Have you been searching for keyword data using Google analytics and been getting nothing back but “not provided”? If you have been wondering what it means, and why it’s been happening, read on.
What it is
While once upon a time you could use Google analytics tools to look at data on the use of search terms and keywords, in 2011 Google made the decision to encrypt organic search data relating to searchers who were logged into their Google accounts, including Google Plus and Gmail, while they were browsing the web. This meant that data for the keywords or search terms they were using was no longer available.
Since then, Google has switched to secure search for ALL organic Google searches, whether users are logged into their Google accounts or not. The number of instances of keyword data being “not provided” has of course been greatly increasing, causing more than a little irritation for some!
Why has Google done this?
Google has done this to protect the privacy of users. While this might be really good from the perspective of internet users, it might look not quite so good if you are a business website owner trying to boost your presence on the web.
What does it mean for me?
SEO is evolving rapidly. Search engines are becoming smarter and doing such things as attempting to interpret a user’s intent when they input search terms rather than just taking the keywords at face value. Rather than doing simple keyword-matching, search engines now want to know what it is that people actually want when they do a search – such as a solution to a problem they have, or an answer to a question.
So given the search changes and the loss of keyword data, good SEO now has to be more user-centric and not only about using keywords as a quick-fix tactic to increase traffic. However, don’t despair – with a little creativity and ingenuity, it is possible to maximise your SEO in other ways.
In a sense, this is the silver lining to the dark cloud of “not provided”. By becoming smarter in how SEO works and using other methods, you can improve your business relationship with your customers and provide better quality solutions to their needs, while hopefully improving your bottom line at the same time.
So what I can do about losing keyword data?
Focus on quality content:
We say this a lot and might be sounding like a bit of a broken record by now, but injecting regular, fresh, relevant, informative high-quality content into your site should be a top priority for all website owners. Without it, you are likely to be demoted in the search stakes.
Take a broader view of SEO:
Recognise that SEO does not involve just using tricks and tactics to get ahead on SERPs. As Intel digital marketing strategist Laura Ann Mitchell said during a panel discussion on the issue, “SEO is what happens when everything else is done right”. This involves focusing on what your audience cares about, identifying what works, and repeating and refining it.
Make use of Google tools:
Google analytics for example allows you to discern which keywords users are using within your site, while Google webmaster tools can be used to let you to see how you are ranking on the web for search queries.
Listen to the experts
Recently, SMX West Search Marketing Expo provided a presentation on SEO life after “not provided”.
It is possible to get data insights using Google webmaster tools, such as Trends and volume analytics. Other recommendations include taking a more holistic view of SEO and making use of Google’s keyword planner tool, while augmenting that with search analytics.
In general, moving beyond “not provided” involves going beyond simplistic methods of data gathering and keyword use. It means thinking outside the square, taking a broader overall view of SEO, and focusing on meeting the needs of your customers.