For anyone who missed it yesterday, Google announced on their Blog that they would be “protecting personalized search results” by encrypting search queries made whilst signed into your Google account. Which, they go on to explain, means that “websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query”.
For SEOs this means that within Google Analytics (and in fact ALL analytics programs) you will no longer be able to see the referring keyword for a certain percentage of your traffic, and will instead get a variation of the “(not set)” which is used for PPC traffic (I think I remember seeing it will be “(not provided)”). This will obviously create issues for SEOs, who will be unable to fully track campaign performance, as it will also have a knock-on effect on conversion tracking and ROI calculations. Google have mentioned that “an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to a site for each of the past 30 days” will be available through Webmaster Tools, but will this suffice for even medium size sites that may be getting traffic from thousands of queries?
So what are the likely solutions for SEOs…
• Are we going to have to give more weight to less worthwhile metrics such as rankings?
• Are we going to have to spend more time fiddling and combining data from WMT and analytics?
• Are we going to have work on assumptions that traffic to certain pages will have come from certain keywords?
There are a few interesting subplots to this announcement. Firstly, clicks on PPC ads will still send information on the query to “enable advertisers to measure effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve ads and offers they present to you”; obviously Google doesn’t care as much who sees what paid advertising you click on or the information advertisers can use to manipulate your online experience! Secondly, a lot of people are already speculating this is linked to paid Analytics. What are the odds that Google will give this data out to people who cough up for a subscription?
It would be interesting to know your thoughts so I have set up a quick poll. It’s obviously not the most in-depth poll, but feel free to leave your comments below.