Secure Search, Rank & Finding Lost Keyword Traffic: A Conversation with gShift

Marketing is more complex today than ever. Much of this is due to the progress we’ve made in technology.

More data means more choices and more ways to interpret success. That’s why today, marketers need trusted data more than ever.

In the age of keyword “(not provided)”, SEO technology companies are working hard to provide options marketers can use to bridge the gap. One such option comes from gShift.

Search Engine Watch recently chatted with Chris Adams, co-founder and CTO of gShift to talk about the state of “(not provided)” data, what SEO professionals and content marketers should be looking for in terms of data features, and how gShift is helping marketers uncover lost keyword traffic.

Today, There’s Uncertainty in Data

The unfortunate reality today as a result of secure search in terms of content marketing and SEO is that it’s hard to have meaningful conversations, Adams said, when the majority of keyword traffic data is hidden.

The “(not provided)” traffic is leading marketers to use the word “probable” all too often.

“The word ‘probable’ is bad in a sales conversation,” Adams said. “We need to arm these agencies with better information.”

Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) doesn’t provide all the answers. Adams said it’s OK to get a snapshot in GWT, but it’s not a thorough picture of what’s happening on the website. It needs additional analysis.

In fact, Adams shared 10 reason why Google Webmaster Tools isn’t a foolproof Plan B for secure search:

  1. You should be tracking multiple engines, geographic locations and local. Google Webmaster Tools doesn’t allow this and only shows average rank.
  2. You should be tracking competitors. GWT doesn’t allow this.
  3. GWT is an average rank over 90 days. New content won’t be tracked quickly nor new keyword phrases or keywords that aren’t yet ranking.
  4. GWT uses universal results. That means if your image is ranking No. 1, the data doesn’t mean that your Web page is ranking in the Top 10.
  5. GWT limits data. It doesn’t show all of your results. This would have a big impact on sites with average visitor traffic and most B2B websites.
  6. GWT doesn’t differentiate in Web presence data. Is it a video, your Facebook page, a press release or your latest blog post that’s ranking?
  7. GWT doesn’t give you page-level rank data.
  8. GWT doesn’t give you daily ranking data.
  9. GWT only holds on to data for a rolling 90 days. If you want to benchmark data with your clients, you will need to store that data. gShift stores this data for you.
  10. Google+ Local listings don’t show up in GWT.

Rank Data Continues to Be Essential

Rank data today is very valuable, Adams said. In fact, it could be more valuable than it was before 100 percent secure search was launched, he added. But all rank data isn’t created equal. Adams walked through the varying levels of that data:

  • Telling a marketer that somewhere, something ranks No. 3 is first base.
  • Second base is showing which page is ranking.
  • Knowing multiple pages are ranking for the same term is third base.
  • And a home run is knowing the entirety of rank across the Web, including rank for Twitter, YouTube, website pages and more.

“The website is not the center of the universe anymore,” Adams said. “We need to understand how all of the results are working together to increase visibility.” This is a major differentiator of gShift’s tools, he added.

When asked about personalization factors that could influence rank data, Adams said, “You’ll never rank in personalized search unless you rank generically as well.” As a marketer, Adams said he would make sure his content ranked first in a non-personalized way.

How gShift is Helping Uncover Keyword Traffic Data

Next, Adams showed me a demo of how gShift is working to provide data in a “(not provided)” world. The following screenshot shows a sample home page that had 373 organic search entrants. Sixty-nine percent of the keyword traffic was hidden due to secure search, but Adams said gShift was able to identify 96 percent of the site’s traffic.


Here’s how:

Adams said it starts with the knowledge that the home page ranks No. 1 for the term “barrie condos.” Next, the tool would check for estimated search traffic in a given month. In this case, the volume was 207.

Through published click-through rate data from other sources, Adams said sites will typically experience a 36.4 percent CTR when in the No. 1 position in the search results. Doing some simple math from these variables, gShift can estimate this site had 75 people coming from that keyword, “barrie condos.”

But the person using the tools still has to apply discretion to the data. Just because you’re ranking No. 1 for a term, doesn’t mean it’s the right term to follow if it has no search volume. So the key is doing the digging to uncover the gems.

Keywords, Hummingbird, and the Future of Data

With Google Hummingbird allowing the search engine to potentially find the same page from multiple queries types or asked in different ways, I wondered how it would impact targeting a phrase like “barrie condos” versus “condos in barrie” when all roads could lead to the same destination.

Adams pointed me to a post on gShift’s blog where they talk more about this, and stated that while Hummingbird is the future of search, and centered on voice search and the mobile era, it’s really about lending a certain level of comfort to Google users that the search engine will still find the right content for them, no matter how they search.

But it doesn’t mean people still aren’t searching in an old-school fashion, Adams said, for example [barrie condos] or [condos in barrie]. And gShift will continue to report on the distinction between the two because Google is still providing the data on the differentiation between those phrases.

“Google may start to group phrases together in the future due to Hummingbird that say there’s 300 monthly searches overall for a category of phrases,” Adams said. “They may get to that level, but they’re not doing that yet.”

For more information on gShift’s tools, check out their site, here.

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