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.
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: www.mywebsite.com
Typically, you would add your top-level domain (www.mywebsite.com) 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
Step 2: Type the Category URL you want to add and Click Continue. Example: www.mywebsite.com/category1/
Step 3: You should see the category level URL that you just added appear on your Google Webmaster Home Page
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.
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.
We further setup our client at category level.
Category 1: Search Queries – 3,887
Category 2: Search Queries – 3,896
Category 3: Search Queries – 1,901
Category 4: Search Queries – 1,227
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:
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: www.mysite.com
US Home Page: www.mysite.com/us
UK Home Page: www.mysite.com/uk
CA Home Page: www.mysite.com/ca
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.