Back in October Google rocked the world of SEO with their announcement that they intended to make search more secure by encrypting search data. When someone who was logged into their Gmail account searched in Google, their search query wouldn’t be sent over to the site owner whose site they visited, protecting their privacy. Site owners and SEO professionals alike where less than thrilled with this announcement. Without accurate data regarding visitor search behavior and what keywords they used to find our sites, how could we make accurate SEO recommendations and updates?
Google assured us that the encrypted data would only impact about 10% of our analytics, which was something I thought I could manage. Having 90% of the information isn’t perfect, but it still allows us to make reasonable SEO recommendations and insights. But lately I’ve been noticing that for some of my clients that “Not Found” data is nearly 40%! That’s a far cry from the 10% Google promised us. How is any site owner supposed to judge the effectiveness of their SEO campaign and target the right keywords if so much information is missing?
However, where I really take issue with the “Not Provided” is that is ISN’T happening when a searcher clicks on a PPC ad. According to the Google blog,
If you choose to click on an ad appearing on our search results page, your browser will continue to send the relevant query over the network to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you.
I find the fact that Google will still pass the data along provided someone clicks on a PPC ad (which the advertiser is paying for!) and not from the organic listings to be a double standard. If Google is so committed to making search more secure, shouldn’t they be encrypting the data from all sources? Why do PPC campaigns get to pass unscathed by the effects of encrypted search while Google Analytics for organic data is compromised? It has made me wonder if Google is considering rolling out a paid version of analytics in the future—would they charge users for all the information they used to give away for free? If that is the case then how many site owners would bite the bullet and pay? Or is Google trying to drive more site owners to create PPC campaigns (AdWords is Google’s biggest stream of revenue) in order to use that data to bolster their SEO?
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While there are analytics alternatives, many of these are very expensive and out of reach for the average small business owner. They, like much of the SEO industry, rely on the information gleamed from Google Analytics in order to run their SEO campaigns. With so much of the data being “not provided,” how are they supposed to create and monitor an SEO campaign? I doubt many site owners want to take a shot in the dark when it comes to their SEO. It leaves many site owners stuck between a rock and a hard place.
What are your thoughts on Google’s “Not Provided” data? How has your site been impacted by encrypted search and what measures are you taking to counteract the loss of information?