Website owners and SEO professionals have been using Google Analytics for years to track the impact that their websites have on the general public. Possibly the most useful tool was the ability to see the search terms that led visitors to your site. Knowing these terms made it possible to quickly see what content needed to be refined to make each page of the website more searchable.
In October 2011, Google made a change in the way they delivered these results by blocking the search terms for users that were logged into their Google accounts when they made the search. These searches returned a “keyword not provided” result on the search terms section of the analytics page. Recently, Google flipped the switch and began using secure search for all users, whether they are logged in or not. This has resulted in a much greater percentage of keyword not provided results. Currently, 75-80% of search results are being blocked, but this is expected to increase to a full 100% by the end of 2013.
Many people have speculated about why this change was made, and the rumours are flying. Google claims that the switch was made in an effort to protect the privacy of internet users everywhere. A representative of the company was quoted as saying:
“We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.”
No one from the company has been clear on what they are protecting people from considering that full keyword data is still available to paid AdWords users.
Gathering Keyword Data Under the New System
Regardless of the rumours and reasons, secure search is apparently here to stay, which means that web professionals everywhere are going to need to make some changes to the way they do things. If you apply a little creativity and patience there are still a few ways to get valuable keyword data. Following are the most accessible strategies for gathering this data.
Use a Paid Adwords Account – Though Google is blocking keyword search data from the average user, the information is still available for paid Adwords users.
Apply Information from Google Webmaster Tools – Webmaster tools will allow you to see keyword data from the last ninety days. Webmasters will need to frequently check the data and keep their own lists of keywords in order to track terms over a long period of time. It has been reported that soon this feature will be increased to show a full year of data.
Leverage the Available Search Data – All of the data is still available to show you which of your pages have the highest rank and are visited most often. You can leverage this data by cross referencing it with the terms that the page is ranked for. You can also test new terms to see what differences they will make in the page rank and search data.
Finding New Keyword Opportunities
Under the old system, it was easy to see which terms people were using to find a website and to adjust the keywords on the website to better match what searchers are looking for. Although this information is not as readily available with the new secure search system, you can still find new keyword suggestions by using the other tools that are available. Google Suggest, Keyword Planner and other keyword suggestion tools are easy to use and can show you what terms people are frequently searching for within your industry. When you gather these terms and test them using the methods listed above; you can create a very effective system for improving and tracking your SEO strategies.
What Secure Search Means to the Future of SEO
The good news is that keyword not provided data is not the end of SEO, as some rumours would indicate. It will always remain important to have a well planned and well-executed website. It seems that Google is making a lot of changes in an effort to take the advantage away from sites with great keywords but poorly written content. This change will merely usher in the new evolution of web marketing and help level the playing field for small businesses and companies that are just emerging.
As more changes are rolled out in the future, and as search engine crawlers become more advanced, website owners and SEO professionals will have to improve their strategies or be left behind. It will no longer be enough to have great keywords. Instead, the focus will be on great content and improving the overall experience of website users.