Google has provided website owners with a set of fantastic tools such as Google Analytics and Google Keyword Planner. However, more and more marketers have started to recognize that the tech giant is hiding important information from them.
In the last couple of years, we have witnessed the rise of the ‘not provided’ term in Google Analytics, as the company announced its plans to encrypt all search data and make it 100% ‘not provided’. Of course, keyword information is available for paid search results and only the organic search results are hidden from view.
However, this isn’t all. The Keyword Planner tool, a former gold mine for marketers, has also started hiding keyword information, making it increasingly difficult to uncover profitable keywords.
In the following article, we will show you how to uncover ‘not provided’ keywords from Google Analytics, potential keywords using Google’s wildcards, and hidden keywords from Google’s Keyword Planner.
How to Uncover ‘Not Provided’ Keywords in Google Analytics
If you’re checking your Organic Traffic Analytics data regularly, you have probably noticed that the keyword report is showing more and more ‘(not provided)’ keywords.
According to Confluent Forms, this feature was implemented in November 2011, but because there were not many Gmail users back then, encrypted data did not affect keyword information significantly. However, as Google+ became more popular (over 2.5 billion accounts tied to Gmail accounts), the percentage of encrypted data for Google Analytics also increased.
Uncovering new keywords that your visitors might use to find your website is important, but even more important is to evaluate the keywords that you are already, or almost, ranking for. Ultimately, optimizing your page for your ‘(not provided)’ keywords will help you improve conversions and ROI.
If you’re one of the lucky people who has a percentage of organic keyword traffic as ‘(not provided)’ below 5%, or you don’t rely on organic search traffic, then you shouldn’t worry too much.
However, if you’re experiencing more than 25-50% lost keyword data, then you should try to find out which keywords are bringing you the most traffic.
Here are a few ways in which you can uncover ‘(not provided)’ keywords:
- The easiest way to check (not provided) keywords is to log into the Google Search Console. Navigate to Search Traffic -> Search Analytics. You will observe a selection of keywords that can be filtered according to different criteria. The only limitation to using the Search Console is that the data is only stored for three months, so you will have to regularly check and save your keyword data.
- Another option would be to simply buy the keyword data. This is probably what Google was aiming for when it implemented the (not provided) feature. Running AdWords campaigns for targeted keywords will help you uncover new expansion opportunities. As a rule of thumb, you should optimize your site for keywords that have high impression rates. You can view keyword information from the Matched Search Queries report in AdWords.
- Alternatively, you can track pages that target certain keywords. If you already know what keywords you’re targeting with a certain page, you can use that information to your advantage. Add “google” as a search term to the source to find out exactly how much traffic Google is sending to your pages.
How to Uncover Hidden Keywords in Google’s Keyword Planner
While Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is a phenomenal research tool for marketers, you may have noticed that it often omits large swaths of data. Have you ever encountered the “No ideas were returned for your query” message, while using the Keyword Planner? I did. In fact, on several occasions and it made me wonder how much keyword information the tool is actually showing. Therefore, every time I conduct a keyword research with Google’s Keyword Planner, I would also use Google Suggest, SEMrush and LongTailPro to compare results.
Here’s an example:
A search for “what are memes” reveals the main keyword, with a search volume of 5,400 and two related keywords. If I were to take the Keyword Planner on faith, I would stop searching, but a quick Google search showed me several other terms that receive enough search volume to be pre-populated.
I took one of the suggested phrases and analysed it with the Keyword Planner. Mysterious and conflicting new data appeared:
This means that some keywords only appear if we specifically request them in the Keyword Planner Tool.
I conducted another search for the term “home remedies for gout.” Also, I selected it in the “keywords to include” filter.
Interestingly enough, the Keyword Planner only found 33 phrases, whereas SEMrush found 46. Some of these keywords might have been omitted because they weren’t exact match (they contained “remedy” instead of “remedies”), despite the fact that I opted for broadly related ideas, but several other terms were also missing.
As marketers, it is our responsibility to uncover as much data as possible in order to correctly optimize landing pages. This is why we should always double-check our results with tools such as Ubersuggest, SEMrush or Keywordtool.io.
Probably the biggest takeaway from this experiment was that I discovered how to use wildcards in Search Suggest to uncover new keywords.
How to Uncover Profitable Keywords with Google Suggest
Google Suggest is an extremely powerful, yet undervalued, resource for discovering new keywords. That’s because it pre-populates your query with long-tail keywords that people search for frequently.
Note: In order to see 10 predictions in Google you have to turn off Instant Search from your browser’s settings.
A quick search for ‘jazz music’ displayed a great number of keywords that I could potentially target:
Did you know that you can use underscore as a wildcard to customize your queries? Placing it at the start of the keyword will prompt Google to find phrases which end with ‘jazz music’.
Placing the underscore between the words “jazz” and “music” will uncover even more keyword opportunities.
With the help of Google Suggest I was able to expose 30 keyword opportunities in under 3 minutes. All I had to do after was to check the search volume and CPC for each with the help of a keyword research tool.
Many SEO experts agree that Google’s decision to remove keyword data from its Analytics tool will actually benefit the digital landscape.
Right now, our biggest challenge is to create high quality content and to satisfy the needs of users. While it is true that a lot of SEO work is required to promote quality, I think Google is trying to tell us that most old-school SEO practices are holding marketers back.