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October 21, 2013

The Importance of Site Structure in the Absence of Keyword Data

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Google sent shock waves through the SEO community recently when it decided to encrypt all of its search query data and push “Not Provided” keyword results to 100%. While this change has been a long time coming, many SEOs are now struck with the stark realization that they are going to have to devise new ways to offer their clients the type of analysis and valuable metrics that they have become accustomed to with almost no keyword data.

Like so many aspects of SEO, Internet marketing requires us to extrapolate conclusions from incomplete data. The complete lack of access to referring keyword data is another obstacle that must be overcome, but it also presents a unique opportunity to improve and leverage the structure of your website to help you claim some of that lost keyword data back.

A properly implemented site architecture can help chase those keyword demons away and allow you to track your online marketing campaigns with the accuracy and effectiveness that was normally reserved for the long-passed days when keyword data wasn’t the endangered species that it is today.

Siloing: It’s All about the Structure

Website siloing is a way of organizing your site’s content to establish clear themes. Proper site structuring can go a long way towards improving your site’s usability and visibility. Bruce Clay has been training website owners on the intricacies of site siloing for more than 7 years, as the SEO siloing article on bruceclay.com explains (shameless plug intended):

“In order to rank for keywords within Google, Yahoo and Bing, a site must provide information that is organized in a clear structure and language that search engines understand… The term siloing originated as a way to identify the concept of grouping related information into distinct sections within a website. Much like the chapters in a book, a silo represents a group of themed or subject-specific content on your site…”

A siloed website architecture builds themes around keyword sets. By optimizing specific sections of your website for a set of keywords in a particular theme, you can make assumptions about the sources of your organic landing page traffic to that “silo” or section.  Take this a step further by assigning your highest value keywords to specific pages in your silo (something you should be doing already) and you’ll have detailed data about the keywords that searchers use to land on specific pages of your site.

Siloing in Action

We’ll use the bruceclay.com website to illustrate our point. You’ll notice that our website is siloed across several themes. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll look at the SEO silo, whose pages are contained in the directory bruceclay.com/seo/.

siloed site navigation

Our site has a physical silo structure, which means that the siloed pages all appear in an actual subdirectory on the site, in this case, /seo/; this is an important factor in our ability to track organic traffic through analytics.

In order to view our traffic on a silo basis, we go to the organic traffic report and make our primary dimension “Landing Page”. Next we add a filter that includes all results that contain the silo’s directory. In our case, we add an inclusive filter with the value “/seo/”. This allows us to view the landing page traffic for pages that appear in the /seo/ subdirectory only.

organic traffic reportThe resulting report offers us the organic search traffic for our SEO silo, whose pages all have specific keywords assigned to them. Armed with historical ranking data, we can begin to assign traffic averages to keyword ranking positions for specific time periods. This data can be extremely valuable as it offers us specific data on traffic fluctuations as they relate to increases and decreases in rankings.

Essentially, we have created a new type of keyword report, one that looks at a targeted section of our site and give us insight into keyword referral data by concerning itself with a finite list of keyword phrase possibilities.

While this type of analysis does not replace true keyword referral data, it does give us great, actionable insights into the effectiveness and shortcomings of our SEO campaigns. Long-tail traffic and specific keyword variations can be difficult to track with this type of analysis, but as explained earlier in this post, in the absence of true visitor keyword data, SEOs are forced to extrapolate conclusions from incomplete data.

Keywords have always been used as an important metric in the analysis of the effectiveness of SEO campaigns. As access to that data has shrunk over the past several years, it has been important that SEOs adapt their strategies and reporting to analyze the data we do have access to, specifically data that websites themselves own (as opposed to data being provided from outside sources, like search engines). Our agency has long preached that SEO campaigns should be judged by their ability to increase traffic, and little about that philosophy will change, regardless of how search engines treat the data that they report about searchers.

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2 responses to “The Importance of Site Structure in the Absence of Keyword Data”

  1. Andy Morley writes:

    A great post, I think this has been at the heart of good and “best practice” web design for many many years.

    I agree that it will make or a more usable website.

    Andy

  2. Robin Thebs writes:

    Most lately I read about Siloing and really curious about it.
    This article was a good read. THanks for sharing Robert.



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