The Mysterious Case Of The Disappearing Data
Google recently made an announcement that rocked the SEO world and left a lot of people scratching their heads.
Citing “privacy and security concerns”, Google announced that they would begin encrypting search with SSL for users who are logged into Google accounts.
In plain English, this means when someone searches Google and is also logged into a gmail account, you no longer get to see what keywords they used to arrive at your site. Instead, analytics will report the visit as “organic” but cite the keywords used as “(not provided)”. You can read Google’s announcement here.
Why Should I Care?
Because you stand to get a lot less data. While the change initially only effected 1 – 2% of visits (still massive if you get 10,000+ visits to your site a month!), we’re now seeing that up to 14% of queries in some niches are returning as “(not provided)”.
Knowing what keywords people are using to find your site is incredibly important for SEO! You can use these queries to identify new keyword targeting opportunities and gauge how well your current strategy is working. Is your content good? Are your targets sound?
Why The Problem Could Get Worse
Google’s put an awful lot of stock into the success of that platform. In fact, everyone at Google’s bonuses are tied to how well G+ does. If more people use Google+, more people log in with g-mail (think: how often do you surf while logged into Facebook?), the less organic data you get.
And here’s the kicker: The less organic data you get, the less actionable information is at your fingertips and the harder it is to know how well your website is actually performing.
A Curious Double Standard
Oddly enough, Google Adwords data wasn’t effected. Your “privacy” and “security” matters for organic search, but all’s fair when it comes to paid ads. To me, this seems like a blatant push by Google to get more businesses to use Adwords. After all, that’s where all their money gets made.
What’s more, I fail to see how this was EVER a privacy or security concern to begin with. With Google Analytics it’s impossible to tie individual searches back to individual users, so it doesn’t make sense to call this a privacy or security issue (unless third party platforms are capable of this).
One has to question, in a world where most of our lives are already plastered all over social networks (ironically like Google+), does anyone really care if the websites we visit can see how we got there?
The Future In Question
There’s no doubt that this change will have a tangible impact on your SEO campaign. I’d encourage you to start tracking what percentage of your searches stem from “(not provided)” and watching carefully to see if this grows with time.
While Google has made a lot of great changes lately, this seems like a serious step backwards. Time will tell just how big the fallout will be.