Google changes mean even more keyword headaches for SEOs
It’s safe to say that 2013 has been a challenging year for a lot of SEOs. From the Penguin 2.0 update in May to the as yet unconfirmed updates of August and September, Google has been busier than ever and the SERPs have been all over the place for the last nine months or so which means many SEOs have had a lot of sleepless nights to contend with in 2013.
Sound familiar? Sorry, but I’ve got some bad news for you – there could be more sleepless nights to come. The Big G made the announcement this week that many in the industry had been dreading but expecting – they’re going to start encrypting 100% of all searches moving forward. Why? In a bid to make searches “more secure” for searchers.
The Big SEO Headache
The search engine confirmed the change quietly earlier this week and needless to say, the announcement hasn’t gone down well with the SEO community for a number of reasons. First up, the move to encrypt all searches means SEOs will have even less (or even zero!) keyword data to go off in Google Analytics.
This means it’s going to be almost impossible to determine which keywords are driving organic traffic to the site, how effective each landing page is and how well the SEO strategy is performing overall.
OK, so SEOs have had to contend with the whole “not provided” keyword element in Analytics for a while now (Google first started encrypting searches for signed in users back in 2011) but as this article (and the accompanying comments) on Search Engine Land prove, it’s slowly been getting worse and worse over the course of 2013.
Today “not provided” now accounts for as many as 75% of the keyword data in organic searches in Analytics.
Google’s latest move means this number could easily (and most probably will!) rise to 100%… possibly before the end of the year if the percentage of “not provided” keyword data continues to rise at the same pace as the last six months or so.
A Different Story For AdWords Customers
Hmm, so it’s going to make SEO much harder… what are the other issues? Well, it seems like Google isn’t actually that fussed about securing search data when it comes to their AdWords customers. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, the search engine definitely seems to favour its paid customers more than its organic customers when it comes to reporting (I wonder why?!), and it looks like the same can be said for this situation.
As I reported last month, Google launched new Organic and Paid Search reports within its AdWords platform which allow webmasters to access keyword data they can’t access in their Webmaster or Google Analytics accounts.
The new reports mean SEOs could in theory access the valuable keyword data they’re soon to be denied in Analytics… which suggests that Google isn’t that bothered about securing their searchers’ data after all.
The problem? SEOs are annoyed that they (and their clients) will have to log into their AdWords account every time they want to access keyword data – where, chances are, there’ll be met with various AdWords offers and promotions which are sure to be more than a little tempting…
Similarly, there’s the argument that AdWords customers aren’t about to get their keyword data shut off anytime soon (really, can you imagine that?!) so why are Google treating SEOs and their organic “customers” differently? Hmm, I wonder…
A Possible Response To PRISM
Putting AdWords aside for one minute, another possible reason that’s been suggested for this change is that Google might be trying to win back support following the whole NSA PRISM incident in which Google were accused of supplying user information to the National Security Agency.
Of course, Google strongly denied the rumours, however since the accusations came out, they have made more moves to be “more transparent” regarding the number of spying requests they receive and have begun encrypting more data between its data centres. Could this new decision to encrypt all search data be connected? Quite possibly… but if it pushes more customers into paid advertising, it’s not going to hurt is it?
Just like any other change which hurts SEOs, Google has been quick to deny rumours that they’re trying to push more customers into paid advertising, however, as you can imagine, that’s done little to pacify the SEO industry who feel the search engine are increasingly playing by their own set of rules.
The official line?
“We want to provide SSL protection to as many users as we can, in as many regions as we can — we added non-signed-in Chrome omnibox searches earlier this year, and more recently other users who aren’t signed in. We’re going to continue expanding our use of SSL in our services because we believe it’s a good thing for users… The motivation here is not to drive the ads side — it’s for our search users.”
I’m definitely keen to hear your thoughts on this one. Do you think the decision to encrypt all searches is a bid to push more customers into paid advertising? If you’re an SEO, how are you planning to deal with the rise of “not provided” keyword data? Leave me a comment or tweet me – @amy_edwards88.
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