In the old days of Google Analytics (which would be about 4-5 years ago) there was a valuable part of the report regarding keywords. The concept was that this section would tell you what keywords people were searching before they landed at your site. The uses for this kind of data were numerous. Those words could be incorporated into copy, they could be compared with words for which the site was optimized, and more.
About two years ago, a line began appearing at the top of the keyword section of the report that said, “Not provided.” This started right around the time that Google launched its social network, Google Plus. It turned out that the “not provided” reflected people who were logged into their Google accounts and who had “public search” turned off. Google was beginning the process of giving searchers a customized online environment that could also (ostensibly) remain fairly private.
The “not provided” problem was bad enough, but around September 20, 2013, the problem got worse. Webmasters began noticing that the keyword report in Google Analytics was not appearing at all.
According to Thom Craver of SearchEngineWatch.com, webmasters are no longer receiving keyword information because Google has moved all users to an encrypted https search environment. He writes, “At this point, it seems even when you aren’t logged in, using private browsing (or incognito mode) and forcibly type HTTP://www.google.com, you are being redirected to the HTTPS version, thereby encrypting your search and no doubt leading to a total removal of keyword data – at least from Google search visitors.”
Ultimately, while the lack of keyword information will make SEO efforts more difficult, there are still many ways to measure the effectiveness of an SEO campaign, and there are also work-arounds for the keyword problem as Search Engine Watch records here. As a company, continuing to focus in incoming links is still important, and according to Matt Cutts (Google’s SEO guru), the SEO process is still all about one thing – providing the best information for the person conducting an online search.
We are continuing to research this issue and will offer more information as we learn more. For now, an important data set has been lost in Google Analytics, but there are plenty of other metrics to monitor, including unique visitors, traffic to specific pages, exit rate, bounce rate, and more. And, of course, the ultimate measurement of your SEO efforts is the most simple: where do you appear in organic search results?
Has the lack of keyword information impacted your SEO or web efforts? How are you planning to deal with this new lack of information? We’d love to hear from you!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tweedledeedesigns/7873356074 via Creative Commons