For all of you out there that use Google Analytics you may be increasingly aware, when looking through your referring keywords, of an ever increasing “not provided “ statement lurking in your top ten results. Back in October last year, Google announced that all logged-in users using Google search would automatically be redirected to an SSL version of the website. The idea behind this, they say, is to protect the privacy of its users, with the goal of making searches safer.
A noticeable side effect to this update is that search terms used in search queries are not always forwarded to a website’s analytics. So that when a webmaster analyses the traffic coming to his website the terms are all classed as “not provided” in the keyword list. As you can imagine, this information is extremely useful to online marketeers, as without knowing the terms used by its visitors, webmasters and web professionals are not able to find out how well targeted their SEO Campaigns are, or able to work out the conversion rate for each keyword. These aspects are obviously critical for informing engagement and, ultimately, improving the bottom line for their businesses.
Part of the information is displayed to the webmasters through Analytics, and is currently showing about a 10% data loss. However, over time, as more and more users move over to Google this percentage will increase.
So why is Google encrypting keyword data?
Even though Google’s official announcement stated that the updates were being made in order to protect the privacy of its users, many online marketing professionals have pointed out that this claim must be false as Google are not encrypting the keyword data that comes from its AdWords platform. So, if privacy is not their main concern, what could be the motive for rolling out this feature?
- The online marketing world is very competitive, it makes sense for Google to hide their keyword data from their major competitors.
- Google Analytics is a free system and the information gleaned from the platform is extremely important for the marketing of online businesses. By making their AdWords deliver more results, Google would essentially be able to cash in on what until now has been a free service.
- Even though Google have never admitted to it, SEO can be seen as competitive to promotional methods such as PPC Advertising (even though a balanced promotional mix should include both of these). Since SEO is all about understanding your visitors and creating, optimizing and delivering high quality content that meet their needs, studying your Analytics Reports closely and getting all the insight you can from them is crucial. Without being able to get solid statistics, Search Engine Optimization becomes harder. So, its safe to conclude that Google would benefit massively if SEO became so complicated that more and more companies started to relying on Google AdWords.
- Other third-party companies (Compete, Alexa, etc) use traffic logs and other methods to create reports on how websites are found by users and what are their money-making keywords are (even Bing has been accused of using this data in the past). Google has clearly shown that they don’t like services that use their data in order to provide competitor analysis tools or competitive services.
Only time will tell what Google’s intensions are, the only thing we can be sure of is that this won’t be the last update that Google makes which doesn’t appear match up to what their stated ethos is.