No need to call up your corporate helpdesk, your Google Analytics account isn’t broken. The Internet isn’t down either. What you’re seeing is the most recent change to Google SEO. And if you haven’t noticed it yet, you will soon. Google has made a significant change in the name of consumer privacy that is throwing a wrench into your traditional SEO efforts.
In today’s post, we’ll tell you about this new change from Google and how it will affect your search engine optimization (SEO) moving forward.
The Old Way: Easy Access to Google Keyword Results
For marketers a key aspect of SEO is identifying search terms that lead Google searchers to your website. So, for example, if at eleventy we discovered we were getting a handful of website visits as a result of Google searches for terms like “online fundraising” or “lead generation”, we could make a conscious effort to create more content—and optimize existing content—based around those keywords.
For years, Google has made keyword search results available to marketers and site owners. You could look at your Google Analytics and see what terms people searched to get to your site. You could see how often those terms led people to your site. With Google’s new change, that information is going away—for the most part anyway (more on that below). Instead of seeing the specific terms people searched, you’ll now see generic labels like “unknown” or “not provided” in your analytics.
The Change: A Lot More ‘Unknown’ and ‘Not Provided’
While the arrival of this Google change is surprising, it’s not without precedence. In fact, most marketers knew it was coming—they just had no idea when it was coming. It all started back in 2011 when Google announced they would start encrypting search terms for logged-in Google users only (meaning people logged in to Gmail, YouTube or other Google sites). That meant those individuals’ searches were now private, and the results were no longer available for marketers’ eyes. A chunk of search results went dark after that, but not all of them.
The latest change makes ALL Google searches private. That means marketers can no longer see what people searched that led them to your site. Those important keywords you once used to reach people and influence your content are now going M.I.A. So it’s time to shift your SEO strategy and start making other plans.
When will your organic Google searches be 100% blocked? Check out the Not Provided Count website, which uses live Google Analytics data to track the rise of “not provided”—and the decline of real keyword data.
The Loophole: You Can Access Search Results Using PPC
While the loss of keyword search results is a big blow to organizations and agencies who do SEO, there is a loophole. Your search results are not entirely lost. Brands who do paid advertising on Google (known as paid search or pay per click) via Google AdWords can still access search term results—just as they could before. It’s a clever move by Google to bump online ad spending (which is how Google makes its loot).
Getting the free Google keyword search results many marketers rely on may have just got a whole lot harder, but there is at least an option. If you’re already using Google AdWords, you’ll still be able to access keyword search results from Google through your account. If you’re not yet using paid search, this change may give you additional incentive to start.
Benefits of Paid Search
• Increased Google exposure
• Location targeting
• Tracking and testing
• Access to keyword search results
Even before the change, most SEO marketers recommended using a healthy mix of organic SEO and paid search to achieve the best results. So there is value to paid search. This change by Google just adds a little more value to it—even if Google is forcing your hand a bit.
The Alternatives: How to Make Up for Lost Keywords
While Google may have flipped the script causing panic and chaos in the SEO world, as the old cliché goes: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. By adjusting your SEO strategy and looking in other places, you can still effectively optimize your website, online marketing and content creation for the search engines. Here are a handful of ways to make up for your lost keyword search results:
As we mentioned above, if you want to get the keyword results like the ones you were getting directly from Google before then paid search is probably your best bet. Yes, it requires you to spend money—but you control your budget and you will reap additional benefits.
Google Webmaster Tools
While you won’t get Google search results from your website analytics or your Google Analytics account, you can access some keyword search results with a Google Webmaster Tools account. It has limitations, but it’s still helpful. And every organization with a website should have a Google Webmaster Tools account anyway.
Bing and Yahoo Results
It’s easy to forget in our world of “Googling it”, but there are other search engines out there. The biggest and most popular alternatives to Google being Yahoo and Bing. As of right now, you’ll still be able to see keyword search results from these sites. So there’s still some free, readily available search data.
The Future: Adapting to the Evolving SEO World
In the constantly changing online marketing world, you have to be ready to roll with punches when these changes come along. While this is no doubt a big, disruptive change for a lot of brands, it just means you’ll have to work a little harder and explore more resources to optimize your search engine results. Not something most marketers want to hear, but a necessity in order to survive and thrive in today’s “Google it” world.
Need a hand adapting your organization’s online marketing to the new SEO environment? Connect with eleventy today to learn how we can help boost your search engine results.