Encrypted Keyword Data: What It Means And What Is The Way Forward?

Keep up with the very latest developments in the digital marketing world

By Beth Moore
on 30/9/13

Last week Google confirmed their much anticipated move towards encrypting all organic search data, meaning that the keywords people search for in Google organic search will no longer be accessible through Google Analytics.  The current rate of 'not provided' keyword data stands at 80% although forecast this to increase to 100% on 17th November 2013.

not provided, google analytics

The Current rate of 'not provided' stands at 80%

For the past two years there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of ‘not provided’ keyword data in Google Analytics.  This began in October 2011 when Google started encrypting searches for anyone logged into Google, for example those logged into their Gmail or Google Plus accounts.  As this group of people has increased over time, there has been less keyword data available.  Google has suggested that move was motivated by ensuring the privacy of their users, although there is much cynicism surrounding this defense.

keyword data, google analytics, SEO, Organic Search

Trends show a rise in encrypted keyword data

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Google's justification has been questioned by some

As you can imagine this does have implications for a digital marketing company such as ourselves, but also other businesses wishing to monitor which words and phrases are driving traffic to their website.  Unfortunately this will now make reporting on keyword data for organic searches more difficult, although there are other ways of obtaining keyword insight available to us.

1) Moving forward keyword data from other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo will still be available but given Google’s 85 – 90% share of the search market this will be limited.

2) Another way of accessing keyword data will be through Google Adwords campaigns which will be unaffected by the changes.  It has been suggested that Google’s real motivation here is to try and boost Adwords revenues, and it will certainly put an emphasis on the significance of Pay Per Click Advertising in the future with many companies likely to run Adwords campaigns as a data gathering exercise.

3) It will also be possible for some keyword data to be accessed through Webmaster Tools, a free of charge service offered by Google which will provide some information for organic keyword searches and click-through rates.

Although this week’s developments will no doubt have significant impact on the world of organic search, it reminds us of the need to continue finding alternative and innovative ways to improve your organic search marketing.  It also reinforces the notion that SEO is no longer an isolated process, but one that should be fully integrated with other elements of digital marketing in order to amplify your return on investment.

So instead of seeing these changes as a barrier, preventing us from moving forward, we instead must negotiate our way around the obstruction, evolve from a purely keyword focused mindset and move on.  After all, these changes affect everyone and organic search marketing will not cease to exist.  Instead the shake-up reminds us how quickly things can change in our industry and the constant need to adapt accordingly.