Google this month took the step of killing off access to Adwords search query keywords. This affects any third party software including Inbound Marketing, IP Matching & CRM systems that track what keywords bring users to your website.You’ll now see “Not Provided” or blank data on any such third-party PayPerClick (PPC) analytics reports.
Essentially Google have removed the query data (i.e. the “q=” variable in AdWords URLs) from ad clicks coming from encrypted (SSL) Google users. That "q=" part of the URL was the little gem that held the actual keyword they typed in.
Last year Google encrypted all search queries and hid keyword data on all organic searches. They still however allowed you to see keyword data for PPC/Adwords search keywords. That was up until this month.
Google had always cited user privacy as the driver behind these changes and earlier this month stated - "We've long worked to keep your searches on Google secure. We provided SSL encryption for signed-in searches in 2011 and have rolled that out to searches from the omnibox in the Chrome browser. Today, we are extending our efforts to keep search secure by removing the query from the referer on ad clicks originating from SSL searches on Google.com."
So visitor analysis tools like the one below now look a little bare where they would have once displayed rich keyword information.
So what now?
Well, losing this granular query data isn't the end of the world. It's still possible to measure how much traffic your website is getting from organic search.
- You might not know the exact keywords, but it's still possible to correlate your efforts to optimise your site with new content and measure increases, decreases or patterns in organic search visits.
- Google Webmasters Tools show the top 2,000 searches made to your site - great for identifying top-level keywords. Even if most searches are long-tail, it's a helpful guide.
- If you’re targeting regions where Yahoo & Bing have large market shares, you can still get keyword trends from these search engines. Of course that's no use in Ireland where Google completely dominates the search market, but my guess in any case is that the other main search engines will follow Google’s lead in hiding search queries in the not too distant future.
- Realistically, tracking organic content at a page level, as opposed to individual keyword level makes more sense anyway. Google have long shouted the mantra of quality, relevant, engaging and unique content. By shifting the focus more to creating such quality, user orientated content, with some nice intuitive content design, then a page should earn better user attention, better conversions, plus the increased social shares & back links you'd expect it to bring. It should all help feed back to improved organic reach in the end.
Keywords have to be kept in mind of course - you still have to get found, and those little guys are pretty important still! It's a little harder now, but the fundamentals of good content and chosing the right keywords to describe your content are still right there in force.
Impact for Google Adwords users
- Google obviously won’t do anything to hurt its advertising business so Adwords advertisers can still view paid search keyword data through the search terms report in their account as normal. Everything stays as is because these reports only have aggregate (not personally identifiable) information and is housed within AdWords itself.
- The only piece of data advertisers won't be able to access is individual or click-level query data that gets passed or tracked outside of Google to any third party analytics tools.
- Keyword-level tracking features have not changed, e.g. Adwords ValueTrack tagging parameters or the AdWords Paid & Organic report.
- Make sure Adwords accounts are linked to your site Google Analytics account to get maximum benefit.
For more information on how this impacts your current campaigns or SEO, contact our sales team on firstname.lastname@example.org.