Earlier this week, search giants Google confirmed it would be encrypting all search engine query data; meaning webmasters and business owners would no longer be able to view search term information previously provided through Google Analytics.
It is a move that few SEOs will be surprised by, considering that Google began encrypting searches for signed-in Google users some two years ago. But now searches by users who aren’t even logged into Google have been encrypted to appear as “not provided” in Analytics.
In the ‘golden era’ of SEO, marketers could use Analytics to see which keywords drove users to their sites through a simple Google search; which keywords were ranking best in search engines and which keywords resulted in higher performance and conversion rates on-page.
One of the biggest questions you’re likely to be asking as a small business is simply why have Google chosen to take that all away? Well… there are many theories as to why:
Firstly, with ever-growing security pressures from the NSA, Google may have chosen to make its content more totally hidden to guard search privacy. Another viewpoint suggests that with more than five billion searches a day on Google, the task of tracking all that keyword data is simply too great for the search giant to measure and store.
But the scariest scenario of all is that Google may be removing keyword data in order to push online marketers towards Pay-Per-Click (PPC) where they profit most from their online advertising. Bear in mind that PPC advertisers still have keyword data for their ad campaigns and it’s not surprising why some people are growing increasingly suspicious.
Now traditionally, as SEOs we have used keywords to improve page performance and find new opportunities to tap into search traffic and find new customers. So what do we do now?
It’s certainly not the end of SEO; it may be the end of SEO as we knew it two or three years ago, but it’s not that hard to adjust to the changing goalposts. Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is now more important than ever to ensure each individual page is performing to its maximum. Similarly, we can be clever and run small targeted AdWords campaigns to see which terms are performing and attempt to optimise for those.
Don’t be scared of (not provided), embrace it!