Actually, it may be a perfect time to panic.
ICYMI – This was originally posted on PlattForm’s blog.
SEO specialists and business owners recently received bad news. Google started encrypting all searches to hide keyword data. This means that keywords that users search for on Google will all be grouped under the keyword (not provided) in Google Analytics.Google is still providing referral data of these searches, so we are still able to view the source, landing pages, and other metrics, but keywords will no longer be available on organic searches.Why did Google (and others) start hiding keyword data?Google began enabling secured searches back in October 2011 for any user logged into Google. They cited “user privacy” as the reason for blocking keyword data in Google Analytics; however, Google will still provide keywords for paid searches in Google AdWords. Other browsers (Firefox, July 2012, Safari, September 2012, Chrome, January 2013) started following suit and keyword data quickly degenerated.As of September 2013, not provided accounted for around 40% of total search terms. That number hit 70% in a matter of weeks. By December 2013, keywords are likely to be completely hidden. So why did not provided rise so quickly?There are a few theories as to why Google has moved so quickly to hide keyword data. One reason is the National Security Agency surveillance scandal in which Google was accused of providing the NSA with access to search data. This caused some vitriol and criticism to not only the NSA but Google, as well.Another theory is that Google is trying to increase demand and costs for pay-per-click advertising. Marketers will now be more reliant on Google AdWords to provide keyword data, but it will cost them.Can we still see keywords?In short, yes. Publishers will still be able to receive keyword data from other search engines like Bing and Yahoo, but who knows how long that will last. Google AdWords will also still provide keyword data for users that click on paid advertisements; however, you are obviously paying for that data. Google Webmaster Tools is still providing keyword data, but GWT only provides the top 2,000 search queries and only goes back 90 days (although Google says they will increase this to one year at some point).What are we doing now? There is still light at the end of the tunnel, even though the view is cloudy.
- Stay data hungry. Linking your GWT and AdWords accounts to Google Analytics are simple solutions that allow users to view keywords under one source. Tracking keyword rankings are also going to be more prevalent in determining keyword strategies; however, rankings are still a poor performance indicator due to random fluctuations in search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Diversify the approach. Determining keywords by landing pages and focusing on building out unique and diverse keyword profiles for each page will win in the long term, rather than optimizing for only a few keywords. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
- Communication is key. Regardless of who is driving your marketing strategy, it is imperative that each team member stay in communication throughout all stages of the campaign, especially regarding keyword development. Don’t treat SEO and PPC as silos – working holistically will be the only way to continue to grow both campaigns.If you have more than one company controlling your SEO and PPC efforts, it might be time to consolidate – or at the very least make sure they are constantly strategizing with one another. Your money and your business depend on it.