How to Increase Your SEO Keyword Level Data by More Than 100% in Under 20 Minutes

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seo search query data

With not provided reaching close to 90% of all your organic search query data; how do you know if SEO is working for you? Yes, looking at page level data is one way around it, however having more depth of information about which keywords actually drive traffic can only help – and the best thing is, it’s completely free and easy to set up. We have found a way to increase the number of keywords in Google Webmaster Tools by around +100% (or more!), and here is how you can do the same for your site.

Increase Search Query

Setting Up Folder Level Structures With Google Webmaster

Setting up your site within Google Webmaster by adding folders that exist on your website helps extract anywhere between 50-200% more search query data.

Maile Ohye mentioned this during her panel discussion on Advanced Technical SEO Issues at at SMX Advanced in Seattle earlier this year.

So how does this work? It’s fairly simple. Lets assume your website has the following structure:

Home Page:

Category Pages:

Typically, you would add your top-level domain ( to Google Webmasters. When you navigate to Search Traffic -> Search Queries, this would give a limited set of search queries for the entire domain. We’ve typically seen this to be anywhere between 1000 to 10,000 search queries. This inherently doesn’t depend on the size of website. We’ve see smaller websites have more search query data (at the top level domain level) than some enterprise websites.

Hence, the need to get a lot more search query data. Now, to extract more search queries, we recommend adding each of the category URLs into Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster Tools then produces search queries pertaining to only that folder level.

Here’s how you can set each of your category folders as separate sites on Google Webmaster:

Step 1: Click on “Add a Site” button that appears on the Google Webmaster Home Page

GWT Add a Site 1
Step 2: Type the Category URL you want to add and Click Continue. Example:

GWT Add a Site 2

Step 3: You should see the category level URL that you just added appear on your Google Webmaster Home Page

GWT Add a Site 3

If you face issues with site verification please read the site verification article on Google Support.

Now that we’ve got the site’s setup on Google Webmaster, let’s take the following example to illustrate the benefits of adding category level URLs to Google Webmaster. This is a client of ours that’s currently got ~1800 search queries for the top-level domain.


When we setup each of the folders, we start to get a lot more search data for that particular folder. In this case we’ve got ~7000 search queries.

Google Webmaster Search Query

You can now download both the top-level search query data and the folder level search query data to analyze the combined data sets. Make sure to de-dup these since there are duplicate keywords across the sets.

Lets take a look at another case study and analyze the level of incremental data. Here’s a website that’s got 6,572 search queries for the top-level domain.

Google Webmaster Search Query Data

We further setup our client at category level.

Category 1: Search Queries – 3,887

Google Webmaster Search Query Data

Category 2: Search Queries – 3,896


Category 3: Search Queries – 1,901

Google Webmaster Search Query Data

Category 4: Search Queries – 1,227

Google Webmaster Search Query Data

Category 5: Search Queries – 3,958


We went from 6,572 search queries to a total of 21,441 search queries. After removing the duplicates we were at 16,514 search queries – that’s almost a 151% increase in search query data as compared to to what we earlier had.

Furthermore, Google Webmaster search query data provides 80% more search queries when compared to Google Analytics. Which is phenomenal, because now we’ve almost doubled the amount of data that can be mined!


Analyzing Brand vs. Non-Brand Segments

Another benefit of adding folder level sites to Google Webmaster is analyzing the brand vs. non-brand segmentation and comparing the same with Google Analytics. For the case above, we compared the two data points and here’s what we found:

Brand Non-Brand Keyword Segments

Google Webmaster reported higher non-brand keyword attribution as compared to Google Analytics by a factor of 8% percentage points. Which is a huge difference when you compare a 91-9 split vs. a 83-17 split. This might not always be true but Google Webmaster data would be more accurate since it doesn’t have the obscure keyword bucket (not-provided!).

Another advantage of setting up folder level structures is international SEO. If you’ve got all your international countries setup as folders, it’s recommended to set these up as separate sites on Google Webmasters. For example:

Main Home Page:

US Home Page:

UK Home Page:

CA Home Page:

It’s recommended to add these to Google Webmasters. There are two big benefits from doing this:

1. Increased Country Specific Search Query Data

Here’s an example, where the top level domain had a total of 1888 search queries but when we setup the country specific folders we got lot more data for each folder.

Top Level domain: Search Queries: 1,888


Country-Targeted Folder: /uk: Search Queries 7,469


In addition, if you are operating in multiple countries – the top level domain filter is going to look something like this:


Where as when you’ve added each of the country level folders it’s more targeted to that particular country, thereby providing more accurate keyword level data per country.


2. Ability to Target Users Using International Targeting


Without setting up folder level structures, you potentially lose out on 1) targeting users specifically for that particular country and 2) Getting a better read on whether hreflang is correctly implemented.


Lastly, once you’ve setup the country level sites there’s an opportunity to further enhance your data set by adding country + sub-folders. Essentially, adding in sub-folders/categories for each of the countries.

Country level search query data: 7,469


Country-Level Search Query Data For Sub-Folder: 11,645


Again, with adding just one additional subfolder you’ve got 20% more data!

The best part of getting all this data is – it’s completely free, all you need to do is setup the folder level websites and that shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes!


Author’s Note: This post is co-authored by Johannes Radig, In-House SEO Specialist and Consultant.

Image Credits

Featured Image: PlusONE via Shutterstock
Image #1: AdLift
All screenshots taken October 2014

Prashant Puri

Prashant Puri

CEO & Co-Founder at AdLift
Prashant Puri is the Co-Founder at – a niche SEO agency based in Palo Alto, CA. AdLift specialized in ROI driven SEO for both small/medium and fortune 500 companies. Previously, Prashant ran display advertising at Yahoo and search marketing at (eBay). You can follow him on twitter @puriprashant
Prashant Puri
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  • Boczek

    Increasing a date range in WMT can produce even more data; since the keyword data changes dynamically based on a time period.

