Queries, Keywords, and Search Terms

In this article we discuss the loss of search terms, explain the current relevance of queries within Google, and outline our current strategy for building content based on focus keywords. November 2017.

The goal is to understand how your choice of words influences your Marketing and Sales efforts.

Executive Summary - Bullet Points

  • ‘keywords’ and ‘search terms’ are now called Queries, by Google
  • you can no longer see which visitors used which queries
  • you can still see which Queries bring you traffic, but only via Adwords - for bidding (and rank) purposes
  • the queries or keywords you use when building webpages are still central to your success
  • take-home message: the point is to use words that will lead visitors to your site (via search engines)
  • Access this data via the ‘Search Analytics Report’ within the Search Console in Adwords
  • the solution? smaller Pages and highly relevant content

Search Terms No Longer Available

About 10 years ago, in the heyday of SEO, search terms, and keyword ranking, the Marketing Dept. had it better than they knew. It was possible to see, for every visitor coming into a site, which words they had typed into a search engine. This information, coupled with their clickstream gave direct insight into buyer needs, wants, thinking, and personas.
Search term encryption began slowly, and today, search term and keyword data are only available for paid search (non-organic) traffic within Adwords.

Google (via Chrome) was not the only player involved - Mozilla (Firefox) and Apple (Safari) also encrypted by default.
Google obviously needed a way of keeping search terms visible for their advertising clients, so you can still see and buy Queries via Adwords, but they are anonymized, and used for ranking and conversion, as opposed to visitor tracking. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the overall statistics for any query are front and center. In other words, queries and click-through rates are the key determinants in deciding how relevant content is, and how much traffic costs.

The point of this article is to summarize what we have learned from encryption and the disappearance of search terms and keywords, 5-10 years on.

Definition: (focus) keyword. The focus keyword is the keyword, or query, you want to lead visitors to your page from Google. In other words, the search queries, terms, and phrases you want your page to rank (display) for.

Google's Search Analytics Report

Google Webmaster Tools has been replaced by the Search Console, within which you will find the Search Analytics Report, and this description:

…for example, choose "Queries" to group data by search query terms…
The Search Analytics Report shows how often your site appears in Google search results. Filter and group data by categories such as search query…to improve your site’s search performance, for example:
1. See how your search traffic changes over time, where it’s coming from, and what search queries are most likely to show your site.
2. Learn which queries are made on smartphones, and use this to improve your mobile targeting.

Take-Home Message
[bottom line] See which pages have the highest (and lowest) click-through rate from Google search results.

In English, please? Smaller Pages and highly relevant content

When the loss of search terms first hit home, SEO experts were at a loss to see the bright side - less just means less in this case. The upside is that your most embarrassing searches - “cashew stuck in child’s nose” or “how to get my iphone to do that thing where the screen tilts again” (portrait orientation) -remain private.

So there is a 'void' where search term information is concerned.
How have we responded to the change? By reverse-engineering content to drive traffic. In other words we target the language (products and services in our case) and write content which speaks to that topic. The required/ recommended keyword density (number of times query or phrase appears, is 1-3%), meaning that the surrounding language also plays a role.

In the past - you could check how people coming in to a site behaved, based on search terms. Now, you can see how your Google advertisements behave, based on queries. Obviously there are still (conversion) metrics involved, but there has been a definite shift.

The solution

Specifically, what we do is write small concise descriptions of what we do (sell), and publish these on separate pages. In this way - we can see which pages bring in traffic - and that way, we know what our audience is really interested in. That’s the bottom line.

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