‘Not provided’ has replaced keywords searched in analytics
A study from digital marketing software provider, Optify, has found that a privacy setting introduced by Google last year lists referring keywords gleaned from organic search as “not provided” in Google Analytics.
This is further bad news for SEO specialists, following on from the Panda and Penguin updates last year, which saw many sites hurtling down the SERPs. However, whilst SEO companies may be affected in the short term, Google maintain that it will eventually impact all online businesses and marketers.
Optify’s research shows that since Google introduced the privacy setting a year ago, the “not provided” rate has risen to almost 40% of referring keywords to B2B sites, and this is constantly rising, up 171% on last year.
Essentially this means that keyword analysis is something that is going to be less and less useful to marketers as time goes on. This isn’t good news for marketers, as it means that it will be much more difficult to measure ROI than it was previously. Search data usually helps SEO professionals to learn about their target audience in order to better pin down their market.
The study sampled 424 B2B sites over the course of a year, from November 2011 to October 2012. They then looked at data from a total of 17,143,603 visits from organic search with 7,241,093 referring keywords, which were tracked. For the purposes of the research only top level, US-based domains with 100 to 100,000 monthly visits were used.
64% of companies included in the study found that between 30 and 50% of their traffic returned “not provided” as the keyword. A staggering 81% said that over 30% of the traffic they received from Google was also ‘not provided’.
Further to this, many companies said that their recognised referral keywords declined by 49% over the course of the year.
“Referrer data from organic search is quickly disappearing, and we believe that soon the majority of referring keywords will be listed as “not provided,” said Rob Eleveld, CEO of Optify.
“This is yet another example of how the SEO practice is at the mercy of search engines, and we believe it’s time for B2B marketers to focus on the data they have for creating a personalized experience for their visitors and leads. If you are a digital marketing agency providing only SEO services, it’s time to start diversifying.”
Ways to combat the problem
At the moment, a site will still be able to analyse around 60% of referral keywords, so it’s vital to make the most of this data whilst you can. Further to this, marketers need to look into other ways that can provide them with insights concerning their audience.
The use of Google’s Webmasters Tools can help with this, as it includes valuable information such as the top 1000 daily search queries and landing pages for the past 30 days. This can easily be compared to the previous month for analysis. It’s also a good idea to change the data that you use so that it’s not all coming from the same place.
This means that social networking tools and data should also be analysed, as well as the results of any incentives on the website. Optify recommend that marketers use page viewed and campaign tagging to replace keyword data.
Proxies can also be used for SEO purposes, but this is more difficult as it doesn’t give users the ability to tie a keyword to site behaviour. However, for those who use PPC, this can still be used in order to estimate the performance of keywords that the company is targeting.
Whilst the changes don’t mean that there will be less work for SEO professionals, it certainly indicates that only those with real expertise will flourish. It will be much more difficult to effectively measure the ROI of a campaign unless something changes, and that doesn’t look too likely as it’s thought that Google will do away with free keyword search in order to concentrate fully on paid models.
According to Optify, the trend towards ‘not provided’ keywords is set to continue until the “majority of organic referrer data (search terms) completely disappears.