2014 – The End of Keyword Data…
It’s a little over two years since Google first announced that it would no longer be passing on keyword referral data to webmasters from queries made via secure search pages (ie those made from logged in Google accounts). In that time some keyword data has still been available, but the amount has been gradually decreasing.
Before we look at the current state of play, let’s quickly recap the situation. For many years, webmasters and search marketers have been able to find out which keywords brought a visitor to their website, through information gathered by Google Analytics. This was a great help for carrying out search engine optimisation, as it made it possible to plan content and strategies based on what keywords were bringing in lots of traffic, and which were underperforming etc.
Google secures search
Then in October 2011, along came Google’s ‘Secure Search’, with the search giant citing personal online privacy as a principal reason. Google said at that time that, “when you search [via secure search], websites you visit will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query.” From this point on, webmasters started seeing a steadily increasing number of website visits coming from the keyword ‘not provided’, rather than the actual search term used.
Fast forward two years to September 2013, and Google announced the unthinkable –it would begin encrypting all searches, logged in or not, meaning no keyword data would be recorded.
As of January 2014, www.notprovidedcount.com reports that 82% of keywords for 60 sites that it is tracking are ‘(not provided)’ and estimates based on recent growth that this figure will reach 100% by the end of March. It seems that keyword data in SEO has almost had its day (at least as far as Google is concerned – Bing and others still pass on such data). It’s worth noting though that keyword data is still accessible for any paying Google customers using an Adwords account.
There are of course still some ways of accessing limited amounts of keyword data, some of which are covered in a recent article over on Moz (http://moz.com/blog/easing-the-pain-of-google-keyword-not-provided). But the playing field has changed dramatically, and for many websites the best approach may be to simply strive to understand what their customers are looking for intuitively, and create relevant content accordingly.