the actual language of their market (and in some cases the spaces around that market) so that their content is relevant to the people searching for it – Google’s provision of organic keywords bringing traffic to a site was always a helpful insight, but without it, SEOs shouldn’t feel that they’ve been too hobbled by this.Optimisation and testing may be longer processes before an optimal page is produced, but my own hope is that this move will lead to more carefully thought out content strategies driven by language in response to Internet searchers’ needs rather than SEOs pumping out content centred on individual words.

It’s becoming more of a writer’s world, and Google’s claim to want to index and rank the best content seems to be being played out here.

Dr. Pete Meyers: The challenge in the short term is reporting. So many SEO bosses and/or clients have been trained for years on keywords.It’s going to take a while to adapt how we report our successes. We can try to extrapolate keywords based on other data, but ultimately I think we’re going to have to move toward more content-focused reporting.”
Ruth Burr: I think a bit of a decreased focus on keywords might be useful for some SEOs. It allows us to focus more on creating quality content and promoting it well online.>We’re really going to have to work hard to convince our clients that the uptick in traffic that they’re seeing is due to our efforts. I think brand marketing is going to continue to be more important.
Marcus Tober: As I said already, the key is multiple data sources. If I can leverage my SEO by using valuable data from the PPC guys for example, that will improve my approach immediately.As an SEO I have to focus on business relevant keywords, topics and URLs like all other marketing channels. More valuable sources means more knowledge. So SEOs also have to build great relationships to the BI and PPC guys.
Stephen Lock: I believe it will have a profound impact on the industry. The loss of the data is certainly not ideal, but it will also cause a behavioural change, making digital marketers think more holistically.Rather than an often unhealthy obsession with keywords, it will force some agencies to deliver better services that are focused on users, content and clients’ business objectives first over whether they rank number one or not for a vanity term.
Gianluca Fiorelli: I rediscovered rank tracking tools like Authority Labs, Linkdex and the Rank Tracker Tool by Moz.I’m not using them just for the sake of rankings itself, but for checking if those rankings are owned by the page I want.In this sense, it is useful – albeit imprecise and with the horrible 90 days period limit. The “Search Query” function of Google Webmaster Tools can be of great help for monitoring the correctness of your SEO efforts from a landing-centric point of view.

Also, a tool like Searchmetrics, which thanks to its own monitoring of gazillions of keywords, reports with a certain grade of correctness on how your site is ranking in the long tail.

Finally, the biggest change for me is freeing myself from the keyword slavery i.e. not having direct keyword data. Even if it may sound “heretic”, I can now concentrate on better strategies for my potential users.

The importance of understanding your target is even bigger now, and that implies also discovering how the target talks, and the words it uses; something that you can do monitoring its social media conversations and creating more efficient personas and psychographic targeting.

Have you changed the way you approach SEO, and if so how?

Dave Chaffey: That’s simple, no, SEO is still just as important – it perhaps makes content marketing more important since we have to go for a broader strategic approach to SEO – generating great content rather than more granular optimisations – a great pity.
Martin Woods: I wouldn’t say it has fundamentally changed the way I approach SEO, but it certainly has changed certain aspects of it, keyword research is one of those.The best keyword data you should have access to is your own.Traditionally I have  focused on quality traffic which converts, and your Analytics data was typically the best place to start. It’s now going to be much less fruitful, as we’ll have much smaller data sets from the other search engines.

David Harling: Not really, for me the approach remains in the eye of the beholder and as a marketer or search specialist you should be forever evolving and adapting your own learning and attitudes towards search. Anyone who isn’t constantly changing what they do i regards to better performance and online growth are missing the point on the broader digital landscape and evolution of how we approach modern day search.The only change for me, which has been directly driven by the ‘not provided’ change, is the lack of accountability and measurement options, which we now have to better manage to handle data limitations for keyword level reporting and insights.This again forces the spotlight on page level analysis which for me has become second nature for a while now. I am even more interested in the customer beyond how they search for content – looking at their behaviours once they enter the site is far more valuable to me than how they found the site, as long as I still understand they came from organic search.

Mal Darwen: As my role is more ancillary than direct, my own approach hasn’t changed.
Dr. Pete Meyers: I think we’ve known for a while that we need to move away from a narrow approach to keywords and ranking, and view them as just one piece of the puzzle.Part of that means taking a more content-focused approach and tracking landing pages and the entire customer journey.For a lot of people though, it’s easier said than done, and we need to let go of some of our old ways of doing things.

