Saturday, October 26, 2013

How to cope with Google's removal of keyword data

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) community has been going through the (supposed) five stages of loss for the last few weeks, ever since Google decided we could no longer be trusted with the information about which key words searchers use to reach our websites: denial, bargaining, anger, grief, acceptance -- if I recall my Kubler-Ross accurately. (Since her work with dying patients 40-50 years ago, some researchers have found that not only is there not a fixed order, but that these stages might not fit all people -- but that's another story.)

As many blogs have reminded us, Google started this a few years ago when it decided, in the name of privacy, to "not provide" keywords just for Google account holders' search activities (Gmail, Google Plus, etc.). That's when the phrase "Keywords (not provided)" started showing up in reports.

Now that the ban is near total (Bing with its small but creeping market share is still sharing keyword data), we have to decide how to cope. Here are the issues:
1. How do we optimize a website for searches without knowing the keywords and phrases that people are using to arrive at our (or clients') sites?
2. Why did Google do this (to us)?
3. How are we supposed to measure, improve and report how well we are doing at optimization?
4. And therefore, on what new basis, with what new activities, can we justify getting paid?
5. What will it take to achieve acceptance of this upheaval in our business?

Benny Blum of Sellpoint Analytics is one of many who has tried to answer these questions in his recent post,
Is Not Provided A Good Thing?

Blum argues that Google's goal always has been to deliver the answers (links) searchers will be happiest with. This implies that Google needs to understand what a human being has in mind when she types a string of words into the search box. At the same time, Google needs to defeat the attempts of marketers, nefarious to spammy to well-meaning but not as useful, to game the system and divert the attention of the people searching. This is why Google has decided to make it harder to know the details of the steps between intention (query) and satisfaction (finding the right web page).

The problem is that knowing the beginning and end of each search ultimately depends on reading people's minds. (Also, elevating the problem quite a bit, reading the minds of billions of people at specific moments in time.) Now I wouldn't rule that out for the future. But for the present, Blum argues that we should step back from the mechanics of the process and try to analyze the problem in human, that is to say, more complex, nuanced and subjective terms.

Blum suggests the terms "synonyms, themes and topics" can guide us to return to a focus on providing "quality content."

Now all that's left is to define, measure and report "quality."

'via Blog this'