Since 2011, Google has been steadily restricting access to keyword information in Google Analytics. What this means is your business is unable to see what keyword searches are bringing traffic to your website. These visits, which were previously broken down in Google analytics, are now grouped as “not provided”.
As of 10th October 2013, 81.64% of this information is not available. This is after a huge spike in September from 50%. Eventually 100% of this data will not be available.
Why has Google done this?
The official statement from Google is that it is encrypting search activity to protect the privacy of users. However, this is just a PR exercise to hide their real reasons.
Reason #1 – Adwords
Google’s official statement has all the credibility of a Tom Clancy novel, because the ‘not provided’ information can still be found using Adwords, an advertising system that is their biggest source of profit, accounting for a total revenue of USD $42.5 billion in 2012 It seems Google are not really motivated to protect the privacy of users – but instead make a big, juicy profit.
Reason #2 –Adsense
The second reason is that they are stopping competitors of AdSense. Currently, Google uses data from its network to post site-specific advertising onto a publisher’s websites in the form of a banner ad. It uses search queries and tracks users in order to post the most relevant ads for each site. An example of this is an advertisement for a cooking book on a cooking blog. Each time the ad is clicked, it generates profit for the publisher and for Google. Many of the alternatives to the AdSense product are using the same search data, so by restricting it, it is destroying the competitors’ ability to advertise products that are relatable to the website.
What does this mean for digital agencies and my business?
Agencies like Titan Digital are adapting to this change. While on one hand, it can be easily understood why you might be cynical about the change (especially considering it’s helping Google’s bottom line), but on the other, it is a fantastic opportunity for online marketers to branch away from keyword dependent campaigns, and focus more on providing great content for their clients through social media, email marketing and content creation.
And let’s get one thing straight – keyword research isn’t going anywhere. It is still available on Adwords and Webmaster tools. The only real downside about the restriction of organic search results from a web marketing point of view is that we won’t be able to tell if traffic is driven to your site because people are searching for your brand, or they are arriving there by a generic search for a product or service you provide.
Is it the end of the world?
It’s not the end of the world by any stretch. It just means that SEO companies are going to have to find insights about your customers and help you communicate with them in different ways than keywords, which in conjunction with Hummingbird update, will herald in a new era of rewarding websites that provide fresh and relevant content.
What do we focus on?
Yes, you can be cynical about the ‘not provided’ trend, but realise at the end of the day that in exchange for Google making more money, they will be giving us an opportunity to create amazing content for our clients, which benefits everyone.
If you still are feeling despondent, give us a call at Titan Digital and we can talk you through it.