If you’ve been using Google Analytics to direct your SEO strategy, then surely you’ve noticed a recent increase in ‘(not provided)’ keywords under your organic search data. Well now, (not provided) is all that you will be provided. Google made the move earlier this month to secure search for all users. What does this mean for your SEO?
In October of 2011, Google started encrypting searches for users who were logged into their Google accounts. Privacy was the reason given. Analytics users watched as the amount of (not provided) keywords steadily increased over the last couple years. In a move that was anticipated, but not so suddenly and without warning, Google has encrypted all searches. SEO’s turned their attention to Webmaster Tools to continue getting keyword data. Webmaster Tools provides impression and click data for your website’s keywords. In another sudden change, Google stopped providing data to this tool as of last Monday. Update: as of this writing, data for only last Monday through Wednesday has been restored.
Update: data restored for 9/23 – 9/25, but not beyond that quite yet
What is Google doing? A member of the Webmaster Tools staff overseas addressed an inquiry by saying, “”The team is aware of the problem and working on speeding that data back up again. Thanks for your patience in the meantime.” Taken as truth, this is a promising indication that perhaps the issue is technical and will be resolved promptly. However, the answer is vague, and without any official statement from Google one can only suspect that this move may be in conjunction with the new secure search policy.
Speculation has been that Google wants to push Analytics as a tool for Adwords advertisers and/or make it a paid, premium tool. Click data will continue to be provided for Adwords users, meaning that you will need to pay for precise keyword data going forward. Without a clear answer as of yet, it seems that we’ll be playing the waiting game.
What are you supposed to do to manage your SEO in the meantime? Watching your landing page data on Google Analytics can give you a good idea of which keyword groups continue to drive traffic. Search Engine Watch has a few more suggestions on how to to gather organic search data, but you can omit the third recommendation for Webmaster Tools.
Keep your fingers crossed that the disappearance of Webmaster Tool data is simply a bug, but don’t hold out hope for Google to revert its decision on secure search.