Ruth Burr: I haven’t, really. Most of my SEO efforts are focused on making sure the site is crawlable and has good code, coordinating with our Content team to create great content, and then building relationshipswith people to share/link to that content.I was already only medium focused on specific keyword traffic. I think it would change my approach more if I wasn’t in-house, because keyword traffic data is a really great place to start when taking a look at a website for a new SEO project.
Marcus Tober: No. My SEO work follows simple goals. These goals won’t change only because I have more work to do to combine more data sources.Organic traffic is still the most important channel. If you leverage Organic traffic, you can have a more aggressive PPC campaign with higher CPC or more keywords.Keywords which are ROI negative when you do PPC alone are getting “neutral” or “positive” if SEO works well. So I spend a lot of time in combining data sources like our Searchmetrics keyword database, Google Webmaster tools, Google Analytics and Adwords to reverse engineer the keyword data on a URL-basis.

Stephen Lock: I haven’t really other than accepting that the best SEO is really integrated and there is a return to making sure you are executing really good marketing campaigns that think of outreach more as online PR.I have been thinking this way for a while, as have many of my current clients. However if you have been practicing more traditional forms of SEO, it is likely you will need to pivot into much more creative and holistic campaigns for 2014.
Gianluca Fiorelli: I hope that other SEOs will start “forgetting” keywords and start considering their users more. I answered this in the previous question to this one, but I’d like to add a name: Hummingbird.Hummingbirdis telling us that what matters is not the keywords that are used, but the queries (and the intent and the context of the queries) where it happens.Hummingbird is trying to simplify the giant volume of long tail keywords. If query A, B and C all substantially mean the same – independently from the single keywords used in those queries – now Google will tend to present a SERP D that can offer the best answer to those three queries, and not anymore SERP A, B and C, all with poor quality results.

This means that creating pages, whose unique purpose was to target the long long traffic, will not make sense anymore. And that is great!

More time for creating better content on a much less pages. Now SEO is about topics semantically related and not isolated optimized for keywords pages.

Why do you think Google is going down the 100% ‘not provided’ road?

Dave Chaffey: Well, they won’t go back, so we just have to deal with it! But like all Google decisions, it will be a combination of consumer experience, revenue (through AdWords)and brand.In this case, I think it is driven by privacy to some extent, but the fact that AdWords terms are still available suggest it’s also driven by commercial pressures – encouraging more use for AdWords.
Martin Woods: I think that because we’ve all grown up being given keyword data on a plate, we presume that we should always have access to it, believing it is our data.When in fact it has always been Google’s data, so if you don’t like it and want your keywords there is always PPC! – funny that!
David Harling: Most people I discuss this with seem to be head strong on the principle of Google selling back datato site owners later down the line – another way to monetise their data.I am not 100% sold on that but I also wouldn’t be surprised, as this is Google we are talking about!
Mal Darwen: Ours isnot to reason why… It would be easy to speculate that it’s an attempt to drive more AdWords business, and make the organic SEO’s job more difficult, but one view to take may be that they’re aiming for a more semantic, less spammy web.The Hummingbird update, while not rocking the SEO boat in the month between its release and the announcement about it, is another indicator towards this.
Dr. Pete Meyers: Truthfully, transparency in organic search has little or no benefit to Google, and they don’t value it.Less cynically, Google is starting  to take a broader view of keywords and deal with complex situations like voice searches and even queryless searches (like Google Now).As Google evolves, I think they’re looking at a world where keywords aren’t narrowly defined. Searches will depend a lot on context, history, and trying to understand user intent, meaning that any given word or phrase could have dozens of meanings across dozens of situations.

Ruth Burr: It’s a way for them to make a gesture toward protecting user privacy in the wake of the NSA PRISM leak.Since this data is still available to AdWords advertisers, I’m not too impressed. 

Marcus Tober: I don’t believe the official Google statement. I can imagine two reasons. One is that Google won’t improve the knowledge of third party integrations that can access the keyword information when it is in the referrer string.For example, Facebook because of the wide spread Share button integration could read the keyword in the referrer when the user comes from search. This could be really (!) valuable for Facebook. No keyword, less knowledge. The other one I won’t tell.
Stephen Lock: My understanding is that the alternatives to not provided would have been even more extreme and would have resulted in even less data being available for marketers and analysts.Keyword data is fundamental to Google’s core AdWords business so organic search data may have been used like a pawn to sacrifice to help protect keyword data on their AdWords product.
Gianluca Fiorelli: Not for Privacy, actually, even though it is true that it could be relatively easy discover who did a search from its referral, hence privacy can be a reason, but not the only one.Sincerely. I don’t know if Google did it for selling keyword information on demand and, sincerely, I don’t care. What pisses me off is that if it was privacy that moved Google, then also Adwords should not offer marketers keyword data. That’s something that I find deeply hypocritical.

