With Halloween nearly upon us, I thought I’d tackle something that has been scaring the pants off of me for a few months. Keywords (not provided) in my Google Analytics reports.
A little history
Back in 2011 Google redirected some users to google.com using https://. The caveat was that you needed to be logged into Google to do so. Once logged in, Google encrypted your search queries and did not pass any data to the website owner. This meant a webpage owner could see visitors were coming from Google, but not the keywords that sent them. Instead of the Keyword data being displayed in Google Analytics, we got Keyword (not provided). At first Google said this change would only affect 10% of all queries. Not a big deal right? Unfortunately, it gets a lot worse.
Things have changed a lot since then
Look at my latest Analytics report. Exactly 92.9% of my organic visits from search engines result in (not provided. Scary huh?
As of September this year, Google defaults all users to https://google.com That means the days of getting any keyword data from Google are gone. Why the switch? Google is sticking to their claim of providing security to users who are not signed in. What’s “interesting” is Google Adwords still pass the keyword data to the site owner. Wait… doesn’t Google make money off of Google Adwords? Yes they do, hmmm… I’ve also read it has something to do with the NSA scandal and not wanting to hand over search data to the feds. I doubt we’ll ever know the real story, but it sounds a little fishy to me as a marketer. However, I applaud the extra protection/privacy as a consumer.
Is there any recourse as a website owner?
This is a big blow to Search Engine Optimization but all is not lost. Google Webmaster Tools displays click throughs for some search queries. I’ve been leaning heavily on that lately. Login to Google Webmasters and look at the impressions and the number of clicks. It’s not 100% accurate and the data is grouped into “buckets”, so it’s not as precise. But it’s about as good as it gets right now.
Search Engine Watch has a great article on 8 additional steps you can take to parse out additional keywords. These solutions are far from perfect and don’t exactly replace the old keyword data. In addition a lot of the tips require manual tracking that the everyday blog owner or fly shop just won’t have the time to do.
As with everything on the web, we will adapt or die trying!! I’m just a little scared of a future without keyword data.