By now you have heard (or perhaps have begun feeling the effects of) the latest effort of Google to provide additional privacy to its users by switching 100% of Google searches to secure search. Let us rip the metaphorical band-aid off right now: this isn’t great news and regardless of the reason, Google has been quoted as saying this is happening seen here in Search Engine Land’s post: Google Confirms Quietly Moving To Make All Searches Secure, Except For Ad Clicks. You have seen, over the last few years, an increasing number of organic search visits being attributed to the “(not provided)” keyword metric category in your analytics account and you should be prepared for it to get worse. Go ahead, shake your fist in the air and curse Google’s name… I’ll wait… feel better? I didn’t think you would but, I will present some ideas below that may help you retrieve some of the insight into your data that you so desperately crave.
First let’s look at what the effects of this change can look like in your analytics data and why you may not notice it just yet:
In the image above you’ll notice that we have a steady increase of visits to this website without the attributed search term when coming from Google. You’ll also notice that the majority of these visits are coming from the Google Chrome web browser. This makes sense because Google started all of this, and so any user who was logged in with a Google account in Chrome would no longer have their keyword searches tracked. What we have seen recently is that other browsers like Firefox and Safari have adopted this same practice. Add that to the fact that Google also now plans to block keywords from visitors that are not logged in with a Google account, and you will arrive at the same conclusions as most other online marketers:
I know… I said there was positive side to this post, and here it is. This only effects Google, keyword data from Bing and Yahoo! will remain intact in your analytics account. I’m not trying to minimize the scope of this issue; I understand the search engine market share swings heavily in Google’s favor (67% – Google, 18% – Bing, 11% Yahoo, according to recent comScore data). I also understand that as a marketer, the solidity of my organic search data is precarious, and I will unitize any source I can to regain insight into how users are finding and interacting with my content.
It is also important to note that there are even more sources of data out there that you can use in order to identify search term trends for your web visitors, though these may not be as easy, accurate or meaningful as what you are used to seeing in Google Analytics.
Rankings will still be a viable metric for you to measure the relevance of your web pages to specific search terms. Marrying that ranking metrics to other data like Search Query report in Google Webmaster tools can get you back to some semblance of what you were used to seeing in Google Analytics. Rand Fishkin of Moz recently presented a few other ways to get more with less: When Keyword (not provided) is 100 Percent of Organic Referrals, What Should Marketers Do?
Google Universal Analytics also provides a solution to the issue of missing search keyword data by giving marketers additional insight into the visitor behavior and interaction on the website. If the goal is insight about the visitor Universal Analytics will give you plenty. Marketers are still able to see the source and medium of the visitors to their web pages. Also, you can see which page they landed on (for which, organically, there could only be a handful of potential keywords that cause each page to display in the SERPS). Looking even deeper you are able to gain an understanding of the rest of the interaction that visitor had on your site.
Finally we will cover why (very much like your ability to generate great content and rank in the search engines) Call Tracking for SEO is not dead because of Google’s change. If your business relies on the phone, then understanding what drives calls is paramount to your marketing efforts. Does missing out on the keyword make that a little harder? Sure it does. However, Ifbyphone’s call tracking customers get so much more than simply what keyword drove a phone call from our platform. Aside from knowing which search engine is driving calls to your business, you can also see which page the visitor first landed on before they called, and with our Universal Analytics integration you’re able to tie call data to all the event and visitor data Google has captured for the caller.
Let’s also remember that the ability to attribute online visitor data to calls is great but, the ability to tie sales and revenue data from your CRM to calls answered by your sales agents “offline” is the most accurate representation of ROI for most businesses. Ifbyphone’s call tracking technology allows our customers to capture and attribute unique information about each caller and pass that data between systems along with the source of the visit.
It has been said many times since word broke about this impending change that the online marketing world as we have come to know it will be changed forever. These are just some of the ways we’ve found to get back the attribution and insight we have become accustomed to and the online marketing community is hard at work trying to identify even more creative ways to get us closer to where we used to be. What has been your experience with the Secure Search changes? How has your traffic been impacted? Do you have any interesting things you’re doing to reconcile your increasingly scarce organic search data? Let us know in the comments.