How will you measure conversion for SEO when Google finally switches to a 100% ‘not provided’ service?

Dave Chaffey: We won’t be able to measure brand and non-brand in the way we can now, so it will have to be overall Volume, Value, Quality and Cost – these VQVC measures we cover on our RACE marketing KPIS dashboard are the way that SEO should be measured overall.Conversion is the quality of SEO, but you have to look at value too.
Martin Woods: I think it’s now time to give organic search traffic the respect it deserves in the marketing model. It should sit at the ‘big kids table’ with the other channels and assist total overall conversions rather than being in direct competition with the other channels (as is typically the case for a lot of companies).For far too long it has been considered a segmented channel with a completely different team looking after it.As ‘not provided’ data approaches 100% attribution, it will be more than important than ever before when it comes to justifying budgets, but first we need to understand that different channels work better at different stages of the buying process.

For example users trust organic results more during the research stage, but then this matters less nearer to making a purchase.

Therefore we need to track long term customer acquisition value, as opposed to just clicks from organic search. That original visit, or visits from organic search might have introduced someone to the brand, who later goes on to convert via another channel, or even on another device.

Obviously something hard to track for most companies, but luckily now with Universal Analytics we can collate data from other sources to give campaigns deeper insight.

David Harling: Keyword level data only allows me to understand the search terms which relate to any page being returned in search engines and how people are entering a site from Google.I already know what pages are most relevant to any given keyword as this is the substance behind any optimisation strategy and I don’t need Google to tell me that.Google is only preventing me to understand keyword level traffic into any given page which should now begin to dismiss if you have clear metrics for page level analysis, which drives conversion. Page level A/B testing using multiple content types is a great way to measure content effectiveness and will allow you to better understand how to convert more of the traffic you are driving.

Mal Darwen: In the same way that conversions have always been measured – looking at traffic, setting up and monitoring goals and events in GA, and examining results of split tests. Yes, I said split tests – examining different uses of language on the same page can provide key insights as to how searchers are finding your content.
Dr. Pete Meyers: We’re going to have to track the content that gets organic traffic and use that content to deduce the keywords and concepts people are looking for.In some ways, this is a healthier approach, and will keep us from being narrowly focused on one or a very small set of keywords. In other ways, it will require some guesswork, at least until we develop more sophisticated methods.
Ruth Burr: By traffic source and landing page.
Marcus Tober: At Searchmetrics we reverse engineer this data. It is amazing what you can do if you put different data sources together. If you have access to PPC conversion data, GWT, Analytics and Searchmetrics Suite, you can make assumptions that are pretty good. Without conversions from PPC, you only have the conversions on a URL-level and the traffic assigned to keywords. Not the perfect solution, but okay enough.
Stephen Lock: The only option is to think around intent, tightly match keywords to your site architecture so you can make educated guesses, report on groups of pages.Also I would recommend exporting historical keyword data to identify what has converted with a view to building models that can help you now you don’t have the data available. Big brands with decent analytics resources are developing models to help them estimate data in this way.
Gianluca Fiorelli: I never used keywords as the base for conversion tracking, sincerely. I used organic traffic as the base of conversion measuring. And that information has not disappeared.Then, maybe this is different from what many other SEOs do, I consider branded searches as SEO. If a big part of my job previews a branding side, then the word matching “keyword + brand” is something I consider as SEO.

Has Google opened the door to other search engines to offer businesses clearer keyword insight, Bing for example?

