I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – “Where Google goes, others are sure to follow”.
A couple of years ago the search engine behemoth began blocking keyword data for organic searches, in the interest of better security for their users. Naturally, SEOs and webmasters were none too pleased with this development.
But, we rolled with the punches as best we could, and looked to other sources for our cherished keyword referral data. One option that a lot of us took, was to mine Google’s competitors for search query data. Bing and Yahoo were still providing keyword referrals for organic searches, and though the data pools were smaller they still gave us something to work with.
Sooner or later Bing, and by extension Yahoo, would follow in Google’s footsteps. Well, that day has been approaching for about a year now. Microsoft has officially announced that they will be moving to encrypted search traffic.
Deja Vu All Over Again
While Bing’s move to secured search couldn’t be called unexpected, it still comes as something of a blow. For now, both the HTTP and HTTPS versions are still working. But eventually, they will roll out HTTPS entirely.
Until then, we still have access to their tool suite. These tools may not be as robust as Google’s, but they do deliver some useful metrics, and should become a part of every webmaster’s marketing toolbox.
Search Query Terms Report – Available in Bing Ads UI, this report allows webmasters to see what search terms triggered their ads. The report also provides actionable performance metrics on clicks, impressions, and conversions.
Universal Event Tracking – This tool provides performance metrics associated with the keywords you bid on, and how they relate to your conversion rates. Universal Event tacking focuses on bounce rates, click through rates, pages per visit, and the duration of visits. UET will be particularly important in managing advertising campaigns, and will be an integral part of Bing’s Remarketing in Paid Search feature which is currently in development.
Bing Webmaster Tools – While specific keyword data will be blocked, webmaster tools will deliver general search query and ranking data to help webmasters understand the paths visitors take to their sites, along with detailed reports that can be used to improve search ranking on Bing. One advantage to Bing’s Webmaster Tools is that it provides up to six months of data, as opposed to the short 90 days available from Google.
Keyword Mining on Your Own
Even though Bing has never been a major player in online searches, their adoption of encrypted search will force SEOs and webmasters to look for keyword data in other areas. There are a couple of tricks you can use to collect this important data. The results may not be quite as informative as what we have lost, but they’re better than nothing in a data vacuum.
Site Search – Setting up site search on your website will allow you to see what visitors are looking for, and what terms they are using in their searches. This information can be extremely valuable, and can go a long way towards offsetting the loss of keyword data from search engines. Chances are visitors will use the same, or at least extremely similar, search terms on site as they did on their search engine. That data can be invaluable when planning your SEO and SEM marketing campaigns, and when creating new content for your website.
Related Searches – Like Google, Bing provides a list of related searches at the bottom of most of their SERPs. These lists can help you to spot search trends in your niche market, and can be used to help shape ad campaigns as well as clickable content.
PPC Data Mining – While organic searches will no longer deliver actionable keyword data, pay per click advertising still does. Admittedly, it isn’t free and you will have to way the cost of investment against the data return. But, it does provide an option in the keyword data desert.
Secured search is no longer the wave of the future, it is the here and now. Bing’s move to encrypted search may be frustrating, but we’ve been down this road before. When Google made the move more than two years ago we all survived, and found new ways to research the keywords that help to drive our online marketing campaigns. This time will be no different. So, take a deep breath, regroup, and get back to work.