Combined Ad/Organic Data and Not Provided

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Yesterday, Google released a new feature of AdWords that allows marketers to look at organic and paid data side by side and combined. Today, BrightEdge released the results of a study that shows “not provided”, or Google secure search, accounts for an average of 49% of the total queries collected, with “56% of traffic to computer, electronics, software and technology sites coming from Google secure search.” Coincidence? I think not.

Not Provided

Google has been under significant and continuous pressure from marketers since they removed the keyword specific referrer data from analytics back in October of 2011. The argument? Why offer the data to paid marketers and not to organic marketers? Conspiracy theories ran rampant – with the most popular being that apparently you could pay for your data. Then a spate of blog posts came along where people talked about how to reverse engineer the not provided data by using analytics and webmaster tools together. Eventually even that died down because really, it was too much work, and didn’t give SEOs the same level of granularity that they’d previously had.

The industry watched, as little by little, the not provided percentages grew larger and larger. At SMX Advanced in June, the NSA spying was the hot topic, and again, marketers took Google to task. I was part of an interesting conversation with @mattcutts:

Conversation on Not Provided

Since I haven’t heard any buzz about Matt winning a “CEO for a day” contest, I can only assume that this is Google’s solution to their ongoing challenge from SEOs.

Here’s the thing though. We’ve connected a few of our webmaster tools accounts to the corresponding AdWords accounts, and aside from having to wait until the data populates, I’m not really seeing anything new.

Added 9/9: Now we’re getting reports that the data will be archive-able in Adwords for longer than the “past 90 days” data we are currently able to get from Webmaster Tools.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Clicks = clicks.

No surprises there.

Queries = Impressions?

In Webmaster Tools, impressions means the number of times that keyword was searched and your “ad” (aka organic listing) showed up somewhere on the page. I’m assuming this is the same data they’re giving you as “queries” in the new Dimensions view, but I suppose it could be the total number of queries that keyword had in a month. Although I doubt it, because then they’d have to determine what number that is… is it exact match or broad? Local monthly or global? What if you have a local business and only care about queries in a geographic area? So I doubt that this is anything more than the impressions data you get in Webmaster Tools.

Clicks/query = CTR.

Assuming that the above is just impression data, then this is just the same as the CTR (click through rate) in Webmaster Tools.

Avg-pos = Avg position.

Which is the average position your keyword showed in, when it showed. This is a little misleading in Webmaster Tools though, because of personalization in organic search data. So for example, a keyword like “apple cinnamon oatmeal”, which normally is held by Quaker Oats and other top brands, shows up in the #1 spot on this report for one of my clients that is a diet foods distributor. The reason? People who see them in the #1 spot are likely to have visited their site multiple times – therefore their apple cinnamon oatmeal is a relevant result for those searchers. As I’ve explained to the client multiple times, this doesn’t mean they are regularly in the #1 spot for “apple cinnamon oatmeal”. It becomes more obvious when you cross-reference this #1 position with the number of impressions. <10. So again, no new data in AdWords for this metric either.

Listings/query = ???

This appears to be a new metric, which shows if your keyword held multiple spots at the time it showed. While this would certainly contribute to a higher than average clickthrough rate, it’s probably not particularly actionable data since again, personalization would affect this significantly. Take Kroger grocery stores for example. In a personalized/localized search for “Kroger” where Kroger stores are located (like Raleigh, NC), they hold 4 out of the top 10 spots, with local listings, expanded site links, and the knowledge graph box. However, if you do a search for Kroger in a market where they don’t have stores – San Diego, CA for example – they have that top expanded site link spot and the knowledge graph (which probably doesn’t count towards a “listing”) and no local listings. Which amounts to 1, or at most 2, of the top spots. Just because you have data doesn’t mean it’s a valid metric or anything you can make actionable.

Combined Ad and Organic Stats

The combined data is pretty cool. But again, it’s nothing new. If you had Google Webmaster Tools and Google AdWords before, it’s likely that you already combined this data on a regular basis to check the performance of keywords across channels. This just simplifies the data collection and aggregation.

Nothing To See Here, Move Along

So while data is cool, and it’s neat to play with, Google really isn’t giving us anything new that’s actionable. They make a point to say in their post that “even if you’re not buying ads, you can still take advantage of the query-level organic reporting features available in this report.” Well of course you can! Because once you set up an account and start seeing this data in AdWords, they have you one step closer to actually buying keywords. While this data might be actionable by Paid Search marketers (I’ll let Diane Pease comment on that), it’s just a shiny object to SEOs and (I think) a tactic to try and distract us from the ever expanding percentages of not provided.