In late September, Search Engine Land reported that Google had made a change aimed at encrypting more natural search activity.
As a brief refresher, in October 2011, Google announced that when users are logged into their Google accounts, they will be encrypting searches for privacy reasons.
How did this change affect website owners and marketers?
This change resulted in a lack of data about which keywords were driving natural search visits for users logged into their Google accounts. At the time, it was thought that this would impact between 5-10 percent of visits, but that percentage has steadily grown over time, and with the recent announcement, it seems as though it may eventually impact all natural search visits from Google.
Specific details and roll-out timelines are unclear at this stage, but one thing seems sure — we should prepare ourselves for less detailed keyword insights than we have ever had before from Google.
So what should you do?
First of all, don’t panic!
This change doesn’t mean that traffic driven by natural search to your website or even the rankings themselves on Google will be directly affected. What this does mean is that over the coming weeks, it will be far less likely that you’ll know which specific keywords are driving natural search traffic to your site. That being said, you’ll still be able to see how much traffic is coming to your site and this is something you should continue to monitor.
Second, know that good, shareable content, regardless of keywords, is still what you should aim for
In many respects, this change levels the playing field for creators of engaging and shareable content. SEO isn’t and never was (or at least never should have been) about writing content around keywords with the express aim of ranking in search listings. In fact, this change should encourage us all to optimize our content at the page level rather than for the keyword.
Take this opportunity to identify which pages on your site are driving healthy, organic traffic volume, and then seek to expand on the content categories and themes of those pages. After all, these are the pages that are answering the questions your audience has.
Increasingly, it’s not just the keywords that are helping your content to rank, but rather how often it’s shared or the number of natural links it’s picking up. Thinking less about the individual keyword and how you can fit it into the page might actually free you up to develop natural, shareable content.
Finally, keyword data isn’t entirely lost
You can still get keyword data from searches conducted on Bing, Yahoo, and other engines. Together, Bing and Yahoo represent roughly 30 percent of the search engine market. In addition, if you have set up Google Webmaster Tools on your website, you can still access some of the data. Google Webmaster Central shows the top 1,000 queries that a site had traffic for over a 30-day period.
Why did Google make this change now?
There are many reasons floating about as to why Google decided to do this now, but really the upshot is that this change is coming and our content creation strategies need to become more important than ever. Know what topics matter to your customers and answer the questions they have. It really becomes as simple as that.
Have questions about this Google update? Let me know in the comments below.