As a marketer, you know it is important to track your campaigns, measure the results and understand which campaigns or channels are delivering valuable traffic. But with so many campaigns, platforms and tactics available to marketers today, how can you reasonably pay attention to the “right” areas? Put another way, and with apologies to Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat character in an old SNL skit, how do you stop looking for keywords in all the wrong places? In this post, I’ll introduce you to two of the most valuable sources for keyword data and show you how to incorporate them into your sustainable inbound digital marketing strategy.

Why Keyword Research is Important to Your Sustainable Inbound Marketing Strategy

Successful marketing today is all about having the right content and providing the right context. Think about the way most of us use the web when we need something (an answer, a product, a service, etc.). We turn to a search engine like Google and we type our question into the box.

Google Predictive Search results box

Searches like this are performed more than 3.5 billion times per day worldwide on Google. And with this many people searching, there is a strong chance that they are searching for what you have to offer.

But if you don’t know what they are searching for, how will you know what kind of content to create? How will you know what words or phrases to use in your blog post? How will you know what the subject of your next video should be? In short: if you don’t know the keywords your potential customers are using it is like creating content in the dark. And you’re a busy marketer with limited time and limited dollars, so you can’t afford to waste efforts.

This is why you should pay attention to keyword search terms. And there are two great (and free) places for you to find them: Google Analytics and Google Search Console. But if you’re not careful, you’ll find dead ends and confusing information that could actually hurt your content marketing efforts.

Finding Keyword Search Terms in Google Search Console

Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools), is a tool that provides you with content and technical insight about the performance of your website. Google Search Console can help you identify everything from 404 errors to the status of your XML sitemap to which search terms are triggering your website to display in search results. And that’s exactly what you need to focus on.

To get started, you’ll need to setup a Google Search Console account and connect it to your website. This is a great resource for getting started with setting up Google Search Console. Once you’ve verified your website, GSC will begin collecting data. You may need to give GSC a few days to collect data on your site before you can begin your analysis. But once GSC has the data, you’re ready to dive right in. Head over to the “Search Analytics” report inside the “Search Traffic” folder to find the search terms that are triggering your site to show in search results:

Google Search Console screenshot of search analytics report

How to Use Keyword Data from Google Search Console

Once you are inside the Search Analytics report, you’ll likely find a table listing with lots of keywords. This table will provide you with information about clicks, impressions, click-thru-rate and position. This is marketing gold. In this one table, you’ll find the keywords and phrases that are triggering your site in the search listings. These keywords can become:

  • Subjects for future blog posts
  • Trigger words that you need to use within your standard pages on your site
  • Keywords that you should focus on in your metadata
  • Topics for videos

Be sure to download this list of keywords from GSC and export it to a spreadsheet. From there, you can filter the data to focus on high-priority keywords that are likely to deliver the traffic you are searching for.

Finding Keyword Search Terms in Google Analytics

Another great tool we can turn to in our search for the keywords and phrases you need for your content is Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a tool that tracks visitor activity on your website. Google Analytics is free to use and provides a wealth of data. (Learn more about setting up Google Analytics in your website). And once you are inside Google Analytics, you’ll want to go straight to the “Acquisition” report folder where you’ll find the “Source/Medium” report.

Google Analytics screenshot of not provided keywords

Once you are inside this report, you’ll want to focus on “Google/Organic” in the Source/Medium column. Additionally, you’ll want to apply a “Secondary Dimension” to the report. In this case, you’ll add in “Keyword.” This will place an additional column in the report that shows you the keywords that site visitors typed into Google before they found your website. And it is here that you’ll notice a problem: one of your top keywords is (usually) “not provided.” Let’s take a closer look at this issue and what you can do about it.

The Problem of “Not Provided” in the Google Analytics Keyword Report

If you find that you have a large volume of traffic that came from Keyword: (not provided), this means that Google is hiding the referring keyword from Google Analytics. Google made this move beginning in October 2011 and their reasoning for the move was to protect the privacy of their users. Great move for users; bad move for marketers.

How to Unlock “Not Provided” Keywords Data in Google Analytics

First, let’s be clear: the keyword data that Google is hiding is gone and you won’t ever see it again. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a way to understand how the visitor arrived at your page. There is a nice hack inside Google Analytics that allows you to search and replace the keyword referring data field with the URL of the landing page that the visitor landed on. This process is nicely described in this older blog post by Dan Barker and I recommend giving it a quick read to find out how to setup this solution.

Once you’ve implemented the search and replace function inside your Google Analytics account, you’ll find that your previously unhelpful keyword report has been transformed into a field full of rich data:

Google Analytics not provided key

How to Use Keyword Data from Google Analytics

Once you’ve unlocked the valuable data that was previously hidden from view behind the “Not Provided” category, you are in a position where you can understand which content your organic traffic was most interested in. Of course, this doesn’t quite as action-ready as the Search Terms report in Google Search Console, but now you know which topics to focus on for new content development, which pieces of content to promote in other channels (i.e. social, ppc, paid-social) and which pages you need to focus your search engine optimization efforts on.

Conclusion

With these two tools primed and ready in your marketing analysis arsenal, you will be better equipped than ever before to understand what keywords and phrases your audience is using and which topics they are most interested in. And this provides you with a nice roadmap to the type of content you need to create as part of your ongoing content marketing strategy.

Still have questions about accessing keyword data in Google Search Console and Google Analytics? Want to know more about how to make the shift to a sustainable inbound digital marketing model? Contact us at Dijital Farm and let us help you explore your options.

Jon Parks

Jon Parks

CEO & Lead Dijital Strategist

Jon Parks is the CEO and Lead Dijital Strategist with Dijital Farm. Jon specializes in developing and executing sustainable inbound marketing strategies and has worked with companies such as SAS Institute, Citrix, Nationwide Insurance, Fike Corporation, Epstein Global Architects, Tough Mudder and Massage Envy. Learn more about Jon.

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