Dave Chaffey: I’m not a fan of looking at Yahoo or Bing since we’re a B2B site and they are more consumer-oriented tools. They are an option for large consumer brands, but we’re assuming that Google’s algorithm is similar to theirs and we know from experience it isn’t.
Martin Woods: Let’s not forget that there is still plenty of keyword data out there to use from other suppliers; perhaps it’s not quite what we’ve been used to from Google for all these years, but it still exists nevertheless. Bing have great products for free, but there are also other paid for options such as Hitwise from Experian. Clients wanting something and being willing to pay for it can be two different things entirely though.
David Harling: No, I think Bing will roll out the same next year!
Mal Darwen: The short answer to this is ‘no, I don’t think so’.I’m not sure that one search engine company changing the way that its technical clients have to operate necessarily changes what the end user experiences (a huge number of internet searchers have no concept of SEO or the technical elements involved, so with this freedom from the politics of the change, they’ll continue with their search engine of choice).
Dr. Pete Meyers: To be brutally honest, no. Bing can provide more data to try to elicit some goodwill, but Bing and Google are different animals and Google still controls the lion’s share of search.At the end of the day, only Google has Google’s data.
Ruth Burr: Sort of. Keyword data from Bing and other engines is less useful because Google has such a high percentage of the available market share.Data from other search engines provides a much smaller sample size with greater room for error. It’s definitely an opportunity for them to create tools to help marketers and to think outside the box on concerns of privacy vs. transparency.
Marcus Tober: As an SEO I have to focus on the platforms that were used by the user. Bing is great in the US, but nowhere else.It would be great to see a higher market share for Bing also in Europe, but that won’t happen anytime soon. So keyword insights are usable only for the US then.
Stephen Lock: Not really as the marketshare of Google is so dominant especially in the UK, however it does mean that as keyword data has become more scarce other sources of keyword data will become much more valuable. I would argue that Google have made keyword ranking data in Google much more essential.
Gianluca Fiorelli: Maybe… but with Bing representing a miserable 2% to 3% of the search traffic as the average in Europe, that data volume is so small to not be considered reliable, at least in my case as I mostly work for European clients and European search traffic.

 

What are your top tips for SEO for 2014?

Dave Chaffey: I would say focus on four areas beyond the standard on-page, off-page, technical SEO which we always need to work on:

1.Creating an overall content marketing strategy that combines search, social, conversion and email marketing and ensure you have sufficient resource to create the quality and frequency of content that you need to do a better job than competitors.

2. Mobile – Google announced they are making separate assessments of mobile visitor quality – so assess you are attracting sufficient visitors by SEO compared to other channels.

3. Social – Social signals will become more important, think about how you can grow your presence on Google+ and how you can make Google Authorship work for your type of brand.

4. Analytics – As we have discussed, analytics should drive your investment and be used to review its effectiveness – we can still do this despite not provided!

Martin Woods: In my opinion, SEO is more fun than ever and we’ve finally grown up as an industry. Whether this was more because of a reaction to the punishing stick approach of Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, rather than responding to the carrots being offered Matt Cutts, the industry is certainly changed for the better.We’re being asked our opinions earlier in projects and we’ve become major stakeholders in projects, let’s use our skills and experience to ensure websites perform!Know what you’re good at, and more importantly what you’re not so good at. If you’re great at producing amazing link worthy content, but not so great at the technical side of SEO find someone who is!

So my top tip for 2014 is to make sure that you work with the right people, who are highly skilled, with a passion for what they do and in turn you will do great marketing.

David Harling:

  • Refocus your efforts on the consumer and better understand the purchase funnel for which drives site conversion and the role content places in this journey.
  • Put more emphasis on site conversion with the aim to convert more of the traffic you already have before you start driving more traffic into the funnel
  • Push your data and tool providers for bespoke requirements and build functionality for reporting which match the needs of your business and teams – don’t use off the shelf solutions!
  • Make 2014 a year where you push for more investment into optimising your site for mobile.
Mal Darwen: Write well, write often, produce genuinely useful and engaging content, and promote it in the way most appropriate to your audience.Give your audience a voice of their own on your web properties, and always endeavour to do what you do in the best way you can. Don’t be a website, be a person.
Dr. Pete Meyers: We need to measure across the funnel and across channels. Google can change the rules any day – add data, take it away, radically redesign search, overhaul the algorithm, etc.Our over-reliance on Google is unhealthy and many companies are in a dangerous position. Developments like [not provided] should remind us to diversify before it’s too late.
Ruth Burr: What are your top tips for SEO for 2014? Google loves brands – so build your brand. Start thinking of content pieces as campaigns – how will you promote your content?Use old-school PR and brand marketing techniques with new technologies like FollowerWonk to build relationships and communities.
Marcus Tober: My rules are:

#1 Solve real people problems and make their life with your product/content easier.

#2 Engage with the users.

#3 Become a brand for your niche.

#4 Don’t think short-term. Think long-term. This applies perfectly for SEO I think.

Stephen Lock: We actually ran an event around this exact subject where Andrew Girdwood was kind enough to document the speakers predictions including mine. You can see the data here.Key themes were: building integrated teams/breaking down the silos, content marketing (my hot tip is paid social content amplification), mobile becoming really dominant and there were a number of talks that touched on user journeys/Google ZMOT. There is actually a really comprehensive round up on predictions from a number of prominent industry types that will be going up on the Linkdex blog imminently.
Gianluca Fiorelli: Maybe I can sound trivial, but I don’t think there are magic tips to share.I consider SEO the marketing of common sense, somehow. Obviously, stay always updated with the news Google presents every single day, being Semantic SEO the most important one to understand(Hummingbird is just the matrix of the updates that are going to come next year), but don’t stress yourself too much in going after every new shining thing.Rethink your strategy, put the end users at its centre, target them the most exactly you can and – respecting all the technical best practice – craft your content site around the targets and offer them things to talk about. Target their social profiles: user experience, great customer service, content that really fits their interests.

