Thursday, 26 September 2013

Help from Google for SEOs (not provided)

Any Content Marketer or SEO worth their salt when it comes to analysis will be more than familiar with the increasing presence of the (not provided) keyword result.

Up to now keyword data, despite the (not provided) blemish, has still proved useful in giving marketing professionals insights into why site visitors are visiting. This has enabled greater site content, better blogging, improved web copy and more effective SEO.

Unfortunately, Google has now confirmed that they are going to work to encrypt all keyword data, taking the (not provided) result to 100%. Certain sources state that keyword data will still be accessible through Web Master Tools, but it'll be nowhere near as helpful as it is in GA, and who's to say how long this will still be up for grabs.

Google! Why oh Why?

So the official stance on this decision is one of privacy. Up to now the keyword data has been set to (not provided) for those surfers logged into a Google account and therefore searching via SSL. We can't see what a visitor is looking for because they're doing so through a secured account. And whilst this never really sat well with me, I made my peace with it. 

However, this extension of the policy really hits hard. As a Search Marketing Manager who works with the best intentions when analysing this data, I've previously used this information to identify problems with site structure, gaps in web copy and ideas for new blog content. My intentions are of wanting to be helpful and provide my visitors with the information they're looking for - removal of this data makes this near impossible.

Solutions. Not problems.

Luckily there are two options to overcome this looming gap in my data.
  • Adwords - Paying for a PPC campaign means I get to see what people search for before clicking on my advert. I smell a money making enterprise here (bad Google bad). This would be fine except for the fact that the visitors' intent is often completely different when clicking an advert. The search terms are going to be action oriented rather than research oriented. People are in different parts of the funnel. Great for a PPC campaign when you're trying to tip people over the lip of conversion, but not so good for a content marketer looking for new ideas to address the needs of their wider audience.
  • Google Analytics Premium - Phew! I for one am thankful for small mercies. Now I just need to find my cheque book... and £90,000!!!
Anyone spot the sarcasm?

Looking into the near future...

Short term this decision probably won't result in much noticeable change. Sure, I'll be slightly angrier and I'll be surrounded by more red-faced-and-angry marketers than normal. But really... not much impact.

Longer term however, I see this decision really impacting on the search landscape. Those that can afford it will spend more money on PPC so they can secure their place in the listings. The big corporations, if not already, will dish out thousands to pay for GA Premium, giving them exclusive access to insights smaller companies will not see. And all of this combined will see the little guy slip further off of the radar. The little sites that could will become little sites that can't any more. Search will be owned by those that can afford it.

Seriously now! #SolutionsNotProblems.

So for the smaller businesses, here's where I say something that most are bored of hearing me say. It's time (if you haven't already) to harness social. As a small business you want your products and services to be found easily and for people to be able to link to your site and find the information they need. And I personally can see no better way of doing this than being active on one or more social channels and wrapping your website with a blanket of insight and personality. Done well, you are no longer at the mercy of search - you are instead supported by your supporters and customers that want to tell others how great you are. 

I can't think of a better way to do business.