Google Is Securing Keyword Data: Don’t Panic, Here’s What You Can Do

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In a recent change, Google is encrypting more and more searches from showing up in Google Analytics (GA) to help protect user’s privacy. Since 2011, if you were logged in to a Google account your searches have been encrypted the same way, leading to a “Not Provided” section the GA keywords report. Now, even users who are not logged in will be afforded the same privacy. This causes an issue for people utilizing SEO who rely on this data to improve their SEO efforts, as they are losing a reliable source of data about where their search traffic is coming from.

There are a number of conflicting opinions on what Google’s true intentions are behind this, or whether or not these changes are making your searches any more secure. If you want to learn more about the changes and what people are saying about them, here is a great article from Yahoo!, and another from Search Engine Land. While this change means it is harder to know what results your SEO campaign is actually generating, there are still other ways to gather this data. Here are a few things you can do to see how your SEO efforts are actually paying off on a keyword level:

  1. Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries Data: While you may not get the same metrics from each keyword that you get from the Keywords Report in GA, you can still draw relevant data from the Search Queries tag within analytics. It is true that you lose a lot of data for each keyword (how many people clicked on you from the keyword, bounce rate of the keyword, pages/visit, visit duration, and even event conversions like leads and eNewsletter signups) but you can still see how many people are finding you for your top terms.While this is a big loss in terms of data towards keyword effectiveness, you can use this information in combination with other analytics to get the data you need. You can see your click through rates from the search engines which you can use to optimize the messaging in your meta data (titles, descriptions, schema, etc.) which can be used to gauge the information that should be on the actual page. You can also figure out which page is ranking organically for your top terms, and use the page analytics to infer how well the keywords and content on that page are working towards your goals. This data may not be as precise, and it may take a few more steps to aggregate but it is not the end of the world.
  2. AdWords Data (for those running PPC campaigns): While search data is encrypted in the organic Analytics, it is still available for people using Google AdWords. This option is not available for those who do not use AdWords, but for those who do, it can be valuable. While you may be generating specific landing pages for your AdWords campaign, you can use the data for each keyword to detemine how effective your content and keywords are for these terms, and use this data for your organic opportunities. Combine this with the data from the Search Queries report above and you can see how many people are finding you for these same terms organically. Please note, I am not saying you should run out and start a PPC campaign to supplement your SEO data, it is simply a way for you to aggregate data if you are already running a PPC campaign.

How To Use This Information:
First and foremost, it is important to note that you can still get the Keyword Report data from GA, but the majority of the searches will show up as “Not Provided.” You can still make references from this data and use it to adjust your SEO strategy but with a much more limited sample size. When and if this information ever disappears you can use the strategies I have listed above to help you analyze your SEO efforts. If you would like more information on how to track your SEO efforts, or if you would like someone to do it for you, please contact Webolutions today. If you have any other tips on this, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

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