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Keyword not provided Googles move towards 100secure search

This week Google has shook the digital marketing world and the SEO world in particular. Google have now started to expand ’keyword not provided’ to all organic searches by redirecting all Google searches to a secure search. If you are unclear about what ‘keyword not provided’ means and what this change means, I am going to simply explain the situation and the implications it will have for search marketing.

This move to 100% ‘keyword not provided’ for organic search means that the searched keyword that drove traffic to your site will not be passed onto you or be visible in any analytics tool. In the above image you can see ‘not provided’ in the Google Analytics interface. This means that website owners and search marketers will no longer be able to see ANY of the organic keywords that drove traffic to their site, unless a paid search campaign is running.

When was ‘keyword not provided’ enabled?

Well it didn’t just happen overnight. This secure ‘keyword not provided’ search was first introduced back in October 2011 when searches were made through a secure Google search. A secure Google search would apply if the searcher was either signed in on any Google account, if they just signed out of a Google account (as you will still remain on secure pages), if they were using Firefox 14 or higher (as it makes all Google searches secure) or if they opted in to secure search for their own privacy reasons. Google have started to redirect all Google searches to secure. If you go to http://www.google.com, it now automatically redirects to: https://www.google.com, which makes it a secure page.

At the beginning secure searches resulted in about an average of less than 1% (not provided) Google traffic. As the usage of Google products has risen such as Gmail, YouTube and Google phones, the amount of people signed into Google accounts has risen; therefore there has been a fast upswing of secure searches. As a direct impact, secure search according to Keywordnotprovided.com is averaging at 77.68% of ‘not provided’ Google organic traffic. Their estimated date when ‘not provided’ will hit 100% is November 26th.

iProspect manages some of Ireland’s highest traffic sites and we can see an average of 79% ‘not provided’ keyword traffic

Average % of not provided Google traffic. Source: www.notprovidedcount.com.

Why is Google making all organic searches secure?

There are two general views on why Google have made this move; to provide ‘extra protection’ for Google searchers from the National Security Agency (NSA) in the USA or use this tactic to boost ad sales while using the NSA to justify their actions. What do you think?

Boost ad sales?!

The interesting and possibly most questionable part of this whole move is that Google aren’t making keyword data entirely private but are providing the keyword data to paid search campaigns through Google’s Adwords platform. So therefore, it’s an easy assumption to presume that Google are moving towards 100% ‘keyword not provided’ for organic searches to push paid search on Google.

How is this going to affect search marketers and why do we need organic keyword data?

Having organic keyword data for site traffic is critical for search engine optimisation. This is a big problem which will face SEOs as it will become increasingly difficult to connect their SEO efforts for driving and growing organic traffic to sites. Basically, it will be increasingly difficult to measure efforts of driving non-branded keyword and search terms to sites.

There are many other reasons why organic keyword data is critical for search engine optimisation.

  • Organic keyword data provides insights into what keywords are driving the most traffic to your site and to particular pages.
  • Organic keyword data allows you to see what people are associating with your brand name as you can see what they are searching for along with your brand term.
  • Organic keyword data provides insights which can help you optimise certain pages on your sites which may have high bounce rates for specific keywords.

Adapting to 100% Secure Search.

At iProspect, we have been adapting to these changes since the percentage of keyword not provided organic traffic started to rise. To compensate for Google’s missing keyword level data, we must shift our approach and rely on using organic traffic data from other search engines, paid search data and historical analytics data. I am going to briefly explore some tactics search marketers can use.

Google Webmaster Tools

Analysing keyword conversions will have to be retrieved from paid search data, but organic keyword impressions and click throughs can still be monitored and reported by using Google Webmaster Tools. The accuracy of Google Webmaster Tools is questionable as it rounds off figures but it allows you to analyse the last 90 days of organic keyword data for the top 2,000 queries on any particular day to some extent. Google have recently announced that this data will be available for a year. However, without bounce rates being available for organic keywords, the value of each keyword can not be measured.

Adwords Paid vs Organic Report

The new Paid vs Organic report in Adwords gives paid search users a snapshot view of keyword performance across organic and paid search. The report analyses key performance metrics such as clicks, average page position and impressions for when paid ads and organic results are shown both separately and together. This report does give useful data regarding organic keyword opportunities for brands and you can additionally use the organic results to find valuable keywords for paid campaigns. However, vital information it does not provide are bounce rate information for the organic keywords. The different report metrics are explained over at SEO Round Table.

Paid vs Organic report

Page by Page Keyword Analysis

Analysing SEO and keyword optimisation on a page by page basis is an approach iProspect have been taking to adapt to the increasing volume of keyword not provided search. This is done by deciding what keywords are most likely going to drive traffic to each page a site and optimising each of those pages for that keyword.

What do you think?

What do you think about this move by Google and to what extent is it going to effect your search marketing? This is a topic which is surrounded by quite a lot of controversy, so let us know your views.