Where Has All The Keyword Data Gone?
Updated: Aug 10, 2022
If you haven’t heard the news, Google recently (Sept. 22) made the update to make 100% of Google search queries private.
What does this mean for you?
This means that if you use Google Analytics to gather organically searched keyword data, you will now or in the very near future, no longer be able to see this. Log in to your GA account and locate the Term Not Provided metric under Acquisition/Keywords/Organic.
So where do you go from here?
Follow these steps to strategize a plan and feel safe and secure that Google’s move to 100% private search queries won’t hurt your online marketing and SEO efforts.
1. Don’t get too discouraged.
Google’s push to 100% secure search was inevitable. In October 2011 Google started encrypting searches for logged-in Gmail users, which has accounted for the majority of secure searches anyway. The recent update to 100% secure search includes all searches rather than only Google account subscribers.
You’re not alone in the keyword data battle. The average online business was seeing between 70-80% of hidden keyword data up to this point regardless of the update; it just happened sooner than everyone thought and before preparations were made.
2. Understand why Google’s implementing secure search.
Don’t take it personal. Every move, update, change and algorithm Google makes is in the user’s best interest. There are two sides to why 100% secure search happened. The first is Google’s claim, for complete user privacy. They are making sure the NSA can’t access users’ data whenever they see fit.
The second, more cynical explanation comes from those who use this data often (online marketers and SEOs), that Google is doing this to boost ad sales. The easiest way to see hidden terms is through their Adwords software, which requires companies to buy more online ads, but this idea is pure speculation.
As always, Google will continue to keep us guessing as to when they push these updates, but it’s best to think they are doing it to create the best possible Google search experience.
3. Finding data without data.
Although all organic searches are going to be 100% hidden, you can’t forget about the keyword data you have right now. Be sure to use and store this data because it won’t be around for much longer. Use historical search query data to research your traffic flow and gain insight to many of the long tail keywords relevant to your business.
You can use Google Webmaster Tools to see the top 1,000 daily search queries and landing pages for the past 30 days. GWT offers several metrics like average position for each keyword and click-through rate (CRT). This data is only available for 30 days so store it in an excel file to compare the data month over month.
Another important data set to use is your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns through Google Adwords. Although Adwords isn’t based off of organic results, it allows you to put keyword campaigns together to see which specific keywords receive the highest clicks. You can also put aside a budget to test new keyword market areas to find traffic-driving keywords. If you don’t have an ad campaign set up, use the Keyword Planner Tool (located in Adwords for free). Use this tool to find the highest searched and most competitive keywords in regards to your market.
Don’t forget to use Bing Webmaster Tools. They are on a smaller scale than Google, but still provide efficient and clear keyword data that you can and should compare with your GWT data.
4. What does this mean for SEOs, marketers, entrepreneurs and everyone else?
The shift to 100% secure search affects a lot of people, but not necessarily in a negative way. This isn’t the first, or last, time you will have to deal with change. It only means that you will have to adapt to it.
From Google’s perspective, providing a great user experience is the most important task for your online efforts. Although data helps push these efforts and understand the flow of things, you have to put yourself in your audience’s shoes when marketing and optimizing and ask yourself a simple question. What does my audience want? What’s going to make my audience happy?”
5. Moving toward the future
Build a website based on what’s best for your users and traffic will come naturally. You cannot control when Google decides to come out with a new update or algorithm that makes your previous marketing efforts less effective or obsolete. However, building and marketing a searchable, expertly designed website with quality user-centric content is something you can control. Do your research to really understand the needs and pain points of your target market and incorporate your solutions into your website.
Although 100% secure search coming so suddenly may be shocking, you have methods to get the data you need to optimize and market quality content and web pages.
Reed Daw is an SEO Associate for Volusion, a leading ecommerce software company. He specializes in SEO, user experience and content marketing. Follow him on Twitter @Reed_Daw.