In late 2011, Google introduced a change to their search results where they began encrypting searches for users who were logged into their Google account. This week Google ramped up the encryption of searches to include all users, whether or not they are logged in. While this sounds like good news for privacy-minded users, it also means website owners can no longer access keyword data available in Google Analytics.
On InternationalStudent.com, the number of keywords showing up in Google Analytics as “not provided” has steadily risen from single digits in 2011 to around 40 to 50% for most of 2013, and finally jumping up over 80% in the past week. 100% is surely right around the corner.
Why does this matter?
Analyzing Google keyword data has traditionally been one of the most effective ways to find what our users are searching for. This can help website owners build robust, useful content that meets user needs. Keywords also provide an easy way to analyze and optimize website performance. Without keyword data, there is no easy way to know exactly what keyword a user typed in Google to find our site.
What can we do?
This change does make life more difficult for website owners, however there are plenty of things we can do to lessen the impact. There is still keyword data available, and while it is not as good or as accurate as what we have come to expect from Google, it can still help. Here are some ideas for how we can optimize our sites in a “Keyword Not Provided” world.
- Google Webmaster Tools
- The Search Traffic data is still available on Google Webmaster Tools. This data shows a sample of all the keywords that sent traffic to your site, but is currently limited to the last 90 days.
- With the data in Webmaster Tools, you can find rounded estimates on impressions and clicks, as well as the average position in Google’s results. This can be especially useful in optimizing your search engine results page click-through-rate, but will not be very helpful in analyzing goals and conversions.
- This keyword data can be useful for developing content ideas and getting a general idea of your highest performing keywords.
- Yahoo / Bing keyword data
- Google analytics will still capture keyword data for searches coming from Yahoo and Bing.
- While Google may make up the lion’s share of search traffic, Yahoo and Bing can provide valuable insight into what users are searching for. This can also be used as a rough guide to what users are likely searching for on Google.
- Google Adwords
- Google has decided not to block the keyword data from their paying customers, only from organic search. Some could argue that Google is being hypocritical in blocking keyword data from everyone but their paying customers, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.
- However you feel about this, if you are willing and able to pay, then there is still an opportunity to target and test campaigns focused on specific keywords.
- Conversion rate optimization
- Instead of looking at keyword level data, focus on looking at page level data.
- With keyword data being so much harder to come by, this will undoubtedly require a refocus on how we optimize our pages.
- We will need to focus more on the individual page, instead of the individual keywords driving traffic to those pages. If we focus on the conversion rate of the page, instead of the conversion rate of the keyword, then we can improve the overall user experience no matter what keyword led them to our site.
If you have any other thoughts or ideas on the impact of Google’s change to 100% secure search, please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.