No More Google Search Query Data

Reports have begun spreading across the SEO community and the internet in general that Google has begun to redirect all of its services through https.  This is the secure version of the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, meaning that search query data will be encrypted.

In 2011, Google began to restrict the keyword data they sent to websites so that visits referred from secure Google search pages would still appear in Google Analytics, but only under the label (not provided), instead of the search term itself.

Over the last few years, the percentage of keywords that were listed as (not provided) has slowly been increasing.  Providing marketers with a smaller and smaller volume of search query data means that the sample that is actually usable is decreasing, providing a less significant segment of the data. This makes any analysis of keywords which are generating traffic or converting into goals much more difficult.

Although the Not Provided Count tool predicts that, at the current rate of growth, the (not provided) count will reach 100% by 5th December, certain reports are suggesting that Google has already made the switch to 100% (not provided). This is substantiated by the fact that Google is now redirecting all of its services through a secure transfer protocol.

What are the implications for marketers?

Making any judgement of how your website is performing in organic search is becoming more difficult; judging how your website is performing in organic search for specific keywords is becoming near impossible.

This means that digital marketers will need to find other ways to derive meaningful insights on which to base their strategic decisions, on data other than search queries. In the past, we may have used this data for insights such as:

  • Increasing traffic – if a keyword is receiving a substantial amount of traffic but is not ranking very well, that represents an opportunity to develop its ranking for that keyword and increase traffic
  • Assessing SEO efforts – keyword traffic can be used to measure the impact of SEO efforts, where we optimise content for a specific keyword

So where do we turn? If you’ve had your ear to the ground in recent years, or even if you were living in a cave, you will probably have noticed a decline in the perceived usefulness of monitoring a website’s rankings for selected search terms. Well things may be about to change!

Why did Google do this?

Initially, Google suggested that the (not provided) count was used to protect the privacy of its users who were accessing through a secure connection, suggesting that these users would not want their data to be shared.

This may be vaguely believable if the AdWords PPC platform also neglected to provide this information (it doesn’t, by the way).  So the shift to 100% (not provided) is clearly an attempt to push users towards paid search.

At Passion Digital we don’t hate Google. It’s an incredibly useful (free) tool which is enriching the internet and helping us find the content we’re looking for. However, Google is a publically traded company with share-holders to please, so perhaps we as organic SEOs who saw this coming a long time ago should have switched to Bing (only joking!).

If you’d like to make the most of your (not provided) data, you may want to check out:

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