Google recently announced a big change in the way it allows business owners to track and analyze their inbound site traffic. As you’ll recall, the incidence of “(not provided)” keyword results in Google Analytics has steadily crept up since the end of 2011. This is because Google has chosen to encrypt organic searches and remove all related data from its Analytics platform.
However, it’s still possible to track organic search data through the Google ecosystem. The new “Paid & Organic” report allows AdWords users to track the performance of their paid and organic search campaigns on a side-by-side display. Essentially, this provides business owners with a single source for all the data that they need to analyze and adjust their inbound marketing campaigns.
Why Use the AdWords Paid & Organic Search Feature?
This new feature offers some key advantages over previous keyword-reporting tools. For starters, it catalogs paid and organic search data from the moment you link your AdWords account to your Webmaster Tools account. (If you haven’t done this already, what are you waiting for?) Unlike Webmaster Tools, AdWords doesn’t cut off results after 90 days. While Google has announced that it will eventually expand Webmaster Tools’s organic keyword reporting to cover a full year’s worth of data, it has yet to do so and has given no indication that this will happen in the near future. Until we’re told otherwise, it’s best to assume that Webmaster Tools will continue to report just three months’ worth of keywords.
Moreover, this tool provides a comprehensive view of your website’s inbound traffic. While small business owners probably don’t need to see more than 2,000 results, one major complaint that larger businesses had about Webmaster Tools’s organic search data hinged on its failure to include queries beyond the 2,000 most popular hits on any given day. If there are 3,000 search queries that create impressions for your site, AdWords will show you all of them.
The AdWords Paid & Organic Search feature also breaks down inbound data into “impressions” and “clicks.” Whereas the former counts every single time that a given query shows up in a user’s search results, the latter only records users that actually navigate to your site via the results page. You can use the discrepancy between impressions and clicks for given queries to determine whether your campaign can be made more efficient.
Finally, the Paid & Organic Search feature lets you compare the relative efficacy of your paid and organic search campaigns. You’ll see the rates at which searchers see and click on your paid ads and organic results when one or both appear on the results page. While this is undoubtedly useful for webmasters who were already running paid search campaigns, it has led some observers to question Google’s motives. Is this simply a ploy to get business owners to sign up for AdWords and start running paid search campaigns?
Do You Need to Run AdWords Campaigns to Access Your Paid & Organic Search Report?
Since webmasters can’t access this feature without an AdWords account, it’s fair to say that Google is gently encouraging business owners to take the plunge. However, it bears repeating that this feature is currently free to use and doesn’t require a paid campaign. You may still need to set up an “empty” campaign, but this won’t cost anything. If you don’t have any paid search data to report, you can still see your organic results in the comparison window.
How to Get Started
Even if you’re not running – or have no plans to run – paid search campaigns, the AdWords Paid & Organic Search feature may be a superior replacement for your old Webmaster Tools platform. Remember, AdWords lets you compare paid and organic results from the moment you link your accounts, shows side-by-side “impression” and “click” data and doesn’t limit the number of keyword results that you can see. It’s also totally free. As far as we can tell, the only drawback is that Google requires some billing information to set up an AdWords account. This shouldn’t be a dealbreaker – it’s meant as a convenience for business owners who may wish to buy some ads in the future.
To get started, create an AdWords account and link it to your old Webmaster Tools account. Next, select “All Online Campaigns” in your AdWords account and select “Paid & Organic View” in the “Dimensions” section. Once this is done, you’ll enjoy unfettered access to your paid and organic search results in perpetuity – even if you never pay for a single Google ad.