Last week Google announced its plans to stop tracking keyword referral data, moving all searches to encrypted search. Secure search limits the ability of third parties to collect data and build audience profiles for advertising. And site owners are no longer able to segment users by keywords using web analytics software.
Google’s implementation of secure search in 2011 resulted in a proliferation of “(not provided)” data, already over 50% for some industries according to a report last month by BrightEdge. But since 2009, SEO rankings have steadily decreased in value.
Also in 2011, companies like Demand Media—and others who rely on algorithms to attract visitors and advertisers by showing up in multiword search-engine queries—realized their content-driven models were crumbling and they could no longer rely on Google for traffic and income. Demand for low-paid content mill-writers practically came to a halt.
While Google’s latest move may have been anticipated, many businesses are looking to search professionals to come up with new strategies. One resounding piece of advice is to mitigate risk by diversifying. Google can only monopolize search if businesses let it. But not all businesses are willing to risk being vulnerable to competitors who aren’t yet dropping out of Google AdWords. Plus marketers follow users, and users won’t likely stop using Google to search for products and services.
Google says secure search and keyword encryption are necessary to protect users’ privacy. Outcriers suspect Google is trying to control online ad data and will eventually cleanse the ecosystem of all data culled by third-parties.
While Google’s latest move may have been anticipated, many businesses are looking to search professionals to come up with new strategies. One resounding piece of advice is to mitigate risk by diversifying. Google can only monopolize search if businesses let it. But not all businesses are willing to risk being vulnerable by competitors who aren’t yet dropping out of Google AdWords. Plus marketers follow users, and users won’t likely stop using Google to search for products and services.
As blogger Chris Langan points out, “Huge rafts of keyword data result in data-based navel-gazing.” Since the performance data of one phrase or a set of phrases is no longer available, site optimization requires a broader digital strategy that forces practitioners to halt the endless keyword chase and focus on producing compelling, creative content. Langan calls on SEO professionals to consider the loss of organic keyword search as an opportunity as opposed to another blow from Google.
Ultimately, these themes are great ingredients and inspiration for a broader content strategy. A widespread shift to content strategy galvanises the shift from ‘traditional’ SEO after Google Panda and this is where you get to create some really interesting marketing concepts, which will without doubt have you looking back at ‘linkbuilding’ efforts in ire.
Fellow optimist and SEO specialist, Jeremiah Smith, offers these insights and explains how organic keyword data can still be acquired to piece together an audience profile:
My favorite thing about the (not provided) crisis is it forces us to look at the bigger picture which has been beckoned at by the Inbound Marketing* standard-bearers of our age like HubSpot and Moz with 100k more to follow. We have to look at all the various parts such as social content sharing, email marketing, usability, conversion rates, ad revenue, investments in content, link building and more.
My second favorite thing about this new change is it takes the SEO competition, the folks who can’t or don’t want to keep up and place a gulf between them and us. We understand that if anything SEO is as powerful today as it’s ever been. It’s more difficult to do now but that means higher fees, more effective campaigns in comparison to top competition, and better focus on key metrics as opposed to just rankings and traffic.
Smith Offers These Five Tips to Bloggers and Other Content Creators:
- Look at the title tag, the headings, content, shares and inbound links to top performing pages to determine why they perform well in organic search.
- Extrapolate from Bing/Yahoo! (Bing’s total search market share is around 30%). Just take search traffic for your keywords to Bing and divide by 0.30.
- Run AdWords campaigns for your top performing keywords before the (not provided) crisis occurred using performance metrics such as CTR and conversion rates to determine which ones you should try to rank.
- Eventually your historical data will fade into inaccuracy. For the time being though, look at keywords that performed well for you over the past month or so before the (not provided) crisis.
- If you’re ranking for a certain set of keywords and you’re getting organic search traffic, odd are you’re getting traffic from some of your keywords more so on a long-tail basis.
Perhaps Google secure search will cut down on the Internet’s signal to noise ratio, better protect consumer data, encourage diversification and spawn creative, original content with an increased focus on engagement, conversion and retention though more detailed analyses of user behavior. We can expect, in any case, hungry marketers eventually coming up with strategies designed to game the emerging system, and Google doing everything in its power to stay one step ahead of them.
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