  • Michal

    I would enrich the whole article saying that the best source of the pages You should add to webmaster tools is in Your behavior section in analytics. Start from the top and find the fastest ways to increase your traffic. 🙂

  • wasif

    Hey, Prashant Thanks for the article. I am little bit confuse about the categories or sections thing. In my view: Maybe its good for websites targeting different regions, each folder with different CMS installation. If that’s not the case than please explain the features of sitemaps indexing. e.g. Yoast provides a pretty well known tool called WordPress SEO has sitemap which is targeting all sections and tags in a separate xml formation to target all categories and sections…..

    • Prashant Puri

      To clarify – setting up categories level sites in GWT is a little different when compared to providing sitemaps. You’re correct, this is something that can be done for regions – but its also something that can be done at the category level. Hope that helps.

  • Lakhyajyoti

    Very informative post. Surely I’ll add each of the category URLs of my website to Google analytics account. Thanks for the awesome share.

    • Prashant Puri

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the read !

  • Sachin Bisaani

    Informative post, This technique can also help in finding new topics for blog and do wonder when tie up with Uber Suggest or Keyword Tool

  • Divyanshu verma

    yeah that is really a great way to track your website performance and it really works specially for ecomm websites where you have completely different categories like Jewelry, Handcrafts, Clothing. Years back i used this technique may be around 2008-09 and still using for few of my client websites. 🙂

  • Lucas Rose

    Interesting idea/post. I think the best outcome of this will be for content ideas particularly for small and local sites.

  • Dawid Sakowski

    Hi Prashant, great article! Did you try this with single posts too instead of categories?

    • Prashant Puri

      Thanks, Dawid ! We did try with single landing pages but the amount of data is significantly reduced or not present in most cases.

      • Erin

        Do you put anything in the folder? I have a few set up and it seems wrong that the category folder is empty?

  • Mark

    Good work, that’ll do pig, that’ll do.

  • Mika

    Hi Prashant,

    Great article! I would not have thought to try category level URLs in GWT. Looks like that’s something I should test out.

    I have been using a tool from Authority Labs that provides keywords along with search volume, ranking data and the landing page which I’ve found quite helpful. They also have a 30 day free trial which I originally signed up for.

  • George

    So I think this is both a great article and a genius discovery. My first thought though, is that this feels like something that Google will correct for and eventually render inert. Not because of an ethical conflict, but if I’m looking at it from Google’s standpoint, this does not really help users who are searching, it seems like a systems manipulation. And they will probably normalize the playing field on this at some point. It just seems like it doesn’t compliment their style or vision.

    I will say I could see the regional component faring better because it could actually improve the search experience for users.

  • Ahmad Rasheed

    Trick Seems Great,Lets give it a Test,Well probably it will work only if we allow search engine to Index categories from our site as well in addition to posts..One Question, will it won’t mix up Category and Posts search results in google ????

  • Baibhav

    I never thought about setting up folder level structure. This is good way to increase SEO keyword level data. Thanks for sharing this information I really liked it and going to implement it in my Google Webmaster account.

  • Michael

    Interesting, but is there a limit how many websites that can be connected to one account i GWT?

    • Prashant Puri

      Hey Michael – Each GWT account can add up to 1000 sites.

  • Ayaz Malik

    interesting idea it is, but i think its only good for sites with urls structure such as right ?
    i am only talking about category level. in my site’s case url structure is like this : so this won’t help. please clarify a little.

    • Prashant Puri

      That’s correct, this wouldn’t help much on a individual URL level but more so on a category/folder level.

  • Chris Boggs

    Added bonus for doing this: you can get better inline or even Jumbo Sitelinks from these pages in the SERPs 😉

  • Liz Rodriguez

    Excellent info to share with some of customers. Thank you!

  • Angel

    Hi there,
    great article. Just made the changes and waiting for results.
    What about tag urls? Should they be considered the same way, and added to GWT? example: domain/tag/example


  • Igor Mateski

    Most of the times, SEO articles are iterations/rehashes of the same ideas. More or less. But every once in a while, I get to read an article that is completely out of the box. These articles are great refreshments in a somewhat rehash-only world.
    Your article is one of them, and in 3AM as Im reading it, it’s a great refreshment.
    Thanks for taking WMT out of the box with category segmenting. From experience, how would this work on a WordPress site? I dotnt know of a plugin that allows code inserts per category.

  • Puneet

    Thanks for the great article. Is this category addition to GWT feasible in a wordpress website? If yes, which sitemap we need to submit for each category, category level sitemap or the main sitemap.xml.

  • Dave Cable

    Great post Prashant, so insightful. I’m really keen to implement this for our clients, however I have an issue with our clients who use the Demandware platform.

    Trying to add the category level URL to set up separate folders I am greeted with this message: “You have entered a URL to a file. Please enter the site URL.”

    The issue I have is that most URLs are “ugly”, all finishing with “,default,sc.html”. If i just remove this from the URL then GWT takes the URL and creates the folder, but this defeats the object!

    Any suggestions? Other than revise the URLs!

    Thanks. Dave

  • puya

    Unless I’ve lived under a rock, this is the first time I’ve read about adding a category level to WMT. Great article Prashant. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tanveer Nawaz

    I am very tensed for the increase of the search queries of my website, but after reading this post I am tension free now, thank you to share such an Informative and useful data.