How To Growth Hack Your Keywords And Content

SEO Mar 20, 2014

google panic

General panic broke out a while ago, when Google stopped providing keyword data, and we were all met with the dreaded (not provided) in our Analytics accounts.

We even covered how you can deal with it.

But apparently, Google is reviewing this issue, and may or may not change their approach.

Let’s not hold our breaths on that one, right?

Speculations abound, ranging from nothing happening, all organic click data available only through Google Webmaster Tools, paid clicks having terms withheld, and so on.

While we’re waiting for the all powerful Goog, let’s figure out some quick ways you can growth hack your keywords and content, which may also “future proof” your results regardless of what the big G decides to do.

There’s an easy way to accomplish all of this, but let’s cover some specific steps for the DIYers (Do It Yourself) among you.

How To Growth Hack Your Keywords

The biggest issue is that secure search presents a problem. It’s holding back those keywords.

And if you don’t know what’s working, or not working, how do you make any decisions?

You can find great tips and advice all over the web on squeezing insights from (not provided), but let’s talk some more lesser-known approaches.

Picking Apart The Google Search String

This can be a bit technical and challenging, but the URL from a Google search can actually be useful.

The URL is not the actual URL of the page you’re about to visit, it’s a redirect with parameters and codes attached.

Google uses this, for example, to mine information that will help them tweak their algorithms.

If you search for HitTail, the link you click on is this:



Believe it or not, but there’s actually a lot of information in this string.

What you’re looking for, in particular, are “cd” and “ved”. Spot them?

The codes correlate to keyword information, which we can dive into.

In particular, the “ved” provides data on the absolute and relative position of the keyword, as well as search vertical.

If you use advanced segments in Google Analytics, you can analyze traffic with these variables and break the search data into its parts and syntactic roles.

In short: you’ll get data that shows keywords and search results that are driving traffic to the site.

I’m borrowing this image from a spectacular post, to show a few things:


And, to clarify things a little bit more, here’s a very useful table that breaks down popular combinations of “ved” variables:


Looking through your own search strings, you can tell if you’re driving a lot of traffic from videos or images, for example. This can then help you decide what direction to go with for your multimedia content.

If you combine this approach with a landing page strategy, and use a (not provided) profile filter (#6 on this list), then you can determine which types of results are sending you traffic.

The next step would be to create goal funnels based on the above parameters.

Now, another tech solution could also be to use Advanced Segments and Query Classification.

Analytics Advanced Segments + Query Classification = Keyword Love

Basically, you use advanced segments and Regex (regular expressions) to divert any inbound (not provided) traffic into categories and buckets.

You want to use broad query classifications along with advanced segments to put visitors with similar intent in the same bucket.

And then, you take the relative proportion of those visitors to figure out what keywords make up the (not provided) collection.

Head spinning?

Hold on, understanding query classification will help…

This is the practice of categorizing or “bucketing” different keywords into similar types of visitor intent.

People seek certain kind of information and searches help them discover this, but some are looking for brands or URLs, others for items, or just information for research.

A query classification helps you distinguish the difference between searches for “coconut mocha coffee recipies” and “find coconut mocha in Boston”.

Here’s a table that explains it a bit better:


Armed with these classifications, you should setup advanced segments in Google Analytics that divides users by search type.

Possible types are long tail searches, head term, brand, and so on. This will make up the relative proportion of the search traffic types.

Then, you look at your inbound landing pages (where people end up from searching) and the segmented traffic to figure out the proportion of search types that are arriving at particular pages.

Additional Quick Tip: SimilarWeb, Anyone?

I’ve recently been using a neat little tool,, to check on unique visitors for competitors, amongst other data, and realized you can use this for keyword data, too.

When you enter a domain name and click to search, you can see

  • Time on page
  • A site’s most popular pages
  • Top traffic sources
  • Subdomain data
  • Audience interests
  • Average pageviews (per month)
  • Bounce rate

And, also, you can gather the keywords from the browser before Google encrypts them (this does require a subscription).

For example, let’s use

google similar sites

You can also get the semantically similar sites, too. It does a pretty decent job of it, yes?

It pulls data from 60 million users per month on all major browsers, and yes, you can export to CSV.

Of course, here’s an easier way to get this.

Ready To Hack Your Keywords?

All hope is not lost when you see your Analytics data filled up with (not provided).

If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and go “techie” on your site and SEO, these hacks can lead the way to traffic growth for you.

Hack away!

  1. Avatar
    Omar Sayyed

    Guys, this is really well done. I’m passing it on to my entire marketing team. This makes me realize where we could be doing more.

    1. Avatar
      Damian Thompson

      Awesome Omar, enjoy!

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