With Google’s recent changes removing most of the remaining organic keyword data, I thought I’d round up some of the workarounds and alternatives for measuring organic traffic. 

Of course, nothing can really substitute for the real data and, as pointed out here, it may force SEOs to analyse a greater breadth of data, and to look at things like organic performance per page, not just per keyword. 

Until then, here are some tips and alternatives to organic keyword data…

Try and steal some of the data back from Google

This ‘hack’ from Dan Barker was written when Google first began to encrypt organic referral data.

The post explains the process in full, but this is what it does in a nutshell: 

  1. Looks for ‘(not provided)’ search terms.
  2. Where it finds them, it looks to see which page the visitor landed on.
  3. It then changes your keywords report in Google Analytics to show those two pieces of information (the fact that Google suppressed the keyword, and the landing page), rather than just the utterly anonymous ‘(not provided)’.

Use your site search data

Data from site search contains a wealth of insight, and can be even more valuable now that organic keyword data is such a rare commodity.

It’s so valuable as it’s likely that the patterns of use and the terms used by customers in your site search will be similar to those used in Google. 

This insight can then be used to build a list of target keywords for optimisation. 

Use historical analytics data

This is by no means perfect but old data still has value, especially when looking at seasonal trends. 

Use AdWords data

Cynics (and there are plenty of those) would say that this is just what Google wanted you to do when removing the referral data, but it does remain a key source of information now that organic data has all but vanished. 

Use data from Bing/Yahoo

This is a possible solution, and will provide some insight, but Google’s sheer dominance of the search market means that there just isn’t much of it. 

According to Neil Yeomans, Head of SEO at Lakestar McCann:

While Bing and Yahoo! might give some insights to the performance of non-brand keywords the volumes are tiny in comparison to Google, so is the depth of the long-tail, which is far greater than other search engines.

The (not provided) kit

Also from Dan Barker, this is a set of add ons for Google Analytics users which will help you make sense of the remaining data. 

It includes things like a custom report that analyses the information around the landing pages that (not provided) users land on. 

Use Google’s paid and organic report

The paid and organic report, announced recently by Google, which is “the first to let you see and compare your performance for a query when you have either an ad, an organic listing, or both appearing on the search results page”.

And finally…

Hit users with a pop-up

This solution, from @RavenJon is genius. If Google won’t give you the data, just demand it from visitors with an intrusive pop-up. What could possibly go wrong?