Promote your content targeting to those who really have the power of influencing your audience, which translates (also) in creating link building campaigns, which objectives are not the links itself, but the organic traffic and social echoes that those links may generate.

 

We thank all those who donated their precious time to make this post happen. We are sure you agree there’s some awesome insight and knowledge sharing here, and this is how SEO will survive. Here at Blueclaw we believe 2014 will be the ‘game changing’ year for SEO, for the better, what do you think?

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About the author: "Managing Director at Blueclaw and ionSearch, an Award Winning SEO, Paid Search and Content Marketing Agency based in Leeds and London - @fergus_blueclaw"
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  • http://www.battletoys.co.uk/ Sam @BattleToys

    Epic Post! Great to see so many industry specialists in one place discussing the issue. I’ve taken not provided as a chance to move away from such a keyword focused mind set…especially with clients. As a result I am doing more and more traditional marketing activities. The challenge is doing this with really limited budgets but this is just making us more creative with the stuff we are doing.

    • Fergus Clawson

      Hi Sam, thanks for the feedback – I feel Google wants marketeers to develop and seed great content so perhaps stripping away the provided keyword data will create a SERP that is less spammed for certain keywords. I’m not sure this will happen though, spammers are a hardy bunch and will find ways to manipulate the algo to their advantage.

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  • http://www.seopros.org Terry Van Horne

    ummm Aren’t any supposed “answers to the keyword conundrum” that include any service provided by Google just leaving you open to **the very reason*** why this is a big deal now? Besides rankings are more about concepts that can be seen as a basket of keywords…or “things” related…strings are dead we are in the age of entity search… keywords are a factor…if that’s your only factor you are optimizing for…. good luck your optimizing for a Google that no longer exists!

    • Fergus Clawson

      Hi Terry thanks for your comments – I agree Google is moving towards an entity based search algorithm, however keywords do still drive intent and there is a logic behind most searches: Explore, refine then action, not being able to measure this is a pain for SEO. Landing page analysis will be crucial but it still doesn’t compensate for the loss of the ‘provided’ keyword data – data you can explore with clients to maximise ROI. I feel the most pain will be felt in a year or so when the historical data becomes meaningless because there won’t be any direct organic keyword data to measure (apart from Webmaster Tools).

      • http://www.seopros.org Terry Van Horne

        Fortunately this is not my first time to work with no data…so I’m comfortable having gained instincts in the 90′s that all SEO’s will need from here out. Keywords are still the foundation of “the concepts” it’s more about how relevancy of the words has changed and how “the words” are presented. IMO, there is definite advantages to copy that is written with a narrative tone… ie “more natural” rather than a computation of relevancy based on phrase matches, position in the doc, HTML enhancements and links. It is my belief that some ranking factors of the recent past are merely ranking signals now. For that reason a better indication of how to optimize the words on the page can be gained from analysis of the top pages for a search term. Also the data is there it is just a little deeper…if you weren’t already mapping keyword phrases to pages…well you got bigger problems than a lack of data. Keywords->traffic is important for prioritizing optimization activity; keywords->page are important for ranking for entity and concepts…

        IMO ROI is about messaging and display … but I may be wrong … but one thing is for sure NP is here to stay; the built in features in browsers that block other tracking are not going away in fact they likely are going to become more disruptive if IE11 is any indication of the future… so the days of cookie tracking and data from SE’s is coming to an end …if ya wanna stay in the game adapt or…. or the phrase of most concern to you will be “would you like fries with that”.

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  • http://www.martinwoods.me.uk/ Martin Woods

    Here is an interesting post (http://www.seobythesea.com/2013/12/rewrite-search-terms/) on a similar theme regarding keywords, but this time substitute keywords/ phrases or synonyms within similar contexts. Apparently Google were granted a patent this week to explore how Google might test and investigate rules – http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8,600,973.PN.&OS=PN/8,600,973&RS=PN/8,600,973 “The search system can determine that a substitute term rule which generates only a few additional search results may still be helpful if the users respond to the substitute term rule with positive feedbacks. ” Sounds like another move to return user intent, rather than a specific keyword…

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