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Still got your knickers in a twist about Google keyword (not provided)? Cry me a river. Google encrypting keyword data leaving business owners and web marketers with a bunch of (not provided) entries in our Analytics accounts is a #firstworldproblem if I’ve ever seen one. Most of the web marketers talking and writing about the change are so busy complaining that many are overlooking the enormous advantage it creates for the savvy and sophisticated.
That’s right, Google keyword (not provided) is actually a good thing… if you’re smart.
Before I get into why not being able to see the keywords people used to find your site is a good thing, let me explain Google keyword (not provided) to those reading that may not fully comprehend what I’m talking about.
Google’s Move to Encrypted Search
Back in late 2011, amid concerns over protecting users’ privacy, Google began to change the way it collects data when people use its search engine.
As John Mueller, a webmaster trends analyst with Google, explains in the post comment above, anyone signed into any Google product—Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Plus, AdWords, etc.—will find themselves searching via https://www.google.com NOT http://www.google.com.
You might be asking, “what’s the difference??” The addition of that little “s” at the end of http may not seem like a big deal, but it’s the difference between you seeing the individual keywords used to find your website and seeing (not provided) for every visit from Google. Big change. Recently, like within the last month, Google changed to secure search for ALL searchers—whether you’re signed in to a Google product or not.
Look at the rise in web visits between October 2011 and October 2013 where the keyword is (not provided) by Google:
So much for Google’s changes only affecting a small percentage of web searchers.
(Not Provided) in Plain Speak
Basically, when you login to Google Analytics or look at the reports put together by your marketing team, SEO guy, etc., you’ll never again see the keywords someone used to find your website. Instead what you’ll see is keyword (not provided).
If you’re a business owner, you’re probably saying, “so what?”
Historically, the keyword data in website tracking tools like Google Analytics has been helpful for quantifying the performance of SEO campaigns and for further optimizing existing web pages from both an organic ranking as well as a conversion rate optimization perspective.
I’ll give you one example for how having keyword data can be helpful for diagnosing and fixing website issues. Let’s say you own a local plumbing company and you see prospects landing on your toilet repair page after they searched: “drain cleaning service in Denver” and immediately leaving the page (someone that visits a page on your site and immediately leaves without visiting another page is called a “bounce”).
You head over to Google and search the same keyword phrase for yourself and see your toilet repair page ranking at the top of the organic results. WTF? Why is your toilet repair page ranking instead of the… and then you realize it—you don’t have a specific page on your website for your drain cleaning services! Note to self—create a page for drain cleaning—ASAP!
With the changes Google has made, you wouldn’t be able to see that the visitor on your site used a keyword misaligned with the page they found. All you would see is (not provided) and the fact that they left your site without visiting another page. Now do you see why everyone is up in arms about Google’s decision to withold visitor keyword data?
The Advantage Buried within Google (Not Provided)
Now that you understand why (not provided) is a problem, you’re probably saying, “where’s the awesome in this situation? How could Google’s decision to encrypt all keyword data possibly be a good thing??” Google keyword (not provided) offers an advantage to savvy web marketers because it makes the game so much harder and it creates a massive distraction for the uninformed.
(Not Provided) Advantage #1: The Distraction Factor
There are a whole bunch of business owners wondering how they will ever be able to measure and evaluate the success of their SEO campaigns now that all the keyword data is gone. Business owners used to using non-branded organic traffic as a key measure of SEO success may find themselves missing their compass.
Make no mistake, monitoring non-branded organic traffic is a great way to measure and evaluate the success of an SEO campaign, but with all keywords (not provided), this metric is now useless.
Instead of complaining about the change, recognize that—keyword data or no keyword data—the best measures of SEO success are leads and sales from organic search. Most of your competitors are NOT tracking the leads and sales they get from organic search.
Keywords are the territory of SEO campaign managers and conversion rate optimization specialists. Monitor the leads and sales you get from organic search. Let this be the measure of SEO success. If you’re not getting this data today, drop us a line and we’ll show you what you’re missing.
(Not Provided) Advantage #2: Advanced Analytics Techniques Can Approximate the Keywords Used
As a business owner, focusing on keywords puts you into the weeds. Keyword data is the domain of SEO campaign managers and conversion rate optimization experts. And guess what? The best SEO campaign managers and CRO specialists have a variety of methods, using advanced analytics tools and techniques, to get around Google keyword (not provided). The SEO world saw (not provided) coming years ago. Forward thinking web marketing experts started creating the methods and tools to operate in a (not provided) world long before Google moved to fully encrypted search.
Examples range from using historical data and algorithms built to determine branded versus non-branded keywords by landing page to combining data from a variety of tools and extrapolating the keyword data from there. So, while most of the SEO and CRO world is b*tching about Google taking away their keywords, the experts of the industry are laughing their way to the bank.
Conclusion & Final Takeaways
Any time there is a major change–the rise of the Internet, Google becoming a verb and replacing the yellow pages, social media, and mobile–major opportunities emerge for those willing to buck the popular narrative and write a new story. Right now, the web marketing world has their collective panties in a bunch over Google’s decision to take away keyword data (which was being offered totally free BTW). A bunch of naive business owners are probably giving their SEO guy sh*t about how come they don’t get a ‘visits by keyword’ report any more (when they should be screaming, “how come you don’t show me the leads and sales I get from all this SEO stuff!?!”).
While it’s easy to get caught up in the complaining and play the victim card, I’d encourage you to tell yourself a different story. People and companies are defined by the stories they tell about the event that transpired. Successful people and companies tell stories filled with opportunities and solutions. Google (not provided) makes the web marketing game harder. The harder the game is, the fewer people you have to compete with. It’s survival of the fittest.
Adapt or die.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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