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(Not provided) and what it means for SEO

There is nothing worse than being given something only to have it taken away again. Well, in making every search secure, Google has gone and done it. The keyword data used to measure and report on SEO performance is no longer being passed to site owners and where keywords used to appear in Google Analytics reports a simple “(not provided)” has taken it’s place. Upsetting… I know.

I guess however, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Google began to limit this data back in June 2011, at this point they estimated that no more than 10% of searches would be affected… however, 6 months later more than 50% of searches had converted to “(not provided)”. It’s no surprise that Google now aim to block all keyword data.

So what is (Not Provided)?

“(Not provided)” is all about “Secure Search”, Google now aims to provide users with a degree of privacy when browsing the web. Searchers will automatically be redirected to the https:// secure version of Google – an SSL encrypted search. Whereas previously website owners were provided with a clear insight into the phrases that were generating natural traffic, this is no longer the case.

What does this mean?

In reality, it doesn’t mean too much, in fact, I think it’s a good thing. Previously we’ve often focused too heavily on what keywords are generating traffic and created content to suit. Now we’re forced to think about what users are actually looking for on our sites. It’s no surprise that Google Hummingbird has taken flight within the same month.

In my eyes, the only real implication of “(not provided)” is the change in how we measure and report SEO performance. With the absence of keyword level data we need to find alternative metrics to monitor SEO efforts. Below are some suggestions:

  • Report on organic traffic as a group and monitor fluctuations using historical data as a comparison
  • Keep track of what phrases you rank for and the number of searches that are carried out for those phrases through Adwords tools
  • Focus on landing pages – knowing what pages Google searchers are landing on tells you what customers are interested in and provides a clue as to the keywords that are performing well
  • Webmaster tools data – monitor this regularly, but be aware that it’s not always 100% accurate
  • Google AdWords – PPC campaigns will still provide keyword data
  • Not all search engines have converted to 100% secure search – use those who are still providing the data to hone your search strategy

These are just a few pointers to help you overcome the “(not provided)” hurdle. I still believe that there is much more to learn from this change and the websites who will benefit from it will be the ones that understand the bigger picture. Google aims to provide the most relevant result for a user’s query; if you focus on the user’s experience and providing answers to their questions, then it’s possible to thrive in this new SEO world.

If you have any further queries regarding “(not provided)” and your online campaigns give us a call today!

Tagged with : SEO | Keyword Analysis | Not Provided