The end of organic keyword data?

Well, you could certainly call this big news for SEO. Google is now redirecting ALL traffic to https. This means that all search terms will now be encrypted, even for users who are not signed in, which means that Google Analytics will no longer show any search query data.

For the last couple of years SEOs, Marketers and website owners have had to deal with the fact that Google Analytics showed a percentage of search terms (keywords) as “not provided” and as many predicted this percentage has been growing inexorably.¬† Now it will reach 100%

NotProvidedCountGraph

Graph from www.notprovidedcount.com

There is all sorts of speculation about why Google has chosen to do this including accusations that it is a ploy to drive more customers into paying for AdWords. Google claim it is simply to protect the privacy of users. It is of little practical use to speculate on this matter so let’s get to the point:

What can we do if there is no longer any data about which of our keywords are driving traffic to the website?

First and foremost we can at least still get some  keyword data. We can link Google Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics, which will show the top 1000 keywords and their numbers in the SEO section. There are a number of issues with this data, notably some doubts about the accuracy, but the fundamental problem is that the data is not tied to specific pages on the website; what is provided is only a global overview of which keywords are bringing traffic.

Secondly, we can use landing pages targeted at specific keywords and then measure the traffic levels of each landing page. Of course we can’t be certain that the targeted phrase is the one that is generating the hits, it could be some other copy on the page, but we may be able to make reasonable assumptions.

Most importantly, we simply have to adapt. SEOs have had to get used to constantly developing new techniques as the goalposts are moved in all directions. There are numerous other analytical techniques that can be applied to the problem, including customer surveys. Many SEOs have been saying for some time that keyword data was not as useful as it may appear.

There is no doubt however that the lack of organic keyword data is going to make an already difficult task even more difficult.

Lee Odden has an informative take on the subject over on the Top Rank blog.